Reflecting on the state of social media on the Isle of Man

Photograph of Social Media Club dinnerAs a small island, separated from the mainland but connected to the world, the development of social media has been an interesting story.

Whilst social media had been adopted as the platform of choice for younger generations, companies were keen on understanding how to reach these demographics on their own platform and how to continue with a positive engagement. The Social Media Club was developed as a way to develop ideas and promote best practice across the social media world.

As part of this, the island’s Social Media Club met every month, ranging in number from 4 to 20 and always promoted interesting discussions, particularly with social media hitting the news for topics such as bullying, privacy and the corporate movements of the new burgeoning tech sector.

We had some successes, introducing users and companies to social media. We also had two successful Twestival events which only ceased due to the organisers’ bizarre brand-grab, raising one of the largest amounts across the world per-capita.

Where has the island come since?

Perhaps we can claim the island has reached a level of adoption which suggests maturity gained through usage, experience and even groups such as the Social Media Club lunches.

Inevitably, marketing companies have adopted the paradigm, specialising in results-based marketing and avoiding the broadcast or fire-and-forget method of reaching out to customers that may otherwise be used.

Manx Radio recently started reading out contributions from social media on their Mandate show, providing an additional channel to contribute to live shows other than the email and telephone older generations may be used to. (It’s interesting that email is now seen as an archaic medium for newer generations.) You get a better class of mental on Twitter!

Even the Isle of Man Government have jumped on, with differing levels of success and engagement according to the topic and department. Between engaging with users as tax payers and delicately straddling the line of individual privacy and the professionalism of the department, it’s been refreshing to see a little bit more transparency.

Further signs of maturity on the island is the consideration of the effect of social media on the island’s unnaturally small juries. Chris Robertshaw has embarked on an exercise of determining whether enough people are in the juries and how the judiciary will mitigate against influence from what is a tightly bound island community online.

In reflection, we remain a separated island but are very much more connected.


Isle of Man Social Media Club: December 2013 Third Thursday

The Isle of Man Social Media Club Third Thursday lunch/dinner is a regular and informal gathering of people from a variety of disciplines, including marketing, PR and IT. This month, we’ll be meeting on Thursday 19th December at Jabberwocky.

We’ve been able to chat around a variety of topics related to social media, such as ethics, legislation, policing and more fun aspects of various social media platforms. Whilst we are all probably used to Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, we’re always keen to learn about new platforms and trends you may have spotted.

Jabberwock logo

Following our vote for a change of venue, the consensus points us to Jabberwocky, on Duke Street in Douglas (that’s the end of Strand Street, across from the pedestrian lights). Jabberwocky have a friendly team and have a good quality lunchtime menu with Bagels, Jacket Potatoes, Wraps and daily specials. They are also social media savvy, with a Facebook and Twitter presence.

Hope you can make it. If you can, help us plan numbers by giving us a shout in the comments …

TT 2013 Tweet-up – Thursday 30th May at Velvet Lobster

Social gatheringIt’s TT and time for people to get together and have a bit of a chat in good company. At somewhat short notice, we’re planning a tweet-up on Thursday 30 May 2013 from around 6. Our friends at The Velvet Lobster have kindly held some space for us so we can grab one of their lovely cocktails or a bite to eat.

If you can’t make the usual 3rd Thursday lunch-time meet-ups at Paparazzi, this is the perfect opportunity to meet your online friends … offline! Previous tweet-ups have been a great success, always attracting a friendly crowd.

So we can firm up numbers, drop us a line by replying to this post, letting me know by Twitter (I’m @programx) or on Facebook.

Hope you can join us for chilled out chat and cocktails!


So I haven’t blogged in ages and that’s largely due to some personal upheavals I’ve had to deal with. However, I now have more time to publish my ill thought out and poorly conceived ideas so there’s likely more to come …

It’s the Isle of Man General Election in September and candidates have started their campaigning. This year is my 5th on the island and so I have been able to grow accustomed to the Manx lifestyle and appreciate the issues which the island has, which combined with a degree of experience of my time in the UK, has developed ideas in my head about how I’d like to see things done in the future.

The Isle of Man does not have a party system in its parliament, Tynwald. The island is too small for that mechanism. Instead, individuals are elected, each of which campaign with their own policies. In recent times, the Liberal Vannin party has emerged that does have a consistent “party line” and which is exerting pressure on Tynwald in new ways, which is clearly ruffling old feathers.

As far as I can see, although our parliament is one of the oldest in the world, it is fundamentally undemocratic. In the UK, if you want social reform, you vote left, If you want lower taxes and an enterprise economy, you vote right. Although this is very simplistic, these principles have more or less remained for centuries. By electing a party, you are enabling the “party line”. In electing individuals on the Isle of Man, you have only the policies held by the individual candidates to go on. The candidates have good intentions and strong messages but in reality, the results of these are often weakened by the requirement to “get the vote in” for legislation to be enacted. What actually happens is lobbying, meetings and debates occur in preference for a particular policy or “government line”. Individuals drop their policies, weaken their stance or change their line to avoid to be seen as being disruptive to parliamentary process. And being disruptive in the Manx community is distinctly an unattractive position. One individual who has a record for blocking this process is Peter Karran, of Liberal Vannin. He ruffles feathers because he creates friction in what is essentially a Boy’s Club.

So what value is my vote?

While I’m unsure which way to vote at the moment, the emergence of the Liberal Vannin party in 2006 is interesting and represents a real challenge to this status quo. As ever, it comes down to numbers of votes in Tynwald when introducing legislation and with a party line, legislation becomes more democratic. A number of individuals with individual policies, ideas and priorities clearly does not work; a party with a number of individuals (and therefore votes) is going to have more muscle. While at the moment there are just 2 elected Liberal Vannin MHKs, this number could surely rise this year with increased dissatisfaction with government policy. This will create a more effective vote for the electorate as individual priorities and in-dealing is [hopefully] reduced. However, this only works if Liberal Vannin have the “right” policies for all (not likely in a complex society) or a new party emerges. (Or individual candidates could get a backbone and stand by their convictions on which they were elected and are representing their constituents.) Our process seems to be a mixture of weakened stance and blocking.

Another area where democracy is weak is in the selection of the Chief Minister. Both the current Chief Minister Tony Brown and Richard Corkhill before him have had negative reaction and feeling about their performance and/or conduct in and out of office. Notice how I said “selected”, rather than “elected”. There is no public say in which MHK assumes the role of Chief Minister. In a system which eschews party politics, and where the individual is the representative, surely the Chief Minister as an individual should also be elected in some capacity by the electorate, maybe by candidate manifesto or Proportional Representation?

Transparency in public life on the island is not as transparent as the UK, as seen by the recent inability to implement a Freedom of Information Act which would have enabled public scrutiny in an over large, penny-wise-pound-foolish and somewhat ineffectual civil service. Plans have been afoot for a while for making the Legislative Arm of Tynwald to be elected, as similar efforts in the UK. Both these elements of making the process more democratic and less opaque have faltered, and it is ultimately down to personality and protecting one’s lot. Such attitudes need to change on the island, particularly as hard decisions needs to be made with regards cost savings, for which it is important to get the Manx community on-side or at least educated as to how decisions were made.

Full Moon and a Friday Evening, so the imbecile drivers are out

We’ve just arrived home from a 3 mile drive from Douglas Centre. We’re lucky we’re in one piece. I’m a stickler for the rules while driving at the best of times, but tonight was something else. It clarifies what I have been saying; that driving standards are poor. The attitude that seems to be pervasive across all drivers is “I’ve passed my test, I can drive how I like”.

Consider these events this evening:

  • 5 people failed to indicate
  • 1 person (large van driver) indicated to pull out of the side of the road, but the following cars proceeded to overtake him anyway. This, despite the inevitable blind spot vans have.
  • 1 person fails to appreciate how roundabouts work
  • 1 person stopped his car in the middle of Bray Hill, straddling a carriage way while pulling out
  • 1 driver launched himself out of the St. Ninian’s garage (a blackspot indeed) without looking causing us to apply an emergency stop
  • 2 drivers jumping out into slow moving traffic because we were leaving junctions clear, only to block those junctions with their huge four wheel drives

This is testament to the appalling standards of driving. Not only that, it shows how selfish drivers can be. It is Friday evening and they want to get home. Sod you, sod everyone else. This is not just a driving failure, it is a humanity failure. I detest driving due to this abhorrent attitude to others. While driving is a necessary evil, it strikes me that the application of the rules of the road is lax and maintenance of one’s own driving ability non-existent.

This is what I propose.

A periodic review of driving standards for all drivers, more regular for the over 60′s. This should take the form of either a booked lesson or two with an approved driving instructor to help iron out bad habits that will inevitably have been accumulated over the years. This would be an ideal opportunity to update the driver with the latest changes in road traffic law, best practice and provide the opportunity for introspection. If the driving instructor feels that the driver is not taking these lessons on board or is a danger to himself or others, then they should be able to recommend to the authorities that a test be re-taken. I would propose every 7 years for this. If you don’t conduct this “refresher”, you get disqualified and have to take your test again.

More traffic police need to be employed to actively pursue bad driving. Even driving round in a marked car will have the effect of improving standards. In addition, the reporting of bad driving needs to be made easier. For example, in a recent incident, I reported a driver who was on the mobile phone while driving. It took days for the Police to arrive (though it was during the recent snow, so can understand why) only to be told, “It’s your word against hers”. What about phone records? “She could say it was someone else using the phone”. Fair enough, this wouldn’t necessarily secure a conviction, but it must be enough to generate a warning, which I was assured would happen. Bad drivers aren’t likely to go out to be bad drivers, they need reminding of their behaviour. A periodic warning should keep it in mind that their driving affects others.

While I do not like the idea of “big brother” monitoring our every move, I do think that black boxes in cars would be an excellent idea. This would allow quantatitive data to be collected from a vehicle after an accident or reported incident. This would track brake application, acceleration, speed, wheel spin, location of the car, even detection of mobile phone use. This would help secure convictions but would surely drive down the cost of insuring drivers. If the data could be downloaded from the device by the authorities and added to your insurance record, then drivers would be less willing to take risks. As trains and aeroplanes  have black boxes to record why incidents occur to contribute to injuries and deaths, so should cars.

Speed limiting cars is also an idea I would consider. The speed limit on British Roads varies from 20mph to 70 mph on motorways. There is no reason why a road car needs to go above 80mph, so a limit should be applied to prevent such driving. This gives the car the ability to drive at 70mph and be able to speed up to take avoiding action if required. If the car needs to be able to drive faster than the speed limit of the country, such as where speed limits are not applicable on certain roads (for example, the Isle of Man), the driver should be required to take an advanced driving course.

One aspect of driving on the Isle of Man that can cause problems is the lack of an MOT. In the UK, an MOT assures the driver and the authorities that their car is road worthy. This is not required on the island, which means cars regularly drive around with faulty lights, noxious exhaust fumes and dents of varying seriousness. While drivers seem to be unable to use their indicators at the best of times, having a working indicator in the first place is a start.

Maybe now is the time to post all the pictures I have of drivers illegally parking, using hazard lights to park while getting chips, crashes as a result of jumping red lights, etc. I am seriously considering getting some sort of camera gear such as that used by the owner of the Fight Bad Driving site, to record evidence and report it. It seems no-one else is interested in adequate driving standards, after all. It’s interesting to read about the abuse and death threats that site owner has received from people who have no business people allowed near humanity, let alone a vehicle.

Bendy Bus: a [low] step in the right direction

The Isle of Man saw its first bendy-bus arrive on the island yesterday, as part of trials by the Department of Transport to assess the suitability of the vehicles to the island.

Bendy-buses try to be the best of high-density (but route restricted) double decker buses and smaller single-deck vehicles by placing the passenger cabin area across two vehicles, and articulated in the middle. Due to their larger size, they often have two sets of doors which helps in getting passengers on and off the bus quickly, which makes them particularly suitable to high-frequency services. Their lower-floor also provides a more comfortable safer centre of gravity and accessibility as per the Disability Discrimination Act for disabled users.

They have, however, experienced a lot of negative press of late. While these buses have been in use in mainland Europe for decades, England (and London in particular) have had a large number of complaints regarding their use resulting in building up a negative reputation. This, I feel, is unfair. These buses provide a very good solution to high-density, high-frequency services, such as those surrounding city centres. My service of choice while in Manchester was the 135, which arrived every 6-7 minutes and was invariably very well occupied (and also ran deep into the night providing a safe means of getting home). Unfortunately, their use has been misapplied previously, particularly in London which has had a disproportionate number of injuries and incidents related to he buses largely as a result of the extremely busy routes and tight road layouts the buses were employed on.

But what about the Isle of Man? With its windy country roads, comparatively shorter distances and housing estates, is the bendy bus a “good fit”? I would say that it would be, if in conjunction with reducing the number of double decker buses. The initial trials are intended to run from Douglas to the south of the island, particularly Ronaldsway Airport. This route is relatively straight forward, mainly 50mph and which is subject to users accessing the airport, with their associated baggage. A bendy bus with the standard wider aisles and larger luggage space would be well suited to this route. I’m not so sure about other “longer distance” routes, though. The Douglas to Ramsey route, particularly, requires traversing some narrow roads not helped by parked cars and the traditional Manx driving style of “me first” when the full width of the road isn’t available.

But the bendy bus does not answer my prime concern; that of the need for regular services at an increased frequency using more agile buses. I’ve blogged previously about the use of double deckers (and the bizarre decision to buy more) around small roads and traffic calming measures on estates, along with their unreliable and unpredictable timetables. If the bendy buses came along with shuttle buses, which ran every 30 minutes or so to help people zip around the various town estates, it would be ideal and would hopefully go some way in encouraging people to stop using their cars to drive 3 miles into town. Such buses work extremely well on the UK mainland, offer ample space for baggage, disabled accessibility and often free services. The 1,2,3 and 4 services in Manchester City Centre are excellent examples of such buses, which would be equally well employed on local town services where agility and frequency are important.

I for one would be more than happy to receive Boris’ bendy-buses, as long as he has some of our double deckers and we get some more suitable shuttle buses.