Category Archives: tuttle club

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.

New Year, New #Tuttle

tuttle club at the coach and horses, sohoIt’s back, even though it never really went away! Five years ago, a few of us were pushing around the idea of y’know getting people together on a regular basis who otherwise were hanging out in cyber-social-media-space. There were some experiments in late 2007 & early 2008 but The first regular prototype of the London Social Media Cafe at the Coach & Horses was on February 15th 2008 and before long it was known as the Tuttle Club (#tuttle on teh twitter) and it’s happened every Friday apart from Christmastime shenanigans ever since.

Going to #tuttle has been blamed for anything from hair loss, hair gain, meeting future work colleagues, meeting future partners, meeting future ex-partners, meeting users of your software, meeting heroic developers of software you love, but mostly having an excitable natter about internet’n’media’n’learning’n’stuff during work hours, drinking far too much coffee and tweeting about what a fab time you’re having.

#Tuttle has had many homes in the last five years and now it’s moving again. I’m going to pitch up on the 5th Floor at the Royal Festival Hall, from 10am to midday, this Friday, January 4th 2013 and drink coffee and chat with whomever turns up. As always the rule is that if two or more (yes, including me!) are there, then the event is a success, if any more of you come along, it’ll be just dandy! Just remember that you can get coffee on Level 2 (riverside) before you make the long slog up the stairs or in the lift.

Assuming that it works out (what could possibly go wrong?) we’ll carry on doing it here until we get bored again.

OK? See you Friday.

(photo credit: Josh Russell CC BY-NC-SA)

Cumbrian Social Media Meetup

snowhunt10OK, this is one for those living more than half way up the island of Great Britain but less than three-quarters of the way up. My twitter and seesmic buddy, William Tildesley is providing an opportunity for Social Media folk in the North-West of England and South of Scotland to come together in a Tuttle-ish kind of a way. In Penrith. Frankly, it’s fairly straightforward to get a bunch of hungry, chatty geeks together for coffee and croissants in this huge metropolis. I think Will’s got great guts doing it up there on his home turf – I wish I hadn’t waited until I was twice as old as he is to pull my finger out and do stuff.

They’re going to be at:

The Narrowbar Café
13 Devonshire Street
Penrith, England CA11 7SR

on Saturday 29th March from 1pm

Sign up on the upcoming page and follow along with what William’s doing on his new startup blog

The picture is from my last visit to Cumbria which I realise was two years ago next Wednesday – and it was snowing. Obviously. I hear it’s sometimes a bit warmer than that.

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.

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.

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).

Relationships, Online and Off-

fbfwSo here’s some of the thinking behind the Tuttle Club idea. I’ve talked mostly about what it should be, to help people understand, but there are actually some important things to say about *why*, which really help me see what is important to keep in and what things can go by the wayside.

Once upon a time all there was was offline – so much so that we didn’t think about it, we just walked over the street and talked to people. And they took our lunch money and told us to bugger off. Sometimes we built more positive relationships too. I think it’s odd that we have to remind ourselves that this was the case but we do, increasingly, especially as time goes by and more and more people come into the world who’ve never known anything different – you know, people who were *born* in the 80′s – weird.

Then we moved into a kind of binary place where you were either one or the other – from 9600 to 14.4k to 8MB broadband, for lots of people you’re still either online or offline and online means being sitting at a computer.

However increasingly it’s whatever (and wherever) works. The boundary is blurring and we can see a time when we’ll be always on, which means that on is as meaningless as off used to be, the distinction may disappear.

A quick reminder – what we’re talking about is ways of people connecting with each other. When I first got an internet connection pre web, there were three things pretty much that you’d want to do. Email, Usenet News and MUD (Multi-user Dungeon) – ways of finding things like gopher, veronica and archie were ways of finding people who’d created cool stuff as much as finding the cool stuff itself. I never was much of a gamer, so I was attracted to reading and writing and getting to know people through usenet and e-mail. Now Web 2.0 is supposedly doing something new, but it’s simply giving people more sophisticated ways of doing what we’ve always been doing on the net.

So I’m asking whether there’s any real difference between online relationships and those we do offline, whether you draw the distinction between based on where they started, or where most transactions currently take place. And the answer seems to me, to be no, there isn’t any significant difference, what is more important is that relationships can be enhanced by interaction online and off- and that these different types of interactions build a deeper, stronger sort of relationship than those that only happen in one “place”. I have more and more of these relationships, people who once I would only ever have read or read about, I see face to face and we get to know each other better and then our relationship online is even stronger.

My “friendship” group then (and put on one side the question of the definitions of “friend”) gets bigger and more diverse and so the question of the Dunbar’s number comes up – 150? WTF? I have more than 300 facebook friends and for every one of them, I can think of a little circle of others who aren’t there, or whom I’ve not yet linked to.

The Facebook friend wheel shines a bit of light on this. I can see the little communities, constituencies, compartments that hold people together in the way they are grouped around the wheel. This is how we’ve managed the transition between the pre-industrial world of only being able to meet at most a hundred or so people in your life to where we are now where potentially you can have some contact with hundreds of thousands. We compartmentalise. These are my friends in my team. These are people I go to the pub with. These are my “friends” in Accounts Payable. These are the people I know who are into ska. These are my golf friends. (This is the me-focused way of looking at the fact that I belong to multiple communities as JP’s talking about this morning). This reduces the cognitive load – if we’re only really comfortable with up to 150 people but we have to deal with more, then we can handle it by divide and conquer – we only have to deal with a smaller number at any one time. Before social software we all knew the potential stress of having members of more than one group meet up with each other (that’s one reason why weddings can break people). Before this point we could get away with being different people in different situations and to a certain extent be dishonest with some groups of people about who we are or who we want to be. What online social networks like Facebook do is make these communities or compartments explicit and then shares that with everybody. It therefore just got harder to keep those people apart – great opportunities for innovation in my social graph, but oh bugger, *they* are going to find out about *that*.

Now, this is just a prelude to the other thoughts that I’ve included in the presentations I’ve done at Web2Open and barcamplondon3 and the feedback I’ve had is that it’s really useful to see the background. As usual, I’ve done it the wrong way round, should really have written it out, then made a presentation then talked about it, but I really can’t be arsed to do things the way I should. I’m writing this at barcamp by the way, so that might just be a reaction to being in a place where the average person thinks that it’s *very important* to do things *the right way* gaaah!