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A look back at Social Media Week Glasgow – Interview with Tim Wright

A look back at Social Media Week Glasgow – Interview with Tim Wright

– Why did you put in the bid for Social Media Week to happen in Glasgow?
For a number of reasons. The format of SMW is a very interesting concept of how to put together a conference, it aims to change the way we run conferences in the future, it is essentially crowdsourced so the format of the event was appealing to us because it was addressing some of the changes and effects that come with the collaborative models that Social Media enables. But more important than that it was to have a platform that allowed us to broaden the debate on Social Media to touch on a variety of subjects, and take the story or take the message to a wider community that Social Media is having a very profound impact on society, economy, and culture. We felt that Glasgow – and by extension Scotland – has a strong digital community, it is very digitally engaged and it has a history of innovation in many fields which is becoming apparent in the way Social Media is being exploited in Scotland. It was time that Glasgow got recognition for that alongside these other international cities that were bidding at the same time, and it was also right and appropriate that Scotland got representation; the only other time this event has come to the UK it was in London, so we felt that it was time that North of the border got some recognition as well.

– So was Social Media Week Glasgow a success?

It’s not entirely for me to say whether it was a success, it‘s really for others to judge, because it is very much a shared event, it’s crowdsourced in the sense that the vast majority of the events that were put on through the course of the week were originated by people who came forward, wanting to put something under the umbrella of the larger event. It was a shared experience and I have my personal views on whether it was success, but fundamentally is whether the community feels that it was a success, and thus far almost exclusively all of the feedback has been very positive. We had more than 100 events taking place through the 5 days, in a lot of different locations and one of the aspects of the pitch that we made to crowdcentric in our bid to bring SMW to Glasgow was that we would offer tremendous diversity, and I think we achieved that by bringing events that were taking place addressing consumer products, fashion, media, healthcare, really really diverse range in terms of the subject matter, but also the format, the size and scale of these things, so some were quite small events, some were very large events with a significant number of people attending. So I think in all of those cases we achieved more than we actually set out to do, we were more diverse than we could have possibly wished for; we certainly delivered more events than we expected when we initially intended to put the event on and I think that the reception that we received and the amount of coverage that the events received has been almost exclusively positive. There’s always one or two but on the whole I think pretty much everybody says it has been an extremely good and useful experience. Doesn’t mean to say that we wouldn’t change it if we had the opportunity to do it again of course, we would, that’s how experience works, but on the generality I think it has been an almost exclusively positive experience. Certainly for us: on a personal level and from the twintangibles point of view I think we would view it as entirely positive, if challenging and demanding at times in actually making it happen, but it was a privilege to be involved.

– Any personal highlights for yourself?

There are a number of highlights for me. I particularly enjoyed Jeremy Gilley’s presentation to open the event. His was a very inspiring story and it’s something that it’s often forgotten about how you can use these communication platforms for really significant and world changing initiatives and he’s very much testament to that, so that was an inspiring piece to kick off the day. The Nokia vending machine was a lot of fun, I didn’t actually win anything out of it, but ten people got phones, it was a lot of fun seeing people queuing up with the expectation of getting a phone and getting a chocolate bar instead, but that was fun. I really enjoyed both the wine and the beer events for obvious reasons but also because I think they were quite innovative. The intention was to demonstrate how social media brings producers and consumers much closer together and it was quite technically challenging to make those things happen but they went very well so I enjoyed those a lot. The Government involvement and the Government endorsement of it by the attendance of ministers but also by them putting on their own event was a highlight, because it represented some recognition that what we do had attracted the attention and the endorsement of those bodies. But the undoubted highlight for me was Don Tapscott. I said when I introduced Don on the Friday as the closing keynote that when we initially thought about bidding to bring SMW to Glasgow who would we ideally have on the list of events through the week, who would be the speakers, and it was one of those brainstorming events where you can put anything you want no matter how absurd on the table; and at the top of my list was Don Tapscott and we just laughed at the idea that we could get him involved with SMW Glasgow. And by the wonders of social media and the connectivity and the willingness and collaborative spirit that goes with that we managed to get Don Tapscott to do the keynote address, and for me that was an enormous privilege to be able to introduce him but also to have the opportunity to put questions to him, it was fantastic, and couldn’t have wished for anymore so it’s certainly my highlight.

– Where is the future with SMW Glasgow?

We want to try and build on the legacy of this iteration of SMW that took place in Glasgow. The event itself as you will probably know is now taking place twice a year because the demand from cities to actually get involved with this is growing all the time, so there are no guarantees that even if we were to bid for it we would necessarily be able to bring it back to Glasgow. Therefore our immediate focus is to build on what took place through the week and I think that most of the organisations that took part in Social Media Week are also looking to do that. We know that the next iteration of SMW is taking place in February 2012 and London is one of the participating city for that. So we will probably try and run some follow-up events as part of that to highlight Glasgow participation this year. We also know that the organisation crowdcentric in NY were extremely pleased with what took place in Glasgow and the fact that outside of NY we had more events than any other cities participating in SMW ever, which is a tribute to Glasgow. I think they were very impressed by the way that developed and how the city engaged with it so I think that if we were to bid to make it happen again in Glasgow then we would have a sympathetic ear in NY. But our focus at the moment is to build on what we achieved this time round with a view to considering whether we wished to do it again in Glasgow, and if we do what format that would take.

– Would you like to round up with a closing statement?

We pulled it off. It was a pretty ambitious thing to take on. Some people thought we were a bit crazy, I think we thought we were a bit crazy when we were first going for it, but it has been a tremendous success; it has been a wonderful thing to be involved with, we met a lot of fabulous people, made friend with people that otherwise we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet. I think it has kicked off some terrific initiatives off the back of it, and I hope it’s giving a lift to the digital community in Glasgow and Scotland generally but also allow Glasgow and Scotland to get some international well deserved recognition so all in all very pleased, tick, v. good, gold star as far as I am concerned.

The interview was realised by Cameron King, @CameronKing, as part of the SMWGla podcast series available on iTunes and Podomatic. [transcript]

A Cafe for Conversation and Social Knowledge

I was asked some months ago to assist a masters student in some research they were undertaking into the role of conversation in knowledge exchange. The intention was to look at the challenges and barriers to communication and what techniques and approaches can help overcome them especially in an organisational environment. Last week I got to see the paper she produced and it makes for a fascinating read.

It’s a fascinating topic and we have touched upon the importance of talking and conversation in the nurturing of social knowledge in this blog before. It is particularly interesting when you consider the aspect of generating high touch conversational aspects of social media and how the various tools that currently underpin the social media mindset have both strengths and weaknesses in that process.

The research was particularly interested in how one particular technique can be used to strengthen communication and knowledge activities, and if it had particular benefits through specifically acknowledging and mitigating some of the barriers that can often strangle good conversation.

That technique is known as a Knowledge Café – a deceptively simple but remarkably effective tool developed by David Gurteen. Both Daniela and I have known David for a number of years and have used the technique in the past, and have attended Dave’s training sessions where he can effectively describe the subtle elements that when applied and understood make the approach so successful.

I would like to take the idea and move it into something that is enhanced for application via social media platforms, with specific advice on how to make the best of this in an online mode, but that will have to wait till after Social Media Week.

However if you have never investigated this technique but would like to know more I would heartily recommend that you check David’s extensive website out at and get along to one of David’s regular training sessions. The next one  is on Tuesday 13 September, at the RSA in central London. So plenty of time to get to that and back to Glasgow for Social Media Week.

It’s fascinating how traditional cafes work though and I just want to say a big thanks to Martin Jack – or Jacky to his friends – for making Business Banter such a success. We love it and you deserved the back slaps you got on its first birthday on Friday. Well done mate!

4 Years for posting on Facebook? Fear or Enlightenment?

4 years for posting a Facebook event does, on the face of it, seem a pretty emphatic statement. This particularly so when, by all accounts, this rather ineffective post is considered against the extensive broadcasting, and re-broadcasting, of the moronic and inarticulate ranting of a couple of Croydon teenagers describing the rioting as “fun” attracts no apparent censure for the broadcaster and, as far as I have seen, no consequences for the two girls.

One is forced to consider that one of the factors in play is the fact that the accused, and now convicted, parties used a Social Media platform to get their message out.

So rather than reflecting on the justification or otherwise on the severity of the sentence passed, I wonder if it tells us something about what level of understanding of Social Media mindset exists in those in the corridors of power, and tasked to deals with the terrible events of last week. There is certainly a sense that Social Media is regarded with fear, but does that trepidation spring from ignorance or understanding?

So is Judge Edwards the sort of chap who asks if Facebook is “a popular beat combo” or is he inclined to want to tweet his judgements from the bench using an app on his smart phone?

I would be the first to declare that social media tools are liberating a social media mindset that is a powerful engine for change. And I welcome that. There is a historical shift in the power of individuals to organise and aggregate their actions together to great effect. Many of the structure and norms that have grown up to administer and control society are now cumbersome, ineffective and in some cases obsolete and can be effectively challenged by the pace and nature of social media and the mindset it taps into. These structures can have valuable roles in providing society with frameworks within which it can function and can be defended and amended to sustain societies’ fundamental infrastructure, and we should perhaps be rigorous in challenging genuine attempts to destroy rather than reform them. However in some cases these structures and institutions have become unintentional constraints on social mobility, social justice and the tools of vested interests used to sustain positions of privilege and inequality. It is in these later areas we should embrace the impacts of Social Media, and from that we have little to fear.

People’s ability to conceive of themselves in different guises as spokesmen, advocates, journalist’s campaigners is transformed by these changes and we should embrace the possibilities this presents, and do so from an informed position.

Can Social Media be used for evil intent? Most certainly. But in my experience they have been used for positive social good that far outweighs the odd occasion an idiot uses them for wickedness. Let’s not forget the old adage ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people’.

It is the uncontrolled many-to-many nature of the communication that is a concern for those tasked with administering institutional framework, particularly if they are unable to either use the social media environment effectively themselves, simply don’t understand it, refuse to recognise the positivity that social media can bring, or who perhaps fear change. This leads to irrational anxiety and so enhances the possibility of a robust response.

I do not express an opinion on the sentence, my concern is more if the tariff was driven more by fear or enlightenment. In truth I don’t know, but if the judiciary want a bit of advice – give me a call.

Does make you wonder what might have happened had they used Google+ or Myspace or ……….

Alan Pardew – Don’t worry help is at hand

Alan Pardew – Don’t worry help is at hand

I am not a soccer fan, but I couldn’t help but find a recent sports report interesting. Alan Pardew – manager of Newcastle United – made a very revealing comment yesterday. He was reflecting on critical comments posted on Twitter by Joey Barton. His view was that we “need to get a grip” on twitter, that they “lacked guidance”, he even used the expressions that it needs to be “top down”.

This is revealing. What he was articulating were a number of common features of the impact of social media. His concerns are not unique – so let’s be helpful and look at a few of them and reassure anyone that feels the same that help is at hand.

Firstly many managers regard Social Media with an attitude of fear. The unknown does cause fear so the solution is get some good advice, demystify it, ask people that can unpack the issues and articulate the key considerations for you so that you are operating from a position of understanding.

Secondly it demonstrates a common outcome of Social Media – it shines a very unforgiving and public light on your organisation. Social Media can operate within and outside of an organisation and the outcome can be very disconcerting for companies as the lack of control of these channels means that linen – sometimes dirty – can be washed in public. Hiding ones head in the sand is not a credible approach any more so get prepared. Preparations are several fold but you need to monitor and you need to have a method of response to critical comments. That doesn’t mean meekly accepting everything said about you, but you should use these as often useful and constructive and insightful prompts to examine your organisation – otherwise you may be missing an opportunity.

Thirdly it highlights how important it is that organisations are prepared for the impact of social media. As we often say it’s not just a case of if you choose to “do” social media it’s what social media can “do” to you. The choice of becoming engaged in social media is not yours anymore.

Finally having a Social Media policy for your employees is a very good thing. They can take many many forms but generally heavy handed, top down, rigid stances are, usually, unhelpful.

So Mr Pardew – you are not alone, there are many managers like you, but don’t feel abandoned. Why not give twintangibles a ring – we can help!

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