Lowell Week in Review: November 30, 2014

With no council meeting, the first snowstorm of the season, and Thanksgiving, this was a quiet week politically so with the 2nd annual Lowell Social Media Conference just a week away, I figured I’d spend this morning reviewing some of our past gatherings.

2nd Annual Lowell Social Media Conference this Saturday

The Social Media Conference, by the way, is Saturday, December 6, 2014 from 10 am to 1 pm at Lowell Telecommunications Corp at 246 Market Street (right next to the National Park Visitor Center).  The Conference is free and everyone is welcome to attend.  Those who participate in or just follow Lowell’s online political and community life will find the event particularly interesting if feedback from past events is any indication.  The schedule for the Social Media Conference is contained in a previous post so please check it out.  We’ve also created a Facebook event so if you visit that page you can see who is attending.

Because this coming Saturday’s event is the SECOND annual Lowell Social Media Conference, we know that there had to have been a FIRST one.  But when tracing the ancestral line of the Lowell Social Media Summit, the origin of the species was a gathering on a hot summer night in 2009.  Here’s the story of how this all evolved:

Lowell’s First Blogger Meetup at Elliot’s Hot Dogs

Elliot’s Famous Hot Dogs on Elliott Street had been a Lowell institution since the 1920s but it had closed abruptly in 2008 after several years of new ownership.  In the summer of 2009, Walter Garside, whose family had previously run Elliot’s, reacquired the property and the name and planned to reopen on August 5, 2009.  That night at Elliot’s seemed like a fitting time and place to bring together the participants in Lowell’s burgeoning blogosphere.  Here are a couple of posts, one by Paul, the other by me, discussing the night’s gathering:

 Hot Dog Summit Satisfies Appetites

By Paul on August 5, 2009

 The line never let up at Elliot’s from 5 to 7 pm, when I had to go, and it looked like it would stay busy well into the night. If you serve it, they will come to the Field of Franks. Chili dogs, all-arounds, onion rings, and ice-cold tonics filled the tables inside. Kudos to Dick and company for calling the round-up of local web writers, who mixed with the old and new fans of the famous stand. Elliot’s featured improvised al fresco dining in the appropriately manufactured “web” chairs and other folding seating devices. Somebody wondered aloud if the local web writers now would have to convene at the opening of Garcia Brogan’s in the Early Garage when the MexIrish eatery opens. Two happenings make a tradition.

 Council hopefuls made the rounds. If they formed a band they could call it The Aspiring New Majority: Belley, Berard, Descoteaux, and Murphy. . . well, almost five, and maybe I missed others that were there (sorry). Councilor Martin’s team was collecting signatures as was Citizen Dayne for the new voting system petition. I met several “contributors” to the various blogs and reconnected with some of the principals of new media in the city. A great re-opening for Elliot’s.  Video blogger John McDonough was in the house. Somebody said Councilor R. Mercier was a pioneer audio blogger when she was a regular caller on WCAP Radio in the old days of “talk” on that station. Free speech finds its own forms.

There was talk of war and taxes and movie-making in Lowell. . . and a good-government PAC being formed. Is this what it was like when the colonial-era Committees of Correspondence got together for food and drink in taverns around Boston? I never went to a Howard Dean campaign meet-up in 2004, but the energy must have been something like what we had on Elliot Street this evening. Bravo for the local economic impact (the creative economy includes the culinary sector — the jars of Elliot’s own hot dog dressing that they used to sell were a great example of local cultural production). Thanks to everyone for showing up, and long live Elliot’s.

 Great Night at Elliot’s

By Dick on August 5, 2009

Thanks to all who gathered at Elliot’s this evening to enjoy a hot dog and some company in an authentic Lowell setting.  I say gathered rather than stopped by because it was a true gathering. People arrived, ate and lingered. It was a diverse group with many who write on blogs, either as authors or comment-makers, plenty of blog readers and plenty of people who are connected through Facebook.   Plus there was a squad of city council candidates who joined in to the hundreds of scattered conversations that took place throughout the evening. (Franky Descoteaux, Ryan Berard, Paul Belley, Patrick Murphy and if I forgot anyone, I apologize and please let me know).

And Walter Garside, his family and his staff were furiously dispensing hot dogs and fries all evening after a day that saw lines out the door at noon. They must be exhausted but they did a great job. We’ll all be back soon.  Despite the political nature of the crowd, politics did not dominate conversation. While early arrivers ate inside, everyone eventually congregated on the sidewalk and the grassy space on the Middlesex Street side of the restaurant. It was a perfect setting. The buildings provided the shade and a cool breeze blew up Elliot Street and everyone just stood (and sat for those who were prudent enough to bring lawn chairs) and talked and enjoyed each other’s company.

If I was asked to describe the gathering, I would use one word: FUN. It was a throwback to the day when houses were built close together and neighbors, who actually knew each others’ names, congregated on someone’s front porch each night to enjoy the cool, early evening air and talk. It’s the kind of thing that half-acre lots and home entertainment centers have evolved out of our lives today. And that’s what I see as the real value of blogs and websites and Facebook and Twitter at the community level.   They provide us with the tools to stay connected with people and facilitate meetups like tonight. So to all who came, thanks for coming. And please use the comment feature to share your impressions of this evening.

Lowell’s Second Blog Meetup at Top Donut

We missed a summer replay in 2010 but gathered on the first Saturday of December at Top Donut at Aiken Street and VFW Highway.  Paul wrote the following post and beneath that is a YouTube video I created showing many of the participants.

 What Did I See @ the Meet-Up?

By Paul on December 4, 2010

This morning’s bloggers’ meet-up at Top Donut in Centralville exceeded my expectations. People arrived before 9 a.m., and the crowd grew to about 50, according to Dick’s count. It was a high spirited bunch of writers, readers, photographers, designers, and comment-makers. People stayed until almost 11.30 a.m., well past the posted wrap-up time. I was also glad to see how busy the donut shop was without our group. The walk-in and drive-up business was steady all morning. All Lowell businesses would be doing well at that pace.

I think the most active blogs were all represented, including the City Life LTC video bloggers, with John M on hand. Dick used his phone to make a video record of the event, so I’ll let him show who was on hand. I met a man from Tyngsboro who wanted to tell me how much he appreciated my post in favor of preserving the Pawtucket Falls Dam. I learned from Alex and Anne R that UMass Lowell students “blog” via Facebook and are less interested in the now-traditional type blogging that I’m doing now. I talked to Corey S about the car-wreck-appeal of the anonymous blogging/mugging via Topix on the Sun site. There was a sidebar conversation with Phil L and Allegra W about organizing a short-form video contest for Lowell videos as part of the “Lowell 175” celebration planned for 2011-12 in honor of the city’s 175th anniversary. I met Sopheak S, one of the activists from fobclothing.com at Western Ave Studios, who told me about the group’s “premier urban t-shirt line.” I learned that Lynne L is teaching in the Business of Music program at UMass Lowell, which I should have known, being in the same building.

People had a lot to say, and they enjoyed seeing one another after so much interaction online. The virtual community became an actual community for a few hours. There was a camaraderie among people involved in a joint enterprise in its pioneering phase in Lowell. This is all relatively new and evolving. We’ll see what’s next.

Here’s the LINK to the YouTube video I made about the Top Donut gathering.

Lowell’s Third Blogger Meetup

In 2011 we returned to a summertime gathering on the evening of June at Gary’s Ice Cream.  Unfortunately, a violent thunderstorm blew through the region shortly before our designated start time.  That kept attendance down and the lingering showers kept everyone under the roof overhang at the front of the stand.  Still, those who attended enjoyed each other’s company.

Here’s a LINK to the YouTube video I made that evening at Gary’s Ice Cream.

Tweet and Greet

By 2012, Twitter had become a force in world and national news but it was still struggling for relevancy in the local blogosphere.  Late that winter, we had our first structured blogger meetup, this time at LTC with the topic being how to increase usage of Twitter for local news and events.  Here’s my blog post from after the event:

Tweet and Greet

By Dick on March 2, 2012

Thanks to the nearly 50 people who came to LTC this morning for our Tweet-n-Greet. The attendees covered a wide range of Twitter abilities and personal and professional backgrounds and was, in many ways, reflective of Lowell. Thanks to everyone on the staff at LTC who worked on the event and thanks especially to LTC Board President Mimi Parseghian who donated the refreshments. Before we went our separate ways, I asked many of the attendees for suggested “next steps” for the Lowell Twittersphere. Here are some of the ideas:

Don’t wait six months to have a follow-up activity; do it much sooner
Create a publicly available on-line list of Lowell Twitter users to make it easier to find folks to follow
Compile a list of “writing prompts” for those struggling to find things to Tweet about
Hold a workshop of intermediate users to brainstorm community uses of Twitter’s advanced functions – envision a space with wifi so everyone can connect vial laptop, iPad or smart phone

Those are the ones I remember.  Please use the comment section for additional “next steps”.  Thanks again to all who made this morning such a great success.

 The 1st Annual Lowell Social Media Conference

The next event in our evolutionary chain was the 1st Annual Lowell Social Media Conference which took place on Saturday, December 7, 2013 at LTC.  My full report of the event is still available online but below is a synopsis of what was discussed:

Liz Smith, Yovani Baez & Emil Kuruvilla discuss Twitter

More than 50 people attended last year’s conference which began with a discussion of Twitter led by Emil Kuruvilla of the Merrimack Valley Sandbox who used Twitter exclusively for work; Yovani Baez who tweeted about her personal interests and experiences rather than about work; and Liz Smith, an artist with a studio at Western Ave who also lives downtown.  Liz used Twitter both for personal and business purposes. All urged us to use it for two-way communications, meaning between you and others on Twitter, and not just one-way, meaning from you to the rest of the world.

The second panel of the day talked about short-form video. The contributors here were Danielle McFadden, Caroline Gallagher, Phil Lupsievicz, and Jessica Wilson. All agreed that there’s more to video than simply pointing a camera and pressing the record button, but all urged everyone to start with the basics.

The third panel of the day was on the role played by social media in the 2013 Lowell city election. Dan Rourke and Derek Mitchell who were both candidates were the panelists. Both used social media extensively but stressed it is no substitute for the hard work of direct contact with voters.

The final portion of the event was an audience-wide discussion of how to get people more active in the Lowell community. It’s a challenge but it’s important to be persistent.

The 2nd Annual Lowell Social Media Conference

Which brings us to this coming Saturday.  Last year, someone suggested that calling anything “the 1st annual” seems a bit presumptuous because there’s no guarantee there will be a second one a year later.  But as you can see, the Social Media Conference is a direct descendent of similar gatherings that began five years ago.  Each has been better than the previous one and I fully expect that to be the case next Saturday.  Please come to the event – Saturday, December 6, 2014 at 10 am at LTC at 246 Market Street. 

One Response to Lowell Week in Review: November 30, 2014

  1. Marie says:

    Thanks for posting the blogger event videos, Dick. You know how I like those trips down memory lane…