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).

Add to 

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.

On the Manchester Digital council

Manchester Digital logoIf you haven’t heard already, I was elected to Manchester Digital council following a vote of the 30 odd members who turned up at the AGM. The full list is available on the Manchester Digital website.

It’s great that we have a mix of new and re-elected council members, meaning that we have a blend of experience and fresh input. My intention is to use the discussion I posted on my blog the week before as a starting point for my actions on the council. In the spirit of openness, collaboration and events, I hope to use this channel to keep members updated as well as come along to a range of digital community meetups to meet people directly.

With that in mind, I’ve been keen to go out and about and fly the flag for MD in my new role. Over the last two weeks I’ve been out with FutureEverything volunteers, at the Creative Times relaunch (featuring  Phil Jeffs) as well as sticking my head into Manchester SEO meetup. This week, we also held the regular Social Media Cafe where regular attendees Tim Dobson and Richard Hudson also made themselves known as council members. It’s been great to keep in touch with what’s going on and introduce myself to people in my new role.

I also set up the @McrDig twitter account (unfortunately, ‘ManchesterDigital’ is too long to be used as an account handle!). We’re using this to engage with the community and share news, in addition to our usual weekly emails (do you get these?). It’s regularly monitored, so just tweet @McrDig to get in touch, ask questions or get something promoted. We’re also using and monitoring the #McrDig hashtag for relevant content.

It’s worth touching upon my thoughts about the AGM itself. The formal report, drawn up by last year’s council, is available on the website. In the future, however, I will be aiming to arrange for the meeting to be live-blogged and more accessible ‘outside the room’. There was a fair bit of chat on Twitter and it would be great to be able to include some of the feedback from that in future plans as well as allow the meeting to be engaged with, erm, digitally.

This also means getting the paperwork out ahead of the meeting and putting any resolutions out for comment beforehand, like I tried to do with the Google Wave for the joint statement to the new coalition government. To aid with this sort of approach, Phil has set us up a Basecamp account so the council can more easily keep in touch.

I’d also ultimately like to see MD move towards a model of electronic voting, but this carries a number of questions that are worth exploring with the community. I’ve had experience of implementing this at a previous charity but it was not without its flaws and the process must be subject to scrutiny. Still, it is not impossible nor uncommon and I think it’s an ideal way to let more members help set the direction for the organisation.

All of this, I hope, will add up to a more inclusive approach to our main democratic meeting of the year. It will build on the themes of openness, collaborate and better events, but I hope people see the digital engagement elements as additional to attending the meeting in person. There’s a lot to be said for coming along, meeting other members and questioning the council and chair in person. I hope that by promoting it well in advance and engaging people with the content, we’ll be able to make it a more useful event for the membership to turn up to.

Our first council meeting is now set for the start of July and I hope we can put together a calendar of our events over the coming year. If you have any ideas, get in touch. We’re already working to identify the range of groups across Manchester and the north-west that we should be talking to, in addition to those with whom we already have a relationship. I also hope that we’ll look at what we can offer by way of support in order to focus on our core aim of making Manchester and the north west an even better place for digital business.