Monthly Archives: December 2012

Axl Rose, Dane Bowers, 4yo skater boy and a year of local blogging fun on Cwmbran Life

In 2012 there were 73,792 hits on Cwmbran Life. It was a cracking year that was topped by winning Best Community Blog at the Wales Blog Awards. Other highlights were finding out a Cwmbran man is the lead singer in the world’s best Guns N’ Roses tribute band and bumping into Dane Bowers in a pub.

Today WordPress emailed a summary of this year and you can read it by clicking this link.

Here are the ten links that had the most views in 2012

Home page 22,057 views

Building work has started on a new Morrisons supermarket in Cwmbran 4,440 views

New Chinese restaurant has opened in Cwmbran 1,5823 views

About Cwmbran Life 1,201 views

4-year-old boy stuns visitors and skaters at Cwmbran Boating Lake 1,074 views

Cwmbran mum’s text to teenage daughter goes viral with 27,000 likes on Facebook 1,046 views

Missing dog in Cwmbran £100 reward 922 views

Cwmbran man is Axl Rose in the world’s leading Guns N’ Roses  tribute band 881 views

Dane Bowers has signed to play for Cwmbran Celtic football club 637 views

Photos of today’s fire in Old Cwmbran 558 views


How tenants are helping us to write in plain English and kill gobbledygook

The guidelines for the 'member approved' mark

The guidelines for the ‘member approved’ mark

The building has a facility that can be used to make copies of documents.

The organisation that used that sentence will remain anonymous. Most people call a ‘facility that can be used to make copies of documents’ a photocopier.

You can’t explain why people write in that way. The truth is it is harder to write in plain English than it is to write in jargon.

An estimated one in four adults in Torfaen have poor reading skills so we set up a group who help check our documents for plain English.

It doesn’t work perfectly and we know we can do it better by making more staff aware of this servicer. The group have good fun doing the checks and are really keen to have a nose at more documents and letters before they are used.

The group is five or six tenants who meet up every month. Some of them have email and if something comes in that needs to be quickly checked they are happy to do it by email.

Some of the group were worried that they didn’t have qualifications  They don’t need qualifications to decide they don’t understand something and suggest ways to make it clearer. The one thing they have in common is a hatred of  gobbledygook and jargon.

The forum developed our magazine Community News from an A3 newsheet into a professional A4 magazine that in 2011 won a national award in Wales. The CIPR judges said: “A nice dynamic publication, simply written with engaging content for the audience.” It was a great credit to the group to be told the magazine is ‘simply written’.

At their first meeting they come up with the simple checklist above that is used to check documents.   Jargon creates phone calls and queries so they are helping colleagues cut down on questions that can come from a unclear document.

Is this a facility for making copies of a document or a photocopier?

Is this a facility for making copies of a document or a photocopier?

Photo credit- The photcopier photo was taken by Daniel O’Connor and shared under a creative commons licence.

Can you imagine your town without any pubs? Think of the millions of conversations that will be lost. A quick blog

The Lost Pub Project lists pubs in England that have closed and up until the 18 December 2012 the site had 21,917.entries. Let’s take a guess at each of those pubs being the place where around 500 different topics of conversations took place each day. That’s around 11 millions lost conversations (10,958,500).

The topics could be jokes, anecdotes, political debates, disagreements, celebrations, commiserations, flirting, mundane, weather, sport, local schools…anything.

All these stories lost forever.

Stories in the media like this are shocking:  Is this the end of the British boozer? 18 pubs close every week in UK.

A pub is not just about alcohol. A pub is about conversations and people sharing stories. The thought of those conversations not happening and the impact on a town is quite depressing.

Everyone is equal in a pub. You walk in, get out some money and buy a drink. You can  say a quick hello, start a chat or just smile and nod at anyone. And it’s that anyone that is so important. Where else can you do that?

In the summer I was in a pub and in around 20 minutes I spoke to four people: an off-duty police officer, a man who has done a stretch in prison for assault, a boss who earns over £100,000 a year and an unemployed man. Communities where people from different backgrounds live and mix are important. A pub is the ideal place for this to happen.

Sports clubs often base themselves in a pub. Where will teams go for an after match chat?

My father-in-law moved from Essex to south Wales a couple of years ago. His new local pub in Cwmbran was a short bus ride away quickly gave him new friends. That pub has now closed. Where else would he have got to know local people in a short space of time?

An elderly man used to walk passed my house most days of the week in the early morning and walk back with a newspaper under his arm. If I was off work I would see him in the early afternoon do the same walk but this time his walk back would take a bit longer. I once popped in the local pub and my father-in-law was chatting to this man and introduced me to him. Now this pub has closed I don’t see this guy doing his second walk of the day. I wonder what he is doing now? Sat at home on his own watching telly?

Meeting people, talking and sharing a joke is a great  way to avoid being lonely and the health problems that can be linked. Will fewer pubs mean greater pressure on NHS mental health services?

Jobs are picked up in pubs. Over a beer my father-in-law found a landscape gardener who tides up his weeds every couple of months.

Politicians are using social media to debate issues with constituents  In my area there are two thriving Facebook pages that are popular with local councillors, Torfaen Matters and Torfaen Today.

I do wonder whether local councillors would be more effective speaking to local voters in a pub instead of commenting on Facebook posts. Face to face is surely a much better way to win over voters in a debate on local issues?

On Christmas Eve I picked up a horse tip while stood at the bar of a pub. It lost but still I thought I was sitting on some secret information when I placed my £2 bet.. On Christmas Day I took my 6yo daughter at lunchtime to a pub where we met a gang of our neighbours for a chat. She loved seeing them and showing off her presents. The place was packed and I bet the number of stories shared over those midday drinks would have been in the thousands.

One pub in my town is setting up a savings club in January (I’ll blog about it on Cwmbran Life soon) where people can meet on a Saturday and pay a few quid into an account ready for next Christmas. The couple running this pub are trying to be different and you’ve got to applaud that.

I’ve written this in the last hour but plan to come back to the importance of pubs for another post at a later date. 

Who checks your Facebook after 5pm?

Who checks your Facebook after 5pm?

Do you worry over the weekend when you log out on Friday at 5pm and walk out of the office knowing that your organisation’s Facebook page is being ‘unwatched’ for 48 hours? At this time of the year is your office closed for a few extra days leaving you to worry a bit more about what is happening online?

Like many organisations we set up a Facebook page with the simple plan to use it as a place to have conversations. It’s a place where people can talk to us and we will talk back. A few months ago we held a question and answer session on Facebook that saw us talk to lots of people about Welfare Reform. It opened a lot of eyes in my office about how we can talk to people in this new way.

But the one thing we haven’t cracked is what happens outside normal office hours.

This is the message that we are using over the next week on our Facebook page. We are using Hootsuite to post this message every couple of days. Have you done something similar?

“We love getting your comments and questions on Facebook but just remember that over Christmas it won’t be checked as regularly as during a normal week. If you have any emergencies please call us on 0800 111 43 43. Have a great Christmas and New Year. (sorry, this is an auto-timed message that will appear a few times over the next week)”

We try and discourage people from telling us about repairs as our Facebook isn’t part of the helpdesk team. This is something that we want to improve in 2013 and see how we can work closer together on social media  Our brilliant 24 hours a day repairs service is at the end of a phone call and the expert staff can get info and ask questions to make sure things are logged and followed up. But on occasions people do send us a private message or post on the wall about a repair. I worry about someone posting at 7pm on a Friday “I’ve got a leak in my kitchen roof” and it not being picked up until Monday morning.The ‘about’ info on our Facebook page says

We enjoy getting comments on this page and always try to reply. But remember this page is not constantly monitored so it’s always best to call us on 0800 111 42 42 or 01633 620 111 if you need a quick answer to a question.If you have any repairs you should call us on 0800 111 43 43 so it can be recorded against your home. Please do not report repairs on this page as our staff will need specific information about the problem including your home address and we don’t want you sharing those details on Facebook.We will delete any comments that use swear words, abusive language or identify staff or residents. There may be other cases where your comment has to be deleted. If we remove your comment we will try and to send you a message through Facebook to let you know.

But when was the last time you read the ‘about’ info on a Facebook page? Noone reads this info and from my experience even when we reply to people saying: “No problem, thanks for this. I’ll share with the repairs team and get them to cal you. Don’t forget that it’s always best to give us quick call with urgent queries as this Facebook isn’t monitored all day. When we speak to you we can get all the extra info we need to make sure we sort out the problem. Cheers.”

I use Facebook and simply plan to log into the page a few times over Christmas just to have a nose.

Photo credit- Taken by Vicky Sedgwick and shared on Flickr under a creative commons licence. The photo link is here.

Google Drive v Issuu for sharing PDFs of magazines. What’s the best way to share these files?

A post by Joel Hughes titledTo PDF or not PDF…that is the question got me thinking.

This is a blog post where I may discover I’m barking up the wrong tree. That is one of the reasons I started this blog. It’s a place to see if I’m ever barking up the wrong tree.

Blogging is a way to put down your own ideas and experiences, share with others, and hopefully find out a better way of doing things. So here goes…

I’ve been using Google Drive for sharing PDFs of our magazine. It seems a nice easy way to share a typical 16-page edition online through social media. Once the magazine is printed the PDF is uploaded and you can pop the link on Facebook or in a tweet. Simple.

Then I spotted someone using Issuu

Issuu is free, and the best way to get your print online…Issuu is the leading digital publishing platform delivering exceptional reading experiences of magazines, catalogs, and newspapers. Millions of people have uploaded their best publications to create beautiful digital editions. When will we see yours?

I love newspapers and magazines and to me that means picking them up and reading them. We write, design and include photos in our magazines for them to be held and flicked through. But as it’s so easy to share this content online I want to find out how other people share PDFs of magazines.

What do you prefer or should I be using something else?

This is the link to open up Community News on Google Drive.

This is the link to open up Community News on Issuu.

The main problem (I guess) is with viewing PDFs on different types of devices. The two Community News links above were shared on Bron Afon’s Facebook and Twitter but is that odd?

I mean is it odd to share the same content on social media using different links?