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Yes, 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.
In the run up to the trip, I’d like to institute a weekly film screening after Tuttle on Fridays to watch some of the best movies about roadtrips (preferably across the USA but maybe other journeys too)
The deal will be that Tuttle will finish at 12 as usual, there’ll be a break for people to get lunch if they haven’t brought it with them (or popcorn!) and then we’ll get started at 1pm. There’ll be an opportunity to have a further semi-formal discussion/conversation after the movie for those who wish to.
Buttonhole me please with suggestions for suitable movies – they’re even more likely to be shown if you can also provide me with the DVD
So 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!