We currently have 23 members and 332 photos in the group pool, which, given that I only started the group in October is pretty impressive! The community existed before the group and operates outside the council, but they do have regular meetups to take photos (the last one was in the city centre to take photos of the Christmas lights), but as I’m no great photographer I don’t take part!
Most of the members of my group are local photographers, some of them are employees of the council, but the majority are from outside. I started ‘collecting’ people just by searching for ‘Lichfield’ on Flickr and approaching photographers individually, it then snowballed from there!
- When did it all start?
It all started in September of last year when we started work on our redesigned website, it was actually a designer at our CMS supplier who had the idea (Lee Pilmore at Jadu, a very talented individual who I’ve been working with for a while) and I basically ran with it, approaching Flickr users from the area and asking them to submit to the council’s group. I initially didn’t expect much response, I was overwhelmed by the positive nature of people’s replies, who were all keen to start adding pics. I’ve now got over 300 images on file and 23 group members.
- Do you know if the public is responding to the pics?
We haven’t had much feedback as of yet, but I’ve had quite a few photographers join off their own backs without being approached by me, so I know word is getting round the local Flickr community. I did have a lot of comments before the redesign about the old design not really reflecting the nature of the district, so it was definitely something that people were crying out for.
- How do you think this can help citizen engagement with the council?
While it doesn’t help engagement in a direct way, I feel that using images from residents makes us (the council) appear more open and approachable, and therefore makes residents more likely to want to engage with us.
- What are the photographers response to this project? Why are they agreeing or doing it?
The response I’ve got has been 100% positive, the community are only too happy to submit images and get their names out there. While some of them are professional photographers, most of the group are enthusiastic amateurs who are only too happy to get their work shown in any way they can. It also helps the professionals as they get a bit of free advertising!
- How has your boss/council reacted to this?
There was a little bit of wariness about using user generated content on the homepage, I originally was going to use an already established group, but it turns out that it might’ve been a bridge too far for some people, as we wouldn’t have had as much control over what images we approved for inclusion on the site. With us having our own group, we’ve got the opportunity to pre-moderate everything, so we can check that images are suitable before they go up.
- What would your advise be for other local councils who wish to embark on this Flickr project?
Involve the community from day one. Have a search around on Flickr for your area and approach photographers directly, most of the time they’re only too happy to have some exposure.
Set up your own Flickr account and add photographs that you or your team have taken during the course of your working day (for press releases etc). If you set up a pro account you can add an unlimited number of photos, together with a load of other options. It’s $25 a year (about £15 depending on the exchange rate) so it’s pocket change really.
Use the API – the Flickr API is well documented here http://www.flickr.com/services/api/ and is a great way of getting images straight from your group to your own site, just remember to give your users credit – they’re providing you with free content, so it’s the least you can do!!
Thank you Stuart! You’ve been very helpful. 🙂
I hope this post was useful.
Liz Azyan is interested in the ways new kinds of social data and technology introduce challenges and opportunities to society. Get involved with Liz’s latest project here.