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I was lucky enough to get along to the first social media surgery in Huddersfield last night – an offshoot of the wildly successful one’s started in Birmingham by Nick Booth. What happened was that I was in Leeds to speak this morning at NextGen09 in a panel with Brian Condon and so naturally yesterday morning I tweeted that I was going to be up in Leeds if anyone wanted to meetup.
One of the people who replied was Tim Difford who said he was going to something called #huddsms, which following a little trail I found out was the Surgery.
When I got to Leeds, it quickly became clear that getting on wifi or even getting a phone signal was going to be difficult around the Royal Armouries where the conference was taking place, so I thought I’d pop down to Huddersfield (only 20 minutes & £4.70 return on the train) and see how I could help.
The Media Centre is in the middle of the town an easy little walk down the hill from the station and I presented myself, my credentials and my willingness to help with anything that was going. I’m really glad I went. It was brilliant and there was a lovely buzz about the place.
I managed to squeeze in a coffee before I was introduced to my first (and as it turned out only) “patient”. David Quarmby is Chair of the Kirklees Visual Impairment Network (KVIN) committee and he wanted to know how social media might be useful to him and his colleagues in engaging with the 4,000 or so people in Kirklees who are registered as having a Visual Impairment.
I was immediately humbled by David’s determination to use the web regardless of his disability. He uses the JAWS screen reader to guide him around each page. This means that his experience of the web is of a tinny voice rapidly reading out link titles and button text – which can either be overwhelming because of the sheer amount of information squeezed on pages designed to be seen, not read, or else mystifyingly silent because important screen elements are hidden within graphics or whizzy bits of ajax which the screen reader stumbles over.
Nonetheless we pressed on, trying to see what a wordpress dashboard “looks like” through the screen reader. It turns out that you can find the elements of the Quick Press form that’s now included in wordpress.com and probably with some tweaking that may be useful. However, it still seemed difficult, surely someone must have done this before. I put out a tweet to ask for help – asking whether anyone had experience of blogging tools for people with visual impairments. In the meantime Tim Difford joined us for a bit to try out other possibilities, thinking about podcasting for example.
While we were talking about audioboo, phoneboo and ipadio, I had a flash of inspiration. Tim was explaining how simple some of these services are, so that you as a user are just making a phone call and when you’ve finished, you have, automatically, a podcast that could be shared through an RSS feed to a widget on your site.
This is what cleared the neural pathways for me – how about using posterous.com as a blog for KVIN which gets populated simply by David sending it e-mails, with attachments for the multimedia elements – everyone has e-mail and David, no doubt has an e-mail client that is optimised for his use – we all breathed a sigh of relief and had a cup of tea.
Meanwhile my twitterstream was generously sharing thoughts on the subject as predicted by the third of Dave Snowden’s Knowledge Management principles. Since the moment has passed somewhat, I haven’t, and I’m not going to, follow up all of these in detail, but if you’re interested, I hope you find a summary here useful.
@jobsworth pointed me at @dnwallace who keeps a blog called Lifekludger: “On it you’ll find information about ideas, devices, methods and custom uses for ‘everyday stuff’ that could be used to adapt, build, kludge, hack or make things work for people living with disability, as well as links and opinion on useful existing devices.”
@cataspanglish pointed to @alisonvsmith who immediately popped up with her blog Pesky People which “aims to profile the lack of proper access by Disabled and Deaf people on the web, inform, complain, campaign.”
@ipadio reminded us of it’s own applicability
All good stuff and I’ll be pointing David in the direction of this summary.
Photo credit: Tim Difford
This feels too short for a blog post, but it’s too long to tweet.
I’ve been saying something along these lines for a while to people who insist on hearing what the Return on Investment might be on social software.
I said it again today, but I can’t see that I’ve written it down anywhere.
So, this I believe:
“The ROI on using the social web is increased social capital, that’s all. The question is not how to try to measure social capital but how to most effectively convert it a more traditional form – the form that is accepted by landlords, supermarkets, ex-wives and the electricity company.”
We don’t know what’s going to happen. That’s all we can say. But since mainstream and broadcast news needs stories to keep filling up the column inches and rolling news hours, we’re seeing large amounts of speculation about what *might* happen, what effect we *might* see of pandemic swine flu and when that’s exhausted itself, we can have a wave of scepticism and cynical fun-poking at “over-reaction” while breathing a sigh of relief that it’s all OK.
This is all part of mainstream media’s schizophrenic stance on news and uncertainty. Swinging this way and that and promptly forgetting that today’s chip paper was the thing that they desperately wanted us to believe and buy yesterday.
Depending on your temperament, the effect of all this is either panic or complacency – neither states help you to assess the risk accurately or be ready to act if or when you need to.
It’s all helping me remember:
1. Thank God I’ve got a blog where I can say what *I* think today without worrying about it being taken as gospel, or worrying about anybody reading it at all. Also that I have so little invested in it that I can say half-baked stuff without fear of having it all taken away from me. I will probably change my mind tomorrow, but that makes me human, not stupid. I am comfortable (here at least!) with saying where I’ve been outright wrong.
2. I’m happy for my stuff to stick around on the web. Maybe it will be useful to someone today, maybe tomorrow, maybe sometime in September, maybe not (and for all values of “useful” including ‘finding some fat fool to have a laugh at’ and whatever I haven’t yet thought of)
3. There’s so much more we can do together than pass on information. We are not information processing machines and neither is this internet that we have made in our own image. We had the idea and carried it out, that’s all I wanted to do with it. So the movie below is released entirely into the public domain for you to do with it whatever you will.
4. The internet *is* for porn. Well, at least it’s for fun as well as for serious stuff. So that’s why, when faced with what to write or do about #swineflu I looked for something that would have more utility than playing aporkalyptic rhyming games (as fun as that may be)
I guess what I’m feeling about it all today is that we seem to be in a first mild wave that seems to be not as serious as we first thought, but if we are to Keep Calm and Carry On, isn’t it worth thinking about what we might do in the case of it getting worse, isn’t it a good time to have a good laugh now in case it all gets too serious to snigger at in a few months time?
We don’t know, none of us know, all we do know is that things can change very quickly and we forget what we thought we knew equally quickly.
In the spirit of this, if we get to a situation of serious pandemic, how might we act responsibly to protect others as well as ourselves? Are we mature enough to be able to think about that in time, recognising that if it gets bad quickly, we might not have much time to weigh up the evidence from research?
Well, one idea is the ultra-simple flu code proposed by Vinay Gupta and picked up this week by Wired. What I like about it is that it’s focus is not “How do we get away from The Infected” but more what can we all do to look after ourselves and each other.
Note: the code used here is v0.1 and subject to change – keep an eye on flucode.com if you’re interested in how it develops (or doesn’t)
So on Friday, I got lots of help from my lovely allthisandbrainstoo collaborator Debbie Davies and Vinay himself to make an alternative public information film based on the code, just to throw another perspective into the mix and approach a serious subject with a bit of silliness.
For anyone without a sense of humour (folk like that do creep in here from time to time), let me be absolutely clear, we in the UK are not in a serious pandemic situation at the time of writing and making this film. I am not suggesting that you have to go out and do these things today. Neither am I suggesting that you follow the code in exactly the way portrayed in the film.
So yes, It’s silly, as you might expect, and I’m sure it won’t be to everyone’s taste, but our hope is that if you pass the video on, we might avoid passing disease on. Oh and kids, the bit at the end of the video is dangerous if copied at home – it’s just a joke, laugh at me, don’t try it yourselves.
PS the whole process of doing this was delayed a little because blip.tv wouldn’t transcode stuff nicely no matter how hard Debbie hit it with a wrench. vimeo on the other hand, seems to rock.
Ahead of the G20 summit I want to run a we20 session with tuttlers on Tuesday. We’ll meet on Tuesday morning at the ICA. There is another related event going on there and I’m not sure how much I can say about that, but it’s exciting and I will let you know as soon as I know that I can.
UPDATE: Thanks to Toby Moores, I can confirm that this session will include, at some point during the morning, a live video link-up with Bob Zoellick, President of the World Bank.
So this is how it will go. There will be a maximum of 20 people. We will have a very structured conversation about what we can do to use social media and online social networking to boost the London economy, resulting in a set of personal and group commitments to action. The exact form will depend on how many people are there. The conversation will be recorded and published on the web.
If you don’t like the idea and want to do something different then feel free to set up your own conversation or attend one of the other conversations that are going on next week.
The session at the ICA will run from 9.30 and close before 12 noon when the public come in, but as always you’re welcome to stick around and chat. Please sign up here to get a place.
I spent this afternoon at Bicester Village, the Disneyland High Street of outlet stores in Oxfordshire. Equal parts weird and fascinating. Most frequently overheard was “darling, can I get you this sweater/bag/pair of shoes for Christmas?” You know, the sorts of people for whom all shopping from mid-October on is a part of Christmas shopping. There are a hundred or so (yes we were given lots of figures, but I wasn’t paying full attention) stores there, mostly clothing, but also homey places like Le Creuset, Bose and Wedgwood, a Books etc plus a Starbucks & a Pret. Lines are all last year’s with between 30% and 60% discounts.
The day was facilitated by Helen Keegan (brilliantly, I have to say, even though she’s one of my longest-standing friends, everything just worked without any fuss), who’s working with BV on their online marketing strategies and there were a range of other tuttlers there. We were given a nice goodie bag including a 10% off card (though that was refused me at L’Occitane on purchases less than £25) and a generously endowed gift card. I found it quite strange, going shopping, going shopping in luxury brand stores, going shopping in luxury brand stores having been given money specifically for spending there. But somehow I managed to make some purchases. I had to have a good walk round first, and probably popped into every store except that very posh one at one end of the village that’s so posh that they don’t want us to talk about the fact that they’ve got a store at BV. I then had to go and sit down with a cup of coffee before I ventured out to actually buy something – it showed me how conservative I’ve become in my wardrobe choices (or rather, just stuck, there was plenty of conservative clothing but not what I’d want to wear). I tried to get some chino’s in Ralph Lauren but they didn’t have anything in my size. I had to ask one of the foppish young men assistants to explain the labelling because I couldn’t believe that some of the trousers had 38″ legs, but it was true, I unfolded one pair and if they’d hung right at my ankles the waistband would have been tucked under my armpits. There was only one pair in anything resembling my size according to the label, but either I’ve got tubbier or they’d been cut on the small side – I fear the former is far more likely.
In the end, I settled for some smelly stuff from L’Occitane, some notelets from Smythson and a scarf from Jack Wills. The last purchase took me very slightly over the limit on the gift card, which proved quite a trying experience for the poor girl who was serving – she had to work out 10% off, then get two of her colleagues to check how to make the till understand the combination of gift card and my debit card. All part of the entertainment.
All of the assistants in the stores I visited seemed to be county boys and gels either working through college or in a gap year, I got the feeling they were all quite excited to be there, presumably they get even more of a staff discount on the discount on the discount.
The backlash against the new site from the Prime Minister’s Office has begun. Neil McIntosh just popped up in my feed reader tearing it apart for limiting conversation and some poor planning/research around the branding of the video channel. And then Tosh minor chimes in on twitter: “@DowningStreet – turn on your comments”
In my view, what’s happening here is that we’ve got some better plumbing installed, and while that in itself does a little to raise the quality of the drinking water, there’s so much more to be done and part of that is recognising that plumbing isn’t just about delivering water, it’s about providing a circulatory system to support and enhance something that’s going on already.
I’m not certain that just turning the comments on is the way to go, immediately. Of course it would be great to open up the conversation online but I do think the whole thing is still too fragile to withstand the shenanigans of people like this.
The work now should be to build some more solid two-way relationships between No. 10, online journalists and bloggers. My first question would be why press people like Neil haven’t been more intimately involved in the project already. Many people are still impressed when the guys on the @downingstreet twitter feed reply directly to questions and comments. When Obama was here and I was hanging around outside, I had a significantly different experience simply because we had a feed coming from inside and questions were answered in real time. Yes, our government departments are too opaque, but from where I’m sitting, I see much greater will to move towards real transparency than we’ve had in the past. This is a small enabling step towards it – let’s support it rather than knock it down straight away.
Suw & Leisa and I are putting together a series of events this summer under the banner of Fruitful Seminars – Suw was the bravest and is doing hers on Friday 27th and now I’m ready to come out with my offering.
UPDATE: Due to a little misunderstanding the seminar will take place one week later, on Weds 16th July, same time, same place, just a different day.
Here’s the blurb:
Social Media and Online Social Networking are transforming our business and personal lives. Few people can have escaped entirely from some exposure to the power and benefits of this revolution in how we communicate and collaborate. But even fewer can claim mastery over the tools and techniques or fully understand how to apply them to achieve specific business goals. Anyway, how on earth can you find the time? What about your “real work”?
In this masterclass you’ll get to work with Lloyd Davis, one of London’s most popular and experienced social media experts. Lloyd will help you understand what social media’s really all about and how to build rich and productive online relationships using simple tools. You will also gain some practical experience of creating some social media and get help with applying what you’ve learned to your personal business context.
The day is designed for marketing and communications professionals who want to understand better just how social media and online social networking can work for them. With no more than 9 participants, you’ll be assured of individual attention. Most participants will already have some experience of at least one aspect of social media, but will want to become more comfortable and confident with a wider range of tools. You should bring along an example of a business issue that you’d like help with.
We’re deliberately keeping these small so that they’re good value and participants can get to learn from each other as well as from me.
You all know someone who will benefit from spending a day in One Alfred Place with me – so kindly escort them (and their credit card) to the button above which will convey them, by means of the magical hypertext transfer protocol, to the booking page.
Photo by Ewan McIntosh