Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Community! Don't talk to me about community!

I don’t like the word community?  
Community is an overused under thought term. It means so many different things to so many people. yet people consistently use it in a narrow definition in relation to building a cluster to do something. Far better to think of networks of self identified individuals, or organisations clustered around an issue. Generally speaking they're there because of passion, vested interest or dissent. For example people who live in a village might consider their community as location based. Whereas Harley Davidson owners identify their community as worldwide. usually they have time on their hands. Organisations get on board because they have a vested interest.

If not community, how do things get done? 
I believe people cluster around issues, form projects and help tackle them. This could be in a place, or virtual. People with relevant skills or passions will come on board, but only as and when required. They dip in and out when they feel they can best contribute. They don't want to be part of any structure or organisation. When their part is over or the project delivered they will move on in favour of other things.

This is not a cynical view. I think it's a model way of working, crowdsourcing solutions to issues. It holds people's attention better than asking them to lock into any forum or club or community! It allows them to stay while they have the energy and walk when they've had enough. It is the best possible use of individual and organisational time. And it taps into Clay Shirky's notion of cognitive surplus.

What's the problem with community building?
Part of me dies when people say they are going to build a 'community' to do something. Experience has taught me that no one can purposely build a community.  So many times I've seen the 'build it and they will come mentality' often but not exclusively in the public sector, It doesn't work! People will only cluster when they have interest, passion for or feel strongly about something. Even then it takes considerable effort and time to get things done.

Can you encourage clusters to form?
Yes! The positive news is I believe you can encourage people to cluster around a topic. And there are conditions which can help this happen.

For face to face clusters these are my experiences (in no specific order):

  • venue must have a nice working environment with all the kit readily available
  • less faffing the better
  • venue should be consistent, as should time and hosts
  • welcoming supportive hosts/facilitators are a must
  • venue should be well managed
  • ground rules set from the start
  • plan meet ups but be adaptable
  • everyone should be supportive
  • encourage ideas 
  • social links beyond the cluster help
  • focus on doing things split up the tasks to willing people
  • each cluster member should have the opportunity to pitch their thoughts or ideas, one each time perhaps. this mitigates against soapboxing
  • members are equal even if they represent an organisation
  • people should be open and honest about who they represent
  • organisations should not dominate
  • no pressure to attend, as and when, participation levels vary
  • time out space should be available 
  • protect personal data unless otherwise agreed
  • use social media to keep people up to date, but not exclusively
  • ask for meet up feedback at the end of each session use this data to decide whether to continue
  • have a clear start and finish, either a date or a landmark
Don't come to me and talk about a community, come and talk about ideas and challenges and projects to address them! I'm expecting challenge on this so discuss...

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Do I have to put up with this nonsense? A blog about interrupting

I started off being polite then when no one listened I lost it! 

Ever imagined or dreamed that you are doing something really amazing. You see yourself achieving something winning a prize or completing a goal that you set yourself. Getting recognition, wealth and gratitude for it? That is good but... 

In reality you are total idiot a buffoon. As you step up to the stage you trip, just as you are about to deliver that crushing performance, you lose your notes, or your words. Or are you caught in a state of ‘continuous partial attention’? constantly running to do the next thing or answer the next digital ping? Time to stop!

Time to practice Interruption. The art of stopping in your tracks and recognizing when you are heading for a catastrophic moment. Change direction, do it differently. Go a different way, read different stuff, say different things.

How can you do this? how can you positively interrupt yourself, change a scenario?

Begin by going home a different way tonight, have another alternative conversation to the one you were going to have. Make it about the thing that you want talk about. Find the people who will listen to you. If they won’t then INTERRUPT THEM! Haven’t got an invite to their meeting? Then just turn up, set up your presentation, tell the media. They will INTERRUPT you but other people will start to listen to you. Society will judge you but that's good. Ask yourself some questions at the critical moment. Just that moment that you were going to do the exact same thing that you always do. That moment that you normally give in to convention, STOP.

On your way home? Stop at a different cafĂ©, read a  different newspaper or book. Make sure you consciously do different things every day. Listen to someone else’s news. Or watch a random TED talk. Not one about stuff you know about. Go see a band or play you’ve never heard of. Write a different soap opera, invent your own plot and ending. Learn a new skill or piece of music, or a poem or a song.

It’s about being present, in the moment. There’s a lot of chatter about mindfulness at the moment but that’s a bit polite and nice. No! Interruption is where it’s at!  I’m not talking about rude interruption like Kanye West on Taylor Swift. Instead, take note of Martin Luther King, or Ghandi no one could ignore them could they? King had no platform, Ghandi had no platform. They interrupted the status quo by creating their own. 

Remember punk? When they couldn't get heard they didn't carry on courting the same old dinosaur record companies they made their own! Music for example Young Fathers, the maker revolution, crowd funding, Bitcoin. They are all examples of interrupted ideas that challenge the obvious, the mainstream. They will be the new economy that takes over when the old one is asleep. Kodak caught napping by digital cameras. Record companies rendered obsolete by streaming music. What next? what will you contribute?

The key is to DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT – INTERRUPT YOURSELF –do these things and You will find that you start to think differently. 

Then you will find the power to INTERRUPT their story if you aren't happy with it. When you get to the door of people who don’t want to listen to you, don’t fight them. DON’T GO IN. In the film Jaws the shark ate people because they went on a long flight to the beach where the sharks were. 

Hacktivism activism, action is the key to change. You can change everything. Yes it's scary, setting out in a new direction, saying a big no to the norm. But it will change your life! Taking that first powerful step is awesome. I remember marching against the war in Iraq looking around me at all those people and feeling at the same time proud and scared. Exhilarating feelings. 

Interrupting, avoiding habitual patterns, might well be the key to avoiding technology that targets you for advertising. After all you'd want to hear new music for the first time that is like nothing you ever heard before. Not just music based on recommendation from Amazon or some other monolith. 

Basically go to a different space, or place to work. Or open an alternative set of doors, behind which you will find a set of people who are ready and willing to listen to you. In the book 'Roots for Radicals', Edward Chambers describes how Saul Alinsky  founded the Industrial Arts Foundation. And then reformed the Bronx. They did it by talking to people for 30 minutes. Then only worked with people who would listen to them.

Ask yourself the question, “why do I need anyone’s permission to do this?”. I ran a session at a conference last year on ‘permission’. The need for people, grown adults to have permission to act on their ideas amazed me. Their fear of acting without permission staggered me. The reaction of ‘leaders’ to requests from their people to do something differently left me stunned. It was so negative!

Start today interrupt yourself, you don't need permission. Break those old long running habits now. No longer stand on the edge of the crowd looking in. Form your own crowd, your circle that want things that you want. If that circle outgrows its usefulness start another one. Vote with your feet, don't stay and be bored by people who aren't worth listening to.

There is something very scary about doing new and different things. But when you find the power to do them they become very exhilarating. Be your own leader not a follower. Find that power and you will never let it go.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Digital Exeter made me think! Laura Rose Guest Blog

Digital Exeter Makes you think!
Last Thursday week  the brilliant Laura Rose and I went along to the fledgling Digital Exeter meeting. The meeting was well attended and all the speakers were fun and thought provoking. Laura views such events as a sand pit for learning and applying tactics and she has kindly shared her thoughts below.
My focus is always on the development and social science aspects of meet ups and what will happen next – there’s a separate blog coming on that one.

Laura Rose - What I learnt at Digital Exeter
From the RAMM museum presentation I learnt that you've got to really segment your audiences and have clear objectives about what you want to achieve with them from the very start. It was unclear whether encouraging footfall to see the physical museum collection or getting people to engage with the museum about their archive collection were RAMM's primary objectives. You could see the danger of trying to target too many audiences with the same homepage and structure.
From copy dojo
 I'd learnt about clever things you can do when copywriting to engage your audience from using calls to active language. But I questioned the notion of 'social proof' and the evidence behind it. I think there is a real difference between a company saying "I have millions of users" and somebody who I socially identify with, like a friend, recommending a company or brand as an intermediary or brand advocate.
From Jasper at Borders
 I learnt about the changing world of in digital app development and just how many are dead to users after the initial download. We discussed the difference between generating content for an app, or any other digital platform, and using apps and digital platforms for distributing messages about that content, and the clash of that this can create between editorial and advertising teams within companies that have an app of their own.
What I will do
I'll consider tailored landing pages on WordPress websites to target a specific audience and repurposed content on the website for that audience and focus on their user needs.           
I will also think carefully about the role that apps and other digital platforms play within whole digital strategy to keep users re-engaging with our app or organisation.

I'll also be keeping an eye out for developments in push notifications to see whether we can make them smarter to target our audiences at the times they want information from us not when we want to give it out! 

Thanks Laura! 
Next time I'll be talking about forming communities, what the recipe is and why you can't force form one. Cheers,Joe