I’ve called this one “On Life’s Path” because these tweeple are those who I’ve met/got to know primarily as a result of Twitter and social media. It’s been one that I’ve been meaning to write for quite some time because I wanted to pay tribute to those who started following Puffles in those early days. Nice therefore to upload this post after meeting in real life two lovely people (Karen Melchior from the Embassy of the Kingdom of Denmark) and the only New Yorker Puffles has met, @Amerimatryoshka – who just happened to be stopping off in London over night en route to far away places.
In part, this post is also a riposte to those that say social media diminishes human relationships and isolates people from other human contact. (It can if it means you choose not to get out of the house!) This was a point made by Baroness Deech at a Hansard Society event I attended – which was subsequently shredded by Jon Worth (who I first met at the Parliament Government and Civil Service course with the National School of Government, who also blogs here and who also was around this evening).
At that same event I also met the Vanessa Furey (@_BrownEyedGirl) who recently put up a fiery (and much-needed) defence of working in the “not-for-profit” sector after a loud yummy-mummy type voiced to all and sundry that working in the sector must be easy. (I disagreed with yummy-mummy type too).
Just as with that event, I also put person to Twitter account when Alice Bell came to speak about all things science in Cambridge. It was at this same event that I bumped into the lovely Sarah Castor-Perry (@ScienceSponge) who I’d not seen in over a year. Sarah introduced me to the Naked Scientists – people who combine science and humour to poke fun at politicians and myths. Ever heard anyone describe something as being as useful as a chocolate teapot? (i.e. useless because chocolate teapots supposedly melt). These are the sort of people who go through the process of MAKING a chocolate teapot and testing at what point it ceases to be useless – i.e. one that you can make a cuppa from. Thus they disproved the saying that chocolate teapots are useless because they made one that you can make a cup of tea from. Ergo, not useless.
It was also through science-related tweeting that I stumbled across Michelle Brook. This means that whenever I hit something that is so complicated that I can’t understand it, I have enough of a following in the science world to call in the experts.
Having received a tip-off from @Penners_ about Tweetcamp, I met Chris Green who gave some excellent insights into how newspapers work, and Sue Llewellyn who as you know is amazing. It was at a gathering hosted by @KerryatDell where I met both @Penners_ and Shirley Ayres (who was speechless to find that I was the one looking after Puffles on Twitter). I always find it interesting to see how people react when they meet me for the first time having followed Puffles for quite some time. At a social media gathering organised by Sam Smith and friends, I also met Joanna Geary then of The Times, bumped into Jon Worth for the first time since the National School training course, probably gave Mike Bracken a mild heart attack by introducing him to an audience without asking him in advance during a session being run by Tim Ireland. It was also at the same gathering that I stumbled across the awesomeness that is Chris Osborne‘s data mapping. Again, same presentational tactic as the Naked Scientists, just with transport data. i.e. “Oooh! A politician has said something controversial that doesn’t appear to be backed up by abstract theoretical concepts such as facts! Shall we see what the data says?“
Earlier this year I stumbled across Sarah Giles who was busking in Cambridge. She kept on cropping up with some brilliant acoustic arrangements of some well-known tracks as well as her own numbers. Having recently completed lower-sixth, she’s taking time out to concentrate on music and performing – having recently spent some time in professional studios. The results are impressive. Have a look at what she’s done here.
In the spring of 2011 I made the conscious decision of organising things that would bring Puffles’ followers together. The main reason was to try and strengthen the bonds that were growing between the small but growing band of followers at the time. Essentially I wanted (and want) people to develop friendships with each other that have more in common that simply following a baby dragon fairy on Twitter. This is where the London pub lunches and PufflesCamp came about.
The two people who were key to PufflesCamp in Brighton were @QofE - who has kindly hosted me in her flat on two separate occasions (for which I am extremely grateful for) and @Sandyd68 – whose efforts ensured that we had a venue for the day. The ‘organising visit’ I made prior to the weekender was also where I met Marina Pepper – a veteran of campaigns.
I was genuinely astonished by the number of people who both came down (and overcame significant obstacles) to PufflesCamp, as well as those who followed online. These included @LatentExistence (whose message boards allowed us to organise the event) @Anonymoosh, @ThatSoph, @Glittrgirl, (one for knitters out there) @TheNatFantastic, @Ntlk, (who with Sam helped with the challenge of trying to make the venue’s wifi work) @HelenMew, @ItsMothersWork, @Kaygee, @Frances_Coppola, @LisaAnsell, @Taboacid, @SeanCourt, @PatLockley all came along to some or all, and I also met @NyNyFlower at the climate camp that was taking place in Lewes. (There are a few names I’ve missed so please could they make themselves known so I can add them!)
In terms of the pub gatherings, these have grown in terms of their attendance to the extent that our normal Sunday place sometimes struggles to keep us all in one place. Numbers have ranged from six to 18, with an eclectic mix of people and backgrounds. What I like about these is that there’s all the diversity combined with a similar desire to make the world a much better place than it currently is. A kind of ‘putting the world to rights over a Sunday roast’.
@Ellwynnnnn @Stavvers @Jedweightman @MediocreDave @SeanJOHalloran and @Daninayyar are all active campaigners in the mould of Marina Pepper – i.e. they get out and about doing stuff, in particular fighting for the causes of those who regularly get a kicking from the tabloid press. That takes a level of courage that many of us don’t have. @JacLong @RichmondBridge @DottySparkles @Frances_Coppola @ThatSoph @NickMHalliday @A_Y_Alex @BitFuzzy have all come along too, throwing their ideas into the mixing pot. @AndyJamesHicks @Penners_ @SaxBenD @SaadaabJanab @Marxroadrunner have ensured table talk isn’t all about politics – all supporting a variety of football clubs.
Closer to home, @TheBigShow1976 is an old workmate who is one of the biggest and hardest people I know – who also doesn’t take any prisoners. In the same workplace, my former boss @PositiveSarah (who picked me up at a real low point several years back and who has always kept an eye from afar ever since – for which I’ll always be grateful) came through her own set of challenges to unleash a wave of creativity that means she currently gets to go to nice places and write articles about them. But believe me, getting there was no walk in the park. There are a handful of former workmates/metaphorical rocks on Twitter who tweet anonymously (or not at all) and keep low profiles. You know who you are and I am grateful for your support during those incredibly intense years in Whitehall.
Also in Cambridge I met Fi Douglas, Dan Stagger, Liz Stevenson, Catherine Howe, Richard Taylor, Lisa Evans, Michelle Ide-Smith (one of the most clued-up people in local government as far as digital media is concerned) Ceri Jones and Sam Smith both recently and sometimes regularly. It was Liz who pointed me in the direction of the CultureHackEast event where I met Clare Denham of CreativeFront. Although I felt that event could have been more of a success, I wrote a blog piece on the back with some feedback for the follow-up event in 2012.
There are some people who I’ve met in previous lives. TV’s Liz Fraser is one of them. She won’t remember it because I was an anonymous shop worker at the time trying to make my postgraduate studies pay while she was trying to do the shopping with young children in tow. Not easy. Barry Gardiner MP is a former Cambridge person – former in that he used to live close by and, before he moved to Brent to contest one of the seats in the 1997 general election (which he won that seat) he would run a bottle stall at the fetes and fairs held by my local primary school. Everything came to a standstill when he bellowed “And another winner on the bottle stall!” He’s mildly spoken in Parliament but when he shouts you sure as hell hear about it!
I’m not planning on going through a list of Whitehall celebrities/big beasts who I’ve bumped into – mainly because they’ve met lots of people and there was little that was unique about how I met them.
Since PufflesCamp I have also made some journeys to visit people and/or have met up with people who have been in Cambridge (or London – as today) for various reasons. Jennifer Jones is one such person. She came down to Cambridge for a social media conference and I found her to be at the cutting edge of her field in social media – at the tip of the sharp end that some of her compatriots in her field are yet to find the cutting edge.
There are some people who have left me completely mesmerised by their loveliness and awesomeness. Dr Natalie Silvey is one of them – someone whose head and heart are in the right places and has the drive and energy to do the sort of good stuff that I could only dream of. There are few people whose presence can leave me speechless – which as those people who’ve known me for some time know is quite an achievement. Natalie is one of those people. Staying on the medics theme, I also met up with Dr AnneMarie Cunningham in that same week, again a pleasure and privilege.
Before then I was up in Manchester for a Media Trust training course which allowed me to meet up with @Equinova2010 (a friend from my civil service days. Being close to Liverpool meant that I was able to meet up with @Magiczebras and @Millie_Epona for the first time too. (Last minute hickups meant that a couple of others due to join us were unable to make it.) Prior to that, I wandered down to Bristol on a major detour from a visit to Whitehall teacamp people (see Public Service Titans). I needed a break from Cambridge. Thus was lucky to meet up with @Ruthie_Dee, @TheNatFantastic and one of the wise sages of Bristol @clogmuso – who is one for any public sector computing tweeple to follow.
I’ve stumbled across a number of politicians and political activists, of whom you can find in the first two of Puffles’ Twitter Lists (scroll to the end). I still see myself as being party-politically neutral and have been watching politics from various distances to know that you can still have political differences while getting on splendidly just as having identical politics and hating each other. As Bob Crow said at the first “Coalition of Resistance” conference in autumn 2010, if the left cannot unite to fight against the current set of cuts, it cannot unite full stop.
There are still a whole host of people who at some stage I’d like to gather in one big place to meet. There are some Cambridge-related people who I feel I should have met by now but haven’t – including Ellie Stoneley, Eleanor Turney, Louisa Loveluck, Richard Johnson (the Mr Onions version) @Radegund, Chris Howell, Steve Lintott, Caroline Byewater, Jules Bradley and Leila Khalifa. Also Hugh Morris for being the first journalist to put Puffles into print. Alice Kershaw squeezes in being in the same county, as does Emma Jackson Stuart.
Other people and accounts I’ve followed & would love to bring into a big cosy gathering include:
- Justine Stephen, Jill Rutter, Liz Carolan and Cath Haddon from the Institute for Government, Nicola Gilbert of the NCVO, and Toby Blume of Urban Forum
- The people behind the WeLoveLocalGovernment
- The five green giants that are Kristofer Keane,Gary Dunion, Derek Wall, John Nicol and Oxford Kevin who always seem to be in my timeline keeping me up to speed on green issues along with the People and Planet crew above – also add Caroline Russell to that list.
- Daniel Furr – one of the few consistently liberal tweeters – as is PoliticalParry
- Karen Smyth and @Cirisse because they are the only people who give a Northern Irish perspective on anything in Puffles’ Twitterfeed
- SpringGreens whose tumblr account is my main source of design-art-food.
- @PapertimeLady whose Youtube diaries still make me wish I could produce something like that – or at least have the courage to.
- Anna Hedge – for being a far better economist than me
- Alex Cobham – for being far more clued up on campaigning for a financial transactions tax
- Nora Daly – digital curator at the British Library – think of the power that will be unleashed when the digitisation of that collection is complete!
- @Selkie – for everything #Hackgate
- DMReporter – for convincing telly news that he was the real thing and reading out spoofs as news. He’s that good!
- @Rattlecans (who I have met) along with her Scottish compatriots Isobel Glenelg, @SuziRuk, @Hapsci
- Louise Restell, BroughtonLass, Mike Galloway & Mirrorsandstuff for being the first to adopt baby dragon fairies.
- Jules Clark, @CreativeCrip for standing up for causes that others shy away from
- Steve Maclean, John O’Connell and NemesisRepublic for having far thicker skin than I have when it comes to taking on the trolls and nasty people
- Ross Pollard, Trishie D, LizK, StarSparkles, Neil Mackin, Sarah Cornwell, LosTheSkald, DoubleKarma, Missenfranchised, ChickpeaJones, IamMiniHorse Claire Butler, Anna Machell – all for providing the sort of online reassurance when things are down
- Amandine Alexandre for keeping me posted on what the French think about us over here
- Cllr Kerri Prince – for getting elected to her local town council while still in her teens, & Cat Smith for being nearly as hardcore Labour as @TheBigShow1976
- @Lissynumber – for being wise far beyond her years
- PolleeTickle, ToryTatler & PrettyTory – even though I hide from some of their retweets! (Someone’s got to keep an eye on them, eh?)
- Dave Plummer & Richard Simcox – Trade Union stalwarts for the PCS
- Lou Woodley & Alice Sheppard – who I should have met had I not been so incompetent in missing people or events
- @DavidTheEP – one of several public sector digital media tweeple I’m still to meet.
- @gaiacaecelia for writing stories about Puffles
- Stuart Long for finding out data and information on Parliament and MPs that I could never hope to find
There are a number of people who I have inadvertently omitted. It’s 1:45 in the morning and I’ve had a rubbish week but felt the need to get as much of the above into text as possible. I will come back to these at some stage and put additions in.
This blog post (along with the other twitter lists) are my way of saying a big ***Thank you!!!*** to everyone who has made my social media experience – and now my life experience far more interesting and exciting than it otherwise would have been.