The night of 10th March saw an impromtu #140conf London convene. It was just 6 days from when we’d gotten word that we could host meetup.com’s founder and CEO, Scott Heiferman (@heif). Given that we just tweeted it out and fired off a notification via Meetup, it was refreshing to see how many new faces came along. Scott spoke of how he started Meetup in the dark days following the 9/11 tragedy.

“It was funny,” recalled Scott, in a reflection of New York culture. “All of a sudden I found myself speaking to my neighbours! We’d start looking after one another, sharing food and creating support. It was out of this backdrop Meetup was founded on the idea that we wanted to create a way for people to find others who were interested in what they wanted, wherever they were and when they needed it.”

The internet does have a long history of self organising. Twitter, in my experience, is highly charged for marketeers. It’s not a language as widely understood by fashion designers for example. And yet there’s more to it than just that.

“Meetup is interesting in that it’s essentially a website designed so that you can get online in order to get offline,” enthused Scott.

That quite rightly encapsulates the cutting edge of modern real time internet for me – mobile, local, geolocating and social all colliding to create a digital ‘your world’, an electronic aura around your life that’s less constrained by boundaries of time and space than our physical self. It’s like a binary astral body connected to the universal mind.

And yet it’s not like this is a practice perfected. There’s clearly a lot of work left to be done by the mantra chanting guru evangelists before synchronicity perfectly manifests and we’re all in touch with our higher purpose. One man who knows all about the rants of people’s inner child is Paul Taylor (@paul_tayloruk). When someone’s had a bad time with a company or brand and turns to the internet to vent, Radian6’s social media monitoring tools can delve deep into social networks, blogs, site builders and forums and compile a meaningful analysis of the mountain of data that results. From there it uses an algorythm to seek out consumers in need of address. Paul is co-founder of Radian6’s UK arm, 6consulting. True to the Radian ethos, he had an interesting story of how he got started.

“I wrote an article called ‘Cold Calling is Dead’ with my partner,” beamed Paul. “It went viral on the internet and shortly after Radian6 approached me and asked if I’d like to help them set up a UK operation”.

It’s certainly seeming that the serendipity that made Twitter famous isn’t purely chance. The bots and the social media monitoring suites seem to have as much to do with it as do the devoted users who share specific content to specific friends and in so doing make the world’s biggest human powered information filter.

“The title was deliberate,” Paul continued. “Of course we’re not ever going to be in a situation where we are free from contacting people we’re not yet personally acquainted with. I simply meant the old style blind and unintelligent form of running through a long list of contacts who may or may not have a need is over. We can now find out in advance who has a requirement and enter a conversation at the appropriate time.”

Whilst the audience had a fairly resounding agreement that Customer Service is the new marketing, Paul’s emphasis was not only reactive, it was on proactively seeking out new business in real time with those who needed it right there, right then.

Our second panel drew up some interesting themes by means of cross sector comparison. Priyal (@priyal) is a freelance journalist who works with User Generated Content at the BBC. Her main story came back time and time again to the issues created by the phenomenon of allowing anyone to publish to the internet – what is real? What is important? What are the true facts? How can we tell who is a good source of information? Priyal, along with her colleagues at the BBC filter a huge noise of information daily, and states that verifying information is why people will always have a need for professional journalists.

Brittney (@brittneybean) works in music, more specifically she’s highly engaged in promoting the grassroots indie bands who make the live scene so fun. Her issue is largely the same – there are thousands of MySpace pages out there. How do we tell who is really got talent and the drive to make great nights for their audience? How do we filter the melody from the noise?

James (@myfj) is experimenting with a novel way of doing that. From a marketing agency, they’ve created the MyFJ social network which plays with the idea that networks aren’t just about people. They need to include the things those people hold dear as an extension of it. Whether that’s the bands you listen to, the places you hang out in or the colours you like, MyFJ helps you connect simulataneously both to friends and ‘things’, thereby creating a self organising network that runs by location, by personal connection or by interest. It’s novel and experimental and shows that there is both a need to connect to the physical world, as per Meetup, as well as to the great universal mind of ideas in the internet as per Radian, whilst also appreciating that in the virtual world people may have multiple personas and identities.

Possibly the biggest thing I came away with is that the internet as we know it is changing in real time. Just a few years ago Twitter was just a twinkle in Ev and Biz’s eyes. Today it’s valued at over $1bn and has created and eco-system that’s redefining the way we do business.

Continuing that theme, next month’s #140conf London will see BT Wholesale, the Head of the London Internet Exchange and Steve Kennedy talk about the real cost of real ttime and how the cost of using the internet may drastically rise for all in light of the mobile phenomenon. You can sign up and join the debate here.

We’re also pleased to announce that #140conf is coming to Brussels with the Creative Stores, Corelios, Brussels Girl Geek Dinners and The Next Women Belgium all coming together to launch our first community gathering. If you’re in Brussels and want to join the world’s leading debate on how real time internet is changing business, please sign up to the #140conf Europe meetup group here and you’ll get invites to all the sessions as announced.

Advertisements