An article by Gareth Morlais for CommsCymru 2013
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 didnt 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 Governments Welsh Unit from the BBC
website. My backgrounds 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 bbc.co.uk/cymru and bbc.co.uk/wales 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 bbc.co.uk/cymru. 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 Governments 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. Its 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 thats
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
And beyond Twitter, theres Facebook, Pinterest, Flickr, YouTube and lots of other
social networking websites and apps, and they raise a whole other set of their own
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 theyre in touch with,
and its social media that facilitate this.
gareth AT einiog DOT com