Tuttle Club – getting to the nub of why

So in the previous post I went on (and on) about relationships online and off-. The next point is that we seem to have grown up with a prejudice that online relationships are “not as real” or “not as good” as those we create offline.

While I am prone to this myself, when I think about it, it turns out to be piffle – people are people and the way we relate to each other doesn’t deteriorate as a matter of course just because we do it online. Some people behave very badly to others online, in ways that they wouldn’t dream of doing “IRL” but I’d argue that most of us now have more than one solely online relationship which is every bit as good as some of those that we have with people we see every day. And what is interesting, and I’ve noted before, is that online activities enhance relationships that began offline and vice versa. The distinction is disappearing, but I think that while things are still blurry, at this stage of our learning about relationships mediated by technology it’s a good time to look at some of the dynamics of how we get things done in this environment.

As well as Online/Offline, there are two other dimensions that I think are important to look at. These are the Formal/Informal and Group/Personal axes. We’re more used, I suppose, to thinking about the informal/formal axis in the context of the group, but I see both in my personal, individual life too (though there it can be easier to think about it as what’s conscious and unconscious). I don’t like gratuitous use of 2×2 matrices any more than the rest of you, so I hope you’ll forgive me, but I think it’s worth thinking about this space.

One of the first things I notice when thinking about this is that on the one hand social software is bringing more of a focus on the informal lives of groups (organisations, businesses if you like) while it brings a kind of formality at the individual level, by simply codifying our relationships, making things explicit that before were just understood – turning huge chunks of our personal lives into data (which by the way still doesn’t seem to belong to us – but that’s a whole other VRM kettle of fish – and I’m glad brains like Doc’s and Adriana’s are working on it).

2by2shift.jpg

However, that’s just another diversion from the story. Phew. The real point is what we can see when we extend the 2×2 to a 2x2x2 (cue: strangers in the night) with online/offline as the third axis.

In a purely offline world, think about how new stuff happens. I have an idea one morning, maybe in the shower, it percolates up out of my unconscious in a formal-ish way, maybe I write something down but perhaps I just take it in my head to work. Around the coffee pot, or the water cooler, I have a conversation with people and mention my idea. “OMG,” somebody says, “that is awesome, I’ve been thinking about just the same thing” – (OK, so this doesn’t *always* happen, often people have more interesting things to talk about, like their cat’s arse) “and what we could also do is X, Y and Z”. “OK,” I say, “let’s get together later and talk it through” So we do, and we work it out and we come up with a really cool way of expressing it and it gets adopted as part of the way we do things around here (or a ‘pro-see-dure’ if you are a dork).

2by2process.jpg

In the purely online world, there’s a similar process. “Ping! Idea!” (personal/informal) write on blog (personal/formal-ish), a few people comment, create a google group or suchlike, knock up prototype, show it to friends (group/informal), come up with neat way of inviting new people in – bang – it’s an every day part of the web that we suddenly can’t do without (group/formal).

When the online/offline distinction gets blurry, the group/informal space is the interesting one, but unless we work for YaGoogleSoft, or are willing to sell our souls to Starbucks, we don’t have a wifi-enabled space to meet and chat around the coffee machine, dropping our little ideas into the conversation and seeing where they might end up. So the Tuttle Club idea is to create a physical space for the rest of us to play around with the offline counterpart to the read/write web and online social networking and to see what happens when (at least in this city) we have somewhere to facilitate that online/offline bootstrapping for a whole group of people who have little in common yet except that they’ve seen the social media light (and that, if we’re lucky, will be tomorrow’s story).

Relationships, Online and Off-

fbfwSo here’s some of the thinking behind the Tuttle Club idea. I’ve talked mostly about what it should be, to help people understand, but there are actually some important things to say about *why*, which really help me see what is important to keep in and what things can go by the wayside.

Once upon a time all there was was offline – so much so that we didn’t think about it, we just walked over the street and talked to people. And they took our lunch money and told us to bugger off. Sometimes we built more positive relationships too. I think it’s odd that we have to remind ourselves that this was the case but we do, increasingly, especially as time goes by and more and more people come into the world who’ve never known anything different – you know, people who were *born* in the 80’s – weird.

Then we moved into a kind of binary place where you were either one or the other – from 9600 to 14.4k to 8MB broadband, for lots of people you’re still either online or offline and online means being sitting at a computer.

However increasingly it’s whatever (and wherever) works. The boundary is blurring and we can see a time when we’ll be always on, which means that on is as meaningless as off used to be, the distinction may disappear.

A quick reminder – what we’re talking about is ways of people connecting with each other. When I first got an internet connection pre web, there were three things pretty much that you’d want to do. Email, Usenet News and MUD (Multi-user Dungeon) – ways of finding things like gopher, veronica and archie were ways of finding people who’d created cool stuff as much as finding the cool stuff itself. I never was much of a gamer, so I was attracted to reading and writing and getting to know people through usenet and e-mail. Now Web 2.0 is supposedly doing something new, but it’s simply giving people more sophisticated ways of doing what we’ve always been doing on the net.

So I’m asking whether there’s any real difference between online relationships and those we do offline, whether you draw the distinction between based on where they started, or where most transactions currently take place. And the answer seems to me, to be no, there isn’t any significant difference, what is more important is that relationships can be enhanced by interaction online and off- and that these different types of interactions build a deeper, stronger sort of relationship than those that only happen in one “place”. I have more and more of these relationships, people who once I would only ever have read or read about, I see face to face and we get to know each other better and then our relationship online is even stronger.

My “friendship” group then (and put on one side the question of the definitions of “friend”) gets bigger and more diverse and so the question of the Dunbar’s number comes up – 150? WTF? I have more than 300 facebook friends and for every one of them, I can think of a little circle of others who aren’t there, or whom I’ve not yet linked to.

The Facebook friend wheel shines a bit of light on this. I can see the little communities, constituencies, compartments that hold people together in the way they are grouped around the wheel. This is how we’ve managed the transition between the pre-industrial world of only being able to meet at most a hundred or so people in your life to where we are now where potentially you can have some contact with hundreds of thousands. We compartmentalise. These are my friends in my team. These are people I go to the pub with. These are my “friends” in Accounts Payable. These are the people I know who are into ska. These are my golf friends. (This is the me-focused way of looking at the fact that I belong to multiple communities as JP’s talking about this morning). This reduces the cognitive load – if we’re only really comfortable with up to 150 people but we have to deal with more, then we can handle it by divide and conquer – we only have to deal with a smaller number at any one time. Before social software we all knew the potential stress of having members of more than one group meet up with each other (that’s one reason why weddings can break people). Before this point we could get away with being different people in different situations and to a certain extent be dishonest with some groups of people about who we are or who we want to be. What online social networks like Facebook do is make these communities or compartments explicit and then shares that with everybody. It therefore just got harder to keep those people apart – great opportunities for innovation in my social graph, but oh bugger, *they* are going to find out about *that*.

Now, this is just a prelude to the other thoughts that I’ve included in the presentations I’ve done at Web2Open and barcamplondon3 and the feedback I’ve had is that it’s really useful to see the background. As usual, I’ve done it the wrong way round, should really have written it out, then made a presentation then talked about it, but I really can’t be arsed to do things the way I should. I’m writing this at barcamp by the way, so that might just be a reaction to being in a place where the average person thinks that it’s *very important* to do things *the right way* gaaah!

BarcampLondon3: Raising the social bar – Mark Simpkins

#rough notes

Mark from BBC

Sites that include comments. He’s been trying to get them to do it and now they’re doing it wrong. This is not official just a bnch of ideas.

The main thing is how the audience percieves the (BBCs) content and how that content is seen in the context o f the whole web. bbc is seen as big shiny edifice part of the problem is that comments now get trapped.

What are the interactions? – contact, comment, annotation and tagging – producers can look at various analyses.

contact – we’ve had for ages – send an e-mail – we just get feedback in, it’s nice

annotate – done some of but tricky to manage interfaces for and there are other things going on in bbc eg audio annotation

tagging – newly introduced ad-hoc use of various OSNs

comment – eg The One Show (half-hour magazine prog, a conversation with the audience) but most comments are actually something of a contact.

The mechanisms for having comment exist everywhere, what we don’t do is say “I want you to comment so just blog it and tell me where the link is” Cos we’re a big shiny globe in cyberspace and we want to keep you inside. Although this is not the remit of the bbc part of which is to help people use the web more.

The social bar experiment is to start putting buttons on the site to try to automate this – ie if you have a blog, tell us what the link is, if you don’t, then this is how to set up a blog. However, this is tricky cos bbc isn’t supposed to be getting into this bit. got a prototype greasemonkey script – posts to your twitter stream rather than a blog (and send back a link to the bbc so that they can be aggregated easily)

Probably better to be run somewhere else, maybe as part of PSP.

Q: Isn’t this more complicated than it needs to be?

BarcampLondon3: VRM – Adriana Lukas

Commerce has always been Conversations —> Relationships —-> Transactions but advertising assumes a transaction, and has historically tried to ignore the difficult bit ie relationships.

VRM is about how we get to take power over our own commercial information, about making a platform for you to do this, not about owning the data.

Adriana says I can’t remember all the things about everything I’ve done, I want lots of it remembered automatically.

So collect the data, make some tools for analysis, overlay your social network and preferences.

Too much for 30 minutes :)

Need. to. write. (and get some invoices paid…)

I have a fantasy about this weekend’s barcamp that I will sit around and write about all the cool things that are currently in my head. However, I have a feeling that if I wanted to do that a better solution would be to check into a hotel for the weekend rather than sleeping on Google’s floor with a bunch of ueber-geeks.

My week has included a gut-wrenching theatre experience, meeting two super-smart young women for vittles and having my mind expanded both times even though neither of them seem to have a blog (only annoying because it makes them difficult to link to), having 20 super-smart peeps of both genders sit around and talk tuttle, meeting with a client and getting to think big thoughts about their online social networking, having a breakfast consisting of coffee, fruit salad, bacon and enneagram, covering the Edge Awards Winners Workshop and getting to meet a whole big bunch of people who love developing the talents of younger people – together with said younger people as well, natch. I had the treat last night of hearing the history of Dolphin Square as related by some of it’s longer term tenants. Oh yes, and my copy of The Starfish & The Spider arrived so I’ve also been reading and getting an explanation for why I’m more Mary Poppins than Maria von Trapp.

That’s just some reasons why my facebook status said “Lloyd is phew”

Tuttle Club First Prototype

Yesterday I was knocked out that not only had 20-ish people signed up to come talk about the Tuttle Club AKA London Social Media Café (and bring their own coffee and a donation to help pay for the room) but they pretty much all turned up and treated the idea seriously like it’s really going to happen. At the risk of over-thanking, which is probably impossible since today is Thanksgiving anyway, thank you again for your participation, contribution and general good humour.

I put up a page on the wiki for people to write about it and link to what they thought if they wrote/filmed/recorded/drew something about the day. However all I did was to list the names of people who have come.

So if you were there – go here and say something about your experience of the session and what you’re going to do next. Please do also tell everyone you know about what a cool time you had and what you liked about it.

If you weren’t there but are still interested in what happened – go to the same place and have a look. If when you get there, there’s still nothing but a list of names, find someone on the list that you know and use every bullying technique you have at your disposal to get them to open up about it online.

Social Media Starfish => Social Media Snowflake

Social Media SnowflakeA couple of weeks ago, Robert Scoble blogged and made a couple of videos talking about the combined use of a whole bunch of social media tools and wrapped them up by saying they were a starfish. His point by the way was not only to explain how these tools all help with marketing and sales conversion but also to talk about how Open Social is changing the landscape.

When I came to present this to a client in the context of a social media strategy however, I was about to use Darren Barefoot’s excellent graphic version (with added logos!) when it suddenly occurred to me that actually it would be better to talk about it as a snowflake because we’re in the business of making snowballs to roll downhill.

Hey Scoble, don’t worry, the underlying idea’s the same and all credit to you for it :)

Friends of Harry

Harry Tuttle
Thinking about Harry Tuttle. Harry is a Freelance Heating Engineer in a world where such things are illegal. Central Services call Harry a terrorist.

Harry appears briefly two or three times in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. I don’t know if it’s the best film of the late 20th Century, but it’s certainly consistently one of my favourites. Harry, played by Robert De Niro, and his attitude to paperwork and bureaucracy just struck a chord with me, growing up as the battle raged between Thatcher’s anti-social selfishness disguised as freedom and the post-war monolith of nationalised industry. And despite the fact (brought home to me last week in Berlin facing a row of smooth-faced twenty-somethings) that this was more than 20 years ago and before some of you were born, that film – what it says about the state, big business and “terrorism” are still things we’re talking about.

Harry’s spirit is summed up when the hero, Sam Lowry asks Harry about his broken-down, over-engineered, bodged together heating system. Sam says “Can you fix it?” “No,” says Harry, “but I can *bypass* it”. And that’s what I see again and again among this band of misfit, oddball geniuses who I bump into around the web and it’s physical outcroppings, many of whom I now call “friend” and not just in a FaceBook kind of way.

Thank you for your suggestions about guest/hosts. It really helped me be clear that we needed something simple which neither implied any power, hierarchical or elevation of status in the relationship nor unswerving agreement, just something in common, that we can all agree on. “Friend” is great for that. And I’d suggest that we’re all, in some way “Friends of Harry” so that’s what we’ll be. Anyone who comes to the café will be a Friend of Harry, but of course, you can be a Friend of Harry without actually coming there – that’s what Harry’s like.

To keep this up, I’m also starting to talk about the “Tuttle Club” as another name for Social Media Café partly because it’s shorter, partly because it says more about a point of view than a technology and partly because I increasing get the feeling that we’re about more than Social Media. The names are interchangeable, but I think that the Tuttle Club probably covers more than the just the café in London. Let’s see.

Being a guest and a host

I’ve been thinking about what the people who attend the cafe should be called. I do think it’s a good idea to have a name for them and it definitely should not be consumers or users and probably not even customers. I think it should be something other than all that.

The spirit that I’m trying to capture is that you don’t *only* go there to get stuff out. You also go there to give something of yourself. If you’re not into giving of yourself, then it’s probably not the place for you to go… today – maybe tomorrow you’ll feel differently, who knows.

I’ve been thinking of us as both guests and hosts. However, perhaps because I’ve been in the land of concatenation where if you don’t have a word for something, you take two existing words and smash them together, I can’t get past guesthost or hostguest, both of which are tricky to say and to understand in English.

It’s not on the critical path :) but I’d be interested to hear any suggestions.

Wilkommen

Last night I twittered in German when I’d arrived:

Wilkommen in berlin. Sehr spät und glücklich mein schlafzimmer zu finden. Guten nacht twitternet :)

however when I got to Rezeption this morning, I really struggled explaining to the waitress what I wanted for breakfast (It didn’t help that I hadn’t decided).

and then this morning I listened at last to Stephanie Booth‘s babelfish presentation, which opened up lots of questions to me but reminded me of why all this multilingualism is complex. We think that we either know a language or we don’t, but as well as the continuous scale of fluency there is also the complicating dimensions of whether we it’s written or oral and whether we are transmitting or receiving. So my level of fluency in German (just one of the languages I pretend to know) varies depending on whether I’m reading, writing, listening or speaking – in fact it seems to me that *my* fluency is represented in that list in descending order, so I’m quite comfortable reading and making sense, but ask me to open my mouth and you get ummm errrr… silence mostly and a lot of hand waving.