18 highlights from the 140 Conference

Yesterday I attended the 140 Character Conference in London, where I met up with Bill Gibbon, Neil Adam and Bill Lord.

From left to right: Neil Adam, Bill Lord, Bill Gibbon, Terry Freedman

Here are 18 highlights, any one of which could be the start of a rich conversation. I think if you take the volume and variety of the presentations overall, you would have to conclude that any schooling which does not address matters such as etiquette in, and use of, Twitter and other social media is not really a fully rounded education at all. Anyway, here are my ‘takeaways’.

I love the idea of Buy A Credit. Donate £1 and you get to have your name listed on the credits of a film. The money goes towards financing said film. What an ingenious idea. @buyacredit.

In the eracism slot, Kyra Gaunt told us that racism gives us the opportunity to be courageous.

Apparently, one fifth of businesses in the UK are on Twitter.

Several people, such as Stephen Fry and the lady from SB Buzz reminded us that Twitter is a relationship channel, not a sales channel.

Alex Bellinger told the story of a high street florist which engages its customers with Twitter. The plasma screen in its shop, displaying Twitter conversations, attracts curiosity, and then converts. This would probably be a good tactic to adopt in a school setting, both as a way of engaging other teachers and, on open days, parents.

I liked hearing from Dean Landsman and Dean Meyers that an augmented reality system tried out in New York provided the information that, in a particular direction, the nearest tube was 3,000 miles away. This is almost science fiction: think of the great creative writing you would see if you used this anecdote as a starting point.

In the musicians’ slot, Manny Norte started a sentence with the words, “M and M comes from an age…”  That was only 5 years ago! He went on to say that if M and M were starting out now, he would almost certainly use Twitter to engage with fans, as part of the marketing strategy.

I have to say that, in the ‘brands’ session, talk of ‘humanising the brand’ all sounded very cynical to me. Why not just be upfront and admit that Twitter is part of the marketing mix and be done with it?

JP Rangaswami, chief scientist at BT, asked why we couldn’t subscribe to a car park’s Twitter feed. Brilliant idea: you’d know which car parks are full in advance. After all, Tower Bridge has a Twitter feed and sends out alerts when the bridge is about to go up.

Josie Fraser gave an excellent talk about retweets, followed by some fake stats. I didn’t realise: RTs are a rarity apparently.

If you’re a consultant, maybe you miss the buzz and gossip of the office? Federico Grosso suggested that Twitter is actually a gigantic water cooler. Nice idea! Does that mean, then, that home-working is now not only technically possible, but feasible from a ‘human’ point of view too? A question for business studies students perhaps?

Some of the more ‘switched-on’ police forces, both here and abroad, have used Twitter to find missing persons and murder witnesses. Chief Inspector Mark Payne explained how using Twitter as a two-way information stream allowed the police to be deployed in the most efficient way during demonstrations, and to keep the public informed of what they were doing, and why. Question for citizenship students: is this a step towards policing with people rather than the policing of people?

The education session was interesting. James Clay stated the obvious (which is often necessary) when he said that “We need to get educational leaders to understand the value of social media.”

I was impressed by Ruth Barnett, of Sky, who emphasised the need for integrity when quoting from sources like the ‘Twitterverse’. For example, when covering the recent troubles in Iran, Sky apparently did its best to ensure that the tweeters it obtained information from were people who had already been reporting on it before it became the hot topic.

I also thought what she said about the challenges of networking with China was very interesting: they use a different character set and different networks. I’d also add that they probably have a profoundly different world view. All cultures differ, of course, which is what makes all this so interesting and, ultimately, rewarding.

Vikki Chowney made the point that, at the G20 conference, live blogging was difficult because of the volume of data being thrown at the audience. Twitter became, in effect, a tool for live blogging. That’s exactly what goes on at many conferences these days, of course.

She said that Twitter closed the gap between politics and people.

Finally, the author Thembisa Mshaka listed the differences between celebrity and stardom; for instance, a star has a tireless work ethic. She said, in a way reminiscent of Malcolm McLaren’s talk at the Handheld Learning Conference, that mediocrity becomes the order of the day because it is so easy to get away with.


Handheld Learning Keynotes Now Available

Great news: the keynotes from the first day proper of this year's Handheld Learning Conference are now available. Here are the URLs.

Set aside a few hours to watch Graham Brown-Martin's provocative introductory talk followed by four highly stimulating lectures from guest speakers, including one from Malcolm McLaren.

Graham Brown-Martin

James Paul Gee

Yvonne Roberts

Zenna Atkins

Malcolm McLaren