Monday, 25 December 2017

Social media make a big difference to biological recording

When Stephen Plummer suggested to me that the HRS needed a Facebook page back in 2013 I was a little ambivalent because I am not really one for social media. Those who know me can attest to me also being a total technophobe - I don't 'do' mobile phones and struggle to understand Android technology on my Mother's iPad! Even so, I cautiously gave the 'go-ahead' if Stephen was happy to set the page up. It has been quite a revellation and now I am convinced that if run properly this sort of media definitely has a place in skills development and creation of a community with similar interests.

I liken the Facebook Group to a 'virtual society'. In some ways, these media have replaced the old Natural History Societies, although I think there remains a place for them because people do like to meet and I expect there would be demand for 'field meetings'. I did think of running such meetings but hit the immediate problem of insurance - these days you need insurance to run meetings on many sites (we get asked for evidence of insurance for DF meetings). So, we still need organisations such as Dipterists Forum - and we need people to join them and to participate in running them. I would urge members of the Facebook group to join DF and get involved in its events, or perhaps better still start to lead events locally for the FB group under the aegis of Dipterists Forum.

I follow several other Facebook groups and don't get the feeling that they have quite the same 'community' feel about them. I'm not wholly sure why this is but think it may be because they have a much wider focus. I also wonder whether the key to creating coherence is to provide feedback to the group about the information they are gathering. In the UKH and UKH larvae groups we do see a narrative developing. Other groups possibly need something similar.

So, here's to the UK Hoverflies Facebook Group (and many thanks Stephen). There is a great core of active members who I think will be able to keep the ethos going long after I have bowed out. Meanwhile, I think it is time to plan so activities that people can participate in. We had our Carrot Flower Challenge last year - I hope we have another attempt on this in 2018 with more rewarding results. We might get people in northern and western areas looking for Microdon larvae and of course it is possible that some people will head off to look for target species such as Caliprobola speciosa and Doros profuges.


  1. The HRS Facebook page is a shining beacon but the reason it is so good is no mystery - it's because of the effort that you put into it. When I post for I.D. confirmation there I know one of you (or Joan) will respond politely, promptly - even at busy times - and expertly. There aren't many facebook groups that work like that, most rely on the "community" without much steering from the owners. So it's rather simple - it's down to you. The British Mycology Society page is also good and there are just a few other examples of social media being done "properly".

  2. Thanks Alan - seems to me to be an important learning point - if you want a happy and active group then you have to make the effort. It is certainly worth it.