In Praise of Social Media Surgeries (and a few concerns)

Image courtesy Lloyd Davis

Around 18 months ago now, I was privileged to visit the Central Birmingham Social Media Surgery run by the wonderful Nick Booth on two occasions. Inspired by these visits, I subsequently worked with a number of great and supportive colleagues to establish Social Media Surgeries in a number of locations around Yorkshire. I’ve also been involved, beyond Yorkshire in helping to get Surgeries off the ground in Hulme, Manchester and Penrith, Cumbria, and I am hopeful that more will follow.

The original recipe for a Social Media Surgery devised by Nick still holds good as far as I am concerned. The secret of the success of the Surgeries I have been involved in has been their informality, the friendliness of the volunteer surgeons, the fact that the first duty of a surgeon is to listen not to prescribe solutions, the fact that attendees can go away having physically built something new, and that they can come back again next time having had a chance to play with their new found knowledge and get some feedback on the progress they have made. And, perhaps one of the keys to the success of the Surgeries is that they are free to attend.

This is why is makes me sad when I see people running events which don’t fit this model and calling them “Social Media Surgeries”. Of course, there is (as yet anyway) no copyright on the term, so anyone is free to use it. But, it concerns me that the growing reputation of Social Media Surgeries, and the goodwill that goes with them, is potentially undermined by people doing things with the same name that don’t get it right. When I see people running events which are formal, which involve teams of “experts” pontificating from a platform, or which charge a fee (sometimes substantial) for entry, I am worried.

Nick started something in Birmingham which has spread far and wide because it is a fantastic model. I want to appeal to people who want to run events that don’t fit this model please to find another title.