Back from the sun of Portugal to the ceaseless rain of London and Glasgow. Daniela and I flew to Porto to attend the MSKE conference at Universidade Lusíada de Famalicão where we had been asked to chair some streams and present a case study on some pro bono work that we had undertaken, and talk generally on generating value for organisations through the use of the intangible asset that is their social media presence.
A fascinating conference with more than 20 nationalities represented and all led by the enigmatic presence of Eduardo Tomé of the Universidade Lusíada de Famalicão. Eduardo paces restlessly throughout the days of the conference, navigating his way through the sometimes turbulent conference timetabling arrangements with nervous energy and off beat humour. As he pushes the conference ship in search of new worlds he seems to increasingly take on the look of a later day Vasco Da Gama and there were times I fully expected to see him turn up in 15th Century garb to fully embrace the look!
The university is delightful and unlike many a conference at academic institutions in the UK the staff have such pride in the event that nothing is too much trouble and they do go the extra mile to make one welcome. They love to demonstrate how the institute is bound into the local culture and life. This was exemplified by the brief but charming show by a student tuna band who serenaded the port laced reception to close the final session, rocking and swaying through a 12 man vocal rendition of some traditional songs, accompanying themselves with an assortment of guitars and mandolins and a couple of them demonstrating some pretty impressive flag waving as well (a short video captured on the day is available here).
It is always good to attend events like this, hear some of the fascinating research that is being done, and catch up with some old friends and acquaintances. It’s good for both the brain and solar cells.
Have to confess though that it was a very tiring trip as we had to squeeze it into the ever increasing commitments that take our time in curating Social Media Week in Glasgow, so the schedule was pretty hectic.
Nevertheless there was a good deal of opportunity for reflection with Spanish and Portuguese colleagues on the situation in Europe right now and the challenges they face in their economies. Some of the opinions and concerns expressed were illuminating, surprising but largely fatalistic about what can – or perhaps more truly – what can’t be done to turn round a parlous situation.
One person I am always pleased to see is JC Spender, who provided the key note on day one and riveting contributions through the other days of the conference. He is a man of immense intellect and formidably well read, and time with him is always challenging, stimulating and a great pleasure. He is one of the people who’s arrival in the audience of your own presentation slot is something to be greeted with both delight and an element of trepidation. Trepidation because you know the curve ball is coming – or should I say googly ( yes I should) – but delight because you will get the most excellent and valuable forensic critique of your work. Always insightful, ever willing to buck the trend and ever willing to challenge conventional or lazy thinking, he remains one of the best conference speakers around. Of course Daniela is able to stop anyone in their tracks with a pithy insightful comment in a debate, however this time she stopped JC dead when she suggested the main local industry was jam! On this occasion it was in fact a mistranslation but sensationally effective, and became the best in joke between us for the next couple of days.
So after braving some Portuguese cabbies, the perils of bridges being welded at 5am (that’s a story for another day, as is the discovery that my business partner is in fact a serial killer with a few ideas for virtual murder weapons) and being caught in the first monsoon of the season in London on the way to the British Library, the twintangibles caravan has returned to Glasgow. Lots of new ideas, new friends made and just a hint of colour on the face. Good result all round.