Social Media is a catch all phrase which is bandied about. Today the more correct Social Networking is the phrase of choice. There are many different forms of social networks. The world of on-line social connections has expanded into different forms over the last few years. Each with its own unique set of characteristics. In the main a social network site allows users to connect and share with people who have similar interests. The bright new world of social networking is changing and I believe its changing for the better.The new technical revolution of a - two way newspaper - that is social media – Usually operated on the principals of a small group of admin types. I watched a free for all developing on the problem of high speed cycling on the towpath. Which degenerated into open warfare when someone gave a different perspective. In other words - the alternative perspective was that cyclist were on the towpath because it was safer than being on the roads.
The bit that surprises me is, that this is a single issue, an issue that will be the one that decides how boaters, walkers and fishermen and the general public will view the trust for a long time to come. I have started to use this as the opening gambit when meeting people on the towpath. I engage them in conversion just to test peoples perception on various boating issues.
There is a groundswell of negative opinion - even from the most mild an unassuming of people. We ran into an ex England football manager. The only thing he was interested in concerning boats and boating was cycling. He said in passing 'How do you find it with all these cyclists. We hardly ever come down here now. We feel its so unsafe for us and especially for kids and dogs.'
We have the position where, the trust is encouraging people onto the canals - and then the experience for some is such, that they then become instant advocates for avoiding the towpath. At one time, the gripe was about the condition of the towpath. That and the dangers of encouraging children that were uppermost in their thoughts. Not any more. Now the bad publicity over cycling has started appearing in the national press.
I am a critic and a friend of the Trust. I always used to temper my criticism with the strap line – we have no alternative but to work with the trust. I just feel the trust is now sleep walking into major issues that seem to come as an unwelcome surprise. The trust is under pressure not from the pundits but from a whole swathe of people. Laurence Hogg cut him in half and like a stick of rock. It would say - CaRT – all the way though. He has just given the trust a savaging on NBW.
I have not been able to write with any lasting conviction – we have to work with the trust - any more. Because the trust does not want to work with anyone. It is in free fall as to public opinion.
When Richard Parry arrived and engaged with people on the towpath. I had genuine hopes for the future. That opportunity has been squandered instead of a new era of openness, that momentum has been lost. Returned to the era of Evans and his predecessor Hales. As to the future – I now advocate the EA taking over the role of management of the whole Inland Waterways.This could be the next debate on social media.