Bulletin boards, nobheads and good people

There’s a very niche car forum I inhabit, full of grumpy old men. It’s my favourite place online.

This contributor summed up his experience of the internet since 1993. I can only imagine, but it sounds about right to me.

And it’s a a nice reminder of how the first generation webbies I meet through work often feel.

Years ago the “proper internet” was just obscure bulletin boards and stuff on usenet, and the general public were absolutely ignorant of it – It was mainly used by intellectuals, hobbyists etc. A good place, unsoiled by the general public – If you wanted access to it, you had to work for it.
One day in September 1993, AOL included Usenet access in their internet package for the general public, and this basically ruined the place.

Car forums experienced a similar thing in the mid/late 2000s, where loads of idiots turned up and ruined the game. Before then you could safely presume anyone you were talking to on a forum was probably a decent person, but once word got round to the nobheads, it dragged the whole place down.

I really can’t stand facebook, but all the dickheads who ruined forums are now on facebook instead, and forums are slowly falling back into the hands of mostly good people, and I’m really happy about that.

Social media has a place in digital transformation

Social media managers and people with similar roles sometimes get a rough ride in the wider digital community.

It’s seen as the fluffy lighter-weight end of the digital spectrum. If you want to do big or meaningful things, you’ll probably want to build a website or transform a service.

I think the high profile of innovative social media marketing has something to do with this.

It’s not helped by comments like the one below, which I do understand.


1. Social media is often the right answer to colleagues who would otherwise insist on building something
2. It keeps organisations true to their audience, to listen
3. It helps us observe behaviours and the ways people are consuming information
4. It gets organisations in the habit of measuring and being critical about numbers, in a way that website stats never managed

Celebrating the how, not the what

To mangle a famous quote:

I’m not always able to say who we delivered projects for, but I counted them all out and I counted them all back.

In the rush to hit deadlines and find time for the next project it’s easy to forget about the achievements. And the past few weeks have been full of those, thanks to an energetic team at Helpful.

I think I could get away with blogging about each of the projects below, but the specific brief isn’t the point. More often than not, the outputs are straight-forward to deliver, it’s untangling the organisation that demands patience, diplomacy and hard work.

Take a bow @kate_rawlins_ @alasdairdick and @claireturner18, who between them have managed to:

1. Persuade, train and guide a senior public servant, who works in a controversial service, on to social media. This was done while simultaneously negotiating a staff union and significant hardware and network challenges (as in there was precious little of either).

2. Step in to a live emergency response at short notice, putting a lot of our models, theory and training to the test.

3. Deliver a school classroom training platform, to inspire children in to careers in marketing and communications. The catch? We’re not delivering the sessions, so that platform had to work out-of-the-box, for non-techies. And it did.

4. Bring together a dispersed corporate comms team, with little confidence in their digital skills, and no experience, and have them producing video on Instagram and Facebook by the end of the day.

None of these are particularly exciting clients or projects in the conventional sense, but their needs are as great as many other complex organisations I’ve come across.

Working through those complexities and meeting needs is worth celebrating on its own.

Running scared of the web

I hope this:

and this:

don’t provide an excuse for people to do less, or nothing, on social media.

Large organisations have plenty enough reasons not to ask for input from their audiences, or to be fearful of opening up their channels to public comment.

It’s too easy to believe that the web is full of trolls (and count anyone with negative feedback as a troll), or that no-one is capable of sharing a sensible idea.

Give people a structure, a set of choices, and target your audience online – rather than just tweeting the world – and the web can still be powerful and constructive.