I am returned from Antwerp and the 2 days of tech, sessions, chocolate, smiles, laughter and a beer called "Bollocka" ... yes I attended BLUG 2012
I got home yesterday and have had 24 hours to review in my own mind the event and the one word that resonates in my memory is "community".
I can say without fear of contradiction that there were no negatives to report. Theo and the team of willing helpers put on a fantastic 2 days of super speakers with lots of cutting edge tip, tricks and whizzbang demos to share. Sponsors who where happy to chat and while there to "pimp" their products to the masses did so in a way that integrated seamlessly with the flow of the conference.
As I wandered around joining in some conversations, listening to others and generally getting in the way I noticed many smiles and quite a bit of laughter ... and that always does the soul good :-)
I got to meet up with old friends, share a beer and a meal or two with some chums I have only virtually ever been in contact with and I made a fair few new chums, there were even some who hadn't heard about the "Grapefruit Pip" in my medical past.
I even managed to bring down the tone of the conference by being rude about IE in my session about Design, I am still surprised that Theo felt I would be good enough to put up against the likes of Paul Mooney, Gab Turtle, Rob Novak, Femke Goedhart and the rest of the stellar cast of IBM Champions and the great and the good. Having said that my audience stayed awake and seemed to enjoy themselves. I have promised I will get the slide deck to Theo as soon as possible once I add some depth to the bits I had to skip over at the end. I may try and convince Warren Elsmore that I should reprise it at UKLUG in September .... ah problem there ... he was in the audience ... I may have to resort to bribery.
Theo ... a MASSIVE Thank you from this one attendee and speaker - you and your team ROCK!
Now the vaguely anti-social bit...
Needless to say there were many side bar chats about things of great import and one of the recurring themes was this whole "Social" concept. Now it may be that I am too old to be impressed by the hyperbole of marketing departments or it may be the fact that I trundle through the world slightly out of phase with everyone else ... whatever the reason the social "prefix" elicits a shudder in my soul ... so it was very interesting to hear what was said by the great, the good and the opinionated (that would by definition include me) and I found that I am actually closer to the idea they are trying to sell than I thought I was.
I have always maintained (and did at 4am in the lobby bar) that we humans are by nature "social" we do not need to be taught how to be social set us down in a room with coffee, cookies and decent wifi and we will get social pretty damn quick!
The problem I have always had is we are not only social we are tribal. 50,000 years of being tribal is hard to get past. While we are happy to share within the confines of our tribe, sharing with the other tribes particularly those we dislike comes hard.
25 years of being a handmaiden of the corporate Mammon has taught me that the tribal warfare of the cubicle is at times more cold blooded and viscous than anything Nicolo Maciavelli could have dreamed up even after a late night veal parmigiana and two bottles of Soave!
It will take more than a corporate mind set change, it will take a fundamental shift in the mind set of the people within the organization. To use the playground as a metaphor, that nice chap from Marketing might let the sales team play with his ball at dinner break, but when the bell rings for home time he will take his ball and go home.
In various conversations I learned nothing to disabuse me of this point of view. Don't get me wrong I think the idea of Social Business is a great idea and tools like Connections will facilitate companies great and small to do business in a new exciting way ... but ... engagement means breaking the barriers between tribes both internal and external to the organization, transparency means that your own very personal f**k ups get a much broader airing a scarey thought for most plebs in cubicles the world over particularly if being nimble means that things change too quickly for the human part of the process to keep up.
In my experience to date talking to my users about Collaboration these are the stumbling blocks to adoption of "social" and these barriers have been there since the advent of Teamroons and Quickplaces.
Whether we swim in the relatively placid private lake of our inbox or we are kayaking in the torrents of activity streams we are still human, we still live in tribes ... that being said post BLUG and chatting with the likes of Chris Crummey , Femke Goedhart and John Beck I have moved from a Cynic-in-Chief-anti-social-mutterer to being almost-convinced that it might actually work as sold. I still have my "what-abouts" listed above but I now think that those of us at the sharp end of collaboration can make the difference that will at the end of the day make it work.
That being said I may still be on a good beer, chocolate and good craic high :-)
As always LUGs are like that, they take you places you don't think you can go and make you challenge your point of view. If you haven't been to one, I encourage you to seek out your nearest one and go! I would of course love you to come to UKLUG in September and let Warren Elsmore and the team challenge you ;-)