Tagging social objects to enhance and encourage conversation

Mother and Daughter at Alton TowersThis started out simply as a post highlighting a slightly charming picture of my mother walking at Alton Towers, with her mother, and sticking her tongue out at the camera (held by my father, I presume). But looking at it in flickr and thinking about the people involved got me into thoughts about tagging and sociability.

Electronically-stored, people-generated, collaboratively-organised metadata enhances sociability – that’s why tagging has been so hot (or cool – which is it? It can’t be both. Can it?) We get to make serendipitous discoveries of a certain class of social object because of this shift in metadata management. Fantastic.

I was speculating tonight that since so much conversation about such objects is in a question and answer form, the certainty provided by attaching metadata could reduce in some way the possibility for social interaction around a well tagged artefact. When, Where, Who, Why are all frequently asked questions.

But looking at this picture, it’s easy to see that while metadata would be useful, a fascinating conversation could still ensue around this photograph, if it had just been, say, plucked from an old biscuit tin when my mother (she’s on the left) was helping her mother (on the right) to sort out some junk “Oh look at us!” “When was that then?” “Oh it’s Alton Towers” “Yes the day your father got a flat tyre and had to change the wheel” “So how old was I then?” “Look at you, sticking your tongue out. Oh you must have been 18 because you weren’t married there” “I don’t know, didn’t we have Lloyd with us that day?” “No it was definitely before he was born – you’d just got engaged, I think” “Oh do you remember that dress?” “Yes, I got it off Mrs Winters who lived up at the Cotteridge, it was too big for her Janet and you said you wouldn’t dream of wearing that colour, but you do seem to be wearing it…” on and on and on – believe me, I’ve been listening to these conversations all my life (though I should point out that I have no idea whether any of this is true or I’ve just made it up).

No matter how much metadata had been captured about this photograph, the conversation would still have happened and still been as rich – another re-inforced bond between mother and daughter. The bit about “When was that then?” becomes superfluous, but there may well be other details that either or both the participants had forgotten… or not.

I dunno, just in case we ever were getting sceptical about the value of tagging…

What to do with good ideas

SYTF I scribbled this on an index card one day, probably about a year ago and then let it slip out of my consciousness. It was a way of sharing and categorising your relationships with others in twitter based on who you follow, who follows you and the reciprocity between them.

The other day, @deekdeekster twittered about Twitter Karma which pretty much does what I was thinking of. I was more interested in people sharing elements of their own social graph to see interesting patterns in followers and followees – and to be able to move into foreign networks through intermediaries.

It reminded me of Share Your OPML and doubtless there are some nefarious consequences to this sort of sharing that I’m not able to foresee.

I share it to remind myself that I have lots of good ideas every day, but that the ones that really matter are the ones that I implement, write up or otherwise take further.

King of Shaves

Every morning when I scrape a blade across my face, I think “Today, I really must write about King of Shaves” It’s true, if a little disturbing. But for some reason I never quite get round to it, the thought disappears out of my head by the time I’ve left the bathroom.

Sorry guys.

My introduction to KoS was at Interesting2007 – a little pot was in the goodie bag, supplied by Steve Bowbrick who managed better than most would have to give a sponsor’s speech appropriate to that legendary gathering. I’d seen the product before, but was a bit suspicious, it looked (and sounded – shaving? oil?) a bit Top Gear for me. But I tried it out and fell immediately in love.

The lubricants I’ve used in shaving my face aren’t that wide and varied. I never really got on with the whipped cream that comes in an aerosol tin (perhaps I should have used shaving cream that comes in an aerosol tin) though that was my first obvious choice. It did have the great smell of Brut, but it’s just bloody messy, especially when it gets bloody. I had some nice Body Shop stuff once, that you worked up with a brush, but as with so many Body Shop products for men, it seemed to have been discontinued or just not in the shop I went to or something. I know that just using soap dries your face, but I do love the smell of Roger & Gallet Sandalwood or even Imperial Leather. Of course I once used this from G-Room which was nice and minty, but after showing my arse in the shower using one of their other products I was always scared to go back in.

My first thought was that I couldn’t believe how much you use – a “few drops?” but it really does go a long way. I started my little bottle from interesting about 7 months ago and although I don’t use it every day (damn you, Imperial Leather) and I bought another bottle when I went on holiday and forgot, the first one is still going strong.

I think the things I love about the experience boil down to:

lack of mess – although it can make the cut hair stick to the side of the basin.
smoothness of skin afterwards – though comparisons between my face and baby’s bottoms are not rare anyway
size of packaging – tiny, so great for travelling
it just works – it just does.

I shudders at the term “brand loyalty” but I think they’ve got me.

PS They have a bunch of blogs – I don’t read them, but the fact that they exist gives me comfort that applying this oil to my face every morning is OK and probably a good thing. Just confirming my weirdness.

Tales from the Underground

lloyd buskingSo my busking adventures continue – I was at my second home, Bond St tonight – quite quiet, lots of small change dropped, but also lovely stuff like the lady who gave me a rose and the other who said I was the best thing she’d heard on the tube [compared to the coaches on the Bakerloo Line, presumably :) ].

Thanks to everyone who’s come to see me so far – Emma, Russell, Jamie – and all those who’ve sent warm wishes via twitter. I’m having a great time with it.

Counting the money is giving me lots of fun. I have a spreadsheet going with the following metadata: date, day, time, location so that I can do some analysis. So far I’m averaging a bit more than minimum wage… but not quite up to my consulting day rate. No matter, the most important return I get is something I’m not quantifying precisely: the number of smiles and winks.

Today I met a Busking Manager for the first time. These guys get to go round the network, checking in with buskers that everythings alright and making sure that people have turned up to the right pitch at the right time. I’m also getting to meet more and more of my fellow performers. Most are really nice, but I have to say that a number of them are just bloody miserable, I suppose it’s like anything, but I do think there are a few who buy in so much to the suffering artist myth that nothing could make them happy.

The most obvious thing I’ve learned is that people with shorter legs walk more slowly than those with long legs. It’s really noticable when a train comes in, the crowd just gets shorter as it passes by – you just don’t see these things when you’re in the crowd yourself.

Photo by Russell Davies

Why I’m not in Seesmic at the moment

Writing that as a title makes it sound much more dramatic than what I want to say. However, I wanted to explain the reasons for me not showing up so much in seesmic of late. In particular, I wanted to make it clear that it’s not a negative sign – I’m still using it, I’m still in love with the people and the concept, I’m still part of the seesmic community, I’m just not around very much for now. It comes down to three things:

1. There’s a limit to how much alpha testing one can do.

This is not a fault – it’s just how it is. I’ve used and loved the crappy, buggy, bloated, adorable, prototype proof of concept thing they knocked up, but my legs are just tired from using bicycle pedals to fly an aeroplane. I need it to move on (lighter, better organised, social functionality) before I can use it again regularly. This isn’t to say that others shouldn’t have a go while the CTO (who never sleeps) and his band of code monkeys build the next version – if you get an invite, I strongly urge you to jump in, ride it, meet the fantastic people who are there, enjoy it, love it like I have, find the holes, work out for yourself what works and doesn’t work – it’s great fun. Trouble is…

2. My kit’s crap

The combination of said “bloated, adorable…etc” and my little PC with it’s pathetic 256MB of RAM (yes, I’ve ordered some more) mean that I really can’t do much in seesmic before the whole thing slows down to a crawl. In case you haven’t got the message, I do love seesmic so much that I’ve honestly considered setting up a dedicated seesmic box, stripped down to a lightweight OS and browser just so that I could continue being an active participant around this social media kitchen table rather than the old grandpa who sticks his head around the door occasionally to ask you kids to quieten down. I may still do this if I can find some geek-time this weekend, but the truth is…

3. I’ve other fish to fry

One of my main motivating factors this week has been ensuring that Mike Butcher doesn’t get in a position to do to me and the Tuttle Club/Social Media Café what he did to Paul Birch and Co-minded. We talked a lot about it in the last part of the year and our first prototyping meeting was great, but I need to maintain the momentum. My most frequently asked question is “When are you going to open?” My current best answer is “This year, preferably by the summer” I want to have a better answer to that – and more importantly to actually deliver. Again, for the time being, that (and bread and butter work to keep me living in the luxury I’ve come to expect, oh and playing my ukulele) has to come first, so time around the virtual kitchen table is limited [unless of course you want to come to a commercial arrangement, Loïc :) ]

So, in the meantime, don’t stay up too late talking and don’t be late for work because you’re nattering over breakfast, but have fun without me.