Tag Archives: tuttleclub

Does Manchester need a tech night?

Geek Graffiti

My friend Chris has something which has been bugging him. He told me while we had a late breakfast in VividLounge.

There’s something that’s bugged me about events in Manchester’s tech scene for a while. There are a lot of great specialist events, and a lot of networking events, but there appears to be little in between, ones that cross knowledge sharing with networking, other than the now-defunct Social Media Cafe, the Northern Digitals BLAB Talks, and ThoughtWorks’Manchester Geek Nights. However, BLAB Talks are geared more towards the creative side of the industry, rather than the technical side and Manchester Geek Nights speakers appear to be limited to ThoughtWorks.

The specialist events are great, but there’s just so many of them, that it’s impossible to attend even just the ones that are interesting to you, and the networking events tend to be heavily geared around alcohol and drinking, which in itself is problematic and can be exclusionary.

When I lived in Oxford there was a great event I attended frequently, Oxford Geek Nights, which basically has a format that fills a gap that I think Manchester now has, so I’d like to start running a monthly series of nights in this format, and hopefully some other people think this is a good idea too.

When I was in London during the first dot com era, I was also going to many specialist events. Most were around startups and money. When that all fell apart the events dried up or became even more specialised. So London geekdinners was started following some loose events in America by the same name. I’ve already mentioned how much of success the girl geekdinners have and are. Funny enough (I believe) the Oxford geek nights were setup following Nat and Simon (founders of Lanyrd) after they enjoyed going to the London Geekdinner and wanted to bring a slice to Oxford. Similarly Geekup and London Tuttle club (forerunner for Social Media Cafe Manchester)

The main reason why I bring up the past again is because there seems to be a cycle. The cycle seems to be flick between general and specific events. Theres certainly a need for both, but sometimes there feels like theres many more of one that the other. Both type of events are tricky to keep going and seem to

Its great Chris feels the need to setup another event, I think it will go down well. I can help with advice on the venue side, but I honestly think a venue won’t be too much of a problem and I certainly would love to talk at one of the events soon.

Make it so, Chris!

I on the other hand won’t be setting up any other events. Between BarCampEdu, 300 Seconds, Quantified Self and a possible next season of Relationships 2.0 (previously called geeks talk sexy). I have little spare time, plus its great when someone else stands up and does something rather than waiting for others.

Although I’ve been thinking about geekdinners 3.0 (maybe to replace relationships 2.0). The tag would be the geeky side of everything… Maybe next year. Rather than people you expect, we would have people from different areas who talk about the geeky side. For example a chef to explain all those different knives, a street artist to explain the world of street art. I tried to do this with geekdinners before but didn’t push beyond the industry much. Maybe now’s the time…?

Make it do, Ian! Maybe I will…

The Future of Social Media Cafe Manchester

SMC at the BBC

Josh and Martin said they would write up what happened a while ago. I didn’t know but Martin wrote up the evening on the Social Media Cafe website, some time ago.

Last week, a good 25 or so people joined us at Common to discuss the future of Social Media Cafe Manchester. We thought it would be good to give you a bit of an update on what was discussed and what happens next.

A number of successes for Social Media Cafe over the past (almost) three years were noted. Particular highlights included the way it’s spurred a wide range of projects and other events around the city, the debate about the impact of the iPad, and the talk by Greater Manchester Police about their Twitter experiment.

However, there was a general agreement that the event had lost a lot of its edge of late and that ‘social media’ was now such a commonly used term that the event’s name was heading towards irrelevance – you might as well have a monthly ‘Email Cafe’. Therefore, whatever Social Media Cafe becomes, it needs to capture the zeitgeist of digital culture and continue to attract a diverse crowd of professionals and hobbyists while welcoming anyone who wants an introduction to the Manchester digital ‘scene’.

There were mixed feelings as to the ‘professionalism’ expected from the event. While some felt there should be more time put into arranging ‘headline’ speakers weeks or months in advance, others felt that the relaxed, ‘human’ aspect of the event was more important than any ‘professional’ image.

With regard to a venue, there was a feeling that a regular, predictable home would be beneficial, allowing people to always know where they’ll find it. The Northern Quarter (including The Castle), Ancoats and Salford Quays (the BBC) were mooted as possible locations for venues, although there was a debate as to whether or not people would be willing to travel to the Quays.

Branding for the event was given some thought, with a suggestion that changing the name may ‘throw the brand out with bathwater’. Others thought a new name was a necessity, although there were no suggestions as to what that might be. Another change suggested was simplifying the online presence – suggesting that “The Ning” (this site) was perhaps not focused enough.

Thanks to everyone who came down to take part – it was really encouraging to see so many people turn up and offer their input. Julian, Josh and I will be meeting to make some decisions informed by the discussions we had last Tuesday and we’ll be posting an update soon with more information about what happens next.

There’s a whole number of comments from people but I’m not sure most of the people who were at the meeting even know the post went up sometime ago. I only found it when I was wondering if I could sign up to talk at the next one.

A lot of people don’t know but Social media cafe is based on Lloyd Davis’s Tuttleclub which was based on Ian Forrester’s London Geekdinners. So I’ve got form in this area…

So my thoughts are…

Yes keep the name, social media cafe Manchester works but I like even better the smc_mcr shorten version. Maybe moving away from the social media part by using smc_mcr could work?

A mix of headline and adhoc speakers seems to make sense, this does require more preparation but this can be a shared responsibility between a small group of people. Not the 25 who showed up but maybe 20-30% so 5 or so people, could share the responsibility. Different speakers attract different crowds of people, as I discovered doing Geekdinners, of course some will regularly come turn up no matter what. In Manchester and surrounding area there is plenty of talent so there’s plenty of space for dual tracks or a a single track. I personally could find something to talk about at every smc_mcr, sometimes it would be work related and sometimes it would be personal.

Having dual tracks is better but I’d put up with a single track of 3-4 speakers if they were short and kept the time for presentations down to about 10mins. Something like a double length ignite may work.

Moving it to Media City UK makes a lot of sense to me. I know people say its too far but frankly its once a month. If you can’t make it there because you can’t be bothered then, maybe Smc_mcr doesn’t actually need you. But I’m also thinking it should switch between venues (alternate). Sounds a little crazy but it could work and its certainly better than 3months one place, 1 month in another then another 3 somewhere different before having to find somewhere else. Smc_mcr is a good enough event to travel for.

I also don’t but this argument that there’s no venues in Manchester… Why not use Home sweet Home (which just opened up next to Commonbar), Speak to the people at Drip cafe and ask if they can stay open longer once a month, now Moon bar is open again I’m sure they will be looking for a regular influx of people. I’m also sure there’s been quite a few venues I’ve wondered pass who would love regular events like smc_mcr. My biggest bet was on the new vivid lounge which has a delayed opening once again. Point is, I’m sure with a little bit of work, I’m sure we’ll find somewhere suitable, it may not be in the Northern Quarter, but it will be within the city centre. Theres places like Rainbar which could be ideal.  I refer to the Manchester map

Something which never got talked about was charging for smc_mcr? No I don’t really like it too, but it means the venues in the city centre will be much more open to hosting such an event. Most bars do drink minimums, which can be easily hit with 50+ people. It might put some people off, but for the sake of having a quiet room with a projector, I’d certainly give it a shot.

What ever happens, its rapidly heading to the first Tuesday of the month… I got plenty of stuff to publicise including barcampmediacity.co.uk and salfordcinemaclub.wordpress.com.