Category Archives: soho

Wrapid

I’ve been talking to the nice people at Wrapid on the corner of D’Arblay & Brewer Street about doing some social media stuff – they’re not quite ready for the full-on Lloyd treatment, but they just shared this promo with me and I thought I’d pass it on to you.

So if you’re in Soho before April 15th and up for something to munch on, take this voucher along to the store and you can get a lovely fresh wrap with a choice of exotic fillings for £2.99 – which is, I’m helpfully told, up to £1.26 (just less than a third) off.

It has something to do with I Love Soho – though what that is – beyond a big bundle of Flash, I’m not entirely sure myself yet.

Oh, and they seem to be infinitely replicable, so do pass them on…

Let me know, if you go for it, what you think of the grub.

Social Media Café as Platform

PolicyUnplugged 085At our first prototype meeting, I perceived a tension between the people who were interested in making a profitable business and those whose interest was solely in the community possibilities and opportunities for collaboration. I came away unsure of what legal structure would work best – a traditional shareholder-owned limited company or a non-profit company limited by guarantee. I’ve been thinking about it a lot since then.

On the same occasion I said something along the lines of: “What I want to create is a platform that enables people to create value for themselves.”

The inspiration for this comes from the tech world – CP/M & MS-DOS, the IBM PC, the Internet, the Web, Amazon Marketplace, Craigslist, Ebay, Facebook – what they all have in common is that no matter how they get paid for or how they’re organised, or whether or not they make money for their inventors, they have also given other people the opportunity to create new relationships, markets and businesses that weren’t possible before (btw, I use big examples so that people will recognise what I’m talking not because I think our little project will be on that scale.)

I want everything we do to in some way support people doing cool stuff on their own. I don’t think we have to own *every*thing and I certainly don’t want to create a walled garden. We’ll get a lot more done by creating the conditions for people to

So turning back to the legal structure, the choice seems to come down to a limited company (or a partnership) which exists to create value for it’s shareholders (or partners) or a company limited by guarantee which exists to… well do whatever we decide it should do – I think it should serve the needs of people interested in Social Media in London – if that’s not too wooly (or too specific) – but I’m open to suggestion. There was broad agreement that limited by guarantee was the right route for us but the aim and purpose does need to be boiled down to something that expresses what we want and allows us (as a group) to do as much good as possible.

So if that is sorted, my mind then turns to the structure of this business. I’ve always talked about the three bits – café, learning, working. But that might not be all we want to do together – other ideas for services have come up in meetings too. Can we make the Tuttle Club our base platform? With no direct services except to facilitate cool stuff happening. Then the first cool thing it does (quickly) is to set up a Social Media Café or perhaps the café space, a learning space and a workspace could each be individual, but co-located businesses. And then it can do other things too as they arise. Or am I making it too complicated?

Let’s talk about this at the next prototype – but there are many who aren’t able to join us there so let’s do it in the google group as well.

Keeping the prototyping going

Seesmic London DinnerOur 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.

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).

Café Audioscrobbled

So here’s an idea for members or regulars at the London Social Media Café.

You make LSMC a friend of yours on last.fm. When you come in, you swipe your card so our central electronic brain knows that you’re there. From here you’re in a group and the sound system plays radio from last.fm based on type of music favoured by the group of people who are in the house today.

Does last.fm work like that? I’ve never been able to listen to music and do computer based work at the same time, so it’s kind of passed me by.

To Let

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Had a little wander around a little bit of Soho on Wednesday to see what I could see that might be of use to someone thinking about a London Social Media Café. I only covered Brewer St, Wardour St, Dean St & Berwick St and the thoroughfares in between (you know the places you’re most likely to trip over Charles Frith at 5am… allegedly)

I took some pics of the ad boards from commercial property agents. Lots of upstairs offices. One or two boarded up or broken down café type spaces including one with a To Let sign in the window.

Left me wondering whether LSMC could operate in what is existing office space. Obviously you’d lose the passing trade, non-social-media traffic but still not sure how much that would be anyway. Also, don’t know if that sort of thing means a change of use and therefore requires some government interference, or looking at it in a more practical way, what you can get away with without upsetting Westminster CC.

And so farewell, New Piccadilly.... <sniff>Bonus pic: Before I got that far, I went and snapped the New Piccadilly which is now closed and boarded up. Anyone (Russell?)have any pointers to stories or info on whether the signage or any innards have been preserved?

Mippin

I was invited yesterday to see a demo of Mippin which is being launched today by Refresh. Very, very simple stuff to read web content on your phone. I like.

I remember being interested in their previous (and still going strong) product, mobizines (Scott describes mippin as mobizines on steroids) but was put off by the restricted content available and the java client. These Refresh guys have taken the good idea from it – we want to be able to read cool stuff as easily on the phone as you do on your desktop – but they’ve moved away from the horrors of transcoding a 15″ experience in its entirety down to a variety of small mobile screens and gone for the fact that most sites already produce content in a presentation-independent form – their RSS feed.

As a service, you can look at it two ways – as a “publisher” I get to include my RSS feed in their database, then if I want to I can opt to splice ads into the feed (in the same way that feedburner does) from which Mippin takes a small cut. Bigger publishers will want to customise the way that their feed is displayed and they can do this too.

As a “user” I can subscribe to the feeds I want and I can search for terms (or URLs) to find new stuff – so for example putting the URL for this blog into the search box returns a picture and title and a link for each post. A click on the link takes me to an uncluttered version of the post. Perhaps a little too uncluttered – the links have been stripped. But there is another link there to go to the original post (and you can pass it on by mail, sms or twitter – nice) There’s a kind of history page too so I can go to my regular reads. I see it primarily as an RSS reader for my phone. So of course my feature requests are to make it behave a bit more like an aggregator – I’d like a river of news view. I’d like to be able to define groups of subscriptions and get a river of news from each. I’d also like to be able to turn off ads, oh yes and I’d also like a zeitgeist tagcloud to be able to see what’s hot. Scott was boasting that moving from downloadable client to browser meant that their development times have been slashed, so I expect to see my requests implemented well before Christmas :)

As an aside, the experience is still dependent on the browser though – I want a really good free browser for my Windows Mobile Smartphone – IE just doesn’t cut the mustard, although I’m also tempted by a Nokia 800 or an iTouch.

Disclosure: I was given two cups of delicious coffee (and offered more). There was cake. Mike Butcher ate some cake, but I stuck to coffee.