Tonight we sent text messages, tweets and emails from a Wrexham Council meeting – with permission.
This follows several debates over the years in terms of ‘broadcasting’ from meetings, coming to a head in the last few weeks as a Councillor, and the Daily Post discovered the same issue we hit in 2011.
Earlier today we emailed the Chair of the meeting , Cllr Rodney Skelland* asking permission to transmit and receive data during the scrutiny committee meeting held tonight. We outlined various mobile devices that would be used and reassured that no disruption to the meeting would occur. Mr Skelland promptly replied to our emails throughout the afternoon.
On arrival at Redwither Tower we were told ‘we hear you are tweeting tonight!’ , so we corrected them pointing out that the Chair was going to put our request to the committee first to see if there were any objections and that the request was not twitter specific as we might want to check emails, update others via text, perhaps live blog, upload a picture of the agenda, or do other such wonderful things that technology allows.
As the meeting began the Chair ran through the usual items, including ‘housekeeping’ which included giving the Officers, Members, Observers and basically everyone in the room the Wifi hotspot name and login details. It was great to see around eight Councillors logging at that point to get internet access – although those with the 3G iPads were already working on emails at this point.
The Chair told the committee of the request, saying “Personally I am happy with it – any problems? All ok with it?” and after a few murmurs of ‘Yes’ and ‘Yes fine’ it was accepted.
With everyone hooked up (although we stuck with our own 3G connection) the meeting proceeded. At 6:40pm the following historic tweet was sent:
Several people quoted, favorited, retweeted and replied. We followed up with:
What was pleasing was we had contact (email, text, facebook and via twitter) from various people asking what the meeting was about, who the Chair was – and one person saying ‘dammit’ who was probably going to attend but had forgotten the meeting time, thus we tweeted:
These tweets had some feedback, some that is unprintable, but also gave insight to the nature of the committee and how it was happy to use resources in the room to further the debate. One snippet of information was mentioned that we highlighted, which raised the comment (retweeted by us to nearly 7,000 people) saying “That’s the Late Night Levy. Glad Wrexham have no plans to help further cripple our already struggling pubs”:
One wag did say he misread it thinking the Nationwide Building Society was going to install a bar!
We were able to give a final short update for the material changes and output of tonight’s meeting:
We realise our tweets are hardly thrilling from tonights meeting, however the nature of the meeting shapes that. Hopefully the door opened will remain open, and will mean that Wrexham Council business is seen to be as transparent as possible.
Interestingly one fear mentioned was that transmitting data during meetings may cause disturbance, yet we made more noise with pens and paper than with digital devices.
As Steve Bagnall wrote yesterday in the Daily Post “I have Tweeted live from their meetings before, and the democratic process did not collapse”.
We can also confirm that the world is still rotating and Wrexham continues to exist!
*Mr Skelland represents the forward thinking ‘Silicon Valley’ of Wrexham , also known as the Bronnington Ward.