This is the 1st part of my interview with Councillor James Cousins, the 2nd part will feature a Q&A.
Cllr. Cousins is a Conservative councillor for Shaftesbury ward in Wandsworth since 1998. He has also been a member of the council’s executive as Executive Member for Regeneration and Community Safety, responsible for economic development, community safety, adult education and licensing policy in Wandsworth since 2006. Prior to that Councillor Cousins has served as the chairman of both the Health and Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committees.
The blog actually appears much older than it actually is – it only went live on 17 December. For several months before then I had been keeping a ‘shadow’ blog. I did not want to start blogging on a whim and then months later have an old, abandoned, presence on the web that people occasionally stumbled across on Google. I started off simply keeping a list of subjects I thought would be worthy of a blog post, simply to see if there were enough to justify blogging, this process actually lasted 6-8 weeks. I then spent a month writing posts on a password protected blog to make sure I had the time and motivation to continue. I’ve deliberately not advertised or promoted the blog anywhere because I am keen to see how it will grow naturally. This strategy seems to be working fairly well. The vast majority of hits come from London, they are mainly driven by searches on specifically local subjects, and average time spent and bounce rates are good.
Why I started
A series of reasons:
1. Ego – it would be dishonest of me to pretend there isn’t a bit of ego in it. Anyone with a blog has to have some ego to put their opinions forward for anyone else to read.
2. I had the domain name (and have had it for years) and wanted to put it to some use.
3. There are obviously political motivations, from a party perspective Iwant to put my points across, and promote my views. From the non-party political point of view it’s a way of advertising what I and the council can do, and making myself available to residents.
The real bottom line is that it is a bit of an experiment – I am doing this to communicate, mainly, with residents in my ward and Wandsworth and will be measuring success on that basis (one of the motivations behind the slow growth). Depending on the results things might be developed further.
None. What challenges could there be? You can set up something free on WordPress.com in a few seconds, it’s not as if there are barriers to blogging.
Ask me this in six months.
No incidents, as such, but I’m rather surprised at the way my Twitter use has developed. I had imagined I would get a handful of followers over time. I didn’t expect there to be such a vibrant (or welcoming) social media/local government community on there. It’s a great discovery, though I hope I’ll eventually get a few Wandsworth residents following too!
Still developing and still tinkering and still enjoying the project.
Tips and recommendations
Just do it and see where it leads.
I don’t think Twitter has come of age yet. It is getting there, but it’s still very much a niche. It’s developing rapidly, and being helped along by several celebrities (Stephen Fry is a great example) but hasn’t quite got enough people outside of the early adopters yet – 2009 will be its year.
Oddly enough, part of me does actually fear it becoming too successful. It may well be heresy, but I have really gone off facebook, it has too many ads and the vast majority of apps add no value but result in annoying messages and notifications. Several friends have reported similar feelings, and its interesting that a lot are no longer active – one who is posted a status of ‘wishes facebook would go back to 2007, when it was good’.
Stay tuned for Pt. 2 of this interview where I will ask Councillor Cousins some specific questions about his experience… Hope you have found this post useful!
Thank you Councillor Cousins for agreeing to be apart of this project.