Tag Archives: events

Playing the game of saving Slapham community spaces

The Community Matters annual conference last weekend gave Drew Mackie and I a chance to test out a new workshop game that we hope will help local groups plan take over and run community buildings – or improve the ones they have.

This is particularly challenging when councils are disposing of property in order to reduce costs, when local groups face cuts in funding – yet the demand for community services is increasing. Our workshop produced lots of conversations about the realities of people powered change. We started talking about buildings, staff, finance … and ended up focussing on community and collaboration.

There’s lots of excellent guidance and inspiring stories of groups creating very impressive spaces, both urban and rural: see for example the work of the Asset Transfer Unit, the examples at The Place Station, and the Big Lottery Fund Village SOS initiative. read more »

Planning video reporting at an event – or sometime not

There’s increasing interest among event organisers in using short video interviews to capture conversations in workshops, as well as featuring keynote speakers and panelists. Good news for social reporters, if like me you do that sort of thing.

But as the enthusiasm increases – and recording becomes simpler – things can get out of hand. I’ve had organisers suggest that the most democratic way to gather content is to shoot lots of video and then edit out the key points later. I certainly know that can be a nightmare … but I thought I would check my experience and share some ideas on the best approach with Ravinol Chambers of Be Inspired Films when we met up the other day at the Third Sector Social Media Convention.

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Ungeekery: the real magic behind social media

One reason I like the social media scene and its growing networks is that people are generally friendly, open and willing to share new ideas. Geeks, techies, webbies are not (beneath the surface) entirely obsessed with code and cool tools, whatever the popular perception.

However, because social media tools are good for conversations, widening connections, and working with others, there’s a temptation – if you are in the business – to suggest that adopting the technology will in itself lead to social innovation. That’s to fall into the technology trap. Tech-led seldom works on its own because people need new skills and mindsets. Frustrating.

Rohan Gunatillake, who leads the Web Connect strand within NESTA’s Connect team, is turning the problem on its head by promoting ungeeking – although as you’ll see that doesn’t mean abandoning technology. The Web Connect team believe:

… that all innovation is, in essence, something we do together. When boundaries are crossed, be they between organisations, interests or geographies, the new conversations that result can lead to effective action and unexpected benefits.

Rohan suggests – if I understand him correctly – that the technology can help in two ways. Directly if you are ready to adopt it, and indirectly because collaborative behaviours learned in the online social environment are now leaking into the non-tech world and reminding us that we can re-adopt participative behaviours we’ve always known about. See Howard Rheingold speaking at NESTA for more on that.

I met up with Rohan at Amplified08 last week, and invited him to preview a blog post – provisionally untitled Ungeeking the Nation, I believe -  that he’s been planning for a little while … and in a typically open and collaborative spirit he gave me the four-minute version above.

As you’ll hear, Rohan feels that non-tech collaborative activities like Barcamps and unconferences – including Amplified08 – are being adopted by geeks, and then promoted back into the non-geek world. They are “social media made flesh”. There’s nothing new in these techniques, but social media is helping us relearn them. Young people who – increasingly – adopt social media and its ways of doing things, expect to find similar behaviours distributed more widely in society.

I wrote recently that perhaps The Web 2.0 magic is fading – meaning that simplistic evangelising of social media isn’t going far. Rohan has a more sophisticated message that we can use social media to sprinkle some older, more valuable magic dust to bring out our natural capacities for doing good things together. How do we explore further? At an unconference, I should think.

Update: Rohan has now given us more on ungeeking over here, with promise of a further article, and an invite to a very relevant screening.

Capturing Stuff, Conversations and Stories

A round of social reporting at conferences and other events leaves me with a simple classification for the content I may capture or create: there’s Stuff, Conversations, and Stories.

Stuff is Powerpoints, papers, speeches. It is delivered, usually from a platform, by Important People.

Conversations are what happens in the breaks between Stuff, or in small groups if the event is Open Space, Unconference, Barcamp or similar setup where participants are considered important people too.

Stories are the interesting bits you may remember from Stuff, and are also conversations that you wish to retell to other people.

Stories may also be constructed by hard-working social reporters after listening to Stuff and conversation,  for those not attending. These may or may not be the same stories participants tell each other.

The DC10plus conference about digital inclusion, which I blogged here with Dave Briggs, definitely had plenty of Stuff, and we also managed to capture conversations at coffee and lunch.

By contrast the Shine conference, and two Ideas days that I helped record for the Innovation Exchange – here and here – were designed to generate lots of conversations. Everyone  had a chance to tell their stories, and then talk to each other. In this case the stories were about helping older people with independent living, and excluded young people.


At 2gether08, which happens next week, the event has been designed partly by the organising team, and partly by those attending. As you’ll from the main site, and our networking space, there are already plenty of stories and conversation around. We’ll be using a whole range of methods to capture what happens on the two days.

I’m using pre-event interviews like this one with Tracey Todhunter to help her and others create a really good story: how social media can help communities share ideas on tackling climate change.

So what’s the most useful role for the social reporter on these different occasions?

I don’t think there’s much additional value in capturing Stuff. That can easily be published online as papers, slide shows, webcasts or podcasts. It doesn’t require much reporting skill.

On the other hand, I’ve found that most speakers are happy to provide a short video interview summarising their key points. This makes it easier for the reporter to turn Stuff into a Story if they ask sensible  questions, pull out some good quotes, and add some context for a blog post.

Capturing conversation is a bit more challenging. I’ve been using a Nokia 82 phone and Qik a lot for that, as you can see here with the Innovation Exchange and here at the Ruralnet Collaborate 2008 event.

I have found it much easier, holding a small phone, to say to people “that sounds interesting, would you mind if I captured some of what you are saying?” In some cases I’ve found it can add to the conversation, because people begin to tell stories to each other.

Good reporters have always found and developed stories that help people make sense of the world … and of course, bad reporters have just made up stories. How can social reporters help people have better conversations, and create the stories that they want to be part of?

Socialreporting at Shine

This weekend I’m at the Shine Unconference in London – blogging, shooting some video, and generally having a great time in conversation with social entrepreneurs and every type of innovator you might hope to meet. The photo show Alberto Nardelli explaining the UnltdWorld social network, and you can see it is a wonderfully informal environment at The Bargehouse on the South Bank. read more »

Reflections on event socialreporting


One of my ideas for social reporting is to add some buzz to events by videoblogging and other ways of amplifying conversations – so it was great to get a job from the organiser of the National Digital Inclusion Conference to do just that. I was terrifically grateful that Dave Briggs could join me, because it turned out to be quite challenging on several fronts. You can read Dave’s report here, and some comments on our efforts from Shane McCracken here. Dave and I recorded our own summing up on the day.

As Dave explains, we set up a WordPress blog, and the friendly people at Qik also created an event page so I could stream video from my Nokia N82.

Our brief (we were being paid) was pretty open: capture some informal video to complement the webcasts of presentations that public-i were doing.

The main challenge was that it was a conventional event format: presentations, coffee breaks and break-out sessions, attended mainly by public sector staff who did not expect to have video cameras thrust into their face. I thought that people were pretty responsive in the circumstances … but it is difficult to get good audio in a noisy room, and you lose the moment if you take off into corridors.

This means there’s a great temptation to record interview with exhibitors when everyone else is off being Powerpointed. Dave livened that up by recording me trying some disabling gloves at one of the most interesting stands that simulated various forms of disability.

Maybe we could have produced more interesting content if we had aimed to create some narrative from the conference … but it is difficult to do that at the same time as editing video and trying to line up the next opportunity. To do full coverage it really needs a team of three: one writer, one video blogger, and one person editing and uploading. Next week we’ll have content from public-i, and at that stage it may be worth taking more quotes from the video and weaving in into other content, including presentations and webcasts. Some people are having trouble with the videos, and I think I need to embed a different Flash player.

The main lesson for me is that good socialreporting at events needs to be designed in to the format: clear ideas of what you are trying to achieve, for whom, with logistics to match. It doesn’t work too well as an add-on. But then, you can’t design it in until you have a few examples to show organisers … so thanks again to Stephen Hilton for lining up the opportunity, and the rest of the DC10plus organisers for taking a chance.

The following day I was socialreporting at a Festival of Ideas for the Innovation Exchange, which was a less formal occasion. More on that later.

Social media, creativity, and open collaboration

The University of Westminster asked me a while back to contribute to their Creative Juice seminar yesterday, and I was in a slight panic last week when I realised I needed to talk to a mix of designers, freelances and academics about social media and creativity.
I didn’t really have much fresh to pull out of my on-screen experiences: I’m not a web developer. Then it dawned on me that I had three areas of innovation and creativity that I could draw on, and which might be different from other presentations.
The first was the Social Innovation Camp, which I written about here. Six projects chosen from eighty, then teams of social activists and geeks working to develop creative solutions over a weekend.

The second was the co-design process undertaken by Ruralnet to develop a distributed online community, using blogs and other tools. Creativity came from opening up to their partners and those using the system – and asking what they wanted.

Thirdly I could talk about how workshop games – like those developed here and here with Drew Mackie – may be used to simulate in a few hours the process of defining a situation and its challenges, choosing tools, and playing through how things may work out for those using the system.

The point I was making throughout was that we now have a host of social media tools, with many potential uses and benefits, that we are trying to apply to complex situations in organisations or across networks, where people have very different levels of skills, and communication preferences. It’s pretty impossible get things right from “on high”. You have to find ways to engage with the many different people involved, and create with them … not just for them.

Anyway, I put together a set of slides, which you can see here, and promised a follow-up blog post with some links … which is this.

Early in the presentation I suggested that people took a look at the excellent set of blog posts by Michele Martin at The Bamboo Project, aimed at helping people develop their personal learning path with social media. At the end I recommended Beth Kante’s blog as an example of personal creativity using social media.

I hope the presentation and discussion worked for people yesterday. I prefer doing more interactive workshops, but I’m grateful to the University for the invitation. As usual I don’t really know what I think until I write it down – or in this case present. It helped me realise the underlying linkages between creative events, games and co-design. Later today I’m off to hear more about games at an event organised by Johnnie Moore. Knowing Johnnie, that will undoubtedly be creative.