Residents' Associations

Dialogue:______read aloud in pairs

A: Do Residents' Associations still need their own dedicated websites now we have Facebook and other social media sites in every locality?


B: Well, it's certainly true that social media has killed off many residents' association's websites. Many communities simply use Facebook and Twitter and many streets have their own WhatsApp groups.


A: Do you think that's a good thing?


B: As I see it, social media provides the potential for countless community initiatives. It is very good at publicity. For example, so many households have occupants with Facebook accounts that a well run Facebook Group can stream content throughout most of a given locality.


A: What do you mean by a well run group?


B: Firstly, there should be an active co-ordinator. Membership should be limited to those who live &/or work in the area. People will gladly donate unwanted stuff to neighbours, but will feel less happy about giving away expensive items to dealers. There needs to be control over advertising, for example, posted on Monday mornings only. My own local Facebook Group has grown to around 650 members over six years. There are roughly 900 households in the area. One of the big advantages of Facebook over an independent website is that it gives everybody the right to post whether they are reporting on a local event, appealing for the loan of a garden tool, giving away a pushchair or circulating a video of a fox or a photo of their lost cat.


A: What is the downside of Facebook?


B: Crucially, it excludes a proportion of people. Not everybody is happy about using social media. Not everybody likes the new market place, irrespective of its size and use by local authorities to communicate with residents. In addition, there are some things which a dedicated website can do better.


A: Can you give some examples?


B: Yes, although Facebook offers a few standard categories including "Featured", "Topics" and "Files", most people post to the section named "Discussion". Content will slip down the page when it is no longer new, so you will have to scroll or search to find something posted one week ago. A dedicated website may be less democratic, since it is authored by one or two people rather than six hundred. However, it is better suited to content which you want to be permanently accessible.


A: What do you mean by permanently accessible?


B: I mean, it is far more like a work of reference such as an encyclopedia. In the conservation area where I live, where there are many Victorian houses with gardens, it is possible to define subject headings which are likely to interest significant numbers of residents. Our website's main sections include HISTORY and GARDENS & WILDLIFE. Other categories include PLANNING, COMMUNITY, ABOUT THE AREA and LINKS. Within COMMUNITY, there are sub-sections on POLICING, REFUSE & RECYCLING, and SUPPORT FOR OLDER PEOPLE. The format is much more like a tree diagram organised around topic.


A: Does the content remain fixed?


B: Not by any means. The HOME Page is the most frequently edited as it features upcoming events. PLANNING is regularly updated as different proposals come and go. HISTORY and GARDENS & WILDLIFE are informed by articles by various authors published in our quarterly newsletter. Any page with links needs regular checking so that the links are removed or replaced once they are dead.

-----© Ted Power