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.

6 thoughts on “In Praise of Social Media Surgeries (and a few concerns)

  1. Totally agree John. But there will always be these so called ‘experts’ out there, you only have to look at who follows you to see where the leeches get their ideas from. I can’t be bothered blocking them any more, but I never follow anyone who puts the word ‘expert’ in their bio.
    The beauty of the original social media surgeries is that the surgeons learn too. They learn what the people want to do instead of telling them what they think they should do.
    We can’t save everyone, they will just have to take their chance and we will do what we can where we can.
    We’ll keep fighting the good fight eh?
    And spreading the joy.

  2. John, I’ve approached a few people around the idea of ‘reclaiming’ the digital mentor moniker. A shared set of principles that remains informal yet approved by those who abide by them. @bounder sees them as kind of football coaching badge – states what you are capable of but some may be better than others. Both me and @watfordgap have been looking at how this network or alliance could pan out. I know there’s some crossover with the DOTs but maybe something like this could help?

  3. It’s a shame in this case, but where there’s a service and value, there is also money and exploitation (not saying it’s not totally justified).

    I’ll be continuing to spread my knowledge and experience with anyone that will listen, I like to think of it as altruism helping us reach our digital future sooner 🙂
    If someone is willing to pay though, I wouldn’t say no..

  4. Hi John. Completely agree with the sentiments of this post. I have signed posted many charities and social enterprises along to the Leeds Social Media Surgeries who have found it so beneficial. In the spirit of crowdsourcing (as on social media) people should always give back to the community and share their knowledge.

    But if you are thinking about business incubators for instance, for the greater good should these types of businesses have access to something like social media surgeries?

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