UPDATE: This has been postponed due to some damage to the robot’s workings during transit. Check in with Charlotte about when the event might happen – in the meantime, I’m sure flowers, grapes and lucozade would be gratefully received by the poorly robot c/o the Sidekick Studios gang.

On Friday 21st August from 9am Charlotte and Alex atSidekick Studios are inviting the Tuttle crowd (old and new) to breakfast with a robot before they head off to the ICA.

The Voicebot is “a robot installation which gives young people a playful and powerful way to have a direct voice in the House of Parliament. Produced for vinspired, the national youth volunteering service, young people will be invited online to tell MPs what they care about. The Voicebot – a letter writing robotic arm which is connected to the internet – will then write out the messages in the real world, in Westminster, creating an open and direct channel of communication between Britain’s youth and politicians.

The project explores how the physical internet can be used to re-connect the public with those who govern us, creating new ways for people to be heard, and tackling problems like democratic deficit. ”

There’ll be a live demo of the robot in action at Sidekick Studios, who would love people to come down, check it out, and spread the word that a new robot is in town, and it takes no prisoners.

If anyone has any questions, please email: charlotte@sidekickstudios.net

I want to take this opportunity in mid-engagement to let you know how the consulting work we’ve been doing has gone. I hope you’ve heard by now that it’s gone well, but I’d like to fill in some of the gaps and catch up on my own understanding of how it has worked.

So the introduction was made by Rohan G (then at NESTA) with whom I’d already talked about who we as a loose network could construct a consulting offer. Rohan suggested that we talk to Catherine Fieschi at Counterpoint about what they wanted to do to build some form of platform for discussing and engaging with people about what cultural relations mean in the twenty-first century. I’m glad to say that after I’d explained what we would do in some detail, Catherine agreed with me that our Crowds, Tribes and Teams methodology would be an interesting way to unpick the brief and get to something practical.

We initially agreed to carry out two half-day sessions at the Crowd and Tribe levels. For those who haven’t been paying attention, that means:

10-15 of our members meet with a similar number of your people in a relaxed space for free conversation. People are briefed beforehand on the issues facing the client, but the conversation is allowed to wander in the same way that it does at the Tuttle Club itself. It’s an opportunity for blue-sky thinking.

7-10 more specialist contributors are identified to drill down further into issues raised in the Crowd session. These people meet again with a similar number of representatives from the client in a series of short facilitated conversations. The main output is a document detailing what we’ve learned so far, a strategic approach to untangling some of the problems and a few immediately realisable benefits and projects.

We agreed that if team work were required and there was something we could do for them we would discuss that after these two, but that either side could walk away after this first bit of work if things didn’t work out.

Now, the process for bringing a crowd together had already begun a few weeks previously. I had been through my address book and chosen the people that fell into the following categories: had been to tuttle a few times; in my address book; freelance/flexible; I would trust them to take in with me to a client. I e-mailed them and asked for some basic information that I could use in marketing materials: a profile pic; a 140-char biography; a summary of skills and interests; and the tribes to which they feel they belongg. I e-mailed 99 people – if you’re reading this and think you should have been included let me know. Exclusion is a bazillion times more likely to be about my poorly managed gmail address book than to be about my discomfort with taking you into a client.

Anyhow, about 45 people came back to me and a few more trickled in since then. At least when I went to pitch the idea to Counterpoint, I had a pretty good idea of the high callibre of person I might have at my disposal. And then having secured the engagement, I e-mailed the 45-ish to say “this is what the gig is and when, the first 14 people to e-mail me back get to come and play” or words to that effect. I then went out for an afternoon walk. And when I got back I had 22 messages in my mailbox from eager tuttle beavers. You are lovely.

So the quick-draw 14 were, in order of alacrity: Steve Lawson,
Al Robertson, John Dodds, Ben Mason, Brian Condon, Suw Charman-Anderson, David Jennings, Patrick Hadfield, Andy Roberts, Caroline Bottomley, Alison Wheeler, David Wilcox, Richard Stacy and Ben Walker. I knew that I could take any one of them into the client for a half-day and create something very good, but to have 15 of us had mind-blowing potential. I’m glad to say that we fulfilled that potential, and minds were blown (including mine).

Round 1

I’d suggested that we meet in a neutral space. Both sessions were held at Wallacespace in Covent Garden. Lovely, lovely space, thank you. And we started with one of their excellent lunches. Then we went and sat in the “living room” for the afternoon. I facilitated. Catherine gave a brief intro to the brief and we did introductions – it turned out that we had a surprising number of musicians in the group both tuttlers and BC people, though as Steve Lawson was among the first to say hello, perhaps he just set the tone!

We went into conversation. As with Tuttle on Fridays there was no more format than this. From time to time, I would ask them to pause and take the temperature to see if everyone was OK or if people needed a chance to move and talk to new people, but I resisted the temptation to “do” more. After 3 hours of these chats I started the process of convergence to create some placeholders so that we could recall the conversation later. I stressed throughout the afternoon that it was about having the conversation rather than creating a document. And I tried to keep this documentation process true to that. Firstly, I asked people to write (preferably longhand) a paragraph or two describing what they’d learned or found out in the afternoon. We had a wander round the room and had a look at what each other had written.

Then I suggested that people get into Tuttler/BC pairs and come up with three bullet point ideas that needed to be captured. We then played the “same or different” sorting game on a big table to create some concept groupings. And that was all.

It feels uncomfortable to go into the details of the feedback we got without specific permissions, but they loved it. Everyone went away smiley and energized. I’ve asked for some feedback that we can use publicly.

Round 2

So then a week later, six of us went back for more. The second session was still conversational but with more structure to help us boil down to a set of projects for consideration. Into the pot I threw a couple of exercises stolen from my improvisation idol, Johnnie Moore – for those who know Johnnie’s repertoire these were the collaborative face drawing and the fast-draw product pitching exercise. I threw these in when it felt like time to encourage people to keep thinking together and get away from judging ideas too quickly. We did a coupld of rounds of conversation focusing on getting ideas down and then trying to grow them organically (next time I’ll also use Johnnie’s “Yes… and…” exercise)

And then we split. I put the BC people on one side of the room and brought the Tuttle team to huddle around a table together. The BC people were tasked with bringing together all of the (potentially duplicated or overlapping) projects into a simple list. We, on the other hand started looking together for a way forward, a way to add further value. After some meandering and group contemplation, Brian Condon gave us the lead by suggesting a frame for categorising the projects: a y-axis of difficulty or perceived difficulty and an x-axis continuum of novelty between “Yawn! I thought they’d do that” and “Wow! I never thought they’d do that”. We plotted projects on this frame and by doing so developed the ideas a little to see how they could be made easier and have more wow!ness.

Right now, we’re in a process of choosing, defining and costing the Team projects that will kick off very soon in time to create a social platform for engagement by November.

And so…

I really enjoyed doing this and am looking forward to the project work – we’re now looking for more, appropriately open-minded clients to engage in more Crowd and Tribe activities.

And it feels like a time to say something of what I’ve learned or remembered during the process so far. Here are some snippets:

Patience is a virtue, both at the micro level of allowing people time to settle, talk, think and reflect before expecting them to “produce” something, and at the macro level – this is the style of work I’ve wanted to do for at least seven years, but in 2002 I had no idea where on earth I might find 15 likeminded collaborators or be able to convince a client that we could do something useful.

I’m most at home serving the group, allowing them to flower. It’s a beautiful process to observe.

Everyone is creative, capable of creation in one way or another. Categorising people as creatives or managers is fake and doesn’t serve us well, especially in a space where we require innovation and change. People are amazing.

It is possible to bring thirty people together and have a productive conversation without constantly telling them what to do.

My years as a jazz kid have paid off – sitting in smoky cellars in the 70s with a bottle of coca-cola and a packet of crisps, watching and listening to men come together in scratch bands and make beautiful music together is a great preparation for this sort of work.

We could have done this at any time – it’s an obvious move to make to create a consulting offer out of a network of smart people. What I’m pleased about is that we let it emerge, we didn’t rush and we’ve ended up with something far more congruent with the general vibe of the network.

[UPDATE 01/10/09: We’ve started blogging about the projects that were commissioned as a result of this process]

TEDLive in London

[UPDATE: Unsurprisingly, this offer was almost instantly oversubscribed. Sorry to anyone who’s only just heard. Yay! for those who got their places]

So this is what I squealed with excitement about yesterday on twitter (not what I swore about today – that’s something else that I’ll write about soon)

I’m going to assume that most people who’ve been to Tuttle or read this blog have heard of the TED conference. If not, I don’t mean to shame you, but really! Go here and check it out, then come back.

So normally you’d expect to have to go to California *and* pay a large amount of money to be part of this experience. OK so the one coming up is in Oxford, so you’d still have to go all the way to *Oxford* (!) but perhaps more challengingly, pay a large amount of money to be part of this experience.

Yesterday, I got a call from Alex at Wieden & Kennedy to say that they were helping Nokia put together an event in a couple of weeks, live-streaming from the TED conference in Oxford at the w+k offices in E1 for FREE and did I know any people in the kind of creative & digital space who might be interested in going along.

That’s when I squealed.

So here is the sign up page for us on Wednesday 22nd – we’ve divided the day up into four slots to maximise the number of people who can take part. You might like to take a look at the schedule to see which slot you’d like most to book. Please don’t be greedy, I know tuttlers aren’t greedy.

There are also sessions on Tuesday afternoon, which is reserved for “Women in Tech” (yes *Women* only – no “Laydees”) and Thursday which is reserved for “Youth” ie people aged 16-25 Please don’t book slots on more than one day. Again, that will help make sure that as many people can come as possible.

Touring… a bit

As the summer gets *really* hot, I though I’d let you know that we’ve got some special Tuttle things coming up.

Firstly, our lovely hosts at the ICA have some paying guests on a couple of Fridays this month and so we’re being accommodated just down the road at Inn The Park This goes for tomorrow, 3rd July and the 24th. We did it last week and it was great.

Inevitably, the rumour mongers have started questioning our relationship with the ICA – well, move along, nothing to see here, we’re still all madly in love.

In addition, they are offering a special Tuttle membership of £30 for the year which gets you reductions on tickets, a discount in the bar and advance notice of cool stuff happening there. I think it’s a great way of saying thank you to them (remember too that they’re a charity themselves) for giving us a chunk of Central London real estate for free every week. All you have to do is go to the front desk and ask to join and say you want the Tuttle Club offer.


[UPDATE: Sorry, this one didn’t work out after all – we’ll be at the ICA as usual on Friday 10th ] On Friday 10th July we’re going to do Tuttle over at Channel 4 with a special guest – Manuel Castells author of The Rise of the Network Society – who has been influencing thinking about the social dynamics of the web for as long as we’ve had a web. More details on that soon – I expect we’ll have to be a bit more formal about an attendance list 🙂

With all of this to-ing and fro-ing I’d strongly suggest keeping an eye on a twitter search for #tuttle or at least to check before coming down to see exactly where we are.

Which reminds me that I’ve still done nothing about the tuttlebot – gaah!

At Christmas we did a screening at the ICA of Brazil, home of Harry Tuttle, our hero. It was lovely to do a screening especially with such a lovely film, but it occurred to me that it would be equally nice to do something midway through the year.

So I asked on twitter for suggestions and I got the following, which I’m presenting to you today as a poll. It will run for 10 days until Friday 19th and I’d just ask you to think carefully about what you’d like to see in the company of your fellow tuttlers one morning (probably) in July.


In the event of a tie, the winner will be decided by the respective proposers wrestling in mud.

Thanks Evernote!

Just to wrap up, as well as paying for coffee at last week’s Tuttle, the guys from Evernote have given us a group premium account. Thanks again!

The first stuff that’s up there is pictures that were taken on Friday but I’m interested to hear from you other ways that you can think of us using this lovely resource, whether it’s something you want me to do or something you’d like to get a group together to do – as always, the tuttle brain is open for new ideas 🙂

I’ve been chatting to Al Robertson at Tuttle for a while now about a consulting model and process that might emerge from the network in addition to but not in competition with the small and hypernimble JFDI crowd.

Al’s a great thinker, writer and strategist, he has the interestingness of the plannerly crowd that introduce me to him and he also knows how to put a good pitch together. So he sent me the following. I was tempted to fiddle with it, but I’ve gained just enough sense to know when I can’t add anything more, so I present here unedited, for your perusal, pontification and the picking of holes. I’m starting to try this out with potential clients – ideas and introductions to more folk who might find it useful are very welcome.

The Crowd – Tribe – Team process

Tuttle consultancy is rooted in the Crowd – Tribe –Team process. Before describing what that is, we should define a Crowd, a Tribe and a Team.

The most open, freeform way of organising a group of people is as a Crowd – that is, a disparate group of people with no clearly defined internal relationships, or external goals. A Crowd is a seed. It’s full of potential, but that potential needs attention and focus to help it grow.

When Crowd members start to engage with each other, they begin to discover others who share their particular interests, or they realise that they all share a common interest set. The Crowd then begins to assemble itself into one or more, more purposeful, Tribes. A Tribe is a loosely organised group of people, united by common passions or ambitions. A football crowd, for example, isn’t really a crowd at all; it’s a football tribe.

As Tribes develop, they become more organised, and their members become more action orientated. They begin to create clearly defined aims that spring from and support their shared passions or ambitions. In order to achieve these goals, Teams are formed. Individual Teams are created with specific goals in mind, and are assembled from Tribe members with the relevant expertise or interests.

The Tuttle Club began as a Crowd, but it has now become a Tribe. Within that Tribe, individual Teams are working to complete clearly defined tasks. One Team, for example, is putting together a book on Twitter, while another has been thinking about how Tuttle can use its tribal expertise to help other groups of people. While working through that process, we’ve realised that the Crowd – Tribe – Team process can be a very useful consultancy tool.

We begin by meeting you as a Crowd of highly experienced, highly creative and highly competent people. As we engage with your business, we work with you to create a series of Tribes – groups formed around your specific business issues, made up of those most engaged by them, and with experience most relevant to them. Finally, each Tribe becomes a Team, committed to delivering clearly defined solutions to specific, carefully considered issues.

That process evolves the traditional solution-orientated consultancy model, by understanding that asking the right questions is as important as developing effective solutions. So, it brings a very broad range of expertise to bear on the process of understanding and framing those questions. This helps our clients look in new directions for highly creative, highly original and highly effective responses to their business issues, and ensures that delivery of those responses is based on an in-depth understanding of those issues.

We’ve been asked to participate in a survey on how the current economic situation affects freelancers such as make up a goodly number of our friends and funsters. As a participant in the survey we will receive free access to the results when published so, I’d love you to contribute – of course, all data will be kept strictly confidential – only aggregate results are reported.

FreeAgentCentral is looking at how freelancers, small businesses and consultants feel about their finances. They aim to find out how freelancers in different industry, country and target-client markets are feeling the pinch, if indeed they are.

I’m just trying to tie down with them when they can sponsor the coffee one Friday soon, but as they have this survey out until 15th, I thought we might be able to help in advance.

It should only take a minute, and there’s a chance for you to win one of 3 prizes (Nintendo Wii, iPod Touch & iPod Shuffle). So go tell ’em what you think.

Thank you, dear tuttlers, as ever, for your time and participation!

This Friday, 17th April, we’ll be sponsored by Imagini both for general coffee drinking (Thanks Imagini!) but also with an opportunity for 6 people to get involved more directly with what they’re doing.

To explain:

“The basis on the session on Friday will be focused on the alpha launch of the VisualDNA Shop. These are widget-based ‘shops’ that sit on a blog and take visitors through a short quiz with picture-based answers. The answers build a VisualDNA profile, which is used to create personalised suggestions for items to be purchased. It’s a revenue generator for the blogger, and can be tailored to suit the focus of the site.

The objective would be to invite blog owners from various verticals (aligning with our travel, photography, entertainment and mobile VDNA Shops) to build a VDNA Shop and start using during the session. Each blog owner will be guided by someone at Imagini who will have a laptop to work from.”

If you want to take part (there will be a small reward to say thank you) then sign up on the special list on the wiki page this week.

As well as this little bolt-on, which will be happening downstairs, I’m sure there’ll be someone from Imagini up in the bar to give people a briefer look at the new features if they’re interested.

Thanks to Sonia Pignorel from Imagini and Vikki Chowney from Six Degrees for helping set this up.

This is the beginning of a call for developers, but I probably need some help fleshing out the spec first.

It started with the sign-up page on the wiki falling into disuse – maybe it will recover, but I think it’s served it’s purpose – most people just turn up, or they don’t.

However there’s still a need for information about who’s going. Some people want reassurance that there’s going to be *someone* else there. Others may want to know which people that they know are going. It’s also useful to know after the event who was there so that you can follow up conversations or connect in a non-spammy way with people you didn’t get to see.

The non-spammy bit is very important, I want the information to be available, but I want to maintain the trust of people who come to twitter that their data won’t be harvested by unscrupulous folk. Of course it’s been possible to snaffle data from the start using the wiki, but it doesn’t seem that anyone’s bothered yet.

So I want you to treat this post as a draft specification for a new tool, a bot for which the principal user interface is twitter. I imagine it working like an irc-bot. I send messages in a pre-specified form with certain parameters and I receive a message back which either confirms an action I’ve taken or gives me some information (where that information won’t fit into a tweet it will need to be stored somewhere readable and linked to).

The core functions I have imagined so far are:

Going – defaults to adding you to the list of people coming to the next tuttle but with optional date parameter, returns a confirmation that your message has been recieved.

WhoIsGoing – returns a list of people already signed up, records (somewhere – where?) the fact that you asked.

IsTuttleOn – returns “yes” except when it doesn’t 🙂

WhatTime – returns 10am except when it doesn’t

WhatIsTuttle – returns standard description. Can take username as a parameter so you can let someone know (for the scenarios where a n00b asks “dude, wtf is a tuttle?”

WhoWent – takes date parameter, returns list of people who signed up.

You get the idea.

As a user, can you think of other functions you’d like to use? Can you think through the implications of such functions and let me know if there’s something stupid in there? Let’s throw this around for a little while – I’m particularly interested in understanding ways in which it could be simplified or abstracted from for use by other meetups or else extended for us to perform other functions than Friday meetups.

As a developer, what are the holes? What else do you need to know to be able to start building a prototype? I’m language or environment agnostic at the moment and would like outputs to be available in multiple forms, not just the existing wiki. Beyond the twitter API you might consider getting this bot to talk to the pbwiki API (perhaps “Going” writes some details from your twitter profile to a wiki page) or you might look at it talking to the Eventbrite API or whatever.

I hope it goes without saying that all parts of the development process should be Open Source – you should be prepared to share your code with others for the benefit of the Tuttle community and anyone else who wishes to use it.

(also, apologies, I’m forgetting to say thankyou to @yellowpark, @evangineer and @robocallaghan for helping me get my thinking this far)