I’ve had a number of conversations recently with various people about social media and its impact on organisations. After many bungled, inarticulate attempts at explaining my thoughts I resorted to pen and paper.

Social Media and Organisations

So my hypothesis (and I’m sure its full of flaws) is that as social-media powered conversations start criss-crossing the ‘wall’ separating the organisation from the public,  the PR ‘gatekeepers’ who traditionally worked at the boundaries will end up in the background, monitoring and coaching all the newly empowered individuals that have now have ‘relations’ with the ‘public’. Meanwhile, the old-world media will increasingly report on and build stories from the public conversations happening in plain view.

Note: I have absolutely no background in PR so this is a bit of a stab in the dark based on my (probably ill-conceived) view of what PR folks do.

Interested in views on whether the picture should be tweaked (or even torn up!)

Along with one hundred or so other people I spent Saturday in Richmond at Tweetcamp – an interesting, experimental, unconference based around twitter. There are some excellent write ups of the day by…

Katherine Robertson – @TheSourceress

Neville Hobson – @Jangles

Claire Thompson – @Claireatwaves,

Amy Sample Ward – @amyrsward

Billy Abbott – @cowfish

All these posts rightly highlight the efforts of the organisers @farhan, @cyberdees @JonIn60seconds who did a fantastic job of pulling everything together – I’d also add that they deserve huge credit for getting behind something which was effectively an ‘experiment’ – Its always a bit of a leap of faith to publicly organise something with a new format where it’s not clear from the start what the outcome is going to be like – so I’d like to thank them for their ‘bravery’ as well as everything that has been said so far.

I had some interesting conversations during the morning, but the highlight for me was an afternoon session with @RadioKate @JamesCridland and @jangles where we moved the conversation beyond the ‘mechanics’ of twitter itself and discussed some of the wider implications of social media as it is impacting organisations and society.

On the “it would have been even better if” front there has been lots of good feedback in the posts above. I would only add two points…

1. The more structured/facilitated discussions were held in groups of about 10 or so. I always find that its difficult to just have one conversation in a group of that size. With any more than 6 or 7 in the circle things tend to naturally split off into smaller groups, which makes it a nightmare for whoever has the job of capturing everything and feeding it back. I think smaller groups would have made for better conversations and easier feedback during these sessions.

2. A couple of the structured sessions were focussed on drawing out the topics that people had been discussing in previous un-structured sessions. My observation was that this tended to become an exercise in ‘going round the table’ with each person contributing their own piece while someone captured each piece on the flipchart. Maybe a quicker way of doing this in the future (and one that would allow more of the group sessions to be focussed on interacting over reporting) would be to get everyone to tweet the topics then generate a wordle.net word cloud of all the tweets.

All in all an excellent day, with great organisation.

Big thanks to the sponsors @uk_gumtree, @PayPal, Start Up Essentials, @addlestones, @MyMuesli & @Yelp_London for giving it their backing.

I saw this video today (via @ianmayman) where a guy starts dancing on his own at a festival. For a long time he is the only one dancing, then another joins, then another. For quite a while its a small group, but suddenly it hits a tipping point and the size of the group dancing grows exponentially.

For me, watching this was a reminder that a single person can create something big. The trick is to start then keep going, not getting discouraged that, at first, you are dancing on your own.

Simon at webworkerdaily.com made a great screencast of Milestone Planner for their blog. In the write up he said….

We’ve covered lots of great project management apps here on WebWorkerDaily, from collaborative tools like 5pm to estimating and planning tools like Gantter. However, these tools are quite complex if all you need is a simple chart showing who does what, when.

Enter Flash-based timeline planning app, MilestonePlanner. It’s a bit like an online equivalent of the magnetic planning boards you see in some offices, and it’s nice drag-and-drop interface makes it really easy to use. It will handle multiple projects, and you can export your plans to send them to colleagues or use them in presentations or other documents.

Heres the screencast…

WWD Screencast: MilestonePlanner from WebWorkerDaily on Vimeo.

Whilst I continue to develop the next release it feels like Milestone Planner is picking up and starting to get some traction. Its been picked up on a few startup blogs which is helping to up the number of visitors. We’re about to hit the 500 registered users mark and its really gratifying to see more people coming back week after week to keep their plans up to date. Have been getting some good feedback from people and am feeling pretty positive about the whole thing.

So Milestone Planner seems to be working out OK. In the first couple of weeks there have been around 700 visitors, about 45% of them give the app a go – and at the last count 100 people liked it enough to sign up. I’ve had some great comments on the app (nicest ones below) and some good suggestions for improvements…

“What an awesome job!! This is absolutely fantastic. You would not believe how easier this has made life.”

“Very good format & very user friendly.”

“I love this app – it’s exactly what I need to create a visual for a complicated project I’m working on.”

Still have work to do on tweaking things to improve the 45% take up, but on the whole I’m pretty pleased with how its going. There’s another release planned in 2/3 weeks time which will extend the planning horizon from 30 to 52 weeks and I’m starting to work through how the collaborative aspects of the product should work.

So far so good!

It’s been a month and a half since we got back from Spain. It’s been hard work, but I’m really pleased that I’ve released the first version of milestone planner!!! Will publicly launch in a couple of weeks.

its at www.milestoneplanner.com

 

Our house for the last couple of months

Our house for the last couple of months

So today is our last day in Niguelas before we head back to the UK (just in time for new years eve). Things I will miss….

 

 

  • playing with Joel & Zak down by the river, making dams and generally bending nature to our wills
  • Fresh mountain air, bright blue skies & fantastic views
  • The whole notion of Tapas – a tasty snack every time you order a drink

 

On the other hand… I will not miss…

 

  • Having to wear three layers of clothes to bed when its icy and arctic outside
  • the cross-your-fingers, sometimes there, sometimes not internet connection
  • cleaning out the log fire everyday

 

All in all its been a great trip – I’m so glad we could do it before Joel started school. The kids have had a brilliant time and have spent all the time playing with the few toys we brought with us (thankyou Lego!) and each other – without a second thought for CBeebies etc.

I didn’t make as much progress on MilestonePlanner.com as I hoped – I’d wanted to get the first publicly available version online by now, but what we’ve developed so far is good, the feedback from everyone has been really useful and I think we’re well placed to get in up & running early in the new year.

So… from Niguelas… Adios & see you all back in the UK soon.

 

 

frosty....

frosty....

Any thoughts of it being balmy and warm when you’re 1000 miles south of home have long been forgotten… ITS COLD! This morning saw icicles on the window frames and lots of crisp white snow – how Christmassy is that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joel heads for the slopes

Joel heads for the slopes

Note : the Niguelas Christmas lights (and they are every bit as spectacular as you may imagine!) have not yet been turned on – there is some kind of Andalucia-wide energy saving initiative going on – every town and village are delaying the grand turning-on of their lights in a bid to prove themselves the most energy conscious municipality.

Am wondering if I should point out that the year-round, nightly illumination of every church tower with arc-lights so bright that they can be seen from Mars kind of makes the whole thing about delaying switching on a few measly coloured baubles a bit of a joke.

This time with Milestones

This time with Milestones

OK – So this time it does something useful!! – although because I’ve yet to work on any back-end stuff it still doesn’t store anything. The main difference this time round is that you can now add & edit milestones (which after all is what its all about). Click on a blank bit of swimlane to add one, drag to move it around & click to change its colour / edit details etc.

I’ve also been pondering whether to start calling the swimlanes workstreams instead – thoughts? Also if anyone has access to a projector I’d be v. interested to know how well it translates onto a big screen (I’d see a major use of the software being to capture output of workshop planning sessions)

Notes for this release..

  • As mentioned Milestone functionality is now there – particularly interested in feedback around how easy or not the software makes it to add / update etc. Most of the work over the last couple of weeks has been on getting this up & running – solving problems such as what to do when 2 of the little blighters overlap etc.
  • I’ve fixed the issue that John discovered around dragging swimlanes – I’ve had to get rid of the fancy smooth movement to do it but at the end figured that its far better to have something which reliably works than something which looks pretty – can always pretty it up later
  • Have gone over the thing around weekends and put it in the TFD box for now. My first thought was to have an option not to display Sat & Sun.. but as John pointed out big chunks of the world have their w/ends on Fri/Sat + you then get into the whole bank hols etc issue + We’ve all worked on projects where Sat/Sun started off being days off but at crunch points there are often milestones planned in for the w/ends. Once its up & running for real I’ll be able to log how many people are actually putting milestones on w/ends and then make a call what to do.
  • Have changed the font – what do you think?
  • Text can still overspill in lots of places – am aware I’ll need to go round and either limit the number of characters you can have in each field, or crop text so that it doesn’t overspill.

Thanks for all the feedback to-date, both on and off the blog…. I’ll be giving £80 to ActionAid as a result.