If you are on Facebook and live in Andover you may well have heard of Spotted in Andover – a shadowy figure who seems to be everywhere, praising, criticising and taking photos of badly parked cars or cats in bins.
Andover is not the only town to have a Spotted but ours did get national coverage when they were covered on the BBC website, although some think this was more down to Bin Cat 😉
Through some tough and lengthy negotiations (okay we asked…once) we have managed to get an interview with Spotted in Andover!
AT: Good morning Mr or Ms Spotted in Andover
SIA: Hi there. You can’t see me can you?
AT: No, you’re fine.
SIA: Good, good.
AT: So, why did you decide to start Spotted in Andover?
SIA: The first page was closed down, (Which I was not Admin of) after a whirlwind of controversy. I had a partial interest of it but was untrusting of it as it seemed the Admin would post whatever content was sent in regardless of what it contained. I thought that left it open to huge risk, of offense and shit-stirring mostly.
One night, it vanished. I got a little curious and clicked on the ‘create page’ feature, within a few minutes the page was set up. By the time I published the page, my only real thought on it was to put it out there, grow a set of house rules and see where it went. I saw potential for it to be a decent community page, which is the answer to your question AT. However, because of the format it would be down to the community to decide WHAT it was.
AT: So tell us, how does Spotted work? Do you drive round town all day taking pictures of badly parked cars and cats in bins?
SIA: Haha! No, I don’t have to do any of those things. The page users send in their content to us as a message, we vet that content in line with Facebook page guidelines and our own in house rules. Then we repost the message as a page status update.
I think the best way to view the page is as a thread based posting board. Every post is a new thread, a new OP (OP = Original Poster or, Author) and a new subject. One member of the community described it as the ‘loudspeaker of the community, what goes in comes out louder’.
AT: Yet some people on Facebook still think all the posts are by one person.
SIA: Yes, this is a misconception I encounter a few times a week. Luckily, the majority know how it works now. Some people get quite aggressive about it, telling me to keep my nose out of other people’s business or calling me a hypocrite after they see a positive and a negative review about the same place.
I’ve had some choice messages and threats, but it’s an accepted part of it for me. I always try to chat about it with them but sometimes they just don’t want to hear it, they’ve made their mind up and I’m fine with that.
AT: So there is more than one Spotted person or do you have ‘staff’?
SIA: The page grew so quickly, it had hit 1,000 in 24 hours. I knew I needed to have some people helping and already had one person in mind who I asked I think in the first week. She said yes thankfully and we managed ok for a couple of months, Facebook provides some great tools via the page set up that really help.
The page kept growing and again it was obvious we needed another pair of eyes, again I had someone in mind. This time a page user, who had a few times gone out of their way to follow up on some of the subjects that had come up. I was impressed and knew that attitude fell in line with how I wanted the page to progress. I asked and they said yes. So right now there is three of us to cover each day, which makes it easier.
AT: Why do you keep your identity a secret and do you think it helps?
SIA: The anonymity, it’s something that works against us for some people because they feel it’s untrustworthy. I can understand that, but at the same time in my opinion it’s irrelevant. The page isn’t about me, it’s not run based on what I like or don’t like and I’ve never imposed my own personal beliefs or agenda through the page. So why is there a need for a name behind it?
It helps in this way, there is a problem of potential grief, it’s better that we can go out with our partners or friends and not have anyone come up to us demanding to know who said something, or deciding they want to debate me on something someone else said. I’m not going to ask people to trust us, that’s pointless. All I can do is direct the page forward and hopefully people will base their decision on that.
AT: Do yo think the criticism of Spotted is fair?
SIA: Spotted does come in for criticism sometimes however by the nature of it, that anyone can join in, not everyone will like or agree everything that is posted. Again, thousands of people in one place with differing opinions on EVERYTHING from what’s funny, what’s irrelevant, offensive, intrusive, what’s acceptable? If there wasn’t any criticism I would be surprised.
AT: We have seen some really helpful posts as well. The responses to a person who posted suffering from depression showed what good people we have in Andover. What were you best moments?
SIA: It was heart-warming and great to see in action, people offering advice, a shoulder to lean on and an ear if they needed it to an anonymous resident of the town asking for help. That was truly great, the moments keep on coming every time a pet is returned home safely or a persons day is made after a shout out. Whenever the community comes together is the best part because that’s the point of the page.
AT: It also does a great job of entertaining as well. What have been your favourites so far?
SIA: Well, it’s got to be the interesting characters that emerge. Trevor the Python, Percival and his crew, the various Turtles and more recently the well thought out and well written humorous posts that are coming in. It can be great entertainment, and some of the users are taking good advantage of that through posts and comments.
AT: How long do you think the page can continue?
SIA: I don’t know, I’ve thought about it but again it’s down to the users. We’re receiving more messages, the page is still growing at a good rate almost nine months down the line. I’ve tried to look at it like a project and it’s developed with the growth.
Use of hashtags to compile ‘archives’ recently is a good addition, which was suggested by a page user. I have some ideas for 2014 that will add to the page and I’m sure there will be more suggestions which we can work with. So it’s potentially limitless in it’s shelf-life but that’s down to the people.
AT: So to sum up, who or what is Spotted In Andover?
SIA: It’s Andover.
AT: Thank you very much for coming in to speak to us. And thanks for posing for the photo at the end of the article. Really appreciated.
SIA: Not a problem. Hope it comes out okay…