Thursday, 15 January 2009

Manchester's Social Media Cafe starts kick-starts 2009

Another Social Media Cafe under our belt and they just keep getting better. Last night's #smc_mcr at The Northern proved to be the busiest and buzziest yet, with the Unconference Barcamp format proving to be a winner.

Some great presentations and discussions on a wide range of interesting topics. I even chipped in with one on how Social Media tools can help in the project world, which seemed to stimulate quite a lot of though-provoking conversation (Thanks all!!) The group which gathered around for that session discussed whether or not Social Media tools could be described as such if they are being used in a project environment for purposes other than just social interaction... a good point and an interesting debate in its own right.

I was also fascinated by David Bird's comments about his experience in using Twitter with teams in different geographies. In my slides I was suggesting that tools like Twitter might be the glue that energises and connects productive teams regardless of timezone or location. In fact, I have begun to see this work between joint teams in the UK and India. However, David suggested that, such is the 12-by-12-hour time-difference between the teams he's brought together between the UK and Australia, the chatter tends to naturally cluster into two groups which operate at strictly opposite times of day. So rather than Twitter creating and supporting a single multi-site team, the end result looked more like two loosely-coupled units with only limited interaction. A surprisingly counter-intuitive 'us-and-them'. SM Fail?

During the conversation I also suggested that the 'always on; always available' feel of tools like Twitter might actually be adding to the stress of the work-'place'. In the same way that when people discovered that mobile phones and email meant they could contact anyone 24/7, it also meant that they themselves were contactable 24/7 by employers, clients and team-mates. Will Twitter heighten this overload? Years ago, 'presenteeism' was often described as the person who was the first in the car-park and also the last to leave being seen as the most productive. Now that many of us work in scattered locations, are people tweeting 24/7 in order to prove just how productive and available they are? Fascinating stuff!

It wouldn't be #smc_mcr if there there were no lessons to be learned. The timetable didn't necessarily let attendees sit in on all the sessions which interested them... so maybe some sort of speed-dating mechanism next time, with sessions being repeated once or twice.

As for me, I had a list of things I needed to chat to people about, specifically about how we might build a conversation about the use of Social Media in the fight against Climate Change into #smc_mcr's plans. Just didn't get chance to connect with everyone on this subject last night.

Luckily, I did manage to further some conversations about how we might make the most of the underlying passion for music which runs through the group. The freshly minted #smc_mcr spin-off group might just enable us to give this exciting area some real air-time. On that note, last night's event was soundtracked by the group's very own radio station, the eclectic nature of which only goes to demonstrate the wide-ranging inputs and influences people are injecting into #smc_mcr.


gill moore said...

Hi Tim, I went along to the Social Media Cafe on Wednesday, a great mix of people and I really enjoyed it. My only gripe is that I couldn't attend all the things I wanted too! Any chance you will be repeating your Social Media Group Projects talk another time?

Tim Difford... said...


Many apols for being so late in getting back to you here... life suddenly intervened! I am more than happy to do a rerun of the session. It won't be the next SMC, but may be at the one after. Thanks for commenting.