Thursday, 25 April 2013

London's Technology Scene and Local Community

Social media is transforming London's underground society.  My experience of using meetup.com to build a community around shared interest in technology demonstrates both the impact of social media and the ground swell of technology in London's underground society.

There are many fashions, tribes and fads that come and go in London.  Starting as underground swells and currents some rise up to the mainstream and perhaps the rest of the country.  London leads the nation in this respect.  Spotting these undercurrents let alone becoming part of them is a skill, an industry.  One such trend attracting hipsters and turning them into geeks.

Technology

Silicon Roundabout and technology entrepreneurship is being pushed by the establishment however it is surrounded by an underground society of hackers, makers and technologists busily chattering and meeting up all over the capital.  'Proof' of its underground nature may be found by looking at the use of language - specifically the word 'hacker'.  A quick search of London's daily free newspapers Metro and Evening Standard throws up lots of negative use of the term within subjects such as hacktivism, arrests, theft.  However the 'underground' version of a hacker is much more positive, creative and popular.  A search on meetup.com shows a host of positive communities surrounding 'hacker'.


When is our press going to catch up with us and start writing positive stories about what's really going on with technology in our city?

Local Community

The social media phenomenon is enabling global communication as never before, however there strong of trend to use internet reach to create local communities that meet up physically, face-to-face and using real names.  This isn't a backlash, it's reuse of social media within a refocus to the human need for local community.

Social media amplifies the voice of individuals, extends the reach of communities and makes neighbours out of people with the same interests across the world.  Local community sites like meetup.com take this and bring it back to face-to-face, local communities.

Meetup

I attended a few meetups during my transition from corporate employment, through unemployment to self-employed and met many interesting people, got some great advice and inspiring ideas.  Not everything leads to something but it was all stimulating and satisfying.  It was during one of these meetups (Internet of Things) I had a conversation with Andy Kilner and ended up organising the Raspberry Pint London meetup.

The process of creating a new meetup was straight forward and I paid the $12/month fee.  There was a bit of a hitch where Meetup HQ deleted my creation:


Your Meetup Group, Raspberry Pint, was brought to our attention as specifically promoting a product, so we conducted a limited inquiry into the content.

We've determined that it's in violation of our Group Community Guidelines and Terms of Service. As a result of our inquiry, we've closed your Meetup Group and refunded your Organizer Dues.

For more information, you can review Meetup's Group Community Guidelines here: http://meetu.ps/pz6NM

In the Terms of Service, Meetup reserves the right to remove members, Groups and content at our discretion.


A read of the guidelines, a tweak to the group and reapplying wasn't too difficult.  It was good to see that Meetup HQ are protecting the purity of their site by doing things like this.  Here was my argument for my proposed group.


Thank you for your message and apologies for my transgression.  I am not affiliated with the Raspberry Pi organisation which is a registered charity http://www.raspberrypi.org/about that doesn't seek donations in the traditional sense.  Within the text that link goes to there is a paragraph that I would like to highlight:

"We’ve had enormous interest, support and help from the educational community, and we’ve been delighted and a little humbled by the number of enquiries from agencies and people far away from our original targets for the device. Developing countries are interested in the Raspberry Pi as productivity devices in areas that simply can’t afford the power and hardware needed to run a traditional desktop PC; hospitals and museums have contacted us to find out about using the Raspberry Pi to drive display devices. Parents of severely disabled kids have talked to us about monitoring and accessibility applications; and there seem to be a million and one people out there with hot soldering irons who want to make a robot."

I congratulate you on maintaining the purity of the meetup mission.  I hope that it wasn't the wording I chose in my over-enthusiasm for Raspberry Pi and Meetup concepts was at fault and that you could help me meet your guidelines and encourage this community of interest.

In my mind I can compare the Raspberry Pint group to those centred around Windows software e.g. London Windows 8 user group, Windows 8 Developers.  The Raspberry Pi is a bit of a phenomenon for education, hobbyists and many other groups.  There is nothing else like it out there at the moment sadly and it could do for the next generation what the BBC B, ZX Spectrum, Commodore etc. did for mine.  If there were similar products out there there would be no reason not to include it within the community I am trying to create - a community of hackers, teachers or those that are inspired to get into technology by the accessibility, cheapness and community open source basis of the Raspberry Pi.

Could you please help me understand if it is the wording I chose for the Raspberry Pint group or a fundamental flaw with the Raspberry Pint idea?

My new group (Raspberry Pint London) passed the Meetup HQ test and I announced my first meetup.  In under a week there were 60+ members, 30 attendees for the first event and I'd booked a room in a pub.  So quick and easy to form a local community using social media.  So quick and easy to get into London's underground society.