Tweet-Ups, Meet-ups, Barcamps, YamJams, Clubs and Cafes

I’ve started to notice a huge increase in hashtags in twitter later, it seems everyday there is an interesting conference or gathering of “experts” talking about various topics related to web 2.0, gov 2.0, democracy 2.0, participation 2.0, enterprise 2.0 , leadership 2.0 – i think you get the trend here. There is also an increase in the many smaller gatherings on a more local basis based around the traditional ( i say that reluctantly) tweetup format. Most of the time, i’m wishing i was there with everyone else, but instead generally settle for the twitter stream.

After a recent Exeter event #tags which essentially built upon the existing Exeter tweet-up – but wasn’t a tweet-up in itself, more of a informal “experience sharing” (i must confess i’ve never actually attended one – shame on me i know).  It was after the event that some interesting discussion started on twitter – it wasn’t making any waves (not the google kind) and it wasn’t particularly controversial, but it did get me thinking.  How do the many different types of meeting title differ in reality, or are they all just the same but “branded” to position it as something “different”.

Why am i even posting on this subject, well, for me it is about managing expectations and in a more socially connected world we can share or expectations and we can also report when something fails us or doesn’t deliver what it promised. I also think that the fact that these kinds of meetings have evolved out of these connections is something that needs to be maintained and if new opportunities for connections are identified then we need to be clear about what the focus is and what is expected of the people attending.

Another reason why i think it is important is that we need to be clear that anyone can initiate a meeting, based on their network, so you can have more than one type of tweet up in a locality, obviously it could benefit people to connect those tweet ups but it may not, groups may have a particular reason for coming together. I am assuming here that if people interested in a particular topic, lets say “eLearning” want to connect in a tweet up format then that is perfectly normal. If i’m not interested in elearning then i wouldn’t attend, or if it was related to a particular music band, again unless i’m interested i wouldn’t attend.

So i guess i’m kind of arguing for some consistency in how events are communicated (i say that instead of marketed for a reason as they should be inclusive and participative) and not “sold” to me as must attend event. After all social media puts you and me in control – we have the power to choose and more importantly influence.

OR this could all be worthless as i have asked myself “does it really matter what its called?” as long as it delivers value.

Ok lets starts: NB, this is not an exhaustive list and is only meant to stimulate conversation, if you disagree, comment, if you know of others, comment, either way don’t stay silent if you have something to say :o)

Tweet-up

As every good researcher  does nowadays – I did a search on google for “what is a tweet-up” and found an excellent definition, which for me sums up exactly what a tweetup is supposed to be about, so i won’t try and reinvent the wheel here, but the thing to remember i believe is that it is about meeting up with people because they are on twitter – hence tweet-up – obvious but still needs to be said.

A tweetup is an event where people who Twitter come together to meet in person. Normally we connect with our friends online after we have met them. At a tweetup you meet the people you might only otherwise know virtually. Like finally putting a name to a face, a tweetup is a great opportunity to really connect with the people in your network and share just a little more than 140 characters at a time.

Via Socialhat.com

I’m assuming that this is only related to twitter and that if you were a Yammer user you might well attend something called a “YamJam” or something like that. But i could be wrong, i don’t use Yammer, so i’m only guessing, but i definitely like the sound of a “YamJam”.

Twestival

The best explanation comes from the twestival website itself.

A Twestival or Twitter-Festival is a global series of events organized by volunteers around the world under short timescales, which bring people offline for a great cause.  Twestival is run 100% by volunteers and independently from any not-for-profit; although the organizing teams do work closely to outline an achievable and measurable fundraising target.  Twestival also sets out to identify key skills of volunteers and match these with the needs of the cause; particularly communications strategy, tech integration and social media training.

Via Twestival.com

Social Media Cafe or Social Media Club

Again a search or two later on google and it seems the consensus is that a Social Media Cafe is a place for ALL people interested in social media to gather, get acquainted, and to plot, scheme, and share.. emphasis on open and interesting conversation!

There are some great examples of Social Media Cafes around the country Birmingham, Manchester and of course London, which in fact calls itself the “Tuttle Club“.  If you want to know a bit more about  Social Media Cafe’s and the Tuttle Club then check out this video by Lloyd Davis.

Closer to home Cornwall has a Social Media Cafe as does Devon, But again i’ve not attended either,  this is mainly due to the fact it has been in Plymouth, and my view is that they should be locally based. Devon is just too big or a county to easily get around to organise a Devon wide Social Media Cafe – perhaps we need to consider a sub set e.g.  Exeter, East Devon,  Torbay, North Devon and of course Plymouth, but that has to be a crowd driven process. by posting this , I have now just made my contribution to the discussion.

Barcamp

Slightly more formal and an informal way then the events above (< does that even make sense!!).  Anyway the definition of a barcamp is a user generated conference (or unconference), which is open and participatory. It also relies on the participants to provide the content.

I’ve attended 2 barcamp events (UKGovWeb and LocalGovCamp) and they were both excellent, in my view this is the best type of event to attend for learning and exploration around particular issues. It doesn’t rely on any key-note session or “expert” analysis. It simply relies on the collective knowledge of those participants who have attended and the willingness to share the knowledge and learning they have.  The key aspect of both of these events were that they were free to attend (funded by sponsorship and volunteers) and they were on a Saturday. This in my opinion made sure that those who attended had a real interest and willingness to share and connect with others. That for me is a true test, would you connect even if your work weren’t paying you?

In my opinion it is the most inclusive and interactive of this style of event. But i would say that as i used to work in the Local Agenda 21 arena (from 1998-2003 ) and Open Space Technology was very much part of the community consensus building process.  It assumes that the community or participants are best placed to resolve and answer their own issues and questions. If not then action is devolved to people to find out and report back.  Why i think it works so effectively now is the tools for collaboration are easy to access and the sharing of information pre and post event is easier.

Local variations have now started to appear in the form of LocalGovCamp Lincoln and i hope this continues and develops across different sectors. Perhaps we should pull together and organise and BarCampDevon and look to the voluntary, public and private sector to collaborate on improving services for all. If you are interested let me know via the comments section, as i’d be keen to explore the practicalities of taking this forward.

Likeminds

Ok, not strictly an event format or style as such, but i can’t write this post without at least referencing the recent likeminds event in Exeter. What was interesting about this event was that it was organised, promoted, marketed and pretty much run on occasion did sneak into the more traditional formats of having key-note speakers and panelists (i was even one them!!). It did go to the next step however and integrated social media into the event itself using twitterfall for audience feedback,  and ustream for live broadcast (over 550 people watched live). As much as i enjoyed the event, i met some great people, connected dfaces with twitter ID’s and it is rare such as well attended event happens in Exeter – it didn’t provide me with the same opportunities that a BarCamp style event would have.

It did however generate huge twitter interest and even within hours of being raised during the event, started promoting t-shirts – surely that demonstrates the power of these tools.

So what?

Like i said earlier, why do i really care bout this, well for me, the type of event will determine whether or not i will attend (shallow i know but i’m pretty busy like most and if i don’t think i’ll gain from something i won’t attend). My preference of course as a participant is the inclusive barcamp style and i’m convinced that any participant of a barcamp style event will probably say the same. I have and will attend an event regardless of format, just to meet people – after all it is in those connections that i learn the most. I’ve also (recently in fact) sat through nearly 30 hours or death by powerpoint and i did learn, but i didn’t feel like i participated in an event, i felt like i was talked at and too most of the time…took me back to my school days.

So what about all the new events that are popping up, well for me, they are starting to take some of the “open” and “inclusive” principles away and are reverting back to more traditional styles of conference delivery. It may well be that this is what people are seeking and i have nothing against this approach. But i just don’t think it is in keeping with the ethos of the social web as a whole, which is inclusive, equal and participative, knowledge is shared and is not considered as “power”.

These are only my views and my opinions and on that note – Enough said. :0