No wise men, no shepherds and no donkey. Yet still @documentally triumphs

Word of Mouth café - where it's @

The awesome Word of Mouth café, Edinburgh

Christian Payne (aka @documentally) visits Blonde

Not quite just-another-day-at-the-office

It was a cold afternoon on Tuesday 24th November, some time after 4pm. The office dreamed of an exotic whiteboard, whilst its workers built the matrix. Nobody suspected a revolution was coming.

I’d been liaising, via email, with Chief Girl Geek (entrepreneuse / Investigator / Interactive Designer) Morna Simpson about a series of workshops, when, in the middle of a trojan thread about a wireframing workshop, Christian Payne suddenly emerged.

Aka… Documentally.


“[Wireframing chat] Coolio – BTW have you heard about @Documentally and his challenge?”

No. Clearly not surfing this wave of cool. What have I missed?

“@Documentally is doing a trip from Landsend to John O Groats with no money – hoping to blag a train ticket/ or lift and a couch for the night. Check out the details here #freebees

@Documentally is well known in the e-jounalism circuit and pretty influential.”

Hmm. Interesting. Straight to Twitter and sure enough, with circa 16,500 followers, @documentally was approaching Newcastle.

I scanned the tweets and since he still seemed to need accommodation for the night, I offered our sofa.

@documentally accepted and the rest is history.

Or at least a 15-hour part in his epic adventure.

In terms of the Twitterverse as most Twittereurs know it, I’m relatively new. Relatively. Facebook was my comfort zone. And thus… to invite a strange man… to stay the night…. via Twitter, was definitely unfamiliar territory.

Here’s to living dangerously…

Christian arrived about 9:30pm and I marked out my rock and roll lifestyle with cups of Rooibus tea. The conversation turned to technology, the Macbooks came out and he introduced me to his online/offline life as a Social Technologist and Mobile Media Maker. He’s done some pretty awesome stuff and I was touched by the social collaboration with his gran, as well as his documentaries in the Middle East. On the other hand, it was also uncomfortable. His work made my efforts in social media look like child’s play. I’m not idolising him, but agency culture is work hard, play hard; start-up culture is play hard, play really hard. You travel so much further in social territories when all you have to run on is an open mind and tons of passion.

Inevitably when two people are connected by a social network, it’s only polite to invite the social network to the table. This was the first time I’d had someone over for tea and they’d brought the rest of the internet with them. It’s very surreal to be physically chatting with someone and then to also see shared and simultaneous debate happen online with people you have no connection with … apart from Twitter.

The following day, Christian had agreed to meet local start-up bloggeuse/consultant Jess Williamson at Word of Mouth café and they invited me along. With kind permission granted from Blonde, by the time we left the flat just after 9am, the Guardian and Ewan Mcintosh were also en route. Following some amazing breakfasts (this cafe is definitely recommended), (@beatblogger)mike from The Guardian interviewed Christian about his adventure and then took a few soundbites from Ewan, Jess and I. By 11am, Christian had been offered a lift to Inverness, but not before 3pm, which would have meant he’d miss a seriously swanky dinner booked for 7pm. So, after a phone call to Blonde, we invited him to the office where we arranged a train to Inverness for him and a taxi to the station.

All in all I’m so glad I did this … we did this. True I’ve added some kudos to my “personal brand” and Blonde in all of this and that’s great, but that wasn’t why I did it. We (Morna/myself/Jess/Phil/Blonde) did the right thing, the rest was karma. Without the introduction from Girl Geeks I wouldn’t have volunteered the sofa, even with his 16,000+ following.

Christian and I shared a few different trains of thought over the course of these 15 hours, including social networking styles. He passionately campaigned for Twitter and reflecting on this whole experience, you can understand why. Networks form for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes the ones that might seem superficial are also the ones that offer the most flexibility and freedom. It’s true we don’t know what’s out there, but since I spend so much time designing bullet-proof Twitter plans, isn’t it strange that the simplest way forward is just to ask for help. Who’d have thought?