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I’ve been reflecting on some of the social media work I’ve done over the last year and seeing where I might improve my offering. The model piece of work that I’ve sold to people has gone as follows: “You tell me you want to have a go at this new fangled social media mularkey, but you don’t know where to start. So I’ll start for you and show your people what I’m doing. We’ll start off with me doing everything but my involvement will taper off as your team’s involvement increases and by the end of the project, you’re folk will be doing it all for themselves.”
Great. Sold. But….
What has actually happened is that people have had some great blogs from me (natch) but there hasn’t actually been much change in what they do, the comms teams I’ve worked with have liked the idea but as long as I was doing it *for* them it was too easy to sit back and continue to say “Yes, that’s nice, I wish I was able to do that”. I think there’s still a space for doing live-blogs of events as discrete pieces of work, but more ongoing stuff needs to be done differently.
So I’m looking for a better model. And over coffee with Jonathan Laventhol of Imagination I understood what it might be. He said to me “You need to sit on your hands more” And he’s absolutely right. Just as when you’re helping someone to learn to drive it’s not good to keep grabbing the steering wheel, I think there’s much more value that I can offer as a non-doing coach or catalyst for action.
“In The Sound of Music, Maria enters a dysfunctional family, teaches the children a valuable lesson, convinces the father to pay attention to his kids, and shows the family how to get along. Likewise, Mary Poppins visits an equally (albeit charmingly) dysfunctional family, gets equally adorable children to behave, urges equally clueless parents to pay attention to their kids, finds equally effective ways for everyone to get along, and sings equally catchy tunes.”
“At the end of The Sound of Music, though, Maria, after falling in love with the children and the father, sticks around. It’s obvious that from now on she’ll be the one running the show. Mary Poppins, on the other hand, chim-chim-in-eys right out of London. It’s not that Mary Poppins has a fear of commitment. From the very beginning, it’s clear that she’s come to do a job. Her job is complete when the family can thrive on its own. Once she accomplishes her goal, she rides her umbrella into the sunset.”
I’ve tried both models, but like Mary Poppins, I’m much better as a catalyst. Going in, making change happening and moving on to where I’m needed more, rather than working my way up, establishing an empire and sticking around for the long haul.
Then I saw Seth Godin writing about Digital Coaches
“What’s a digital coach? A freelancer (individual) who usually works with entrepreneurs, small groups or companies to teach them how to dramatically improve productivity or market presence using technology. For example, a digital coach might hook up your cell phone to be more powerful or teach you how to use blogs and Facebook to connect to your audience.”
I think for me it’s a totally bottom-up approach – aimed at individuals inside and outside organisations who want to beef up their personal productivity using web 2.0 and social media tools. They might have a social media project hat they need to contribute to, but would also generally benefit from catching up with what’s arrived in the last year or so and someone to help them think it through in their own personal or business context. The focus is on enhancing productivity, preferable in simple, measurable ways.
When I’ve mentioned this to people, some have said “Wow, yes please” and others have said “Oh, I kind of thought that’s what you did already” So I think it’s probably right.
Photo credit: conner395 on Flickr licenced with cc-attribution
Our first little flashmob was quite a success in my view. It certainly showed me that there were people ready to turn up and talk about stuff. It also suggested to me that we need to follow a two-track approach for now.
I’m going to continue to write (as and when I have the space and time) a formal business plan to help communicate more clearly and completely what it is we are doing and to help people understand why they might want to put money into it. I want to get as much feedback and input from others into that as possible so I’ll be blogging about it more regularly from now on as well as organising face to face sessions.
In addition, I think it’s worth trying to keep prototyping and move slowly from the dormobile model towards the travelling circus model. For those who haven’t seen my presentation on this, I characterised the first phase of prototyping as a VW camper van where we just hang out essentially wherever we can find somewhere to park for the afternoon. The travelling circus is a bit more formal – it’s where we would have a venue that remained the same for a period, perhaps up to a month, before we moved on. So how might we do that? From the start people have been suggesting that we should just find somewhere to “squat” but ideas for actual places to do this have been thin on the ground.
Now, though, courtesy of the sterling persistence of Lee Thomas (londonfilmgeek) we’ve got a couple of initial sessions booked in the upstairs dining-room at (Norman’s) Coach and Horses in Greek Street (corner of Romilly St, opposite Kettners). To say the least, the place does have some media history. Far less significantly it was where we had the recent Seesmic Dinner.
We’ll be there from 10.00 to 13.00 on Friday 1st February though the landlord would no doubt welcome you staying on for a later lunch and drinking in the bar for the rest of the afternoon if you really can’t tear yourselves away
I’ve put a simple page on the wiki for sign-ups – just so that people know who else is coming.
Right, so I’m now on the look out for more places like this and I thought I’d blog the requirements and what’s in it for the venue and see who out there might have have somewhere we can use or at least see whether you can come up with suggestions of places to approach.
What the venue gets – people, punters, customers, you know, dosh-givers – especially at those times that are usually a bit slow. More people drinking coffee and eating cakes, sandwiches and other geek comestibles (erm… I suppose I mean beer here, especially on a Friday lunchtime). Moreover the people it brings in are well-connected and quite influential in their own circles. And we’re generous – if you give us nice things like wifi and electrickery, we will say nice things about you. Don’t forget that when we say nice things, we say them quite loudly on the internet (a global network of interconnected computing devices), where they stick around forever getting clumped together with other nice things and thus bringing you warm fuzzy goodness – the kind of warm fuzzy goodness that encourages cash out of people’s wallets and into your till.
Our requirements – we’d like a space please that we can, however temporarily, call our own. It’s great if it can be demarcated in some way (a separate room, those three tables, etc.) and we need free open wifi (if you don’t have this, we can talk about how we can help you set it up) and access to electricity points. Errr.. that’s about it, really. Anything else, I think we can work around.
Know anywhere like this? Own anywhere like this. Let me know – my contact details are up at the top of this page.
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.
mmm….massage…. and it works off a USB port (power only I think – but would be cool if it could receive messages too…)
I was writing a comment on the previous post and feeling constrained and then remembered “It’s my blog, I don’t have to use the comments if I don’t want to”. Which is kind of part of what I was trying to get at before. I also wanted to separate this out from the comments because I don’t want it to appear that what I say is directed at anyone who has commented on that post already or may comment there in future. OK, disclaimers and excuses and apologies out of the way.
This is what I’m happy doing:
I’m happy sharing all sorts of personal details and information about me online – in fact some people have said read my blog in order to find out more stuff about me. That doesn’t mean that I will share everything online. I’m not at all likely to publish my PIN numbers, passwords and the memorable information scripts to my bank’s security theatre. I’m not bothered about you knowing where I live, but that doesn’t mean I’ll give you a key to my flat.
That’s a fairly good summary of my privacy position. It makes sense to me. You may well take a different position on privacy. If my position doesn’t make sense to you, that doesn’t make either of us right or wrong, it just means that we make different sense of the world. I know that some people feel uncomfortable about this level of openness.
I’m completely cool with you taking whatever position you like on information that you consider to be private to you. The potential for conflict arises when we share information but we don’t share a view on the appropriate level of privacy. You might try to shut me up. I may tell your secrets. Shit happens.
The question is, in a globally networked, hyperlinked, 24-hour world isn’t the inevitable movement towards a more liberal approach to this sort of privacy, simply because the cost of establishing and then enforcing the rules in an increasingly complex network of relationships is way too high (always assuming that enforcement is still possible)?
One of Dave Winer‘s best bits of advice is “zag to their zig” and that’s what I’m trying to do with the Café. Just when it seems that *everyone* in the entire world is getting into online social networking, I want to open a coffee shop and help people meet each other face to face.
There have been suggestions that we use another space to get started. I don’t understand the reasoning for this, so can someone please explain? The space is more important to me (at the moment) than the group. We have loads of ways of meeting up already – I’m talking about meeting the needs of that group in a novel way rather than extending the group, although I’m sure that better facilities will draw new people in.
Thanks everybody for your thoughts on the Communal Vision – do carry it on, but let’s also start talking about how much it will cost.
I’ll be writing on the wiki later but I’ve got to go out now to report on a drop-in centre for young people for the Surrey PCT blog
Lloyd’s of London – someone pointed out to me the interestingness of someone with my name thinking about opening a coffee shop in this town. (groan)
What it’s not – Some folk have zoomed in on co-working, shared workspaces for freelancers, hotdesking etc. Others have latched onto the club angle. Neither are wholly what I’m after though let’s see what we can do to help both. My motivation is to provide a space for things that are already going on or which would be happening more frequently if there was a cheap(er) easy alternative to an endless round of nero/starbucks/republic. Play and chat comes first, work will be an add-on. I want to write about this more later.
More Yin – talking (with Jason Bates) about why not just join an existing private members club – they’re too yang – sharp, cutting, thrusting, hot, male – I’m after a more fertile, supportive, soft, creative, female space – stop that sniggering at the back!
I’m really pleased to see that people have mentioned things that they’d be willing to pay for other than coffee and the sheer joy of each other’s company
Photo credit: Uploaded by TheLawleys on 14 Mar 05, 3.15AM BST.
I just want first to distinguish this from the events that Chris has facilitated through Social Media Club. I am involved with Social Media Club in London, and what I’m talking about might well be a place to host Social Media Club (or even Social Media Cafés!) and I love both concepts – but neither are what I want to talk about here – I’m talking about a place, not an event.
Phew! Perhaps I’d better start again…
This comes from a number of conversations I’ve had with people in London about having a place to meet, hook up, get groups together, socialise, train people, co-work etc. I blogged about something in a slightly different context about 3 years ago and the idea has been frothing in my head for a long time. I’m thinking of a confluence of the creative, tech and entrepreneurial tribes who are currently gathering around social media and online social networking. I’m talking about the kinds of people who are regulars at Coffee Mornings, Open Coffee, Social Media Club, Chinwag Live.
So far it’s as concrete and as fluid as this:
We (whoever we are – the united socialmediatistas of hereabouts) acquire a space that we can use for the above-mentioned types of activities. It might be laid out as follows (though do not get hung up about physical orientation, upstairs/downstairs front/back doesn’t matter as much as the ideas of separate spaces for different activities).
Ground floor is open to the public, a café style space with good coffee, tea, snacks, fussball, space invaders and the like – maybe the odd plate of eggs bacon chips and beans. Plasma screen shows a rolling twitter timeline from all our mates. An alternative to constantly having to find somewhere to meet up and have coffee and a place where people love you using the wifi.
First floor (don’t get hung up on the physical orientation, just a separate space) is for members & guests. Not a posh exclusive (male) type of private members club (you know where I mean), but something softer, gentler, more suited to creative & geeky types than just to the thrusting entrepreneur. Facilities are flexible meeting rooms, desks and co-working spaces and more exclusive lounging, chatting space with coffee & tea. It’s a bit quieter up here.
Second floor (again really just another separate space) is for media production – podcasting & video-blogging equipment for hire – soundproofed studios, maybe some helpful techies to guide the uninitiated.
Why? Why not take an existing institution and warp it into what we want? Now that we are, just, starting to see that there’s a group of us interested in the same things, I think it would be good to have a place of our own.
When? I may be biased by the number of people I mix with who don’t keep normal office hours but I think this is an all-day & evening thing, though possibly not at weekends?
Where? London, I’m pretty certain, but where is our spiritual home? Soho, Shoreditch, South Bank? Somewhere that doesn’t start with ‘S’?
Who? Who will come, who will be members, who will use which facilities? I’m starting a group in Facebook to guage interest and carry the conversation forward. Also what kinds of people do we need to make it happen – property development, deal-makers, investors, staff as well as potential members and customers.
What? Salons, open spaces, meeting (verb), meetings (noun), training, improvising, podcasting, eating, talking, working, collaborating, farting about, other activities with no predefined or explicit purpose, interesting pursuits. What else?
More questions please – and answers if you have them.
One of my current projects is for the newly re-organised Primary Care Trust in Surrey. They are looking at how they can use social media to engage better with local people through the web, as a complement to their other media activities.
It’s still very early days, but I’m interested in your thoughts on this. We’ve started off doing things the way that the Trust knows how to do things – that is, get your journalist/photographer to go along to an event and report on it. I’m honestly not sure whether this is playing it too safe, or if trying to do something more radical would be too much too soon.
I’m aware that the stuff that’s up at the moment is quite provider-focused. I’m putting together more that gives the service-user/patient voice but I think I’m too close to it at the moment to know whether these are truly interesting or not so if I’m missing anything that you think is obvious do let me know.