Top RSS tips for local campaigners

The attentive amongst you will have spotted amongst the 30 tips from m’colleague Mark Park for aspirant politicians:

Subscribe to at least 20 sites using an RSS reader, 10 of which are not party political. Using an RSS (feed) reader is a huge time-saver and an effective way of keeping up with news and information. But there’s no point just being an expert on party politics if you want to be an elected official.

RSS readers are many and various – my favoured one is Google Reader – and having just returned from engaging in another of Mark’s tips, a week without an internet connection – mine is currently recording thousands of unread posts. Clearly I need to make progress on project inbox zero.

But here are some tips for RSS feeds for local campaigners:

  1. www.fixmystreet.com allows individuals to report problems in their street to their local council, wherever they live in the country. You can click on a map, upload a photo to show what’s wrong, and the website reports it directly to the relevant local authority. But for local campaigners… you can get a feed. Click the “Local alerts” link at the top page, key in a post code and choose whether you want a geographical radius, a council ward or all the reports for your local authority. Handy to see the sorts of things happening at a street level in your area – and sometimes gives you helpful ideas for focus leaflets.
  2. Like Fix My Street, www.theyworkforyou.com is a MySociety project, but this one is based around Hansard, the official record of parliamentary proceedings.  You can get oodles of feeds, but the most  useful ones are the ones for your local MPs.  What are they saying?  What questions are they asking? How do they vote?  Keeping tabs on them is just a few clicks away.
  3. Just as handy, and also from the MySociety stable is www.WhatDoTheyKnow.com.  This site lets people submit Freedom of Information requests, and then tracks the responses.  There are feeds for each public body, including your local councils.  By following the link for Nottingham City, I know now that the city council owns nearly 2,000 empty commercial premises and that far more people applied for voluntary redundancy than were allowed to go.  Just think what you can learn about your local council!
  4. Flickr groups – I have the feed for the Nottingham pool of images uploaded to the Flickr website. Shortly after pretty much any interesting public event, there’s a series of interesting pictures of them.  Few of them are useful politically, but they brighten my day and give me interesting new ways of looking at my city. Some of them would be great in a FOCUS leaflet – but if you’re going to do that, make certain you have the appropriate permission from the photographer to use their image.

Other suggestions to populate your RSS reader – do any local politicians of any colour have blogs?  You can track twitter searches as an RSS feed – so set up searches with references to your name, or your town, and see what people are tweeting about. What feeds do your local press and radio offer?

And finally – if you’re going to be out and about leafleting regularly, it’s helpful to know what the weather will do.  You can get a feed of the MET Office’s Severe Weather Warnings and there’s the ever useful IsItGoingToRainToday.

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