Tag Archives: nablopomo08

Wearing my social objects on my chest

12112008546My most popular social objects at the moment are the badges on the lapel of my overcoat. Most of them were around last winter when I was wearing the coat, so I don’t know whether it’s the fact that I’ve added a couple more or something else that makes all sorts of people stop and smile and comment and ask questions.

Only today, for example, I happened to be riding in a lift with the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, as you do, and he (for they are one person) said “Oh what are those for?” and I said, “Oh they’re just things I’ve been to” and he said “Mmm… just brightening up your overcoat” “Yes” and so it was that my relationship with Jack Straw MP was everso slightly enriched.

I’ve put some notes on the photo on flickr to help people who want to know what each is about. I might as well spell out the detail here too. So from the top, the targetty looking one is from Platform for Art, the programme for putting art on the underground. The one next to it featuring Domo is a new one from my friend Claire who gave it to me to extend my collection. This exchange also gave us the opportunity to share this with one of our friends who’d never seen it before – yes there are such people! Below Domo is my flickr badge – I’m always surprised by the people who have been on flickr for ages, but who need to have that explained to them. Isn’t it obvious? And yes, I know it’s upside-down.

To the left in the picture but to my right is my Breakfast Club badge from the cafe in D’Arblay St of the same name, not because I belong to a club that involves eating sausage and bacon or because I carried a torch for Molly Ringwald (though the latter is true and if the former exists, I’d like to know about it) They have them in a basket on the counter, so they’re not as exclusive as you might think. Next down and not very clear is one that Katherine gave me. It depicts creature that is half whale and half training shoe. I have no idea what the picture means, if it means anything at all. Below that, the black one is from likemind. I can’t remember whether it was the lovely Amanda or the lovely Jamie who gave it to me (now that’s going to start a fight) and the one at the bottom is from the goodie bag at Interesting 2007. It says “Interesting 2007” So that’s the only one that wasn’t given to me by a girl then.

Each of them is a conversation starter, each has a little story attached, a little story that tells you a little bit more about me. And together, the fact that I wear them says something about me. Perhaps that I’m a nutter and to be avoided, but judging by experience, also that it’s OK to stare and OK to come up and ask me what they’re about. I don’t have to do anything more than wear them to get into interesting conversations with people.

If you haven’t a clue why I’m even talking about “social objects” go and read Hugh on the subject.


Interesting that a third of the way through the month, I seem to be finding it more difficult to write something every day than find a piece of video to post.

It’s great exercise though, and it feels kind of like a promise to go to the gym every day for a month. Much easier than you thought at the beginning, and then… 10 days in…

I have no more to say than that. Well I have some big things to say, on the dangers of us lacking consciousness… and the long tail of face-to-face events… and about the stuff I’m doing in the daytime, but can’t quite blog about just yet…oh yes and I’d really like to do something retrospective on how the way we talk about this stuff has changed since the summer of 2005 when we suddenly seemed to get a bit of confidence… and there’s a little movie I’m putting together telling my version of the genesis of tuttle… Maybe if I started it a bit earlier than 10pm every night I might find it easier.

Work Places

05112008518This is a photograph of what’s left of the car park that used to be on the corner of Rochester Row and Greycoat Place. In the top left-hand corner, you can see the windows of the offices of 33 Greycoat Street, now occupied by the Commission for Social Care Inspection. In 1999, the Audit Commission took on that building as part of it’s growth in preparation for inspecting Best Value (wha’ that?) and one of those first floor offices later became the place where my manager took residence and I’d sit with her, trying to avoid conversations about how well I was doing, what I wanted to do next and how the Commission “could help in my development”. I mainly stared out of the window, at that car park and wondered how long she would wait to change the subject.

I love these holes in the city. Demolition sites that, once flattened, last only too briefly. The chance to see through further than you could before, see the backs of places only imagined, see a bit more of the sky, regain a sense of scale. Maybe some of them will hang around for longer if redevelopment money is short. Mind you, there still seems to be plenty of activity of some sites, although those may be ones where the mentality is “we’ve started so we’ll finish”.

Which also reminds me of conversations we had early on about Tuttle that included a kind of office-in-a-box a travelling co-working space that could be set up anywhere we could find a space. I’m becoming attracted to that again. Perhaps Amplified08 might be a place to specify what’s needed.


17 Juni, Brandenburger, FernsehturmI still have Berlin on my mind – you can see why people stick around there. It does seem as though life is a whole lot simpler. I was struck immediately on my return to London by how loudly people speak on their mobiles and how our press is truly dominated by celebrity. Both these things were missing in Berlin, but I didn’t miss them.

I was glad that I got the chance between barcamp and the Web2.0 Expo to have a walk around the city and to meet up with some friends of friends who were nothing to do with the geek scene. You can’t get away from the fact that this is a city that had a pretty shit time through the 20th Century. Revolution, world war, hyper-inflation, fascism, another world war, occupation, division, cold-war shenanigans on both sides of the wall, reunification. Many parts do feel beaten-up, like why would you bother? But everywhere, the contrasts hit you. Sure there’s steel and glass McRegeneration including the Bundestag and all around Potsdamer Platz, but even within a few blocks you’re back in the middle of faceless, brooding, old grey stone and then suddenly an empty bomb-site or two and shiny post-war cubes for the glorious proletariat.

I heard lots of Germans at both events say that they’d live in Berlin, if they could make any money there. Yes, me too, I think. I’ll be back.

By the way, coincidentally but aptly, as well as seeing The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas just before going, I got to see a preview of Imagine This at the New London this week. It’s about the Warsaw Ghetto and manages to avoid being as crass as “Sophie’s Choice: The Musical” – in fact it’s very powerful and moving with a great central performance from Peter Polycarpou and some very hummable themes.


I did some work today with some people who make football kit. I haven’t worn any football kit since 1981 when my Games lessons stopped being compulsory. But when I went into their archive room and saw some of the stuff they had there, I was transported back to the mid-seventies. In 1975, Birmingham City Football Club celebrated its centenary and a year later they replaced the early-seventies penguin strip with a plain royal blue jersey with white collar adding a two-globe centenary badge – I can still see Trevor Francis in that kit, before he betrayed us all to become the first million-pound footballer for that bugger Brian Clough.

Why did I support the Blues? You had to. No, really at the junior school I went to, you really had to. A teacher was spat at once for coming to school wearing a Villa scarf. A teacher. In 1975. Y’know, before Grange Hill, in the days when teachers commanded respect and could give you a good hiding if you didn’t buckle down. You can imagine what would have happened to any mere boy who dared even consider anything claret and sky blue.

Football shirts – social objects, pulling a trivial little story out of me, reminding us how we felt, creating the opportunity for connection. And that’s just for me, I don’t even care very much for football any more, what about the real fans? And then there’s the programmes and the magazines, and the boots and the letters and the photographs. These people have a delicious slice of our popular culture in their care, I hope they get to start blogging about it soon.

To Bicester Village

06112008525I 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.

Amplified 08

Potential – remember that? I wrote about potential during 2gether08, about the huge potential that builds up at events where we all get together, about how intoxicating it is, and interesting to see what happens to fulfill that potential – it’s not always obvious, the links are not always clear.

I’d like to really do something with this network of networks, use the occasion to do more than talk about what we might possibly do and actually do some stuff. I’m pootling around with a few ideas for candidate activities, and of course we have the wiki to develop some of them. Come play with me there.

I’m thinking of two streams of stuff – one that requires some tech support and ability and one that requires people who’ve thunk a lot about the cultural, moral and ethical issues – both can create something useful and important – can we do that please?

Unlocking the see-saw

03112008502That was the title of the VRM shindig today. It was fun and interesting and stimulating.

I left ready to do something. I don’t think my coding teeth are strong enough to join in with that bit, but some more co-ordinated and detailed requirements analysis or user testing would suit me fine.

I did a bit where I pulled out my wallet and went through some of its contents. The loyalty cards and what not. Needs a bit more time to go through that in detail. I’d like to, because I think it’s got some legs. For example, the difference between the relationship implied by Caffe Nero’s bit of cardboard as opposed to Starbucks’s pre-payment card. But not tonight.

My main point there was not well developed either, because it only really came to me as I was doing it – it was the empirical evidence of how engaged I am in managing my own personal data – I may say that I’m up for it, but my wallet actually tells a slightly different story.

Thanks to Adriana and Alec for their sterling organisational efforts and to my collaborators for lots of good thinking.

If it ain’t broke

Thanks to Tim Davies in the comments of “No to Quotas” for helping me see why I’m getting worked up about this one.

Where is the problem that we’re trying to solve here?

The problem with Innovation Edge wasn’t that the wrong people turned up. It wasn’t that certain groups or parts of society weren’t represented in the whole. It was that hundreds of super smart people did turn up and then were strapped into their seats and lectured to by a very small group of super smart people. It wasn’t a diversity problem – it was a power problem.

No matter which event we’re talking about, what I’m interested in participating in is a shift in designing gatherings in terms of the form and the rules of engagement, the way that a wide multiplicity of views and opinion can be expressed and worked through in conversation rather than meddling with the composition of the group.

Too late on a Sunday to be writing any more, but there is more to say.

No to quotas

08092008202There have been a couple of times in the last week or so when quotas have been suggested for solving a problem of “fairness”. They were brought up at the Tuttle discussion about Amplified08 in the context of deciding which networks should be represented at this network of networks forum and again during the panel I contributed to at Web2.0 on gender issues – suggesting that perhaps there should be quotas of, for example, women represented on the boards of companies.

I think that both are wrong, and I said so at the time, but didn’t have a chance to explain properly why I think that quotas are inappropriate.

Don’t tell me what to do.
I see quotas in contexts like these as the imposition of the will of one (usually very small) part of the community on another part. This attempts to make things fair by being unfair – in the 80s we called it “positive discrimination” it wasn’t very positive but it was definitely still discrimination. The situations for which it is being suggested, involve a desired or desirable state which for some reason seems unlikely to come about either organically or else quickly enough. The introduction of a quota says we cannot trust people to do the right thing (ie what we want them to do), so we will force them to. Yeuck! Isn’t this the same patronising paternalism we’re trying to be rid of? In my experience, introducing this kind of bias leads on the one hand to a feeling of disempowerment in those who are supposed to be given an advantage, a fear that the benefit given so arbitrarily could just as easily be taken away and on the other hand to resentment among those who were formerly in a majority, leading to a more entrenched determination that no further ground be given. Much better, in my view, to extract myself from what other people should do and simply for me to be vocal in my rejection of discrimination in any form and to demonstrate that in all my actions.

Quotas work in a hierarchy.
Quota-thinking is hierarchy thinking. Aren’t we moving to a world where the dominant form of organisation is a flatter network? My presentation at Web2.0 tried to show that in a networked world, of itself, the network is gender-agnostic although in practice a networked system tends to favour women who play to their strengths of building rich relationships. How do you impose a quota in a network? Especially one that is almost completely free to join? I can see that in a hierarchical model, there are gatekeepers to the centres of power and authority and that if these are biased that leads to a bias throughout the system. So have a quota for unbiased gatekeepers and you ‘solve’ the problem (unintended consequences aside). But as hyperlinks continue to subvert hierarchy, as we come to see that the shadow-side network is as important as any bureacracy and that unintended consequence can not be brushed aside, why cling on to tools that no longer work?

In the case of the “network of networks” the suggestion that we should ensure that each network is adequately represented at the table displays a complete misunderstanding of the nature of these networks. They have no clear boundaries, very low barriers to membership and very flat structures (if they have any at all) Most of all, they are not mutually exclusive. How do you decide who’s representing what and how? Let’s take the Tuttle Club as an example (just because I know it well) Say we had 30 places at Amplified08. How would we decide who’s going or not? Well, perhaps we’d have to say, those people who aren’t members of other networks need to be prioritised because they have no other chances to get in. But are these really the people we want to be representing us? The one’s who are otherwise unconnected? So let’s go for those who have the most memberships. Ooops – memberships? What does that mean? Or how about the 30 who’ve attended the most number of friday morning meetups. Gosh darnit Lloyd, what do you mean, you don’t keep neat and orderly records of who’s attended?!? And do all of these groups have common ideas of what it means to be a member? Attendance at one meeting, 20% of meetings, contribution to online activity gaaah it’s so silly! Why get into this ridiculous conversation? There’s a solution that already works for each of the networks individually – first come, first served – I don’t get why this can’t work for the bigger group too.

Clearly I’m a muddle-headed white, straight, middle-class, university-educated man who’s never had to deal with discrimination in any form and therefore doesn’t understand this stuff. What a good job I’ve got a blog and don’t have to depend on anyone else to decide whether my thoughts are worth publishing.