Tag Archives: community

A mini West Midlands adventure

I’ve got a few days this week in the best part of the country there is.


At least that’s what Dudley Zoo looked like 50 years ago…

I’m travelling up to Dudley on Wednesday morning and spending the afternoon with Lorna Prescott and friends and whoever else turns up at Gather Dudley at 65 High Street. If you’re on the Black Country side, do come over and say hello. We’re going to talk about community, co-creation, creative collaboration and probably some things that don’t start with ‘c’ just for the hell of it.  Lorna’s written about it here and it does help her if you could also sign up on the Eventbrite page.

On Thursday, my tentative plan is to spend the day at the Impact Hub in Birmingham. Again, I’m open to visitors or invitations to stuff that’s going on in the City Centre.

There is a teensy-weensy plan for curry on Thursday night.  Ping me on Twitter if you want to join us.

On Friday I’m co-facilitating “A Conference on Unconferencing” with top gent Dan Slee. If you’re at all interested in self-organising events, or how to get people to do important stuff without bossing them around then this is the day for you, it’s on from 9.30 till 4pm and will be chock-full of interesting people and ideas and action.

I do love the West Midlands but I love what we’re doing there even more, so if you would like me to come and do some similar stuff where you are for a few days, please do get in touch.

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.


Oral his-stories

We like to talk, don’t we? At least some of the time. Chatting, telling stories over and over in different ways and with different embellishments, all the while helping us to work out who we are and who we’re not, what we might choose to be or do next. But also who we’ve been, who did what, what’s been done (or tried) what’s been talked about before and so what’s fun to talk about again.

I’ve found this history bit interesting in online communities. It’s not as important to some people as it is to others but I often find myself playing the role of reminding groups of what was said before and why, as a reminder of where we’ve been together, why we took certain decisions together or else to help out a newcomer who’s repeating the mistakes of the past, going down a real blind alley.

I was reminded of it when coming into contact with some of the “old-time” seesmicers at LeWeb. It’s only a year since the peak of seesmic for me, but a lot of what we were talking about is lost. And I noticed this at the time that as the community grew quickly there were a set of first behaviours or topics that were obvious when yu were new. But because seesmic didn’t have an inherent way of recording what we’d learned, the understanding and the rituals and traditions that came about could only stay alive as lng as the people there were willing to keep talking about them and reminding each other of them. The traditions were loosely held, it only took a few people to make up a new tradition and for a few people to leave for a once fiercely guarded tradition to be discarded.

There were many reasons why my seesmic activity tailed off, but one of them was that a greater proportion of my time was spent on watching new people go through the initial phases and I was left either waiting for them to catch up or spending my time helping them to catch up more quickly. Less time for me to be creative and just enjoy the flow.

There sees to be a difference for example between talking to people at Tuttle about how it all started and what I think of it all, between that and the tangible stuff on the web that you might find if you were bothered to research it. Does that mean I need to write down more of what I say to new people every week? Or has the saying f it been enough, are there enough people who know the story in rder for it survive without any other effort? Or might that lead to a distorted story? Is it important? Is it valuable? What would be lost if it were forgotten? And what is the definitive story anyway? Is there one? Or is it that my version is dominant because of my role and repeated attendance?