Day: February 20, 2011

A very social week in London

Last week[1] was Social Media Week, a global event with presentations, seminars, open days and other sessions run in cities around the world. I got back from LinuxConf Australia just in time to take part in a couple of the sessions that were running in London.

Social Tools for Internal Communications

Social Media for Internal Comms The first event I took part in was the result of a last-minute invitation from Ande and Kate at Media140 to speak in their seminar on the use of social technologies / socal media for internal communications. I ended up as the first speaker to a crowded room at the IAB near Holborn. I spoke about my own experience of how IBM has transformed itself through the use of blogs, profiles, microblogs, video, and other tools. If you’ve heard me speak before then some of the elements would have been familiar – in particular, the “personal journey” of how I came to be a communicator both internally and externally. I did want to tie it in with the current celebration of IBM’s 100 year history, too… few companies have such long histories, and of course with the “near-death experience” of the mid-90s many thought that IBM’s story would end in breakup or failure. I’ve recently read Lou Gerstner’s memoir of his time at IBM, Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance, and I was struck by the way in which he changed the internal communications at the organisation (his predecessor evidently did not own a PC or use the then-internal email system, PROFS) – so that seemed like a nice example of how some executive sponsorship or spotlight is needed to make a grassroots movement towards “social” successful.

The event overall was a lot of fun – my fellow speakers were all very engaging, and it was my first opportunity to meet one of my network, Abi Signorelli, in person… we’ve followed one another for some time now so it was great to be able to both meet her, and to hear her speak with passion and intelligence on the tools that can enable stronger social communications (and thanks to Abi for recommending me to Media140 as a speaker!).

Some great coverage of the event came in the form of photos, audio, and liveblogged write-ups.

The Future of Communities

The longer-standing commitment I’d had as part of SMW London was a panel discussion hosted by giffgaff, the community-driven mobile network that I started using late last year. Vincent and Heather had kindly invited me to participate on their panel, alongside some amazing folks like Kerry Bridge, Guy Stephens, Ian epredator Hughes, Jem Stone (someone else I’ve followed and admired online but have only just met in person), and some brilliant guys from Mozilla. Heather Taylor (moderating) kicked us off by asking us to imagine how we’d like communities to be in 100 years’ time… and that produced a wide-ranging discussion covering online and offline interactions, privacy, behaviours, business, social networks, and education. To me, it felt a little “rambly” in the sense that we did roam all over the map, and it was a large panel… but at the same time it was incredibly inspiring. I was glad to read Proactive Paul’s account of how the event helped to change some of his thinking about online identity and connectedness, in particular.

The lovely people from Techfluff TV were there, and made a short video report which they’ve now posted online:

[1] depending on when you read this, and when I post it… probably a couple of weeks ago when it finally sees the light of day!

Lanyrd – a social conference tool. It rocks.

As an early adopter, I do spend a lot of time discovering new sites and online services, and giving them a try. If I’m honest, the number of those tools that actually stick is remarkably small.

One recent discovery that has stuck is a site called Lanyrd. That’s like, you know, lanyard – the cords you use to hang conference badges around your neck – without that second ‘a’ – cunning, huh? So this is a site for the social web that lets you track, mark and organise your attendance at conferences, and see what your friends and contacts are interested in, too. It was created by Natalie Downes and Simon Willison – I’ve known of Nat since the BBC/Yahoo! Hackday in 2007; I can’t remember whether I’ve met Simon. Lanyrd was something small and experimental, but they’ve recently been part of a Y Combinator funding round and bootcamp, which is terribly exciting!

So what’s so cool and useful about this, and why would you want to use Yet Another Social Site? I have absolutely no formal affiliation or connection to the service, I’m just a keen user, but here are my top tips and likes.

Firstly – low barrier to entry. If you’re on Twitter, you can quickly login and get your social graph pulled in. Once you’ve done that, simply start to search for events that you’re attending, or flip through to see what your friends and contacts are attending or “tracking” (have expressed an interest in watching), and click the button to register interest or attendance.

Once you’ve done that, you can go grab your ical feed from Lanyrd and throw it into Google Calendar or similar. There you go – nice way of marking out the conferences you want to track or attend. So it’s cool for discovery and for calendaring.

For conferences themselves, you get the opportunity to create an event with a unique URL, get a quick glance at who is attending, add a hashtag, location and timing information, and create lists of sessions. That’s great ahead of the event… but what about afterwards? Well, here’s what I think is a really cool feature. You can attach all kinds of “coverage” to an event, be it slides, audio, video, liveblogged information, blogged write-ups, etc etc. So your point-in-time event suddenly gains a social and historical footprint with an aggregation of all the content that grew up around it, which people can go back to. You don’t post the coverage directly into Lanyrd – they don’t own or keep anything – you just link everything together.

Finally, for me, is yet another killer feature. Once I say I’m a speaker at an event, Lanyrd will build me a speaker profile. So I get a single page calendar I can go back to that lists the events I’ve spoken at, and which probably has all my slides embedded (yes I know Slideshare can host the slides, but it doesn’t build this kind of profile for me). Oh, and there are nice widgets to make this kind of calendar embeddable on other sites, so you can have a record of where and when you spoke, and where and when you’ll be speaking next.

Nat and Simon have done a truly lovely job with Lanyrd and are constantly tweaking, improving and adding features. Saying that, I hope it won’t succumb to feature creep, or becoming a lightning rod for spam events as Upcoming and other sites seemed to in their later periods. If you’re running a conference or smaller social meeting which is going to have speakers and attendees then I think it makes a lot of sense.