Info

A trade journal of a still-emerging field, written by Adam Tinworth.

Posts tagged events

The link between connectivity of various sorts and social change is something that’s almost bound to interest me, given that I’ve spent over a decade of my life thinking about how the internet changes the way we communicate with each other. And so I took myself off to the RSA House in London to hear Parag Kahnna speak on the idea that connectivity is destiny – our layers of connection with one another are more important to the future than traditional political boundaries. Here’s what I took away from the talk:

Charlotte Alldritt introduces Parag Khanna at the RSA

The trigger for Parag’s talk is – perhaps inevitably – a new book. Connectography is a “new approach to cartography” – maps as art, sure, but also mapping global connectivity.

Liveblog

Maps, the world’s oldest infographics are misleading – they are political, and depict how we divide ourselves legally, not how e connect as people. We’re familiar with maps of geography, and political maps. What we don’t have is maps of functional geography.

There are, broadly, three main categories of connectivity:

  • Transport
  • Energy
  • Communications

In human body terms, these are equivalent to the:

  • Skeleton
  • Vascular system
  • Nervous system

The book is, by its nature, static, so there’s an online data set you can explore. It’s a map of how we are reshaping the world.

Our ratios of infrastructure spending to military spending is growing rapidly in infrastructure’s favour – especially in Asia. The city is our most fundamental and long-standing human unit, and then connectivity is next. Our mega-inforstructures will outlive many countries, especially in Africa and the Middle East. We know how long countries last – and railroads and other forms of connectivity often outlive them.

This means we’re moving towards a supply chain world. (more…)

I’m not sure I’d have believed you if you’d told me five years ago that Hacks/Hackers London would become so popular that people are screaming and complaining at the organisers because they can’t get tickets to the event – which is moving into ever-larger venues.

And even with larger venues, the wait list for tickets for the latest event is 25% of the attendance. That’s a lot of disappointed people.

It’s a big old event – central to the journalism calendar of digital journalists, and a tribute to the hard work of the team that have been organising it.

But here’s the thing: just four years ago, Hacks/Hackers London fitted comfortably into the basement of a pub not far from Liverpool Street. Here’s The Guardian‘s Martin Belam playing up for the camera, with pint in hand, at one such event:

Belam at hacks hackers

And a couple of years before that, the event was even smaller – it was Ruby in the Pub – an evening for journos who had decided that they needed to learn to code. By 2011, when I first wrote about it, it had evolved into the London branch of Hacks/Hackers.

A pint and a talk on information security

And how did we still fit into a pub two years on from the start of this process? Well, even four years ago, the digital journalism development community were outliers. Only a relatively small proportion of us took the issues being explored by Hacks/Hackers – the intersection of coding and development skills with journalism – seriously enough that we’d give up an evening to hear journalists and coders and security experts and all sorts of other people talk.

In fact, when we held a Hacks/Hackers event at Reed Business, back when I worked for them, my boss was told off by the security team for the company for using the word “Hackers”, as they thought it would bring negative attention to the company from digital criminals…

The world has changed since then, and for the better. Digital journalism – and a wide range of digital skills that go with it – have hit the mainstream. And with that mainstreaming comes a massive surge in people wanting to know more. And one of the place they can go for that – one of the few ones – is Hacks/Hackers London.

It was always going to be thus. There were only two possible destinies for Hacks/Hackers: either the organisers were wrong about the future of journalism and the event would fail. Or they were right – and as the issues discussed trended towards the mainstream, ever increasing numbers of people would want to attend.

Guess which happened?

Victim of its own success

Geary and her mates

Yeah, that’s right. The event got so popular that people are struggling to get places – and giving the organisers a hard time. Imagine that: a digital journalism event in the country’s biggest concentration of media businesses selling out. Quelle surprise.

As Martin put it grumpily a year ago:

One of the problems Hacks/Hackers London faces is that demand for the event vastly out-strips supply. And people are understandably frustrated at not getting tickets and missing out.

The stress associated with keeping a career in this rapidly shifting environment probably triggers the worst of the behaviour you see. People feel that they need to attend events like this, and not being able to do so is putting an unnecessary bar on their career development – or their job security.

With relatively few companies offering good, comprehensive and up-to-date digital journalism training, the need for events like Hacks/Hackers is great.

The question everyone should be asking is: should Hacks/Hackers London be the only group providing it? My friends at journalism.co.uk are going some way to remedy that with the diversification of the news:rewired events into a greater range of niches, but surely we’ve reached the point now where there are enough people interested in specific niches of digital journalism, that we can get a management number of them into a cosy space. Like, say, the basement room of a pub…

Hacks/Hackers London is great – and long may it continue. But what else do we need to supplement it?

The future of journalism hidden in a pub

I must confess: I’m rarely seen at Hacks/Hackers London any more. I live in Sussex, I have two small children I want to be home for, and I’m rarely available at the right moments to apply for tickets. And so I leave it to the younger and more agile to attend.

(And then I feel guilty about how I’ve neglected Hacks/Hackers Brighton since Sarah Marshall left for London… Anyone fancy helping me with that?)

I’m still interested in the content, and follow the events as best I can, even though Martin isn’t liveblogging them any more (boo!). But one thing is niggling at my mind. And it worries me.

The thing that I can’t quite let go of is this: who are the dozen people in a pub somewhere discussing the next big thing to change journalism?

And what are they talking about?

Because somewhere out there, the new Ruby in the Pub is happening. And we’re all too busy looking at today’s digital challenges to see it coming.

Big Hammer
Mashable reports on a complete abuse of New York Comic Con attendees’ Twitter accounts:

Fans, celebrities and press attending New York Comic Con on Thursday sent out laudatory tweets expressing excitement to be at the annual convention — or at least it looked like they did, as the tweets were published entirely without their permission or knowledge.

What’s worse is that they don’t even seem particularly sorry they did it:

As you may have seen yesterday, there were some posts to Twitter and Facebook issued by New York Comic Con on behalf of attendees after RFID badges were registered. This was an opt-in function after signing in, but we were probably too enthusiastic in our messaging and eagerness to spread the good word about NYCC.

As the word spreads that social media can powerfully extend the reach of events like this, I’d lay good money on further abuses like this happening.

Photo by NY Big Apple and used under a Creative Commons licence

Scoble at NEXT - from the blogger pit
In a few weeks, I’ll be up in front of a variety of journalism students, teaching them about live-tweeting events. Despite what some people have taken from my post on Social Media Week London, I think good event live-tweeting is a really useful resource. But it’s a very, very tricky thing to do well.

There are three things I’ll be suggesting to the students that can make the difference between ordinary live-tweeting and really useful tweets. I’ll present them here for the criticism and appraisal of anyone who is interested.

(I’m aware that Rob Mansfield has posted something similar, but I’m dumping my thoughts out here before I read that.)


1. Content

This sounds obvious, but it’s easy to miss. Is what you’re tweeting really news?

  • Does it say something that doesn’t feel obvious?
  • Will it deepen people’s understanding of the subject under discussion?
  • Why are you tweeting it?
  • What will your followers – and other people on the hashtag – find useful in it?

There’s a temptation to tweet things that in some way badge you with what they’re saying: “Hey, look, I know that social media use should be authentic”. This is rarely useful to others. Concentrate on sharing things that you find genuinely surprising or useful, not those that confirm your existing beliefs.

Really good live-tweeters can construct a narrative of a speaker’s thoughts through selective tweeting. That’s a skill you can hone over time.

2. Context

Context is everything. I once saw a tweet from a conference that accurately reproduced a speaker’s words (about the growing power of the amateur photographer), but missed the context (a service to help professional photographers). Many people not in the room assumed that he was celebrating the fall of the professional photog, not trying to arrest it. That’s about context. An isolated soundbite without the context of the quote can be deeply misleading.

If you can’t quote it without the context being clear – don’t tweet it.

You can’t rely on people reading the whole of your stream either. People dip in and out of Twitter, and once a tweet is retweeted, all context from surrounding tweets is lost.

Remember that the hashtag and geotagging your tweets are both useful context. The former aids discovery, the latter aids verification, suggesting you were actually on site, rather than repeating something heard elsewhere.

3. Attribution

Every time you quote someone, attribute that quote to them. Don’t rely on flagging it up in the first tweet quoting them – that context is easily lost. Where possible, use their twitter username. It’ll save you characters, and allow people interested in what they had to say to find them and follow them. If you know you will be live tweeting an event, you can research this in advance. If you are an event organiser and want to encourage people to tweet, put the Twitter username of the speaker up somewhere in the venue in a persistent manner.


Is this is a lot to cram into 140 characters? Yes, it is. But that’s the skill of using Twitter well.

Feedback gratefully received…

TechCrunch Disrupt on Flipboard

This is a neat idea:

There’s a lot happening at Disrupt SF. So much so that it cannot be consumed on just one site. Produced daily at 6:00pm PDT (right after the last panel of the day) a new Flipboard magazine will be released to showcase the best of the day’s panels, interviews, and videos.

Pulling together your coverage of an event in a Flipboard magazine? What a great way of giving people an accessible tablet-friendly way of keeping up. Maybe I should do this for NEXT Service Design next week…

TEDxBrighton CupcakesFriday, as anyone who follows me on Twitter will be aware, was TEDxBrighton. It’s my second TEDx event (the first was TEDxTuttle a few years back), and the only one I’ve been involved in organising – although just as a storyteller (which in this case, essentailly means blogger). And I had a blast. After a few technical hitches with the sound in the opening minutes, it ran very smoothly indeed. Feedback from friends who were there was largely positive – most thought the speakers were a mixed bag, but there didn’t seem to be universal agreement about who were the good ones and who were the bad ones, which was a good sign of diversity amongst both the audience and the speakers…

I, sad to say, got virtually no time to network, as I was busy either liveblogging, or editing photos or video to add to the liveblog. You can find all the liveblogging over on the TEDxBrighton site. My thoughts about the contents of the talks are percolating, and I’ll post more about the day in a little while.

In the meantime, I’d just like to highlight these:

TEDxBrighton cupcakesThe format of a TEDx event is rigorously – and I mean rigorously – controlled by the TED organisation. Fair enough. It’s their brand, they’re sharing it, and they’re entitled – sensible, even – to protect it. But the area outside the main event is where the organisers can really cutomise it. Natalie Lloyd did a fine job of bringing in lots of Brighton organisations and bodies into the main mingling space outside the Corn Exchange, to give the event a pretty multi-generational feel:

TEDxBrighton-foyer.jpg

But the only part of these I had actually time to experience were the wonderful cupcakes baked – in a 13 hour baking marathon – by this cake-baking lady:

Emma Jane, baker of Brighton cupcakesEmma Jane was also one of the few people I didn’t already know I got the chance to chat with. I was obviously delighted to discover as well as being a cupcaking creation fiend (and they were a great source of sugar for a energy-sapped liveblogger…) she’s also an avid blogger at Cakes and Catwalks. She’s even blogged about the experience of the day – which was something of a mixed bag for her, sadly:

I love TED and really enjoyed the talks again this year, I also met some really lovely people and very much appreciated the ‘thank you’ I received in person from many of the delegates and team – also the tweets that people sent me and seeing photos appearing of my cakes across social platforms was very rewarding. But I had to request that delegates were told a)- that there were cakes and b)- where to find the cakes. I guess I kind of assumed that having asked me to bake 350 cupcakes (which were branded for TEDx), that people would be encouraged to enjoy them.

Which brings us back to the brand control aspect of TEDx events. What you can and can’t say about sponsors (and indeed, the various behind-the-scenes folks) is pretty limited. It’s a tricky balance – but I think Natalie did a pretty fine job in her first outing organising an event like this.

Thankfully all 360 cupcakes were consumed in the end. Here’s Flora Koska, speaker at the event, choosing one of them:

emma-jane-serving-cupcakes.jpg

Brighton Beach

So, content strategy is the new hotness. Lots of people who were once web editors or content managers or even, heavens forbid, journalists, are now describing themselves as “content strategists”. But there’s a world of difference between just being a content creator, and knowing how to use content strategically (the clue’s in the title name, you see…) to enhance your publication, website and business.
Which is all a terribly good excuse for spending this Friday afternoon in sunny, beautiful Brighton. Cool Content Coming soon is a half-day conference delving deep into some cool uses of content, from use of video by the Olympic Delivery Authority to personalising content for potential visitors to Cornwall. You’ll learn how content strategy helped relief efforts in Haiti and how the RSC is digitising Shakespeare. And you’ll see me chairing the final panel discussion with all the speakers…
During the interval, leading content agency Zone will be viewing people’s portfolios and giving free career advice for people looking for their next step into the content world.
Co-organiser Tamisin has blogged about the thinking behind the conference
Plus, you know, Friday afternoon. Brighton. Bars and beaches. What more could you want?
Please join us for a great afternoon. (discounts for freelancers and a two-for-one offer available)
Brighton Pier

Cool Content Coming Soon logo

I’ve not got time to blog about this in detail right now, but in a couple of weeks I’ll be moderating a panel at a cool content event called Cool Content Coming Soon… I’ll talk about it more tomorrow, but what you need to know right now is this:

  • A Friday afternoon conference in Brighton
  • 21st September
  • A top-notch panel of content experts ready to educate and entertain
  • The early bird discount ends this evening at midnight – book now for just £40 (a £10 saving)

C’mon. Friday afternoon, late summer, Brighton, with its beaches and bars a stone’s throw away. How can you resist?

Neat idea for attracting attention at a conference. I was steaming out of a conference session, in search of a coffee to sustain me for more liveblogging, when I came across this sight:
Sleeping bag
Uh, what the heck? OK, I stopped to take a photo, and while I was doing so, someone else walked up and asked her what she was doing:
Marketing from a sleeping bag.
And the story became clear. She’s marketing for deskwanted, a site to allow people to find a better place to work than their beds. Or their sleeping bags.
Clever, attention grabbing and in line with the core idea of the site. And nicely targeted to the start-up and independent working crowd here…