Category Archives: What I’m doing

Originally posted on #wewillgather:

two will doThe 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”.  That is, the scale of each thing isn’t important, in fact, for any particular activity, small and manageable is far preferable to large and chaotic.

Our roots are in #riotcleanup, where thousands of people showed up to clean up their local community spaces, but we’re not aiming to re-create that with every ‘good thing’ that…

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Commitment, the power of just showing up

geek dinner 023Someone 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.

None of us know the whole story… *ever*

But that doesn’t stop us believing that we do.

My twitter stream this morning is full of bile, shock, disgust, fear, misanthropy and argument about a young man who’s been arrested for trolling the diver Tom Daley and the loss of Twitter access by Guy Adams of the Independent for having a go at NBC about their Olympic coverage.  On the one hand the abuser of a popular sportsman is hounded by the mob, on the other, Twitter itself is seen as the bad guy for limiting freedom of speech when asked to by a business partner.

At least that’s what I saw.  You may see it differently – but I recognise that that statement itself is subject to my own biases, framing and prior decisions about how the world is and how human beings operate within it.

There was a piece yesterday from Mark Earls on the futility of trying to change people’s minds with information and argument:

“We only see what we expect to see, distrust and discount the witnesses who present what we don’t want and devalue their evidence if they turn out to be from the other side.”

There’s nothing we can do about this [imho] it’s just the way [I believe] the world works.  The other side of it is that it’s easy to say something that inadvertently presses someone’s buttons and sends them into a disturbed state.  I see it everyday in all my relationships where tension and arguments arise, with even those people I love the most and with whom I think I share most common ground.  Somebody will, in the course of an ordinary conversation, say or do something that doesn’t fit with my view of how people should be and immediately I label it “totally inappropriate” and suddenly “I can’t believe they just said/did that!”  If I don’t pause at that point and think “Oh, that’s an interesting reaction, Lloyd” then retaliation is likely to follow and we can end up spiralling into pretty yucky stuff.

But when it happens on a global network between people who don’t know each other or care particularly about each other, it can get really nasty and the law needs to get involved (either the law of the land or the Twitter Terms of Use).

I think the things to remember are these:

1. When you direct something critical to another user on a social platform like Twitter, especially if that user is a person in the public eye or a corporation, it’s possible that you’ll be ignored but you may also be mobbed.  Be aware that you’re not just dealing with another person, you’re potentially also up against their friends, colleagues, business partners, fans, pretty much anyone who has experienced grief after the death of someone close to them *and* their unconscious reactions that may turn you literally into the spawn of Satan in their eyes.  The interaction with them might draw behaviours out of you that you’d rather not have displayed in public, which may turn out to be illegal when expressed on the internet and may result in real-life physical consequences for you, your friends, colleagues… etc.

2. Twitter is a privately owned company with its own vision, priorities and agenda. Value to the company, their shareholders, and by extension those with whom they have strategic and commercial alliances, will always trump the needs of an individual non-paying user.  They are not a nationalised industry, or piece of public infrastructure, no matter how much we wish they were.  If we want a public utility like that, we’ll have to build it and pay for it ourselves.

First go at importing to wordpress.com from posterous

So I had a go and made a new copy at http://mostinteresting2.wordpress.com

WordPress.com has an importer for posterous (look under Tools in your WP.com dashboard).  I chose to test it with mostinteresting since each post should follow a fairly standard structure and it should be straightforward to see where things don’t show up the way you’d expect.

I used the simple blue-green theme, so no need to create a header image. (it would be nice if there was a free wp.com theme that mimicked the blank posterous theme, maybe there is, I haven’t looked…)

First things I notice that aren’t imported:

  • Pages – this blog has an instruction page called How to Contribute.
  • Title & strapline
  • Profile & profile pic
  • List of Contributors (on this one it’s just me, but there are some group blogs that would need this to come over)

Everything is posted in the “Uncategorized” category.  Posterous only has tags, these come through and show up in this theme underneath each post title and in a tag cloud in the sidebar.

Posterous “Likes” come through as blank comments.

Those posts where the picture isn’t showing, or is just a link are also not showing on the original.  I think something must have changed since they were posted as I’m fairly sure that as part of the original moderation I made sure that the photo was rendering OK.  This may be more of a problem when dealing with blogs that have pictures on other sharing sites than flickr.  I believe that photo attachments are transferred over automatically, but that’s not tested here.

So this all implies the following curating tasks:

  • Change Title
  • Add strapline
  • Copy over profile text
  • Create and copy manually any pages
  • Edit posts to show embedded pictures.

Saying goodbye to posterous

I really liked posterous.com  It was a great way to create collaborative blogs and an easy way to get people contributing to a blog who didn’t like the idea that they were “blogging” but didn’t mind sending an e-mail or two.

I used it particularly pleasingly for a couple of applications: Most Interesting, which allows flickr users to submit their “most interesting” picture (as defined by flickr’s interestingness algorithm), together with a little commentary.  It flicked along for a little while with some lovely results.  I also liked using it for the feedback blogs for GovCamp for the last couple of years.  But if you’re having a look at those links in 2020, say, I don’t want you to just find a gravestone to posterous.

In all I’m associated with 22 blogs on there.  I’m now looking at how to move and re-host those that I started, either as part of my own site or on their own.  I think it’s my responsibility to make sure these things don’t end up disappearing just because I happened to choose a platform that later sold out to Twitter (and from there, who knows…?)

So what to do?  There’s a wordpress.com importer so I’m going to start by trying that.  That seems better to me than either waiting for posterous to come up with a solution or for me to fumble around with the API on my own.

In addition, I won’t be posting anything new to posterous, so there’s  a job to do of letting people know that’s the case and to watch out here instead.  At the same time it’s helping me to think about what I’m doing, what I’m writing and what the flows and sinks are that need to be cared for.

To me this is just part of picking up the pieces after a burst of innovation, we’ve learned a lot from using these tools, but we need to move on and build our own solutions when it’s clear that a service provider may not be as reliable as it once seemed.

“Is this what we want?”

While walking through Leeds city centre yesterday, something kept popping into my head.  It was a question: "Is this what we want? is this really what people want our country, our cities our urban life to be like?"  And even if it is, how would we know?  And if it isn't then what can I do about it?

I think it was mainly inspired by the contrast between the huge municipal and commercial edifices from the 19th Century, the glass and steel of the latest 21st Century builds and then the horrible concrete blandness of the stuff that sprung up in the time inbetween.  It's not a direct criticism of Leeds, all of the cities I've visited in the UK have some element of it.  And I'm not sure it's entirely a criticism either, it's more like unease.

Of course new forms in our cityscapes are created primarily by whatever the current dominant economic force is.  And I'm not nostalgic for Victorian times, but I couldn't help thinking, especially as I sat in the Tiled Cafe of the City's Art Gallery under a bust of Dante and facing one of Homer that at least the Victorians seemed to care a bit more what it all looked like and what it meant.  And, well, I suppose I'm not that keen on the idea that it's the modern equivalent of Mill Owners who have the most say about what goes on in our public and commercial spaces, even if the Mill Owners themselves seemed to have done not too bad a job.

I think we're just seeing the beginnings of the emergence of a desire for more interaction in all areas of our lives.  The interactivity of the web and the way that social media have created two-way streets where once there was only broadcast, together with the mobile devices we use to interact with each other are all raisng our expectations about having a voice, having a real say in things, not just being consulted, but being iinvolved in co-creation.  And the design of the high street and city centre and the uses to which those public spaces are put should be as much up for grabs as anything.

Originally posted on Lloyd’s posterous

I’ve started working on #wewillgather with @artistmakers and @sophontrack

I can't remember whether I've mentioned it here, but I've just started working with Dan Thompson and Sophie Collard on a project that initially was called #futurecleanup – here they are talking about it.

Since then we chose to rename the project #wewillgather to make it clear that it wasn't just about cleaning up, we want to help people organise useful stuff in their communities whether it has to do with cleaning things or just getting together to do anything positive.

So we receive funding from NESTA's Innovation in Giving fund and Sophie and I attended a meeting yesterday with other recipients of the fund to make connections an help NESTA collect some information on progress.  I thought they got  the balance just right.  All the activities involved us interacting with each other in some way and so we were finding out about other projects and recording it to be collated by the NESTA team.

We met Alice Casey who's going to be our key contact for now – I knew I'd seen her before somewhere and confirmed that she'd been to Tuttle ages ago.  So I encouraged her to come again! (and she did…)

We're at a different stage of development from most other projects in the room.  We don't have a site that we can talk to people about in detail or measures of participation yet.  We do have a damned good origin story and a growing list of people and organisations who are interested in supporting us and using the site once it's open for testing.

So it was great to be in the company of other people who are a little bit further down the road.  Sophie and I spent our time in the biggest exercise interviewing and being interviewed by Patricia Mahon of Spice who do time-credits (a piece of paper that people receive for doing an hour of something useful in their community and can "spend" it in time they'd otherwise have to pay for eg an hour at a local swimming pool) and Wingham Rowan who works for Slivers of Time, which has a platform for creating markets in unused time, both for public services and the private sector.  It was a really useful exercise in fact- and insight-finding and hellped me a lot to get a grip on where we are actually at and what needs doing next.

The last exercise involved sharing some of our milestones so that we could map out across all the projects what was going to be happening over the next few months.  In what is becoming #wewillgather house policy improv style (you say it, I write it down, it's policy until we change our minds) I wrote a card that I may later regret saying "Make media wet their pants".  If you know any incontinent journos you know where to send them, come August.

Overall I came away feeling a lot better about what we're doing – it really helped to be explaining it in a context other than persuading people that using it would be a good thing.  I was encouraged and stimulated by Patricia and Wingham's questions and feedback.  So much so that I was able to write this, my first post for the project within hours of attending (even if it then did take another 96 hours to publish it).

PS I really like the look of ProjectDirt's forthcoming roadtrip.  I may have to be restrained to keep my attention on our project not theirs.  Of course #wewillgather willl be doing our roadtrips by train.  We're definitely train people.

Originally posted on Lloyd’s posterous

Olympic Torch Audio Collage #halfbaked @bowbrick @billt ?

Here's a quick idea inspired by a bit of my conversation with Matt Edgar whom I met this morning thanks to a twitter shout out from @Deirdre.

We were talking about mobile apps like instagram and the problem with them being tightly coupled, so you can't easily get at bits of the data, and link to them or do very much else really.  And Matt brought up PICLE which (on Android please!) allows you to capture a clip of sound.  And we were also talking about (not) seeing the olympic flame come through Bradford and Leeds yesterday, and that led us onto the subject of analysing the sound of crowds cheering.  It was that kind of conversation, we are that kind of person.

And I thought –  wouldn't it (have) be(en) interesting to take a sample of the sound of crowds cheering the Olympic Torch at each of the locations where large crowds have gathered and then see whether you could detect any regional variation as the torch moved around the UK.  Would it sound different in the North than in the South.  How about in the North West compared to the North East – would you be able to tell a Geordie crowd from the Cockney geezers and geezettes of the East End?  Or would it all sound the same?

I'm pretty sure the BBC has been covering all the events – how would we get someone there to compile an audio collage?  How much would you need in each clip?  How long would the whole thing be? How would you describe the differences even if you could distinguish them?

It's one of those things where you really don't know whether it would work or not until you try.  What's one of those things called?

eh?

Originally posted on Lloyd’s posterous

Locational Promiscuity

I've been on the road for eleven months now.  And as the anniversary approaches and I'm more and more able to say "I've been doing this almost a year" the reactions of others (and my own feelings) have moved from "Yikes! That's scary" to "OK, so it seems to work for you, that's interesting".

One of the things that comes up regularly is the idea that I'm travelling through my network, through people rather than places.  It was one of the big learnings for me from #PLATE11 and it's continued to be an important insight.

It's not that I don't like the places I've been or that I'm not interested in seeing new sights, it's that the people are much more important to me.  My commitment is to the people in my network (that's a horrible way to talk about acquaintances, colleagues, friends and family, but still) not to any one place or space or house or community.

It helps me to think about it in the frame of interpersonal relationships.  I think that what's happened is I've let go of the idea of a long term, exclusive relationship with one place, one set of rooms in a fixed location, one group of people who share that space.  I can't be married to a postcode anymore.  I get more out of being able to move between them.  And i'm able to give more too, but it does mean that my community work is distributed, not concentrated in one place and sometimes I make that mean that I'm not doing anything valuable, because there's little to show for what I've been doing, but I think overall that I'm actually more effective.

I hope that they all know that they're all special to me, but that I can't, at the moment, stick with any one.

And I expect that, having noticed it and written about it, it will probably change.

PS If I heard anyone talking about their intimate, romantic relationships like this, I'd say they were kidding themselves. That it would ultiimately lead to too much pain and confusion. What's the difference?  Is it something to do with places not being people? Am I kidding myself?  How would I know?

Originally posted on Lloyd’s posterous

Transcription

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Originally posted on Lloyd’s posterous