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So UK GovCamp 13 isn’t going to happen tomorrow. It’s definitely a *postponement* rather than a cancellation: as well as people finding it difficult to travel from outside London and risking getting stranded till the weather subsides, it seems our venue hosts understandably didn’t want to take that risk for their staff either.
I spoke to Steph from behind his stacks of sponsored t-shirt boxes today and he’s basically just having to rearrange with IBM when we can use the space for sometime in February.
But I was looking forward to it. And I know a lot of you were too.
James Cattell is doing great stuff trying to get online interaction going and he’s going to focus on that. But the thing I was most looking forward to was not so much the content as the catching up with people in the gov/web world. And as my hosting duties for the day were already sponsored, I’m up for helping make something happen in addition to the online shenanigans.
So I suggest the following for anyone who’s in or around London and can get into town easily enough:
James and I will be on Level 5 of the Royal Festival Hall (next door-ish) to the original venue from 10am (that’s when they open) tomorrow, Saturday 19th January.
You can let us know if you’re coming by signing up on this wewillgather page
Whoever turns up will be able to get involved in organising the rest of the day, we can have as many sessions as we can make happen, we might all sit behind laptops communing online, or we might have a day-long tuttle-like conversation that people drop in and out of. Whatever!
Keep an eye on the hashtag #altUKGC13 to see how it’s going, whether we’re still there.
There is delicious coffee and sugar-infused dough things available for purchase on Level 2 of RFH and there is free wifi available throughout (although finding power sockets can be trickier)
Naturally, please don’t make a special journey to see us if the powers that be have told you not to go out unless your journey is essential.
I invariably over simplify everything so do ask questions either in the comments here or of me directly on twitter @lloyddavis
It’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)
Nothing to see here, move right along, folks…
Just heard another pitch for a hamster-wheel business. “We want to let people organise their stuff” translates to “We want to sell advertising space to brands and a ‘service’ to people who want to sign up for ‘information’ about a bunch of brands while organising their stuff”. Confusion still reigns about who the real customer is and startups like this thrive on that confusion.
My advice, for what it’s worth (and it ain’t worth much) is this. If you really really need to do this awful thing, remember what you’re actually selling. You might think you’re selling the attention of 18-24 year-olds to an established brand on the basis that the brand’s sales will go up on the back of that attention. You’re really selling the illusion of that attention. You can do all the market research you like and all you’ll ever be told by those 18-24 year-olds is “Yes, we’d use that” because people will tell you what they think you want to hear. Never forget that, you’re in the illusion-selling business, don’t fall for your own smoke and mirrors.
So your sales filter needs to exclude people who are round about as intelligent as you are – you need people who are either way way more stupid than you are and will buy this empty schtick believing in the illusion and by the time they realise, you’ll be long gone. Or you need to sell to people who are much much smarter than you. So smart that they can see a way of making money out of what you’re doing now that you probably won’t understand until five years after they’ve done it.
But really? Really?
When Occupy popped up last year, people would say “What are they protesting about? They don’t believe in anything”. That was how it looked, but there was more to it than that. They were occupying the here and now expressly *without* common purpose or agenda – and the process of doing that is a very important way of helping people connect around what really matters to them. Not only that, it just helps them connect and form relationships through just doing what’s needed today and you don’t know where that connection might go. This is where Tuttle started: “What happens when people who are already connected online meet up in a real space and develop face-to-face connections?” It’s so simple that it can be hard to see what the point is. Why should we care about making connections and building relationships unless they’re going to serve some purpose?
And now we see – very quickly, the Occupy movement has spawned OccupySandy which has been able to organise friendly, local, helpful, useful relief to people in their own neighbourhoods and communities after Hurricane Sandy ripped them apart, working alongside all the other kinds of relief work.
This is the sort of thing they were connecting for, to build resilience, potential and above all readiness for a crisis that was going to come, even though nobody quite knew what the crisis was going to be or how it was going to affect people. They were ready for this. And for whatever comes next.
I’m about 150 pages in. The last 50 pages or so have been a description of a mission that it turns out is all about getting details of a bank account from a Hong Kong bank. It’s the sort of thing that now would be dealt with by black t-shirted hacker types breaking into a system. But in the 1970s it involves pulling a kind of sleeper agent out of cover in Italy, bringing him back to the UK and brushing up his spy-skills, sending him off to Hong Kong where he can blackmail a manager in the bank into giving him access to a paper file which he then photographs on a sub-miniature camera, the film from which has to be processed before even the name of the account holder is signalled through to London let alone the actual photographs giving the full details of the account. Phew!
It reminds me also that the whole of Smiley’s People basically revolves around the existence and whereabouts of a photographic negative. People have to cross the channel (by ferry) and meet up and exchange bits of paper and celluloid and avoid getting shot.
Film photography, No Eurostar, No Internet. It’s all so slow! And all the more dangerous for the time it takes to get things done. It really is another world, but it doesn’t feel that long ago to me.
And people still ask: “What difference has technology really made in our lives?”
This is what I believe/wish I said:
Culturematics are Grant McCracken’s term for ‘little machines that make culture’ the sort of thing where you ask “what if…?” something and then you go out and do that something, you do it, you write about it, you do it again and write about it again etc. etc.. Tuttle is one of these (even though so many people thought it was a networking event, it’s actually a little game in creating culture) and so, more obviously was Tuttle2Texas and PLATE. But I think Dave Gorman going out and finding all the Dave Gormans is one too and is Danny Wallace’s “Yes Man”
So we know what these things are, some of us do them, some of us enjoy seeing them or taking part in them. I met an unwitting culturematic maker today – he’s made a blog about rectangular out-painting on walls. And in a sense, every blogger is doing this too – what if I wrote about stuff regularly and posted it on the internet with a comments section for other people to ridicule me?
The question then is what happens if a) you apply open source project principles to developing the process and b) you make open all the data/content/text (whatever) that gets made in the process?
a) opening the process development – look at it as if it were an open source software project. My understanding is that most OS projects start with someone writing something that they find useful and putting it out there. Over time other people use the software and decide that they want to alter it in some way, to add features or to make it interoperable with other software or whatever improvement they want to make. So how does that apply to a traditional creative project? Well there are lots of different processes, over time we’ve categorised them according to the type of product that will come out – you know if you’re making a film or a book or a painting to hang in a gallery and because it cost lots of money to produce one or other of those, it was highly unlikely that you’d start something just exploring an idea and then decide it was going to be a book, no a film, no maybe it’s just a book after all – ah no maybe it’s actually a photographic exhibition…. with a book…. and a film of the “Making of…” But that’s how we can work now, even if it drives us mad. It would seem even more insane to start involving other people in this and allowing them to take what had been done (on the process) and then fork off in the direction they wanted to go. Insane, but exciting.
And that’s where the open data bit comes in and kicks you in the teeth. Take a simple project, what if once a day for a month I take a photograph at random from my Flickr collection and write a paragraph about it and then make a book out of the pictures and words? OK so I can see how I would do that, create a blog, make everything Creative Commons Attribution licenced and post once a day and then export the blog to blurb or lulu or whatever and make a book out of it. That’s fine for me. What if someone comes along in the middle and goes “that’s a damn fine idea, I’m going to translate it into French”. So they do. That’s OK, it fits with the licence and all the stuff is up on the web already.
But what about if I’m making a film and we’ve written it, openly and collaboratively as described above (even assuming that can be done, I have my doubts), do we start shooting and posting everything online immediately? And let everyone see inside what we’re doing? And take our stuff and maybe make something better with it than we could have? This is the point where most sensible people say “Yes I’d love someone else to make their content open like that, because it would be easier for me, but if you think I’m going to do that myself, share what I’ve been doing freely before I’ve made anything finished myself, you can take that idea and stick it where the sun don’t shine.”
Maybe the sharing has to be once the “main creator” has had a chance to publish what they were doing. Perhaps the opening of the data can only be at the end of some phase of the project. Otherwise it would be a bit like working on an open source project that the original author had never actually compiled or run. I do think it has to be open from the start, it’s very difficult to open up something that started as a closed project. But I could be wrong. I’m thinking here particularly about the difficulty of working with the film footage that is still in the can from Tuttle2Texas.
Sensible people would hate this. But as a fully-paid-up member of the non-sensible club, I’m left thinking “It’s not for everyone, but it would be interesting to see what happened”. And it would certainly feel a bit like the ever-elusive “Real Creative Collaboration” I think, as usual, I’m looking for some willing playmates to have a go.
I have been creating stuff on the web for more about fifteen years. That thought alone depresses me – on the one hand it seems overwhelmingly huge, there’s so much of it out there accumulated over five thousand days – but on the other it all seems trivial and insubstantial, a whole load of blether, some pictures of shoes people have left behind and videos of me saying “Hi, my name’s Lloyd Davis and today I’m …”.
I want to take stock and put it all in some order. It’s one of those things that really needs doing. I think I know pretty much what I’m doing here now – there’s writey stuff, there’s visual stuff and there’s audio stuff and sometimes it all gets mixed up but that’s about the size of it.
If this were someone else’s stuff it wouldn’t be nearly as difficult, I’d just methodically go through all the sources compiling a database of it all, with as much metadata as is available, but at least dates and times, right? And then design some processes for going forward. But everything I look at has an emotional charge. “Oh my god, what was I thinking?”
But let’s stick with it. Let’s have a look at what I know I have.
So I have writing archives here on wordpress.com, and that includes several other discontinued blogs and the same goes for blogger and posterous. There’s a little bit at storify and then I suppose there’s also writing of a sort in twitter and facebook. Tumblr doesn’t have any original content in it, I don’t think. Ideally, I’d also like to be able to pull in any comments I made on other people’s blogs, but that’s going to be tricky.
I have over 10,000 pictures on Flickr but I think any other picture-sharing sites that I used in the past have been subsumed into that. I think… I have videos on YouTube and Vimeo but also Qik and Bambuser, possibly Ustream (?) and then there’s my Seesmic archive. Everything that currently goes to Instagram gets backed up to Flickr as well as FB.
I have audio from my first podcasts on Libsyn, backed up to S3. There’s also a bunch on Audioboo and I’ve an album on Bandcamp.
I hate the way that these are all differently integrated – ideally, I mean in that ideal world where I had a team of people to sort this out for me, I’d have everything also hosted independently and from today I’d not be using any of these services as the primary channel/home for anything.
I want to get there. I’m just trying to work out where there really is and what is the best way to proceed. But if you want to be as discouraged as I am, try downloading a few seconds clip from qik.com that you recorded in 2008.
The last century was all about doing things on a mass scale, mass production led to mass consumption via mass marketing. And so we've all become used to measuring our success in the thousands of people who take part in things.
For #wewillgather, we're trying to do things a little differently and work at a human scale.
People ask us how we'll measure success and I like to say things like "I'd love everyone in the country to have the chance to be part of 'a good thing' together with four or five other people".
Someone needs to say they’re going to show up for it. That’s what makes stuff happen. Lots of other important things help too, but it really kicks off when someone says “I’m going to be there or do this, no really, I am, I don’t care if nobody else does, I am.”
That’s what makes it so much easier for everyone else to join in. That’s leadership in a world of organising without organisations. Someone is committed. It might not be me, but someone else is, someone can be relied on to be there so that when I finally do make up my mind to go along, I know that it will be there. But it could just as easily be me, they’re not special in any other way, they’re just another bozo on the bus, not an organiser, they have no special status, their role is to commit to being there and to say “Hi” to other people who may come along not knowing what to expect. Their role is not to “manage” anything, it’s simply to be there so that the thing happens and to help the group know it’s a group and to find ways of working things out for themselves.
When we say “I’m doing this thing and I encourage you to do it too” sometimes quite amazing things get started.
That’s why I’m working on #wewillgather – it’s not just another community organising site or an alternative to meetup.com, it’s a commitment engine.