Saturday, September 01, 2007

Belfast Flickr meetup - social networking, in real life

A gaggle of Belfast Flickr Group members in Belfast

There is a lot of stuff written in the press, even the more serious end of the market, doubting the value of social networking and highlighting the paper electron-thin relationships that it supports.

And I’ll not deny that there’s a whole of truth in many of those arguments and articles.

Yet when I think about it, the modern workplace (at least mine) quite often reflects the kind of social networking relationships that are so easily criticised. Working as part of international teams, with people spread over two or three continents at a time, we don’t always see a lot of each other. While we might talk regularly on the phone, over the last ten years or so I’ve worked with off-shore developers and designers who I’ve never actually met, or only met six or twelve months into a project. Yet these relationships are meaningful ... we verbally celebrate each other’s marriages, births, holidays, and mark the sadder occasions too.

Sounds a bit like the local blogging scene? I’ve exchanged comments and emails with quite a few folk, and am aware that some must live within a quarter a mile of me. In fact, one even works in the same building. But I’ve only ever met one or two.

So it was fun this afternoon to step out of the security and anonymity of the Alan in Belfast buddy icon, and meet up with some folk in the Belfast Flickr group, who Red Mum had organised to gather in Custom House Square at 2pm.

St Anne's Cathedral - with spike

Would we recognise each other? Of course. The ones carrying cameras instead of skateboards. Finally an excuse to get inside St Anne’s Cathedral to see the recently installed spike from the inside.

(In case you’ve only ever seen it from the outside, it doesn’t go all the way down to the ground. Instead, it’s stops just a few metres underneath the roof ... an impossibly balanced spike resting in the middle of a glass window.)

St Anne's Cathedral - the spike from the inside Getting a picture of the spike inside St Anne's Cathedral

Now the area directly under the spire may have been cordoned off, but with a big of scurrying around, we got the shots we wanted! Jett - must have helped that the Cathedral staff were fans of Just of Laughs!

Parkour in Belfast Writer's Square

While skateboarding became trendy again a few years ago, parkour is what the fit guys are doing around Belfast. Incredibly fit and strong, with gymnast-like moves, but no lycra in sight, these guys can launch themselves backwards off the nearest piece of street furniture in Writers' Square, landing securely (nearly) every time.

So social networking hit real life this afternoon. And it was good to put faces to buddy icons, real names to blog titles, and real accents and stories to the written words and pictures that get published on the internet. Maybe next time we’re wandering around Belfast or Dublin, we’ll recognise each other, and stop to say Hi! And maybe we’ll be more likely to meet up again and do a bit more social networking without hiding behind keyboards and screens. (Just cameras.)


Reymos said...

Hi, It was nice meeting you this afternoon. I agree with your thoughts about on-line socialising -what benefits we can get from it. Frankly, the meet-up was my first attempt to meet on-line people in person with common interest. Well, I was hesitant to attend since I dont use SLR camera, digcam instead, and frankly, Im new with Belfast group. It is nice to learn that you maintain your blog as well. Best regards. Rey

Stephen Barnes said...

...but there are disadvantages to this social networking lark. My belly hanging out from below my t-shirt is one glaring example. Nobody should be subjected to that.

Small correction: I don't actually work in your building, but I'm probably in it more often than you are ;-)

Jett Loe said...

I thought it was great to meet up - now I'm missing Belfast!

(Have decided that I'm not leaving Belfast forever - will come by for at least one cameo appearance a year - if only for a podcast!

Anonymous said...

D'oh! Sorry I missed this. Serve me right for not Flickring as much as I used to these days.

Anonymous said...

Im sorry I missed this now. I say we have another one soon.

Alan in Belfast (Alan Meban) said...

There was another one at the weekend ... I didn't partake, but I think they went to Donaghadee.

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