Category Archives: words

Help Me See “The Mind of Evil” #llobo

Andy Mabbett pointed this out this morning.  My resemblance to the late Roger Delgado seems to get creepier as I get older.  I’d love to go to this but it’s up in Birmingham and I’m in London.  

Does anybody have a lloyd-shaped hole in what they’re doing around the weekend of 30th that would help me justify a trip up?  Perhaps at the end of the week before, given that the Friday is Good Friday.  For the uninitiated, most lloyd-shaped holes include working with groups of 2 to 200 (or more!) to have amazing conversations and get amazing things done and/or ukulele-accompanied warbling and/or talking about creating value through social media/networking/technology/conversation and many other things besides.

The ideal solution would include a fee, accommodation & travel expenses and of course I’d love it if you’d come with me to see Dr Who and The Master lock horns on Saturday afternoon!

On Channels and Combinations #ukgc13 #commscamp13 #tuttle

Sitting in groups of traditional marketers or comms people I often groan.  The most likely trigger is hearing words like: “Social media is just another channel”

Yes, you can see social media as a channel, but if you treat it like the other “channels” that you’ve had in the past (TV, radio, press) you’re missing out on the secret magic.

What’s importantly different about social media is that they encourage many-to-many connections rather than one-to-one or one-to-many connections.  The counting that goes on is all 1:1 or 1:M – how many followers do you have, how many people saw this tweet/ad/page/article/video.  But what really counts, what really makes a difference is relationship, including the relationships that you foster with your media but aren’t part of yourself.   This is social object territory – make stuff that other people use to connect with each other.  Most traditional comms efforts are still focused on creating a relationship between the creator and their audience whereas the real value for the community as a whole is the potential for connection between members of the audience and that’s what the internet and social media unlock.

This is the magic of unconferences and #tuttle-like meetings too.  They are designed to create connections between participants rather than building a dependent relationship between participants and the organiser.  Traditional conferences want you to sit and listen and know how brilliant the organisers are so that you will buy subscriptions to their publication or pony up to come to the next event.  They grudgingly give you more networking time because you are connected people who understand the value of having many, diverse, connections and you understand the power of conversation.  But there’s a payoff in this for organisers – they want you to have just enough networking time to have your conversation-hunger satisfied, but not so much that you start to think that you can do without them and omniscience.

At an unconference or #tuttle though the whole point is about making connections and building relationships.  Most newbies, when you ask them, think that they’re coming for information, but by the end, most know (even if they can’t articulate it) that what they  really got was the benefit of conversation with fellow human beings and the potential for new actions that arise from the new connection.

Just quickly a bit of maths – In any group, the number of potential pairings is n(n-1)/2

(check it if  you’re not used to this sort of numberwork – If I’m in a room  containing n people, I can make n-1 pairs with others and there are n of us who can all do that. My pairing with, say, @danslee is the same as @danslee’s pairing with me, so divide by two)

At #commscamp13 there were 135 people – in traditional terms this would be quite a small gathering because we’d only be able to get our message to 135 people.  But by focusing on connections and the relationships that result from that, we get (135 x 134)/2 = 9,045 – nine thousand potential connections being nurtured feels a lot more valuable than 135  people receiving the message through the channel, doesn’t it? Is it surprising that from those nine thousand pairs some amazing conversations happened?  And that’s not even taking into account the three-way or four-way conversations that could have happened too.

That’s  why I spend my time creating spaces where people can connect without being told what to talk about or when to talk and when to listen.

 

On Red Pills and Anarchists in the Boardroom #morelikepeople #commscamp13 #ukgc13

I’m going to ask you to contribute to a crowdfunding campaign, but this time it’s not one of mine.

Having spent some time at a couple of unconferences this week, both of which focused in on the experiences of professionals working in public service (Commscamp for Communications folk, LibCampLdn for library peeps) and preparing (mentally) for next weekend’s mammoth, all-encompassing, UKGovCamp, I’ve noticed a bit of a pattern emerging.

Sessions held at both events this week contained a theme that can be boiled down to: “How do we as professionals who’ve seen the light of digital revolution, survive and thrive in corporate bureaucracies that refuse to change?”

I think it’s allied to what Emer Coleman has written about this week in her valediction to government saying “When you take the red pill everything looks like The Matrix”

I often say that my own “red pill” moment was in the board room of the Audit Commission, with Euan in 2002 but I’d seen others before that who seemed to be able to fly, do things incredibly quickly or smash through walls at will without hurting themselves – there was something going on here, but I didn’t know what it was, did I, Mr Jones?

But what is it really?

Isn’t it “just” that hyperlinks subvert hierarchy? By which I mean, isn’t it that connection through the network is destroying the control and decision-making structures and putting tremendous pressure on organisations to stop pretending that they’re machines and start being more like people?

About a year ago Liam Barrington-Bush, (a regular at #tuttle who started out as Steve Lawson‘s mate whose employers might buy coffee one week, but quickly emerged as a red-pill man through and through) interviewed me about the early days and what I’d been trying to do.  He was going to go off to Mexico to write up a book on how social media and social movements can help your organisation to be more like people.

Well he went and he wrote it and he sent me the draft of his chapter that talks about me and #tuttle.

One of the things he wrote that had me cheering was this:

“When we don’t have specific aims, we are freer to be ourselves. When we are freer to be ourselves, we can let our minds wander. Tuttle – like so many naturally occurring conversations in our lives – demonstrates what can emerge when we make the effort to release ourselves from the responsibility of aims, goals, and targets.”

Now, the rest of the book is about other folk much more exciting and interesting than me.  Liam is fundraising to publish the book himself – I’m right behind his decision to do this and to keep as much control over the content as possible.  It’s really important that truly independent voices like Liam’s are heard without going through the filter of a publishing house, no matter how well-meaning.

So I encourage you to pop some cash in the pot.  You know that every little helps, but especially if you can contribute on behalf of an organisation, some of the higher-priced perks that involve conversation with Liam himself would be top-value.

When domain names expire

This has been annoying me for a little while, but just below the level of making me do something about it.

Sometime in 2010 I subscribed to e-mail notifications from the Transmedia Artists Guild blog – it looked interesting, it probably helped me to hook up with Transmedia-interested people at SXSWi 2011 while I was #plate11-ing.

I remember at some point seeing a notification that said something like “So long, and thanks for all the fish!”  So it was over, forget about it.

And then.

Then notifications started popping back up in my e-mail, but with titles like “Limiting sofa time adds years to your life”.  Hmmm…. it turns out transmediaguild.com has now home to a poorly-written blog about how fabulous exercise is with links out mostly to a certain startup gym company – I’m assuming that they’re doing this to generate some “natural” search engine optimisation, by um… writing about themselves on a domain name that has nothing to do with the parent company.   Which is why I’m deliberately not linking to any of this stuff.

Thankfully, I’m only aware of it because I left a feedburner e-mail subscription running, so I can turn it off.

But with a little searching, I can see though that at least serve2011.org, nationalnano.org, bluedogdemocrats.com and tellmeaboutyourselfanswer.com are being used in the same way by the same people…

Can someone who knows more about SEO shenanigans explain what’s going on?

UPDATE: A little bird suggests that googling “Dropped domains SEO” might be useful.  Yes it is, it points me to this – it’s a thing, a ridiculous (to me) thing, but using expired domains for SEO is a well-known thing.  Still don’t know whether this is a well-executed example or not.

You go yoga, I no go

On emerging from our meditation this morning…

She: “I think you should come with me to yoga now”

I: “For the sake of the group’s serenity, I don’t think I should attend until I am able to bend more than 30 degrees at the waist without shrieking “I’m going to die! I’m going to die”

She: “Perhaps the natural inhibition of being in a room with 30 others (mostly fit young women) would  prevent you from shrieking.”

I: “That’s not ‘natural inhibition’, that’s FASCISM!”

5 ways we give power to people outside the room #commscamp13 #ukgc13

One of Harrison Owen’s principles for Open Space (on which most unconferences are based) is “Whoever comes is the right people”.  It’s there to remind us that we don’t need the boss or experts to have a useful conversation, we just need people who care enough to show up.

I’ve found that one of my jobs as a facilitator is to remind people that the event is about the people in the room, not those who couldn’t or wouldn’t make it.  The draw to give power away to people outside the room is strong, it’s expected in lots of meetings  where we’re essentially delegates for the rest of our team or organisation.

Here are 5 ways in which I’ve seen us (me included) do that:

1. Working on the agenda beforehand

Open Space and unconferences start with no initial agenda, just a purpose, a common interest that we want to talk about and a bunch of people who have something to contribute.  It’s tempting to make the day “more efficient” by having lots of conversations online setting out your stall for what you want to talk about, getting feedback, but it inadvertently gives power to people who aren’t in the room.  It sets an expectation, at least for those who have a look at this “prep work” that these are the things we’ll talk about.  It leaves the door open to people who want to influence the agenda without committing to a day in the room, because we tend to fall in with what’s already there.  If I come late to the online conversation, especially if I’m not terribly au fait with the subject area, I will look to see what norms have been established about subjects so that I can fit in well.  I don’t want to propose something that has people looking at me in a funny way.

It also gives disproportionate power to those who have, for whatever reason, more time to spend on preparation in the run up to the event than others do.  I think it probably also affects the number of people who show up ready to be “spectators”.  I can see that there are plenty of clever people with a much stronger grasp of the subject than I so I think I’ll just keep my silly little idea to myself.

2. Trying to represent your team’s wishes

They’re not here.  You are.  You’re one of the right people to be here.  They’re not (because they’re not here!) Stop worrying about what so-and-so would say if they were here and say what you want to say.  This goes too for paying too much attention to people who manage large departments or organisations.  The fact that they lead programmes employing hundreds of people costing millions of pounds doesn’t mean that they know any more about the problem in hand than you do.  They may well know less.

3. Going to sessions because “you should”

I know.   It’s really hard.  There are 10 sessions all going on at once and you want to go to three of them but you ought to go to one of the others and stay there because it’s directly related to your job – what will your manager say if she sees that this was on the agenda and you didn’t go?  I think the best way to deal with this is to remember, for today, that your job is to learn and to contribute.  Pop into the “should” session to see whether you missed anything but otherwise, keep using the law of two feet to find the places where you can best learn and/or contribute.

4. Letting technology get in the way

It’s great to have an audio or video record of a session.  It’s really cool to have a live-stream so that people who couldn’t make it can watch along in real-time.  It’s really useful to the whole community if people can live-tweet and live-blog sessions.  But.  All of these things have the possibility of becoming more important than the conversation we’re actually having.  Common adverse effects are people unconsciously censoring what they say because they know they’re being reported or recorded or people saying things deliberately to make sure that they are on record.  The other difficulty arises when the interactivity of twitter and live-streaming take over.  This can take the form of trolling from outside or something as apparently benign as people outside asking that people speak more clearly for them to hear on the stream.

5. Thinking too much about the future

In this case, the “people not in the room” are “future me” and/or “future other people”. I worry about what future me will think of what I’m saying.  I worry that future me will be somehow disadvantaged because I say something stupid.  And then I worry about what future other people will think when they get home and they reflect on the day and “oh my god what was that dickhead, Lloyd, saying???”  They’re not here, they’re not real, they don’t get to decide what gets said in the room.

PS I generally don’t like writing list-based posts but today I’ve done two – my thinking may be becoming dangerously structured! 🙂

Some things from my head following #commscamp13

View from the front #commscamp13I’m grateful to have been asked to facilitate CommsCamp13 which was organised by @annkempster @danslee and @darrencaveney in Birmingham the other day.

These are some the things that are rolling round in my head as a result. Not all of them come directly from experiences at CommsCamp13, they may be things I’ve wanted to rant about for some time, and now seems to be as good a time as any. Some of these may turn into longer pieces, although it’s more likely that they’ll just sit here taunting me, saying “Why don’t you explain what you really mean there Lloyd?”

0. People are amazing. Groups of people are amazinger.  Groups of people allowed and encouraged to talk about the things that they really care about are the amazingest.

1. Lloyd! Stop trying to be right.  I find it really hard, but I try to keep following the golden rule: “Be prepared to be wrong, even when you’re right”.  Having said that, many of the following points read as pompous declarations of my unshakable will.  Prepare your pinch of salt.

2. If you don’t like this thing, start your own thing.  Nobody is gripping onto this “brand identity” nearly as hard as you imagine.  If you don’t like the fact that there’s only one UKGovCamp a year and the same 200 people always seem to go, set up your own (you might even get a grant to help). If you want a #jelly or some tweetup in your town or region, do your own. Use #wewillgather for smaller things if it helps.

3.  Run sessions your way.  This is a development of the previous point – nobody has decreed, nor do they have the right to decree, that all sessions at a camp have to be sitting round in a circle having a therapy session.  We can do whatever we like – some of the best sessions I’ve been to at other camps have been “I know nothing about X, please come and enlighten me” or “Let’s make a Y in 45 minutes”.

4. No spectators.  I felt that we’d lost this a bit – it’s much harder in a one-day event and using traditional conference venues but we had 25-35 potential sessions and 140 people attending, so even with every session leader doubling up we’d only have half of the group able to lead even if they wanted to.  The no spectator rule is there, imho, to ensure that we don’t get into an us and them situation – encouraging everyone to have something even in their back pocket is an important part of pre-camp that we forget.  We saw a special case of this on Tuesday which was a lack of women pitching for sessions in the first round, fortunately there were some brave enough to point it out and I think we fixed it, but still, I think it would  help to make it clearer that there’s an expectation that you bring something to talk about, that it’s just part of the process.

5.  We’re all just folk here.  This is hard at UKGovCamp, but it was even harder this week – leave the corporate ego at the door – remember that everyone else is in the same boat as you, no-one has all the answers, we all have an equal responsibility for the success of the event.  Some people are effectively paying to be there, not everyone has a job that either treats this as part of your development or paid leave.

6. I love “Fuck it” moments.  One of the best stories I heard was from Rae Watson talking about her experience of doing the right thing once she’d heard she was being made redundant.  Lovely, nothing to lose attitude which inspired me to call for a rolling programme of redundancies across the public sector 🙂

7. “The future is …not very evenly distributed.” You think?  This may come under the heading of “stop trying to be right” but really, the world *has* changed, hyperlinks really do subvert hierarchies, this is what is going on here, the institutions we work in are struggling and collapsing because the network crosses their boundaries without permission and with great ease.  I heard way more people than I expected to still talking about messaging and selling social media to senior execs.  Keep the focus off technologies and put it on power and service structures.

8. A camp is not about information dissemination.  It probably will happen as a by-product, but the purpose of the day is to encourage conversation and the resultant building of relationships. These are vital elements of the networked world – the ability to have good conversation and the richness of relationship that emerges therefrom.  This is where the value is, both to us as participants and to the organisations we’re part of.

9.  It’s your process. I know I’ve got it right when you don’t credit me and you say “we did this”.  It’s one of my favourite bits of the Tao Te Ching – Chapter 17

The Sage is self-effacing and scanty of words.
When his task is accomplished and things have been completed,
All the people say, ‘We ourselves have achieved it!'”

10.  It’s a 3-day commitment for me.  There’s very little traditional prep and follow-up but I need a good half-day before to warm-up and clear out the rest of the world and then a full day afterwards to recover.  I need to reflect this in my diary-planning and in my fees.

11. We *will* break your wifi.  John Popham has already summed up the connectivity issue for most conference venues. Related: spambots may break your hashtag…

12. The view from the front.  That’s the title I gave the picture above.  It shouldn’t be like this.  There’s no reason to put everyone else face-front: we embrace circles when we go into sessions, we should do the same in plenary.  I think it would do a lot to reduce the sense of us-and-them.

13.  Stop trying to please everyone.  Media folk in public service have to juggle the goodwill of elected representatives, organisational managers, journalists and the public.  You can’t please all of these groups all of the time.  If you have to pick one, pick the public.

Turns out there’s thirteen, which is good since I’ve noticed many events this year have 13 in the title for some reason…

I’ve started watching “House of Cards” on Netflix #houseofcards

I had a long period of TV abstinence beginning in about 2004 (I guess it was about when I started writing here – something had to go to make time for it).  But Netflix has drawn me back into fairly regular TV watching because it’s totally under my control and it makes a decent fist most of the time of alerting me to things I’d like to see.

Lots has been written about the new House of Cards which is not being shown on regular TV.  It’s on Netflix-only, and the 13 episodes were released all in one go last week.  Mostly though people are focusing their attention on the novelty of the release rather than the programme itself.

Which is a shame, because it’s very good.  I haven’t gone full throttle into TV addiction yet so I haven’t succumbed to the temptation of just watching the whole thing in a 13-hour marathon, but I’ve managed the first three episodes and we’re getting used to the characters and seeing some of the storylines start to firm up.

I was initially disappointed to realise (it came in the first few shots when Kevin Spacey turned and started talking to camera) that it’s the Michael Dobbs/Andrew Davies House of Cards remade in today’s US political scene.  Disappointed only because the original was *so* good, so captivating, so of the time and shockingly near to what we suspected the inside of party politics was like, long before The Thick of It.  And because Ian Richardson was so compelling: simultaneously adorable and despicable.  And because I’m rarely won over by American remakes of British TV.  Where I am at the end of episode 3, Spacey hasn’t quite reached Richard III levels of despicability but he’s getting there and I fully believe that he pulls it off by Episode 13 and Robin Wright is an able Lady Macbeth.   Part of the draw for me is seeing how the other recognisable characters might turn out – although it’s pretty much a question of how they will meet their various sticky ends rather that whether they do (I hope).

I like the graphic overlays that denote when people are texting each other.  It lets the acting continue without cutting away to a close-up of the phone screen.  I haven’t seen it done as authentically before.

It’s very interesting to see it transplanted into American politics and the DC village rather than the Westminster one.  Though I am wondering why it took 23 years for this story to be acceptable to a US audience.  Is American politics in a similar place now to where we were at the end of the Thatcher era?  I guess there are similar levels of disillusionment with the system, but has that come about recently? Is it a new thing?  If we got any faith in the system back in 1997 we’ve lost it again since.

One thing that does crop up with the all-in-one release thing is that it makes it hard to have an online social experience around it and so it’s hard to write about without some spoilers – it’s neither like a movie (which you’ve either seen or you haven’t) nor like a standard TV series (where you might allow people to be a few episodes behind, but pretty much you expect everyone to be up to date or avoiding any reviews).  And of course it’s also a remake.

But do I hate spoilers so I shall wait until a significantly larger number of my friends are admitting to having seen it.

 

Pick-up lines

Karin sat in Caffe Nero and waited for her soup.

When it came she heard a laugh, well, more of a snigger, but not a cruel one.

“Your soup matches your dress!”  The guy sitting at the next table was grinning and looking at her.  She tried to work out whether he was being an idiot or just inappropriately friendly for this part of south London.  She saw a heavy, large-print Bible, it’s pages covered in annotations and faded highlighter, lying open in his lap.  She smiled, but decided against further engagement.

She stirred her soup and looked at it intently.  So did he.

He sniggered again, “I saw a movie yesterday where something just like this happened.”

St Mary Street

My glamorous life #ourdigitalplanet[Written in a notebook while I was in Cardiff in October 2012]

“A quiet morning on the street, the rain hasn’t yet kicked in but the cold wind tells you that it isn’t far off. It’s time for the town’s drunks to converge on the Spar to buy their first tins of the day.

Not their first beers, mind, they needed a beer at home to get out and about but this will be the first they part with cash for.

Ten minutes later “Babyface” appears. He hasn’t saved enough from last night to go in the shop, so he hangs in front of the Spar asking for change until someone buys him a single can of Tennants which he downs almost in one.

A dark haired man in a track-suit walks slowly up from the Morgan Arcade. “Listen to me good. No, you listen to me ya fat c**t I’m calling you now, so just listen…”

A fat bald man, in a grey hoodie and white shorts with black slippers on his feet, goes to the cashpoint. His head is so fat he has to move the phone from his ear to his mouth when he speaks.

Babyface bumps fists with a straggly bearded dwarf and they walk off together.”