Category Archives: london

Some Hows of Timelapse

I made a little timelapse this week and put it in my flickr stream because I found, to my chagrin, that it made instagram video barf.

Robert spotted it (see? he *is* looking, watching, lurking quietly after all) and kindly mentioned it in his newsletter this morning. He asked “How did he do that?”

Well here are a few ways of answering that:

  • I shot it on my phone. It’s an “HTC One”, which accounts for the wide screen. There’s a free (with Pro version available) app called Droid Timelapse. The only real setting I use is to adjust the Frame Capture Rate – each frame here is a second apart. I did no other processing after shooting, just uploaded it.
  • I’d just tried out the new cafe in the newly extended Sainsbury’s in Garratt Lane, opposite the Southside Centre. It is nothing special, but for £1.95 I got a large mug of reasonable coffee that I enjoyed more than the sort they serve over the road in Caffe Nero for example. I came to the exit and realised it was raining (again) and saw in front of me a big window out onto the street. So I went and stood by it, propping my phone up against the glass, firing up Droid Timelapse, holding very still and pressing the button to make it start. Then I waited for the counter to reach 10 (I don’t know how long that took, I’d have to do some arithmetic with frame rates… but that makes 10 seconds of video) and I pressed the button again to make it stop. Then I went and bought some sausages in Sainsbury’s and went home.
  • While it was shooting, I was nervous. I expected at every moment to hear one of the security guards behind me say “I’m sorry sir, you can’t do that here” I couldn’t move because I was holding the camera still. I imagine that if anyone had actually paid any attention, they’d have thought I looked like I was waiting to take a picture for a very long time. While I was standing there a young (I dunno, late teens I guess) woman and a slightly older man came and stood nearby. They had a trolley full of groceries but I assumed they were either waiting for the rain to calm down or waiting for someone else to turn up. They were having that kind of conversation where you don’t get too deeply into anything because you know that you’re going to be interrupted at any moment by a change in the weather or the arrival of your friend. I zoned in and out of their conversation while wondering how the movie was going to turn out – would it be too fast? what would it look like when the traffic slowed down or stopped for the traffic lights? how many buses had gone past now? – the only thing I remember her saying was “I’ve been told by many people that they’ve had visions of me dying young.” When I turned around all I really clocked of her was that she had long hair and was wearing a light-coloured (creamy) woolen garment – I couldn’t say whether it was a cardigan or a pullover. It might have been Aran.

Does that help? Anything else you want to know?

Footnote: While I drafted this post (and the previous one) in Fargo, it’s still easier to embed media (especially moving pictures) using the wordpress.com interface. Boo! (actually that’s not true, I made it up before actually trying it out – the flickr code is just a line of text which would fit nicely on a line in Fargo. I’ll try that next time)

My five-year old: #tuttle

Birthday #Tuttle in full swingYes, on 15th February five years ago, the London Social Media Cafe which was soon to become better known as The Tuttle Club held the first regular meetup at the Coach & Horses in Greek Street and we’ve done the same thing (more or less) somewhere or other every week (give or take) since then.

A bunch of lovely folk turned up this morning to do the same lovely thing as ever: talk, drink coffee, laugh, talk, meet new people, have a moan, whatever it is that you all do, I don’t know, I just wander around grinning inanely.

First thing this morning, Rob O’Callaghan showed his appreciation for #tuttle (which inspired his Tunbridge Wells group:  (#twuttle and its various spin-offs) by treating me to breakfast at the top of the Gherkin in the City.  Because it was something he could do.  It was great.  I’ve never been up in any of these super-tall structures before and the 40th floor with it’s 360-degree view is amazing.  Thanks to Rob and Phil Macleod who hosted us.

Back down at the RFH #tuttle buzzed its way through three hours (at least).  I was asked, by people who’d been around for a while and new people too, what I got out of doing it.  It’s a question that obsessed me at the beginning, but the answers aren’t what I expected back then.

It hasn’t made me rich or particularly famous.  I’m skint most of the time and I have been for five years, but I’m happier than I’ve ever been and anyone who wants to tell me that it’s all a failure because it doesn’t make money is missing the point of life, in my opinion.

About six months in, I decided that  I would commit to just showing up and welcoming new people  and I knew then that I wasn’t ever going to make money directly from #tuttle and that it wouldn’t thrive for long if I made it all about me and used it as a vehicle to get well-known and cash-in from there.  And I wanted it to thrive for a long time.  I still do.

But I’d already learned this from blogging – that you get your rewards *because* of the things you do, not *for* the things you do.  So what are the things I got?

Well doing this thing changed the whole way I see my life and work and it changed how I am perceived by others.  I no longer think of myself as any kind of consultant,(though I will still happily take consulting fees!) I’m an artist, I make beautiful things, and #tuttle is one of them.  The biggest thrill I got today was being told by a newcomer that “it was beautiful”.

I’ve been able to do things that I didn’t think possible.  I’ve traveled and written and photographed my way coast-to-coast (and friend-to-friend) across the USA twice and then hobo-ed around the UK for a whole year living and working with people I’d met on the internet who’d got to know and trust me because I did #tuttle.

I got to call myself Social Artist in Residence at the Centre for Creative Collaboration and then spend a couple of years really thinking about what the hell that meant.

I got to work with a group of the simultaneously nicest *and* smartest people I’ve ever met on creating a new approach to business consulting, a process that resulted in some fabulous open data and the creation of at least one company.

My recent work on #ourdigitalplanet and #wewillgather (I’m considering amending my bio to say just “I work on hashtags”) has been successful because of this weekly deep experience of organising without an organisation.

And I got to meet you all and share in your journeys.  I got to see you grow and be encouraged and build your lives and projects and businesses.  I got to listen when you were down and depressed and couldn’t see the light just around the corner.   I saw hungry young things take flight and soar and become industry stalwarts. I saw a certain entrepreneur meet hardcore users of his product and get real user insights into the thing he’d later sell for millions.  And I got to partake in the multitude of fascinating soap-operas of our intersecting lives, laughing and scheming and crying and dreaming and, conversation by conversation, reaching a far better understanding of this social web thing together than we could ever have done on our own.

Thank you all, everyone who’s been along on a Friday morning, even just the one.  Thanks to everyone who picked up the idea and started one in their own town (otherwise how would I have ever known to visit Long Beach?!?) Thanks to everyone who offered suggestions and guidance on making it better.  Thanks to the trolls who spewed and stewed and (thankfully) repeatedly went hungry; please, if they wake up, don’t start feeding them now…

OK, that’s all, go back to what you were doing.  See you next week.

Tuttle needs to move

Tuttle is a travelling circus. It needs to move and it needs to go where the people are. I needed a rest from herding the Tuttle cats and C4CC was a great place to let the show rest and settle and for me to run around doing other crazy things for a bit (OK 2 years). But I miss old Tuttle. And other people do too. I think it’s time to get it going somewhere else.

The question is, “where?” At the moment that’s quite a high-level where. London? Yes. East or West? Not sure.

I get frustrated by talk of what made Tuttle “work” in 2008/9. “It was this person. I liked the ICA because it was like this. I liked the Coach & Horses because it was like that. etc.” I don’t think any of us really know what the secret-sauce was, because there was no single secret sauce.

But I think the most important thing to answer now is: if Tuttle is a thing for everyone, where can lots of people go to that’s near enough to where they were going to go on Friday morning anyway?

Or is it?

Applying Social Art

Art in #c4ccMy time as Social Artist in Residence at the Centre for Creative Collaboration is helping consolidate stuff that I’ve been learning throughout my career. I want to share some of this by running some workshops around the question:

“How do I use social art, social media and social tools to improve my organisation’s engagement with its customers or other stakeholders?” (btw that’s whether your organisation is just you or hundreds of other people too)

I’m going to run some 1-day workshops to help you explore where you might start; how you can make use of things that you already have; how you know who else to get involved; and how you keep going once you’ve got started.

We will get there the same way that the Tuttle consulting group has been working things through with our consulting client, Counterpoint. We’ll use the tried and trusted Tuttle approach of playing around with ideas, talking lots, trying out tools and ideas and generally making it up as we go along.

Many people don’t go near social tools because they’re afraid of getting things wrong or looking stupid. So I’m placing this workshop in a context that values getting things wrong, where everyone will probably look a little bit stupid, where we will value each other’s silly childish scribbles and say “This is great! Carry on! You have to start somewhere. Well done! Well done for having a go.”

Who should attend?

People who:

  • have been exposed to the theories about social media but want to get their hands dirty; or
  • have a strategic role but need some practical experience of social tools; or
  • are artists in any medium, looking for ways to expand and extend their creative practice; or
  • know that using social tools is important, but don’t know where to start; or
  • want to be better at having conversations with others inside or outside their organisation; or
  • just feel stuck and are eager to try something new.

What actually happens?

The day will take the form of a field trip in which we go out together, explore a space and use social tools to capture and reflect on the experience. The group will decide for itself exactly which space will be visited, but the idea is to have a day out and about so the menu includes museums, galleries, woods, ponds, rivers as well as more urban landscapes.

You will learn:

  • the importance of maintaining flow and creative action in your work;
  • how to collaboratively create an online cultural artefact;
  • how to think about your business from a social perspective;
  • how to make simple engaging media with others;

You will have the chance to reflect on:

  • your own ability to work in a group;
  • your own creativity;
  • how these tools might help you deal with a change in your market or organisational environment;
  • how decisions can be made collectively;
  • ways that you might use social tools in your everyday work.

Cost

I’m pricing the days at a specially discounted £75+VAT per person for these first ones. You will need to bring your own packed lunch, at least one portable device capable of connecting to the internet, a fully-charged oyster card and a kagoul in case of inclement weather.

Booking here.

Suburban Station Slashers

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Two things I notice about this group of posters at Epsom station:

1. The common use of Black, Red & White both between the dark fiction titles but also with an exhibition about Victoria & Albert – does this tell us anything about our attitude to Victorian times?

2. Why are these books so popular with suburban rail passengers? Or at least why are suburban rail passengers routinely targeted by the publishers of these books? What does it mean that large numbers of people pouring into London every morning have just spent half an hour immersed in blood, slashing, and psychopathic torture?

Winter

Kitchen windowWoke this morning to another sprinkling of snow in London. Probably more outside of town, but haven’t checked yet. Not much but clearly it came down through the early morning when there were fewest people about so it’s thicker than it would have been if it had come down at 4pm.

But my first reaction was “Blimey, this is going on for a long time.” (the current weather pattern of cold and snow)

And then I thought “Hang on, isn’t this what winter’s *supposed* to be like?” We’ve become so accustomed to having only a few individual days of snow that having a prolonged cold snap with associated precipitation feels out of the ordinary. It’s the corollary of “Oh, we had a sunny day, that’ll be our summer then!”.

But didn’t it used to be like this all the time? Why shouldn’t winter have a fortnight or so of snow and ice? Has anything actually changed here? Why is this so important? And so, yet again, I’m left wondering whether it’s the world that changed or that my dislocation is a result of warped perception. Is it them or is it me? Usually the answer to that question is… errrr… yes it’s me so forget it, ignore what I just said and let’s get on.

What I did at RebootBritain

060720091694I enjoyed myself at rebootbritain this week (it was a bit of a bastard child of 2gether08 and Innovation Edge) I think I’d have preferred if it had more genetic code from barcamp and opentech but I’m fussy like that. I don’t think it was ever going to be a real “doing” place. More thinking, talking and connecting, all of which are still very important things to do, if we want to move on to “doing stuff”.

And I believe that we need to practice this a bit more if we’re going to get good at collaborating in spaces like this – it’s one thing to have a difference of opinion in a conversation about how someone’s project should engage online. It’s quite another if the group you are in is trying to actually make that happen there and then. It’s not that the doing is more difficult necessarily but I think collaborative doing is easier and goes better when people are well practiced in talking with each other in a small group. It’s yet another thing I’ve learned from growing tuttle from a small seedling and then going out doing consulting with people from the network.

Back to what actually happened on Monday. I see two basic models of how people can talk to each other at events like this. There are conference rooms where the speaker to listener ratio is between 1:50 and 1:700 (not including those watching live on the web) and the other “Coffee Track” mode of people speaking in pairs, joined by a third which gives the opportunity for one of the original pair to slip away and for a new pair to get talking. Of course there are other mutations and variations that spring up around the place but they don’t live for long, the ecosystem keeps returning to two dominant, parallel states, the very large and the very small. The flavour of discussion in each of these is markedly different. In large scale meetings, the speakers often speak about what “we” are doing – sometims that is a specific group of people, but often it’s a more slippery “public policy we”, or “we in society” it’s a Global we. Q&A where allowed gets dominated by those with something to sell (if it’s me, it’s usually my own cleverness!). Meanwhile in the corridors the conversations are led by the question “So what are you doing?” or if you don’t know them already “So what do you do?”.

This means there’s a very high level global conversation going on, and a very personal (but rarely intimate) conversation going on, but nothing in between.

So, encouraged by others to do something to reboot rebootbritain I sought out Steve Moore and got permission to use one of the rooms that was shown as empty on the schedule. Then I thought more about what I wanted to do. I wanted to create something tuttle-ish but more structured, so I plumped for conversation circles and added in a rule or two: 7 +/- 2 people popped into my head, whatever that really meant, I worked it out later – and remembered the reference. An another ‘rule’: you can talk about whatever you want. Then I wandered around pitching it to people in their twosomes and tweeted the time, location and basic form.

As I talked about it to my chums around the place, of course the pitch and my idea of what we were going to do evolved and I am an unreliable reporter of the exact sequence – just remember this is my post-hoc rationalisation, it was (even) messier than this…

So I let as many people as I could, know that we were doing “something”. Found that the start clashed ith sessions that people wanted to go to: “Is the Web Female” and the Social by Social launch – but then it had to clash with something. Only one person, noticed that I was interrupting their conversation to invite them to something which, on the face of it, sounded quite similar to what they were already doing.

060720091696I went up to the room at 2pm to find that the group occupying it had been told they could carry on for a bit but we soon managed to be turning the seats around from their parallel ranks into circles. Three or four people from this previous session asked what we were doing and on hearing, joined in enthusiastically. In fact, they were among those who eventually stayed the full three hours. And so, the conversations began. Two groups to start. I noticed quickly that there were a couple of other rules to add. Firstly an exhortation to come in, sit down and join in. And then another to encourage people not to interview each other but rather to focus on sharing their own experience. Interview-style conversations can easily slip into Q&A which is replicating the dynamic of the Global conversations, just with fewer people taking part. Oh yes, and I introduced the law of two feet although very few exercised their rights under this law.

Overall several people stayed for the three hours before Steve came and ushered us downstairs to listen to Howard Rheingold. Many others came and stayed for half an hour or so and then moved on. In the tradition of tuttle, I had no attachment to “success” or “outcome” and therefore there could be no failure.

Many people said to me on the day or since that it was the best bit of the day for them. There was even a brief flurry of tweeting suggesting that I should be gifted money by NESTA for instigating it. It’s a practice of mine never to say no to money, but it was interesting when this subject came up in one of the conversations on the day how difficult we all found to talk about it.

I do think that practicing conversation at this scale is important. I like it. I’m going to do more.

G20: Lessons Learned

IMG_0256The G20 Voice team did a brilliant job. The first I heard about this gig was a phone call from Shane McCracken on the day I’d returned from SXSWi (ie when I’d just finished a 16-hour journey and was trying to stay awake to stave off jet-lag) and then two weeks later I was sitting in the Excel Centre a few yards from President Obama.

Not everything went perfectly, but the problems were not of the obvious kind that could have been predicted and mitigated against. They were mostly things none of us knew about how the day would run, what the content would be and how a group of 50 bloggers would react to being thrown together to report on something so huge. The main feedback I gave to G20Voice was that I was very impressed by their flexibility and willingness to learn with us over the course of the two days we were together.

So there’s a bunch of things I think I learned in the course of the two days we had together that I’d like to work out and share here.

The only events I’ve covered before have been traditional conferences or trade shows. There’s always *something* going on, whether it’s plenary sessions, product demos or just delegates hanging around chatting at lunchtime, and so it’s easy to blog without very much preparation or knowledge of the subject area. You can do the standard in through the ears, out through the fingers liveblogging or get out among the people with a camera, jump in and ask open questions, following up with intelligent probes.

The G20 summit was not like that.

The summit happens in private, away from any reporters at all. They talk all day, perhaps have a little argy-bargy, but then emerge with a summary of what they’ve agreed – the communique.

IMG_0348I felt cut off. Cut off from the action and cut off from my online tribe because I was being boring – I had nothing of interest to say for most of the day, because nothing was really happening except the occasional entrance of a Minister or Celebrity Activist. I blogged during the day (and the day before) that I didn’t know what to do to be useful. I wanted to be like the other guys who seemed to know everything about everything and were, no doubt, writing Pullitzer Prize-worthy copy all day long. I kept thinking that I should be doing something else, but when I went and did something, I thought I should be back at the desk and online.

But just because it’s a news event, doesn’t mean you only have the day to publish stuff in. I’m lucky, I don’t have any deadlines or a target for how much to write or create, except those that I make for myself. And I was forgetting that I do have an eye for interesting stuff and so the behind the scenes content that I’ve shared with you seemed like it was a cop out, too easy, just hanging around behind other people being photographed and filmed. It wasn’t until I got it all out and had a look at it that I realised where the story was and that I had stuff that was unique.

So Learning Point #1 Remember you are unique and have a unique perspective. Be yourself and trust that you will be enough.

my workstation at the G20 summitIt helped me to have plenty of equipment so that i knew that when I did have something to report, I’d be ready. I had two laptops, one mainly for tracking stuff on twitter, flickr and the G20Voice site and the other for getting stuff done, writing, encoding video and uploading photos. I was lent an HG10 by Canon (thanks to Colin & Donna at 1000Heads) so I could shoot anything I wanted to. I was also lent an iPod touch and handsfree set (thanks to Best Before TV, especially Karen & Steve, whose touch it was!) so that I could record Audioboos – I like this a lot. I also had my flip camera in case I needed to just do something simple and quick, my N95 for backup photos, video and Qiks and my Edirol in case I wanted to do longer audio interviews.

The thing I’d forgotten was that I’ve switched to Linux on my two laptops since I last had an HG10 and I could have done without all the faffing needed to start from scratch in order to transcode from AVCHD to MPEG. I’ve now found Handbrake which is actually very good indeed especially once you have time to play around with it.

Learning Point #2 Take more than you need and ask for what you want and need. Make sure you’ve got all your software up to date and test loan kit before you get there.

Yes, I felt cut off. But surely I was on a table full of bloggers, just like me? Well no, I was actually on a table full of specialist journalists (in some cases operating in a tiny niche) who choose to mainly communicate online. They were mostly lovely, but there wasn’t a great deal of playful collaboration. There were few other media hacker types of the sort that frequent the Tuttle Club.

I quickly tired of us being referred to as “The Bloggers”. I think if there’d been a media hacker table or just a few more of the folk I normally play with, we’d have come up with something more creative. It might have got us chucked out or severely reprimanded, but it would have been more fun.

Learning Point #3 is for the G20Voice team (or anyone else doing this sort of work) and comes in two parts: a) All that bloggers might have in common is that they have a blog. and b) Focus the Briefing Day on helping the bloggers get to know each other, trust each other and collaborate and interact online (there’s a whole nother post on this, I think)

IMG_0525I was really pleased with the photos I took of the president at the podium. I know they’re all much the same and that people all around me were taking the same shot too, but I really like that I got them for my very own. I could not have done so if I’d done what I was told. Firstly, I went to the front of the queue when photographers were called. I took advantage of the fact that my pass said “Blogger” while others had, I imagine, “Journalist” or “Photographer”. I used the ambiguity to be a writer when it suited me and a photographer when that’s what I wanted to be. So I then just went up to the front of the hall with the other photographers. It was crowded and the press office guys were going back and forth trying to weed out people who weren’t official photographers. I felt a little inadequate with my little video camera, but I just stood my ground and avoided eye contact with them by looking at my viewfinder.

Learning Point #4 Be confident, use ambiguity to your advantage, go for what you want.

So by the Friday morning, I felt like I was just about ready to get started. I guess the overall point would be it’s OK to learn as you go, keep asking the question of how you can be useful and remember what you learn for next time.

G20: Tom Watson MP

I also asked Tom why people should care about what goes on at the summit and he explains the importance of what the bloggers were doing to help us all make sense of the high-level economic stuff from our own perspectives.

Tom is one of the earliest adopters of online social tools among national politicians and he uses them to complement the doorstep manner that makes him a popular local MP. I remember hearing about his early blogging through Tim Ireland in 2004. He’s matured well with the rest of us – he’s a top choice to follow on twitter, skillfully navigating the line between speaking as just another tweeter and speaking as an MP and Government Minister.

Tom sat with us on the G20 Voice desk all day, even when he was in danger of being crushed by the hack-pack when Bob Geldof passed by.

Free wifi in London

Between them, Pret a Manger and McDonalds provide pretty good coverage for the urban digital nomad. Both provide free wifi access via The Cloud – pret asks for an e-mail address and your birthday, but underneath the arches, you can surf away by just clicking a button.

OK, so it’s not really free if you are obliged to buy something in order to secure a table, but Black coffee in pret is £1.50-something and in McDonalds £1.29 – in the former you may have to put up with loud middle class people, in the latter, the bawling of chavvy kids is drowned out by the boombox – take some noise-cancelling headphones.

Neither, however, seem to provide power sockets, so I recommend an hour or so in Starbucks now and then to recharge your flagging batteries. And don’t forget to swap water for caffeinated beverages occasionally to minimise the risk of over-stimulation.

Of course the ICA is top-hole for wifi, power, coffee, yummy food and PLU(!) but loses points by not being open (except on Fridays, you lucky people) until midday.