Thursday 31 March 2011

Open Letter - Liverpool's digital community

write this letter to you, if you have ever attended, participated, contributed, organised or re-tweeted about any of the events that make up Liverpool's digital 'scene'.

I have thoroughly enjoyed being an active participant in our community and have taken on several roles during the last two years, leading, assisting and just plain turning up to a wide range of events. Those I haven't made it to physically I've championed and watched as they have grown and developed.
(Twestivals, tweet ups, ignite, social media cafe, TedX, mashed libraries, dev days, hacks and hackers, cathedral valley, oggcamps, how-why-diy, fabcamp, maker nights/hackspace, howduino, barcamp, geekup, Liverpool Wordpress Interest Group, Linux user group,  have I missed any?)

Lately I've been thinking about where it's all going. Yeah, it's great that we get together often, drink coffee/beer and have amazing social events on where we also learn stuff but I've begin to wonder about the future and I find I'm asking myself a few questions;

What are we trying to do?
Have we got a goal?
How can we sustain this activity going forward?
Do we want to?

Given that I don't have all the answers I felt it would be timely to write my thoughts down and ask what you think.

I feel that as a community we have huge potential, that we can (and are already) doing great things - but with an agreed vision that gives clarity to us, and to our audiences we can achieve much more.

So - what can you do to help?

We (the collective organisers of said events) would like you to tell us what you think. We don't make you fill out evaluation forms every time we meet, and therefore we're working on a premise that you like what we're doing, but that may be a huge assumption. Huge.

If you could reply to this blog post (or any others that are saying the same thing) or tweet @livdigcom with answers to the following, we'd be very grateful:

1. What are we doing well that you'd like to see us continue with?

2. What should we stop doing, and why?

3. What should we start to do, and why?

4. How do you want to be involved? (Are you happy to turn up, speak, volunteer, lead?)

If you're responding about the general list of activities, great - if you're being a bit more specific about certain events, please let us know which ones. 

This information will help us to consider the BIG questions up above, and think about where we go from here.

Thanks for listening,
Mandy Phillips @m8nd1 | Neil Morrin @defnetmedia |  Adrian McEwen @amcewen  | Dan Lynch @methoddan

Ella Wredenfors @runpaintrunrun  | Andy Goodwin @franticuk  | Andy Freeney @technofreen

Stu Robarts @sturobarts  | John McKerrell @mcknut

Replies to @livdigcom if you're a person of not many words!


  1. It’s a shame to see such a thoughtful and articulate posting that was distributed so widely have no responses. At least on the day I came to it.
    In terms of point 3, I really wonder why Liverpool is not doing more to protect its digital sector. There’s a plethora of organisations and networks gazing at the consciousness aspects of the creative sector, but too few grappling with infrastructure.
    Liverpool is incredibly wired up as a city, more than most. It's on the North Atlantic digital Pipe, It has the cutting edge dark fibre of the Marconi site, even more black fibre under its streets, the ULGRID, the AIMES project, and more beside, so why isn't this being used more progressively, and indeed aggressively in marketing terms.
    In addition Liverpool has a rich and successful film and TV production sector, but it lacks post production facilities, So why do we watch other places develop digital infrastructure that may in time see our sector diminish.
    And as for media in general, this is widely seen as the most important influencer on society today, so why isn’t Liverpool, as a city with a rich past as a global ideas hub, doing more to develop strategies in this area? Perhaps it cant?
    A few years ago Consett was proposing one of the largest film studios in Europe and I asked the question to people involved in the sector, when did Consett have a film industry? The answer then, as now, is tomorrow. If Liverpool sits back in this sector, its future is behind it.
    Colin Dyas
    Made in Liverpool Ltd

  2. Thanks for mentioning the WordPress Interest Group!

    @Colin I simply wasn't aware of a lot of the thing you mention. The hard part is knowing what can be done to improve the situation and then finindg realistic ways for agencies and members of the digital community in Liverpool to get involved.

    To answer the questions posited in the blog post:

    1. What are we doing well that you'd like to see us continue with?

    Just keeping the meetups going and well attended is hard work but we've seen great attendence and enthusiasm for the WordPress Group so far thanks mainly to always offering a talk followed by Q&A which has proven to be very valuable to our attendees so far. Free biccies probably help too :)

    2. What should we stop doing, and why?

    We shouldn't stop anything, it's all progress.

    3. What should we start to do, and why?

    As I see it the digital community is a little fractured in so far as there few of us who are aware of everything that is going on. I think a Liverpool Digitals hub would be a great place to start - a solid brand with the aim of providing a single portal to all the groups in the city and place for those groups to collaborate on some events.

    I also think charging a little for events on occasion can really help in terms of the quality and professionalism of an event - just look at the popularity of the MadLab #BLAB nights in Manchester. For £5 a ticket you get to see two great speakers and drink loads of free beer provided by local companies sponsoring the event. The end result is increased attendance and it attracts newcomers into the fold who wouldn't attend a free event assuming it'd be rubbish.

    4. How do you want to be involved?

    We'll continue to run the WordPress group and try to grow it in the coming months. In terms of the wider scene I think the next step is to do the legwork of getting a brand+portal together that will advertise the local groups and events that can be marketed to local players in the industry much better than each group can do individually. Think for digital.