One week to go for Manchester Twestival – get your tickets now – Social Media Manchester

Manchester Twestival logoManchester Twestival, launched at the Social Media Cafe, is happening in just one week’s time!

As part of a global Twitter Festival, or ‘Twestival‘, we’re coming together at an event on 24 March to raise money for Wood Street Mission, a local charity whose aim is to alleviate the effects of poverty on children in families in Manchester and Salford. The charity was chosen with input from across the community.

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Manchester Twestival is back for 2011 – Social Media Manchester

Twestival is back in Manchester, for the fourth time and, Social Media Manchester are looking to make this one bigger and better than ever before.

If you don’t know, Twestival (or ‘Twitter Festival’) is a global fundraising initiative using social media for social good. Twestival is the largest global grassroots media fundraising initiative to date. Through harnessing the power of volunteers and social media, Twestival has raised over £760,000 for 137 good causes since the autumn of 2009. Each Twestival is run on the same date in host cities around the world.

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Your shout: get involved with the Manchester Digital PR working group

Manchester Digital logoWhen I stood as a candidate for the Manchester Digital council, I said I’d “work to massively improve Manchester Digital’s external communications”.

I felt Manchester Digital could do a lot more to improve how it communicated with members and needed to reach out to work more collaboratively with the local digital community.

Therefore, as part of my role on the council, I’ve taken up the mantle to lead the PR, marketing and communications working group. This group will meet to discuss and improve the way that Manchester Digital communicates externally, identifying problems, challenges and coming up with solutions.

I strongly feel that we – Manchester Digital – can do more to engage digitally with our membership and improve our relevance as the trade body for the north-west digital sector. I hope this group will play a key part in making that happen.

Any member of Manchester Digital is welcome to attend. This will be part of a series of meetings, that I will try and move around so as to accommodate varying availability. Also, I hope to open up some of the discussions online, so people who can’t attend can also engage with the process.

Event details:

Tuesday 21 September, 6-7 pm
MDDA, Portland Street (map).

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Email me technicalfault-at-gmail-dot-com if you plan to attend or have any questions (and please drop a comment below too).

BarCamp Manchester 3 at MadLab

A brief report on the above event written for MadLab.

A building in India made out of pallets, open source software in government, casual gaming and a 10 year old demo’ing Linux graphics software.

These were just three of the brilliant informal talks that were presented at BarCamp Manchester, held at the MadLab last Saturday (22 August).

“BCMan3″ was the third annual BarCamp in Manchester. It’s an “unconference” – where anyone is welcome to turn up and give a talk, lead a discussion or ask a question to the rest of the audience.

Check out the Flickr photos from the day

It sounds like a recipe for chaos, but it’s a huge credit to Andrew Disley, Dan Hardiker and everyone who was involved in putting it together, that the day ran so smoothly.

MadLab was buzzing with activity on all three floors and the diverse sessions meant that there was always something to go along and learn about. In fact, the great thing about BCMan3 is that sessions were constantly being added throughout the day as people with common interests found each other, hacked together new things and presented them for discussion later on.

There was even an international flavour with a Skype video walkthrough of the Jaaga project in Bangalore, a hackspace similar in intent to the MadLab. Also, some intrepid types banded together, armed with cameras and went on an outdoor exploration of some of the nearby gritty urban scenery.

The event concluded with the space being reset for an after party featuring Rock Band on the XBox 360 and a Puzzle Bobble tournament on the arcade. There may have even been a few hardcore geeks playing Star Trek Online over the MadLab wifi.

The atmosphere was incredibly refreshing and engaging — this wasn’t just a bland conference or another techie/geek event. Everyone was welcoming and encouraging and the mix of people made it truly possible for anything to be presented. There’s no better proof of this than a successful and popular session run by 10 year old Andi Southern who demo’d some incredible skills on Tux Paint. Overall, BarCamp Manchester 3 was a great event at which I met other creative-minded types and had the chance to share my knowledge and learn from them.

Special thanks again to Andrew Disley, Dan Hardiker and all the sponsors who made this happen – for free.

How to win Foursquare friends and influence people

Foursquare logoUpdate: I spoke about this at the Social Media Cafe Liverpool – presentation below.

Foursquare. It’s the latest hottest thing to blog, tweet and generally foam about.

Unfortunately, over-excited use of Foursquare can often simply annoy your Twitter followers. Who cares if you’ve just checked-in at “Don’s pizzeria” or if you’re Mayor of “[hipsterrific bar]”?

The real value in Foursquare is not just tweeting where you are, or when you’re Mayor or whether you’ve got the badge that says you’ve been out drinking every night for the last five days (maybe you need to check in at your local AA club).

Foursquare is for keeping track of your friends and getting recommendations about good and interesting places to hang out from people you know and trust. When you go to Don’s Pizzeria, tell me why and what you’re doing there. Leave a tip to recommend something (or to remind me to avoid the kebab).

Here’s my top three tips for making Foursquare useful:

(and, influence people, in a sense):

1. Login to your Foursquare account on the web, click Settings and turn-off the default options to send tweets whenever you check-in, become Mayor or unlock a badge.

Don’t worry, you can turn these on per check-in. This will stop you losing Twitter followers, bored of incessant check-ins at home, work and the train station.

2. Check-in and add a note each time you do. What are you doing there? What’s good? Are you available to hang out? Many people will get your live Foursquare check-ins through Twitter too (if they don’t have Push-type notifications on iPhone etc). So tweet these, if they’re useful.

Again, avoid tweeting mundane places unless you’re looking to hang out with people or at an event. Adding a hashtag helps with the latter.

3. Leave tips. Not cash, but those little notes you can add to places from the Foursquare app. When others check-in, one of the tips pops-up which can help someone make a decision about what to do, where to go or what to have.  Ostensibly, tips are positive things, but I have no hesitation in pasting a place if it deserves it.

Saving tips that you find when you check-in and browsing nearby tips also means you build-up a collection of “to do’s” that are worth going through on a boring Sunday afternoon.

Winning over your friends

As you become more active on Foursquare, you’ll begin to add up a list of friends. The more users that join, the easier it becomes to find other people and use Foursquare as a way of organising social activities. In Manchester, for example, I find skimming my Foursquare friends list over lunchtime a good way of finding out where other people are and if they’re available to grab a bite to eat.

Of course, you can always check-in “off the grid” if you want a bit of privacy.

And yes, it is interesting to know who’s the Mayor of a venue. You become a Mayor being by the user to check-in most frequently over the last two months. If a friend is a Mayor, this is a signal to me that he or she goes there lots and, in a sense, endorses it as a venue for whatever goes on there. Checking-in at a venue without actually being there, or really making use of it, is probably somewhat misleading and won’t win me over as your friend.


Foursquare is by no means the only location-based social recommendations app out there. I myself was (and still am) an advocate of others, like Gowalla, that frankly have a sexier design and ask users to crowdsource locations, rather than simply buy up a local directory a starting point.

Unfortunately, there is a degree of critical mass with Foursquare that goes with the relentless adoration lauded on it by Mashable. This means most of my friends and colleagues have naturally gravitated towards it as a network and that, in turn, makes it more useful for me, to find out what’s going on where. There are methods of checking-in on multiple networks, however I have yet to try these out myself.

In conclusion…

Remember, Foursquare is all about recommending local places and things to do. This sort of stuff can add value to what your followers see on your Twitter time line, but if you tweet about it too much, it can really turn people off.

So check it out and, if you know me, add me as a friend.

Ning to end free networks

Cross-posted from Social Media Manchester

Many of you may have heard the news that Ning, the providers of this community’s social network, is intending to phase out their ‘free’ service, in favour of paid-for options. Jason Rosenthal, their newly appointed Chief Executive, said, in a staff memo:

“We are going to change our strategy to devote 100% of our resources to building the winning product to capture this big opportunity” — i.e being the premium service, not the one supported by advertising. (Guardian)

North West (by North) Digital Communities

The Manchester Mark I - first stored program digital computer (c. 1949). From the University of Manchester, Computer Science Dept

The Manchester Mark I - first stored program digital computer (c. 1949).

It seems I’m spending increasingly more of my free time at that brilliant space known as the Manchester Digital Laboratory. Last Wednesday night, the, erm, Madlab played host to a meeting of North West Digital Communities (NWDC), and I went along to fly the flag for the Social Media Café.

NWDC is a forum that brings together the leaders of digital communities in the north west, with the aim of improve the local digital community by sharing resources and pooling ideas.

These communities are incredibly diverse, representing a wide-range of tech interests; technology users groups; communications and small business. It’s also true to say that there is huge overlap and many people involved in one of the communities will be involved in at least one other. Colleagues from Geekup, Madlab, Manchester Free Software, Manchester BSD group and others were all in attendance. Continue reading