Local Creatives (and a little about DC)

Stuart Gibson writes about going local with Twitter: Northern Ireand can feel a little insular at times, even more so when you are outside the sprawling metropolis that is our capital city, so to find this whole world of other geeky types so close was a revelation. Within a week I had stopped following @kevinrose, … Continue reading “Local Creatives (and a little about DC)”

Stuart Gibson writes about going local with Twitter:

Northern Ireand can feel a little insular at times, even more so when you are outside the sprawling metropolis that is our capital city, so to find this whole world of other geeky types so close was a revelation. Within a week I had stopped following @kevinrose, @veronica and all the other web 2.0 celebrities and started connecting with real people there was a chance I could actually meet.

There’s other reasons to go local with your services – at the end of the day, the new media A-listers can be assholes. Sure, local people can be assholes too, but at least you have a connection with the locals.

Stuart also continues with his proposal for a site for NI Creatives. He reckons it needs:

  • Discussion forum: Standard discussion forum (propose vBulletin for functionality reasons)
  • Regularly updated news: announcement of forthcoming events, press release information etc.
  • Calendars: subscribable calendars for general and specific areas (one for music events, one for art exhibitions, one for tech events etc as well as an “everything”)
  • A “People” section – a list of everyone that considers themselves part of the creative community, with optional contact information etc.

To be honest, a lot of this is what was planned for the “Digital Circle” web site but I think it’s worth separating the functions of these. One of the conversations I had a CreativeCamp Belfast was ‘what is the digital circle’.

The Digital Circle is: The Northern Ireland Digital Content Industry Group – it’s essentially a recognised interface (and representative body) for providers and producers of digital content. The current work is to help address some of the identified barriers to success for digital content creation, these were identified as:

  • Investment – finding money to keep a business running is one of the problems that content creators face. While the costs have reduced across the board for hardware (and to a lesser degree, software), the costs of running a business are pretty much the same. Everyone has costs associated with accommodation, food, heat. But investment is not meant to address these things – it’s to address the big problems out there – like how do you upscale production to meet a global market, how do you fund a server farm that will turn your web service into a global player? And it can come in several forms – personal investment, friends and family, bank loans, venture capital and public funding. In my opinion, these are the order in which you should approach them as well. The latter item, public funding, should only be used if there is a persistent (and not one-time) benefit to the community that paid for it.
  • R&D and Innovation – people in Northern Ireland are not short of ideas, but they are short on confidence in them. One of the benefits of hanging out at OpenCoffee or BarCamp is that you get to meet a lot of people. Sometimes it’s just about the networking, but other times it’s an opportunity for you to tell people about your idea and see what people think. If someone says it’s a cool idea then maybe you should develop it. We also have an inbred fear of losing ownership of things – ideas are kept secret, potential successes are missed because people fear collaboration and this fear of losing ideas is a major cause of failure.
  • Internationalisation – though nearly everyone I know has a smattering of French “Avez vous borrow some milk? Je voudrais un wee black saucepan”, it’s definitely not where it needs to be to start to address an international market. It goes beyond just translating the words in content though – it’s how to develop your product for an international market.
  • Skills and Training – lack of appropriate skills is something that has always been a constant in the post-education market. University prepares you for academia and research and a degree is only a validation that you’re capable of a certain level or quality of work. Universities are also limited to teaching principles, skills and methods and not specifics so the first thing you’ll do

On top of this – it’s an opportunity to present your opinions to public bodies. Everyone involved in content creation, management and delivery is part of the Digital Circle in some fashion because the Digital Circle is just a label for the industry itself – and those who choose to band together to do something about it. There’s no legal entity called “Digital Circle”, at the moment it’s just a commitment from InvestNI to listen and from several businesses around Belfast to attempt to band together and give their time freely to create something bigger than just their individual companies. If you’re working for the betterment of the industry through collaboration, sharing of ideas and networks, then you are the Digital Circle. It’s not up to me to decide, my role is to help people connect and to help implement the decisions made by the group. If you’re interested in the content market in Northern Ireland, then you really should get involved.

Lastly, rather than having multiple seemingly unconnected ‘camps’ around Belfast, I think it would be worthwhile to get people talking together about these things, for instance,

  • hold events outside of Belfast for a change
  • introduce more of the ‘camp’ idea
  • have a schedule of what’s happening where

In any given month we already have OpenCoffeeClub, Mobile Monday, NiMUG, Comic Creators in Belfast and no doubt half a dozen other ‘open’ events. I say ‘open’ in preference to membership network events where there’s a very formalised structure and membership (and an expectation to deliver business leads to other members). I’d be interested in hearing about others. I’d written half a proposal for a slightly more formal ‘conference collective’ which I was tentatively calling “NORTH” for design, music, technology and anything else that could be considered, held multiple times a year with a focus on different aspects.

What do you think we should do?

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