A bit about Devon Grapevine – a local success

The great thing about a new job is you get to hear about lots of interesting things that as a council we have been involved in supporting.  Once such example is Devon Grapevine.

What is the Devon Grapevine?

Devon Grapevine is an online network for people from different cultures, living in Devon.

Why was the Devon Grapevine set up?

In 2009, the Safer Devon Partnership commissioned the Olive Tree Association to carry out the Community Safety Mapping Project (CSMP). Over 250 people from minority ethnic communities were interviewed across rural Devon. Areas of concern raised by inerviewees included health, crime and education. Devon Grapevine was set up to respond to these areas of concern.

What can the Devon Grapevine offer individual members?

  • a one-stop shop for information and advice about living in Devon
  • an online place to meet and share experiences with others from minority ethnic backgrounds living in Devon
  • direct contact with organisations through messaging, forums, and scheduled chat sessions.
So why is this interesting, well one of the key successes in my eyes is that before this site, a community like this didn’t exist, people were disconnected from each other.
Now there are over 250 people representing over 40 different cultural backgrounds and most if not all have actually met each other offline at what they call “meet and eat” sessions…these are simply a way for the group to come together and connect.
Approximately 80% of content is user-generated, with the facilitator providing a steer and direction on some issues.
Now this presents lots of opportunities not only for the newly formed community but for public service providers in Devon…however as a starting point and as one model it is a great place to be.
If you wanted proof that stuff like this could happen, then this, in my humble opinion is a good starting place.

To cc or to not cc

I actually think email is amazing, it is actually quite mind-boggling to think that information I type into a message is received by another person within minutes, anywhere in the world…So I don’t have any issues with email as such but it does have its problems.

One of the most annoying things in my view is the use of “cc” ,  It would seem that not everyone uses it in the same way.  My understanding (i could be wrong of course) is that the use of “cc” is to ensure that those people who are included in the “cc” field are included “for information” purposes and are not being asked the questions related in the email.

However with the emergence of social networks and forums etc, is the “cc” field actually still a valid field to use. If you feel someone ought to be made aware of a communication and feel that there is a potential for them to contribute then why don’t we just include them in the main message.

I know it isn’t really a problem and it doesn’t even matter to most people…but on days when you need to prioritise your mailbox, those messages where I am not the primary intended receiver then I will leave them for another day.

I guess just another reason why we ought to rethink our use of communications technologies.

Ok rant over…


A couple of posts got me thinking today and started me on a bit of a self reflection on my use of twitter and other social networks.

The first post was Zombies and Standards by @bankervision – this comment in particular…

Standardisation is a race to the bottom. Build the thing that suits the most people possible. Reap economies of scale. Deliberately design out anything interesting to those at the edge of the curve.

We are wedded to standardisation in big organisations because it makes it feel like we’re in control. The thing is, we’re not in control. In fact, we’re in less control the more standardised we get.

The more standardised you make something, the more you force those who don’t fit the lowest-common-denominator profile to go outside the standard. THey are forced to do so because they are creative, or high achievers, or want to make a difference. Standardisation is an attempt to make them mediocre, and they won’t put up with it.

Via Zombies and Standards – Bankervision

The other post was on the Technology Evangelist site and was about a USA Senator who had a large number of followers but only followed one person.

As @mchamberlain pointed out, Sen. McCaskill (@clairecmc) had 2,256 followers on Twitter at the time of his Tweet. Thirty-four hours later, Sen McCaskill now has 3,464 follower and is still only following one person.

via Do You Have to Follow People to Use Twitter Correctly? – Technology Evangelist.

Firstly i believe that when an individual joins a social network they do it for themselves and they find their own value from them. What i get from twitter, facebook, youtube, slideshare etc will be different from you and others.

For twitter itself i have started using it differently from when i first started. I used to follow everyone back by default and when this was less than 300 people i could just about manage the conversation stream, however the more people that followed me – the more i followed back – the less personal value i got from twitter because the conversation volume was simply too loud. I needed to apply some information filters to my stream.

So i started unfollowing people who were not regular tweeters and who i didn’t really get any insights from or personal value – I started to focus on more on the personal value and my personal usability more than the community itself.

I now make more use of lists and follow other peoples lists to save me from directly following someone or a group of people. However if i feel that someone consistently offers value to ME, then i will follow them. I do a periodic review of people i follow as i need to keep my stream up to date with the various things i work on, this is why i find lists more appealing – especially as i can access them on my iPhone whilst I’m out and about.

However the posts about the Senator questions whether there is an unwritten twitter etiquette  and expectation that a follow back is a “rule”.  What i like about the Senator example is that just because they follow one person it doesn’t stop them from engaging and having conversations with people who @reply them.

If people try to force some kind of etiquette on to a dynamic platform like twitter it will only end up making it a mediocre platform and the value will simply wash away.

For me, I need to focus on getting personal value out of these platforms first before i worry about what other people think about my use of a particular tool. I am always happy to @reply people and have a conversation and i am never offended if people don’t follow me back – as what i am actually saying when i follow someone is “you say interesting things and i want to keep listening – i hope you don’t mind”.

The key is listening and acknowledging, you don’t have to follow someone to do that and we don’t need to create standards to force a level of mediocrity onto social platforms that offer different things to different people