5 things you didn’t know about meme

minimeThanks Rachel for tagging me. I’m not a very secretive person (you may have noticed) so this feels quite hard. I’m sorry if you’ve heard any of these before.

1. My nickname at middle school was BB which came about on a trip to France when I was sitting on a coach in tight jeans, an older girl shouted – “God, ain’t that kid got big bollocks” It stuck.

2. I have ‘A’ levels in German, French, Latin so spent my 6th form going slowly mad from translation fatigue. Actually that’s not quite true, I spent my 6th form hanging around the Swan Theatre, getting laid and getting drunk which I count as the main reason why I got an ‘A’ for General Studies.

3. When at drama school, I particularly enjoyed the stage fighting course, but as a result of not paying attention in the “learning to fall” sessions I dislocated both my shoulders (on separate occasions). This is why I may refuse if you ever need carrying up the stairs and one reason among many why I’m unlikely to be seen bowling at cricket.

4. I have never taken a driving test. I had a course of lessons when I was 19 and one this summer, but I have never felt ready or motivated enough to go through with the formalities. This year could be the year… or maybe it couldn’t!

5. I was thrown out of my first student digs in Guildford just before Christmas 1984 because my landlord who was a milkman was sick of meeting me on the stairs coming in from a night of debauchery when he was going out to work. He pushed a note under my door saying “This is not a halfway house. Make sure you and your things are out of here by the time I get back from work today” I did.

Even harder, is thinking of 5 other bloggers who haven’t been tagged yet. That will have to wait till later because….

today’s my birthday. I’m 42. That just feels absolutely mad. I’ve never felt so disconnected from my solar age. It just doesn’t seem to matter one jot to me – not that I feel some other age, just that I’ve come to see that the number is totally irrelevant.

Quiet? QUIET????

If it’s quiet on this blog of late, the partial explanation is twitter.

It’s kinda diverting the energy that usually goes into blogging. It is a temporary diversion as I’ve also got some big posts to get out too, but they might come slowly over the festive season.

So if you’re pining for Lloyd-related updates, come and join me here: http://www.twitter.com/LloydDavis sign-up, add me as a friend and wa-hey! Xmas 2006 will be remembered as “that time we’d just started twittering”.

[ha ha! Just got back and realised i hadn’t switched from ‘draft’ to ‘publish’ now that’s what i call *quiet*]

An inside job

I want to make clear that I don’t say the following from any position of superiority. People who know me well know how rude and controlling I can be when I don’t get my own way.

But it occurs to me that working at Six Apart must be tough.

Mena to Ben Metcalfe at Les Blogs 2 : “You’ve been an asshole to people all day”
Loic to Sam Sethi about Leweb3 : “Sam, you’re an asshole”

If that’s how they speak to customers in public, I hate to imagine how they speak to each other behind closed doors when things get rough.

Sometimes it gets plain weird

Sirens in KnightsbridgeSometimes life gets better. Sometimes it gets worse. Sometimes it just gets plain weird and this is one of those times. So yesterday I spent finishing off editing audio for Online, trying to chop up a whole bunch of video shot last Thursday into something useful, walking round Mayfair and Knightsbridge with a couple of bottles of wine and a camera and then listening in on the live feed and the backchannel for Leweb3 (also known as Le Meltdown, Le Politics and Le Tsfuckwiththeusers). While the snarking about Loic raged, I got a phone call from Jeffrey Walker in California.

Now it’s been a while since a software company president called me from San Francisco, so I took his call. (btw Dave Winer had just announced in the leweb backchannel that it was raining in Berkeley so I dropped that into our conversation 😛 ) Turned out Jeffrey wanted a record of the goings on at the Atlassian User Group at the Hilton Tower Bridge. I was just about to leave for there anyway, so I took my one-man-social-media-empire bag along and did the business. Karma++

There are photos on flickr:

There are three podcast files:

Scott Farquhar on the Atlassian Roadmap.
Lee Bryant from Headshift on their use of Confluence with clients (including a generous mention of my contribution to a recent project).
Mike Cannon-Brookes on how Atlassian use their own software in-house.

Video interviews with Mike, Livio Hughes and a selection of Atlassian users will follow as time and my brain permit.

[Update: Sam Sethi just announced via Twitter (now that’s weird) that he’s been fired for not removing Loic’s comment on the TechcrunchUK blog. scoop by Ben who knows a thing or two about messing with SixApart]

It’s Social Stupid

Jessy watches Hugh draw for JeffreyI had a moment of clarity last week while holding an open space at Online. I hesitate to call it an “ah-ha” moment. It’s more of a “well….duuuhhh!” moment.

Hold Tight!

All organisations have formal systems and informal systems. You know the formal bits because formal usually means explicit – the org structure diagram, job descriptions, line (or matrix) management structures, written policies, mission statements, value statements and vision statements and the group and individual objectives (supposedly) derived from them and the behaviours that go with them – making a request, filling in a form, going to see the right person in facilities management, appraising staff performance, project and programme reporting. They also have formal links with customers, suppliers and other organisations – official channels. This is the bureacracy.

The informal or shadow systems are the links between people that may have nothing to do with their official roles or structures. This shadow organisation arises because the formal systems cannot be efficient or effective outside of certain limits. Ralph Stacey in Strategic Management & Organisational Dynamics (dreadful title – great summary and important critique of the development of modern strategic management) points out that there are two main reasons for bureacratic control failing to produce what it’s supposed to: the adverse human reaction to bureacracy (Yup! as I typed that previous paragraph I shuddered at ever having to be part of one again) leading to alienation, passive dependence, work without significance, deskilling and provocation of undesired or unintended behaviour. In addition, formal systems can’t deal well with ambiguity or uncertainty. So these informal groups, unofficial ways of behaving, doing business through social activities and networking grow up to allow the organisation to operate more effectively and efficiently. Remember too that unlike the formal part of the organisation, the boundaries of the shadow systems are permeable and always changing, making new contacts in “the industry” or “the sector” as and when opportunities arise.

Furthermore, it has been pointed out that the shadow organisation is the place where innovation and creativity are allowed to flourish. You can’t make new stuff effectively within a formal process. Creativity requires messiness, mistakes and flexibility around time. Innovations happen in the informal world – and, from time to time, when they are useful to the formal world, they become systematised and turned into policy or else they remain “the way we do things around here”. Note also that the organisation as a whole is the same bunch of people – just that they move over time between formal and informal modes and activities, however, my experience has been that there are people who feel more at home in the informal systems (cool dudes like me – heh!) and others who spend most of their time formally (tight-arsed pen-pushers – natch!)

Now, what came to me on Monday with a thud was that it’s these informal groups and activities that are supported by “social software” Blogs give people the opportunity to say what they want and talk about it, outside of any established order – just talk about what’s on your mind. Wikis allow for a meritocracy in collaborative documentation and policy/decision making. Social networking tools allow you to find and foster new connections outside of the org chart.

Examples of how this is working are coming thick and fast.

Do you believe that Threshers have mastered a process for viral marketing or was it a Stormhoek snowball kicked down the hill by Hugh?

For intellectual stimulation and working with new ideas there’s no competition between an openspace event and any one of the established panel-based conferences. Online was better this year, but still has some way to go.

Check out the reaction to Microsoft’s Zune player and then see what is coming from an informal, asynchronous conversation between Rojas, Winer and Calacanis have suggested and why Rowica might have more search results someday (or might not) (hey listen to the podcast of these guys chatting). OK, I like Rowica, but it seems it’s now dubbed the RWC Player.

So when we take social software or social media and try to sell it (through formal channels) as a part of the bureacracy – to replace something formal, it’s not surprising that we get asked about ROI and metrics and to prove “what’s in it for me”. And when we just take a risk and start something as an experiment that then just works, these questions get asked less and less.

That’s why I’m excited about the next round of Policy Unplugged social conferences which we’re branding as ‘Uploading’. The starting point for these events is that the tools exist, they are part of the ecosystem and it’s no longer about whether you should adopt them, but how you can best adopt them to get things done. And I would suggest that looking at the informal systems in organisations and within industries are the place to start that conversation.

Well…. duuuuuhhh!!!

Bonus Link: Johnnie is re-reading Patricia Shaw. Good move.

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