Is it just me or is everything nice?

Russell has prompted me into putting something up about my interesting2007 talk. I'd come to the decision that it was a sort of live experience that couldn't really be recreated online. That makes it sound like Robbie Williams or something. Not quite. But just saying here are the slides and this is what I said didn't really sum it up.

So, saying that, I've put the slides onto Slideshare (which I've never used before - hope it's okay) and the notes onto Flickr. This is the more of less the jist of it - maybe not exactly what I said, but what I meant to say. There's an underlying theme which Eugenie from We Are What We Do said better earlier in the day - a belief that small actions can change the world.

I'm interested in stuff. All kinds of stuff. I get this from my dad. He has always had a series of peculiar interests. He's just joined the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. Being interested in stuff led me to be a librarian and being a librarian led me into I like because I spent a lot of time helping people to use the web. I wanted to know how it worked and how websites could be better designed so I wanted a space to practice. And the only thing I could think of to write about what what I like. People talk about blogging like it's broadcasting - "it's all about ego" but for me it's like librarianship, looking across everything and picking out the best bits the putting somewhere that people can find them.

That sounds simple, but why is it so shameful? There's a complicated and unwritten hierarchy of things it's okay to like. It's okay to be into classic cars and wine, but not sweet wrappers or shopfronts or postcards. This is confusing when they're all things that are quietly doing their job. They were designed for a specific purpose and they carry it out in a beautiful way. I used to look after a special collection full of cook books and learnt that one cook book won't tell you much, but put them together in a sequence and you can see everything that happened in society - the economy, family size, kitchen technology, cultural influences, health concerns, etc. So with the things I like I'm not sure what they all mean but think it's important to collect them because one day someone might be able to pick out these patterns. And collecting these small, everyday things seems even more important because they represent real life.

I like is very much based on real life - travelling about the country trying to keep ourselves and two wee boys amused. We end up in lots of places that are cheap and warm like old cafes and museums, and these places have real atmosphere. The overall picture is a world that isn't going to hell in a handbasket but quietly surviving. And lots of other people see life like this too and document it on sites like Flickr where there are groups for everything and people are indulging their passions.

People on Flickr, and the web in general have good manners. There's a lot of encouragement - nice comments and people inviting other people to join in. It reminds me of growing up in Glasgow in the 80s. The 80s were quite an ugly decade and then came lots of c86 bands like The Pastels who weren't musical in a conventional sense but were really fresh and charming. They were very individual with a distinctive, immediate voice. The whole scene had little to do with being successful or making money but everything to do with making a stand against a mainstream culture that wasn't working for a lot of people. Within this scene were the fanzine writers, often anonymous, who documented it all and spread it around. That's the sort of thing blogs remind me of - people being nice and enthusiastic and supportive isn't anything new. Just basic human behaviour.

The support I've had has encouraged me to set up Nothing To See Here to build an alternative tourist map of the world. It could only work through being collaborative and I'm still amazed and delighted that people are willing to write for it for nothing. It's meant to be represent things and places that some people find beautiful and interesting - faded seaside resorts, power stations and strange attractions like The Knitted Village in Lancaster. A team of (old?) ladies and men made this, for no apparent reason. It's the sort of initiative that couldn't have made its way into a business case or past a commissioning editor but it's a totally amazing thing - made with a lot of love and a lot of care. They really went to town, knitting little beach huts and even a funicular railway. My impression is there are a lot of people knitting vilages at the moment, because they've got the space and encouragement to do it. And this is a very good thing.

So in the spirit of this I've made postcards, which is something I never thought I could do but I had the help of Davidthedesigner who helped me out for nothing. There is a nice ecosystem of people with different skills coming together to make things, and this is where it's getting interesting. To summarise:

  • Everything is interesting
  • Everyone has a place
  • Do something YOU like
  • Find your own voice
  • Make something that you're happy with
  • Share it

Lloyd Davis drew what it sounded like and there's a great drawing of the whole day.

Well, interesting2007 was a blast. I liked so much that it's hard to know where to start - Rhodri Marsden playing Wichita Lineman on a saw, Dave Funkypancake's breakneck-speed tour of London's pavements, Tom's knots, Andrew's swimming, Deb's listening, Richard's taster tape, Chris's fantastic live cookery demo and Matt's patron saints. Away from the speakers there were scones and smoothies and beautiful things from the nice chaps at Folksy, as well as perfect surroundings in Conway Hall, dedicated to ethics and free speech.

It's being blogged and flickrd like crazy and everyone seems to be in agreement that it was a fab day out. It was nice to meet those of you that I met. Sorry I didn't meet more. Blogging creates new etiquette dilemmas sometimes and being there was a bit like being at the end of Fahrenheit 451 when you know people more for the works they represent than for what they look like. I quite like that, but it does make it hard to find the people you want to speak to. So thanks Russell and everyone else involved for a fabulous day. Here's to many more.

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