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After all that winterval indulgement it’s time to strip everything back and detox. So today I slipped into Facebook for a while and removed myself from the more trivial or no-longer relevant groups and removed a large number of applications.
I no longer have a fun or super wall – so don’t try to send anything there. I’m missing out on gifts, pimps, zombies etc. I couldn’t say goodbye to my pets quite so callously or LOLCats and of course, real stuff associated with real people like Hugh’s widget and Luke’s Blog Friends have to stay. I’m going to try really really hard to resist the lure of useless crap but I’m human and a sucker for shiny things so be gentle with me.
I’m not joining in with this FB backlash, they’re not worth it – I really can’t get my knickers in a twist about whether Scoble’s there (I was still in his friend queue anyway…) or whether Che Guevara is an appropriate icon to use – I think Robert was being more Tuttle than Trotsky in all of this. As for their draconian TOS, if they don’t change, they’ll become irrelevant and they’ll be left with a whole load of my shit that’s even less valuable to them than the few pence it’s worth now. Just like friendster, ryze, ecademy, myspce etc before them. At least it seems easier to get your account deleted with FB, you just write a script that pings your page more often than a hooman might and Bob’s in your extended family.
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).
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).
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).
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.
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.