I wrote a while back about a dream I had to set up a Social Media Cafe for Derby and Derbyshire and now that dream has become a reality!

The first Derby/shire Social Media Cafe took place at QUAD in Derby on 1 October. It was a very informal gathering but I was thrilled that around twenty people turned up and chatted away about all things online, digital, social media and cake related! I blogged about it over on the cafe site but thought I would post her about some of the conversations I had with people.

I found it as useful and interesting to speak with people from other sectors about how they were using the digital stream and facing challenges as I did to catch up with some good public sector colleagues. I’ve found it’s been really good to widen that view and think about how we can adapt our experiences to their sector and vice versa in order to re-invigorate the way we think and work online and digitally.

Some useful conversations:

Bebo / Youth engagement – I’d been asked to raise this by someone who couldn’t attend and I’m glad I did as I ended up learning something which has already been valuable to moving forward with a piece of work. Do young people use Bebo? I’d assumed so from research and stats I had seen but according to research carried out by a couple of the cafe participants as part of their jobs it seems while this may have once been the case young people are now to be found on Facebook (isn’t everyone?).
Secondary to this though was another piece of research had shown Bebo to be particularly popular with the deaf community. Both these pieces of information and a shared experience of abandoning attempts to create a profile on the network have been useful in to the colleague who wasn’t there and myself.
It also furthered my suspicion that published stats aren’t always that reliable, you can’t beat direct research with the audience you’re trying to reach and I need to re-evaluate the demographics I associate with the big networks.

Being or managing online workers -This is something which came up in the session Tim and Paul ran at LocalGovCamp although it was slightly left of centre from their original topic. It’s also something that has come up in conversations with lots of different people recently and I don’t feel I’ve really got to the bottom of the issue yet. Again this conversation centered on the ‘never off’ temptation of working online. We talked about how we combated or succumbed to this and the challenge it brings to managers in having team members who work outside of their contracted or set hours. We also spoke about where the line is for individuals – we agreed that organisations benefit from a named, human contact online but what did that mean for that person? Where is the line between personal profile and professional profile – especially when you can be found in both roles on one network? I don’t think we came up with any answers but it’s always useful to discuss this issue.

Privacy -In the sense of how much information is available online about you and how much of it you are aware of and have control over. I am probably nearer to digital native than settler in my approach to this and so it isn’t something which has troubled me much so far. However, I think hearing differing views and concerns about the importance and impact of changing views of privacy is a good pull up for me to take stock myself.
I’ve been back and reviewed some of the settings on some of the networks where I know there is information about me. I’ve also been thinking that a session on privacy / identity might be good for sharing and learning at a future meet of the cafe.

Integrating online into the communication mix -As something that I’ve been working toward for a while now I think it is interesting to hear other experiences of how this has worked or not. In some cases online and the ease of two way communication has made significant differences. What really fascinated me is that online is already moving from being primarily a communication channel to being a transformation tool – even in the smallest of operations. It’s got me thinking afresh about things for certain and I’m looking forward to more chats and examples of this to come out of the group.

Google – There were three main threads in relation to Google – Wave, Sidewiki and whether Google is evil or not. The chat about Wave was that none of us there had received an invite and we were pretty gutted about this. Sidewiki chat was split between those who hadn’t heard of it and those who had and were wary. I blogged my thoughts on it already and I’m still looking at it, I’m not getting any less wary though, and just like @gertmellak (who I’ve been talking to on Twitter and Nurphy about this) I’m worried that if the API doesn’t offer forth richer features for website managers in the short term it’s unlikely to improve medium / long-term.
And is Google evil? Well, we came to no conclusion on this but they are certainly fascinating as a company and I’m sure this is a conversation that will go on, and on, and on…

So – that was my first Social Media Cafe in Derbyshire. I am already excited about the conversations continuing online and getting to chat to people again at the next meeting. From an attendee point of view I know that the conversations I’m going to have at future cafes are going to be useful, creative and inform the way I think about online and digital (as well as being a chance to meet with new friends). From an organiser point of view I am, as mentioned, thrilled this idea is starting to take shape in Derby and I’m now looking at how I can adapt the social media cafe to rural Derbyshire and make this truly county-wide.

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