Hide and Seek World Record Attempt – Huddersfield, 3rd July 2011

This Sunday (3rd July) sees an attempt on the world record for the most people in one Hide & Seek game being attempted in Beaumont Park, Huddersfield.

The attempt kicks off at 12 noon at Beaumont Park, so, come along if you want to be part of history. I intend to be there doing various bits of social media stuff. Depending on what connectivity is like, I might even attempt a bit of live streaming.

Kerrie Clark and Peter Scott of the Young Batley Centre are leading the attempt, and I met them today to ask what’s behind it all:

quick post #localgovcamp thoughts

Here are some quick thoughts stimulated by post #localgovcamp chatter on Twitter, mainly following my tweet suggesting that we needed a #localgovcamp day 2 to follow up on the ideas stimulated by day 1.

Firstly, I love the idea of #localgovcampcamp – a week of disruptive local government innovation around a camp fire as suggested by @the_anke

Secondly, here’s another idea. How about – next year – a week of regional #localgovcamp events leading up to the national event on the Saturday? This would allow the best ideas emerging from regional events to form the basis of discussions on Saturday.

Social Media: Plus ça change; plus c’est la même chose

The recent case of a juror being jailed for contacting one of the defendants in a court case has led to more of those scare story headlines about the evils of the internet. Something which brought me up short about it, was when I saw a TV interview with the defendant involved who said something like “I knew we shouldn’t contact each other, but I didn’t know it applied to Facebook”.

There are two aspects to social media that I think this highlights. The first is, that it’s just another communication channel. I often say to people, don’t say anything on social media platforms that you wouldn’t be happy with saying face-to-face, on the telephone, or in the pages of the local newspaper. Just because it’s a relatively new platform, does not mean that the rules of politeness, privacy, professionalism, and common sense have changed.

But, on the other hand, I can’t ignore that, in many ways, social media has changed some of the rules. It could be said that is has made it so much easier to make mistakes, and puts a whole new range of traps in people’s way. Take the juror contact case as an example. Social Media has made it so much easier to track people down. Yes, this sort of thing could have happened in earlier times, but, would the juror have taken the time to find out how to contact the defendant? Would they perhaps have sought out a copy of the local telephone book, found the right name, and called them at a time when they were in? That would have both probably have been too difficult to make it worth the bother, and would have put in place a number of steps each of which could have given them pause to think about whether this was the right thing to be doing. The ease of contacting someone through social media potentially removes the opportunity for reflection on whether the contact is actually a good idea.

The “internet is evil” stories are rubbish. Any tool is only as good as the uses it is put to. But, all this highlights the care that needs to be taken both by users of social media, and by anyone who has reason to be concerned about how people might interact with each other. Focusing on the tools is not helpful. Recently, while in Manchester, I saw a local newspaper headline suggesting Facebook had blocked an attempt to shut down a local fast food outlet. “Wow,” I thought, “Mark Zuckerberg must really like Manchester burgers”.  Of course, the real story was that a campaign organised via a Facebook group had achieved that particular objective, not Facebook itself. This was another example of the media thinking it is the tools and the platforms that drive the interaction, rather than the people using them.

I eagerly anticipate the day when we forget the technology and remember it’s all about people.

Technology in the Great Outdoors

Camera at Twicket

While doing something else this morning, I caught a brief snatch of Martha Lane Fox, the Government’s Digital Inclusion Champion, on Radio 4, trying to persuade a digital refusenik (sorry, I didn’t catch his name) of the benefits of getting online. During the discussion, that regular assumption came up that being online must always involve sitting indoors at a computer. Martha attempted to show her target some pictures of flowers online, while he continued to protest that she was trying to divert him from the pleasures of being out in the meadows among the real flowers.

I think it is one of the barriers to technology adoption, that people believe all the scare stories about how people are not going outdoors any more because technology is keeping them in darkened rooms. But, what about all the technologies, like SatNav, GPS, etc., that facilitate people getting out there and exploring? As the use of portable devices, including laptops, smartphones and tablets, increases, the opportunities to be outside with your new technologies are increasing all the time, and social networks and other facilities allow you to share your outdoor experiences, as well as enhancing them by allowing you to pick up information about your surroundings.

Of course, one of the big issues with outdoor technology is that thorny issue of connectivity. 3G access can be patchy and expensive (unless you have an “all-you-can-eat” data plan), and, in the UK, wifi hotspots can be few and far between, and, even where they exist they can be expensive. In the United States, Google, for instance, sponsors lots of public wifi hotspots, many of which are in public parks. I would love to see something similar developing here.

But, there is so much you can do in the great outdoors with technology these days. The #twicket initiative, where we did the first ever live broadcast of a village cricket match, was, in part, an attempt to demonstrate this.

twicket tech

I want to help stimulate a movement for innovative uses of technology outdoors. Some of the things I am looking to do, following on from #twicket, in this field (not always in fields) are:

  • Social Media Surgery in a tent (at the Great Yorkshire Show);
  • Encouraging live streaming of informal public performances;
  • wifi in public parks
  • #twicket2 – cricket tournament on Blackpool Beach
  • Mobile Social Media Surgery (I’m still looking for sponsorship to convert my caravan)
  • Live-streaming local cultural events
If you can think of any more, or if you are doing something else. Please let me know in the comments below.

First AuntySocial Connected Event / Blackpool Social Media Surgery


This week I was fortunate to be part of the the First AuntySocial Connected event which also incorporated the first Blackpool Social Media Surgery. AuntySocial, as described by one of its founders, Cath Mugonyi, is a group of mainly 18-30 year-olds living in and around Blackpool, who are passionate about social media and want to spread the word about how it can play a key role in helping assist  with community regeneration in the town. This was the first in a proposed regular series of events bringing people together with a common interest.

I had originally approached Duncan Hodgson, a key member of the group, seeking support for running a Social Media Surgery in Blackpool as part of the work I am doing with the RSA, setting up new Surgeries. It was fortunate that Duncan, Cath and others had their own plans to press on with AuntySocial, and we were able to dovetail the two initiatives so that the first Social Media Surgery could take place as part of the AuntySocial event. This meant a slightly different format to most of the other Social Media Surgeries I have been involved with, as it kicked off with a couple of presentations.

When I arrived at the venue, the No. 5 Cafe, there was already a significant buzz about the place, despite it being more than half an hour before the event was due to start. And this buzz continued throughout the night. Around 30 people turned up looking for social media advice, and the different format was really interesting as we kicked off with presentations about the current state of social media, starting with Nathaniel Cassidy of 3ManFactory, whose presentation is here:

Nathaniel was followed by Duncan Hodgson who got people to “break the ice” by introducing themselves and suggesting 3 “hashstags”, brief facts about themselves. He followed this with a short presentation about social media stats in Blackpool and Lancashire.

And then we were into the Social Media Surgery aspect of the evening, with people splitting into small groups for discussions with the “Surgeons”, all of whom were denoted by a smiley face on their badge. And this is where the different format really made a difference. I found that the group I was talking to were really buzzing, their heads were filled with ideas and suggestions coming from the presentations, and they wanted to explore all sorts of options. This was the first time ever, at any of the many Social Media Surgeries I have been part of, that I got into a serious discussion about the merits and uses of foursquare, which got me thinking about how the voluntary sector might use it. The members of my group were very intrigued when I showed them the “benefits” offered by some of the local venues for people who checked in there.

In short, I thought this was a fantastic event. I want to thank Duncan, Cath and everyone else involved in helping to make it all happen, and they pulled it off in a relatively short space of time. They are already planning the second event, which is likely to happen in late July. And it was intriguing to see how a different format can work. I am a great believer in the informality of Social Media Surgeries, and in ensuring debates are not dictated by outside influences. But, I also think, particularly for the first event in a particular locality, a bit of facilitated discussion about the possibilities is worth trying to stimulate ideas. This certainly worked in Blackpool on Wednesday night.