Social Media

An article by Gareth Morlais for CommsCymru 2013

Communicating socially

Turning things upside down, compared with how they were. That's what I like about

what the social media have brought to global communications and other media.

When I travelled to Aberystwyth to become part of the first Hacio'r Iaith Welsh

software developers’ conference there in 2007, I didn’t imagine I'd be one day

working as part of a team with Minister Leighton Andrews AM on technology and the

Welsh language .

This was my secondment to the Welsh Government’s Welsh Unit from the BBC

website. My background’s in social action broadcasting and digital storytelling. Ever

since I worked with CSV Media volunteers making a week of programmes about

homelessness for BBC Radio Cymru back in 1992, I've been on fire to try to help

individuals and groups to have a voice on the mass media.

After leaving the BBC in mid-90s, I launched Marcher Action at my new local

Marcher Coast FM station in Colwyn Bay. Then I did something similar with TNL

Radio in Colombo, Sri Lanka for eighteen months. In Sri Lanka I started to use the

internet for the first time. The potential for self-publishing was so exciting. I taught

myself to code HTML and when I came back to work with BBC Wales, I coded the

first websites for and using Windows 3.1 Notepad.

I continued to work with BBC Online.

In 2001 I saw something which changed my world. I attended a seminar

called ‘Platform’ at BBC Wales and Daniel Meadows was speaking from Cardiff

University. He showed a digital story he had created in a workshop at the University

of Berkley with the Center for Digital Storytelling. Up until then, television was

something that was being created on Sony tape machines which cost £20,000 each;

for the first time now it was possible to create TV on your kitchen table with a

Macintosh laptop! Digital stories are two-minute videos, created by people in a

training workshop where they tell their own story using pictures from their personal

archive. I worked with the BBC digital storytelling team - Capture Wales / Cipolwg

ar Gymru - until 2008. Then I went back to work at The Welsh

adaptation of the CBeebies website Tree Fu Tom has been one of my most popular


I began my secondment from BBC Wales to the Welsh Government’s Welsh

Language Unit in July 2012. Some of the challenges were to convince Apple, Google,

Microsoft, Twitter, Amazon, Adobe and other major technical companies to introduce

new Welsh collections and interfaces. I have been organising training and services to

enable and inspire people to publish articles and Welsh games online.

Outside work, I'm a director of Breaking Barriers Community Arts in Llanhilleth

and a trustee of The Welsh Broadcasting Trust. And I maintain local websites for

Abergele in English and for Colwyn Bay in Welsh.

The development in the world of communications that excites me most is the fact

that we can now say goodbye to the old paternalistic way of 'broadcasting' messages.

In its place, comes a public conversation between organizations or companies and

their customers or clients. It’s a more transparent process where the organization

opens up and citizens have more influence on the organization's activities. For the

public sector - spending public money - we get a dialogue, not a broadcast. In terms of

accountability and value to citizens, this makes the use of social media so thrilling.

But this way of working also raises questions:

• If you and your staff work office hours, how do you deal with a complaint that’s

published and re-tweeted on Twitter from 7pm on a Friday night?

• Do you respond to every comment publicly?

• Is it only the positive points that should be re-tweeted or approved?

• How should you deal with spoof accounts such as <http://>?

• Who should you follow? ... and not follow?

• Should you set your Twitter account to use http:// or https:// (answer: the latter)

• How do I know how much to publish, how much to respond and how much to re-
tweet? Maintaining a reasonable balance between what you originate, discuss and


• When working multilingually, how to deal with Welsh and English - and other

languages perhaps?

And beyond Twitter, there’s Facebook, Pinterest, Flickr, YouTube and lots of other

social networking websites and apps, and they raise a whole other set of their own

thorny points.

Nowadays, the buzz whizzes to and fro along the wires in both directions. We

receive more messages than we are we able to send out. At last, communications

professionals can have a two-way conversation with the people they’re in touch with,

and it’s social media that facilitate this.


gareth AT einiog DOT com




Gareth Morlais yn arwain sesiwn Storycamp. Llun gan Ashroplad