Meeting lets web stars share skills
CREATIVE residents will have the chance to share their online knowledge with a top government official at an event today.
Andrew Stott, the Government's director of digital engagement, will join more than 100 people for the Talk About Local 'Unconference'.
KEEPING YOU INFORMED: From left, Mike Rawlins, Nicky Getgood and William Perrin.
The event is the brainchild of Talk About Local project founder Will Perrin. He aims to bring together people who are running websites about local communities and for them to share ideas face to face.
Today's 'Unconference' is part of a wider project, part-funded by Channel 4, which wants to help people around the country master the skills they need to create and maintain websites about their own neighbourhoods.
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The sites, often referred to as blogs, focus on such small areas they have been dubbed 'hyper-local'.
Mr Perrin, aged 38, who runs his own site in Kings Cross, London, said: "Britain has a fantastic 'hyper-local' talent and people publish websites about what's going on in their local area and the trouble they face.
"This event is a chance to bring all these people together so they can improve their lot, they can talk about what works best for them and how they get along with the local authorities."
Plenty of local talent is on display at the event, giving people the chance to see the faces behind well-known community sites.
It is this kind of talent that made Talk About Local host the first event of its kind in Stoke-on-Trent.
Mr Perrin said: "Stoke-on-Trent is a very challenging environment. Within that, you've got a very strong paper alongside extraordinary local websites such as Pits 'n' Pots.
"It's counterintuitive and is something you wouldn't expect."
As these specialist websites grow, The Sentinel continues to play a valuable role.
With a website that attracts four million views and one third of a million users every month, the paper can share this audience with more specialist sites.
Mike Rawlins, aged 40, works for Talk About Local as the website manager and has helped to organise today's event.
Mr Rawlins, from Longton, said: "The project gives people an online voice as there are many sections of society that are going unheard.
"Older people involved with parish magazines and residents' associations can be more effective and reach out to more people by going online.
"Activists like the Trentham Action Group and the Springfield Action Group can use it as a fast way to get their issue in front of more people.
"Also, socially excluded people, especially from ethnic backgrounds, can benefit from reaching out online."
Mr Perrin added: "This is a very unusual conference – there's no agenda or ticket.
"The joy of it is you never know how it'll go until it's over."