Social reporting in practice

Our first serious attempt at social reporting (see earlier post) at Small Changes, Big Differences on 26 February was a great success with a large number of people joining in the spirit of Tweeting and taking photographs.  We used Storify (see previous post) to create this record of the event, and many participants appreciated seeing such a lively and engaging record, created before, during and after the event.

participants wave to cameraAn important reason for its success was because we planned it as an integral part of the event.  And, on the day, the opening speaker reiterated what we were trying to do, encouraging everyone to get into the spirit of sharing.

This helped create a buzz and gave participants the confidence to talk about the event on Twitter. During the day there were close to 1000 tweets, which we thought was pretty good.

Of course, what we’d really like to see is people creating their own personal record of the parts of the day that mattered to them, using Storify, Medium or whatever they feel comfortable with. That really is the essence of social reporting: individuals or groups capturing what was important to them using the tools they choose.

Storify your event or conversation

(Post by Michelle Drumm, Media Manager at IRISS).

Networking and participating at events can help us learn new skills and keep up to date with what’s happening in our area of interest. Social media is increasingly being used as a way for people to be social at events and to have conversations with others about projects and resources that they may not otherwise be privy to. Twitter is one such social media tool that enables these conversations. And not only can it connect people who are in the same room at the same event, it can also connect people who are watching the conversation from afar and who get involved on social media.

Conversations on Twitter and Facebook can at times be very busy and important information may be missed or forgotten. After an event, it can be very useful to create a ‘story’ or record of the conversations that occurred and to gather together relevant resources, be that tweets, blog posts, video, audio and web links, all in one place. In this way, people can revisit and remind themselves of the activities and discussions of the day.

Storify is a nifty way to create a ‘story’ of an event. It’s a free web tool that enables you to pull together resources from Twitter, Facebook, Soundcloud (audio) YouTube (video), Flickr (photos), Instagram (photos), blog/news feeds (RSS) and Google. And it’s really easy to do. Use the search function in Storify to find resources. By searching a hashtag or keyword, Storify will return the results – you can choose to ‘add all’ or be selective and drag and drop items of choice into your story. A nice feature of Storify is that is allows you to include your own title, description and narrative, and arrange the elements of the story as you wish. At IRISS, we’ve used Storify at a number of events. Examples include our Relationships Matter JAM and Small Changes, Big Difference event (partnership event with SSSC).

Social reporting – sharing the learning

P1020705Scribbling on flipcharts or sticking ideas on Post-it notes are well established ways of capturing and organising thoughts and ideas in group discussions, conferences and workshops. It’s effective too, except when it comes to organising, summarising and sharing all the knowledge captured on these bits of paper. Quite a lot of flipchart paper ends up in rolls under the desk waiting for someone with time to analyse and transcribe.

This got me thinking that there must a world beyond the flipchart. We already have smart boards and collaborative writing tools. Why not use them? It’s a short jump to realise that Tweeting from an event using a hashtag is much the same as posting your thoughts on a wall. What else could we use? Well, there’s Audioboom to capture soundbites, Vine for short video. And then we have great tools for aggregating web-based content: Storify and Medium, for example. Capturing thoughts and ideas digitally makes sharing easier and less time consuming.

This way of doing things is becoming quite well established and even has its own term: Social Reporting.  So we’ve started experimenting and what we’ve learned so far is that social reporting does require planning so that participants understand that it’s an integral part of the event, not a gimmicky add-on.

Of course, scribbling on paper, whether notebook or flipchart, is still perfectly valid. Indeed pens, pencils and paper are vital tools as explained in this video, How The Way You Write Changes the Way You Think.  As ever, digital doesn’t necessarily supplant analogue, but social media offers us so many additional ways of capturing and sharing. For example the Post-it people have created an app (iPhone only at present) that will capture up to 50 post notes and split them into individual notes that you can organise and share. Ideas don’t stop when the meeting ends says the publicity blurb.

We have drafted a guide to how it works and we’ll be trying some of the ideas at Small Changes, Big Differences on 26 February.  Follow the hashtag #scbd15.



TodaysMeet – a simple way to chat online

(Post by Michelle Drumm, Media Manager at IRISS)

Face-to-face meetings can be hard on resources. Often there’s just not the time or the money to bring people together. This is especially true for those working in rural areas or those who need to communicate with others in regional offices. Therefore, people need to be more creative about how they communicate with each other. Online social networks, such as Yammer, LinkedIn and Facebook help to fill these communication gaps, offering spaces to share information and to engage in conversations with others. However, a new tool on the block – TodaysMeet – takes a slightly different approach.

TodaysMeet is a simple chat facility that can be used by anyone who wants to open a discussion. It works on the premise of opening a ‘room’ (without signing up and logging in) for a specified period of time. It’s simply a case of picking a name for your room and the time you want to keep it open for. Options include: one hour, two hours, eight hours, one day, one week, one month and one year. Payment is required for yearly use.

As soon as the room is open, you will see a ‘room tools’ button where you can copy the link to invite other people to the conversation. Other features include the ability to pick up an embed code or QR code for the chat room, and save a transcript of the conversation. Much like Twitter, each message has a 140-character limit to encourage concise points. TodaysMeet was developed for teachers as a way for students to discuss topics outwith the classroom, but it has relevance for anyone who wants to host a meeting or chat, or provide a backchannel for an event.

Today’s Meet:

Learning: the social dimension

I’ll be running a workshop on the social dimensions of learning at Learning Essentials, the  Elearning Alliance conference on Friday 31 October at West Lothian College, Livingston.

In a recent blog post Jane Hart notes that social learning is how we learn naturally, with our friends and colleagues. Social media, although not essential, she says, does offer tools that help us to help us connect to our networks of colleagues to ask and answer questions, and exchange ideas, thoughts and experiences.  This is known as a Personal Learning Network, a concept we explored in our recent animated story.

Continuous learning is less about courses and more about people sharing knowledge, experience, ideas and resources as part of the daily workflow. But Hart also warns against forcing people to use social media in courses or in the workplace and then confusing compliance with engagement learning.

Paul Matthews, in his recent book Informal Learning at Work: How to Boost Performance in Tough Times, notes that employees need to be adaptable, responsive, continuous learners, innovative and willing to share.  To be like that, employees need to work in an environment that allows access to personal learning networks.  The emphasis here is on personal.  People have to want to do this, not be compelled to.

Knoco stories is a blog from Nick Milton offering insights on knowledge transfer. A recent post (Why knowledge transfer through discussion is 14 times more effective than writing) compares and contrasts two ways of transferring knowledge:

  1. Connecting people so that they can discuss
  2. Collecting knowledge in written (explicit) form so others can find and read it

He argues that connecting people is far less efficient than collecting while being far more effective – but how much more effective? He concludes that  effectiveness of transmission of knowledge through connecting is 35% compared to 2.5% for collecting. I’ll leave it to others to decide if they agree with his analysis but it does seem to support the notion that discussion and collaboration are vital parts of learning.

In the workshop we’ll have look at tools for building the personal learning networks and environments that can help us learning continuously and effectively, and willingingly!


Personal learning networks: feedback from the IRISS Challenge

Debbie Lucas is a staff development officer in a local authority social work department. She took part in the IRISS Personal Learning Network Challenge to learn more about using social media both in her own role and to support colleagues. These are her reflections.

Apart from dipping my toe into the world of Twitter by setting up, but never actually using, a personal Twitter account, I would consider myself to be a “Twirgin”. I never really understood the concept of Twitter and was a bit overwhelmed by the fast pace at which information seemed to come through this form of social media.

I took up a new post in a local authority training team in May 2014 and as part of this role, I made contact with organisations such as IRISS and SSKS. This led me down a path of e-information and wanting to know more about how social work practitioners were able to access this information in a way that was quick and easy, especially in the fast-paced, busy environments that we work in. And so, I came across IRISS’ Personal Learning Network Challenge. I was keen to participate and learn more about how I could use social media in my own role, but also how I could use it support practitioners within my organisation.

As with any journey, there were some exciting parts, but also some ‘bumps’ along the way. IRISS, and many others have written more than a few articles about the use of social media in the workplace. These articles focus on the barriers and challenges that organisations and, more importantly, individual practitioners face. Whilst I can appreciate the concerns that senior managers have about allowing staff access to social media, I entirely identify with the individual challenges that those before me have come up against.

Of course, access to Twitter was blocked to almost all employees of my local authority, so I was prepared to participate in this project on my own personal mobile phone. To keep myself right, I shared the information with my line manager and informed her that I would be using my own phone to access Twitter. This was met with some reservations, but I reassured her that my profile was entirely professional and that I would not make any connection with the local authority we worked for. I have to say that although it has never directly been called in to question, I have struggled with the unconscious mistrust that exists in relation to my professional integrity and the use of social media. I do appreciate that there is always the potential for someone in a professional capacity to behave inappropriately on social media, but surely employers should trust in their own selection process and policies/guidance to ensure that their employees will behave in a professional and mature manner when it comes to their job?

The PLN challenge was broken down in to small steps and this made it feel less daunting, especially since I had never fully made use of Twitter before. Soon I was building up a healthy list of colleagues and groups to follow. More excitingly, some started following me, although I was yet to actually say anything on Twitter!

I was amazed at all this information that was virtually “falling in to my lap” and I soon started to master the art of skimming through my Twitter feed and zoning in on information that was relevant or of interest to me. This made the next step in the challenge easier as I had to re-tweet something that I found interesting. I then had the task of actually tweeting something myself….! What on earth would I have to say that anyone would find interesting? So I kept it general and in the vein of the challenge tweeted about looking forward to working with IRISS about improving access to information and even “hashtagged”!

Screen grab of Debbie Lucas's tweets

I wasn’t sure what to expect after this first tweet, but I can tell you it was not to be re-tweeted by Alan Baird, Chief Social Work Adviser to the Scottish Government!!!
In the short space of time that I have been using Twitter, I have grown in confidence in terms of voicing my opinion. Reading other people’s/organisation’s thoughts on things that matter in the world of social work has made me consider my own thoughts and views to a greater extent.Whilst I still need to work up the courage to actually post my opinions, I have definitely noticed a shift in my willingness to publicly express a view.

I was quickly becoming more confident in using Twitter and really excited about being able to pick up information that may, or more likely may NOT have, come to my attention. At times I was opening up all sorts of links and never actually getting round to reading much of it: a small insight in to how difficult it can be for others to stay abreast of new or important information whilst managing busy caseloads and something to think about when supporting my colleagues to access and use social media in the future.

In the meantime, the Director of Social Work for my local authority, had been given information about the PLN challenge and had been made aware that I was participating in the challenge which led to me being given access to Twitter on my work computer.  I am disappointed, however, that I cannot always follow links to potentially interesting blogs as most of these are still blocked by the network.

I was also linked in with a colleague from the Corporate Communications and Public Affairs team who went over some of the basics of using social media, and also gave me some pointers in terms of ‘Lists’ that you could use to filter the information coming through on your Twitter feed. This definitely streamlines my feeds and I can look at specific lists depending on what information I may be interested in at the time.

There are differing views about the use of social media as a professional. In my opinion, there are two different elements to using social media in a professional capacity:

  1. as a representative of the organisation or group that you belong to, offering news and views of the organisation or group; and,
  2. as a professional in your own right with your own (professional) views and interests.

One of the arguments about allowing staff access to social media is the time it would take to manage this. Whilst this is true for the first point, for the second it becomes less of an issue in terms of workload management and more an issue of time management.

For those interested in the use of social media in the work place or as a professional, I’m sure you’re familiar with all the arguments against and for it. I am not going to go into this debate, but I do have an opinion about mixing the use of personal and professional profiles on social media. In the first element above, I feel it is to be avoided. The second element is more likely to lead to some debate, after all, most of us have professional colleagues whom we would consider friends as well.  I feel, however, that this is a blurring of boundaries and it would be too easy for a comment to be inadvertently posted in the wrong context, leading to potentially serious repercussions and damage to a person’s professional integrity. But this is another discussion for another day.

I am still very new to using social media as a professional but I have to say I do understand Twitter more as a professional than I ever did on a personal level. I am really excited about the possibilities and opportunities that this presents. I think that with small steps and a lot of education, we can convince senior managers of the benefits of social media for sharing information and improving practice, especially when there are specific social media networks set up for use in a professional capacity.

I am hoping that I can make a contribution to this ongoing debate and will continue to have discussions in my organisation regarding how we can effectively use social media to improve practice.


Introducing Kristina and her personal learning network

In a recent blog post marking the 25th anniversary of the Web, Jane Hart, founder of the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies, observed that our social networks built on things like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+ have become part of our professional lives as they let us make global connections with other like-minded individuals. This professional network, she says, becomes a Personal Learning Network (PLN).

In another post she notes that this kind of social learning often happens below the radar of ICT and learning & development departments  This is partly because access to public social media may be blocked (for example see previous post about Yammer) and partly because people tend not to like the way enterprise-wide social initiatives prescribe which tools they must use for sharing and collaborating. Neither do they like their activities being tracked and scrutinised by others, who may have no idea what it means to be social.

As a result, many in the workforce are not exploiting the enormous potential of PLNs to support continuous learning and development, which most would agree is fundamental requirement for the 21st century worker.

Malcolm Wright and Alison Petch announce the Kirstina animation

Malcolm Wright and Alison Petch announce the Kirstina animation

So we at IRISS were very pleased to collaborate with colleagues in NHS Education for Scotland to create Kristina, a model of how someone working in health and social care can create and benefit from a personal learning network.

Today Kristina makes her debut in this short animation showing how easy she found it to get started.  You can do it too.


Malcolm Wright, NES Chief Executive, talks about the social use of knowledge:

Alison Petch, IRISS Director, explains why we created Kristina:

Let’s educate rather than regulate

In the LinkedIn Digital Leaders group I posted the story about a local authority banning its staff from participating in work related discussions on a Yammer network (see previous post).  The discussion covered a range of viewpoints, but there was general agreement that trying to manage risk by blocking access was futile.

Risk, nonetheless, does come up over and over again, the kneejerk reaction being that people can’t be trusted not to post sensitive information on social media.  A recent article in The Conversation rather neatly puts risk in perspective by looking at how the military handles it. Careless use of social media poses a real threat to the lives of military personnel, but the response is not to ban it:

Within the UK military there is an underlying appreciation that the integration of social media builds as much on education and behavioural change as regulation

Here’s an interesting exercise for public sector managers: in the following paragraph, replace ‘defence’, ‘military’ and ‘soldiers’ with equivalent words to describe your business.

With recruitment numbers dwindling, with the risk of further defence cuts looming, and with a new military employment model imminent, military personnel are facing a period of radical change. Social media is one such challenge but, if used intelligently and sensitively, it may also be a means of negotiating new bonds of trust, community and support between soldiers, their families and the military establishment.

Now let your staff get on with learning about social media rather than relying on regulation.

Yammer? Not here you don’t.

…  everybody who wishes to access the internet should be able to and … it is the role of government to ensure that everybody in our society has the opportunity to develop digital skills. A world class Digital Scotland will be one in which internet access is considered as a utility on a par with access to electricity and gas, and where digital literacy takes it place alongside conventional literacy and numeracy at the heart of our education system. Access to the internet should not be considered a luxury in a modern country.

So says the Scottish Government in a report published back in April (Digital Participation: A National Framework for Local Action).  ‘Everybody in our society’ presumably includes people at work?  Yet local authority ICT managers continue to deny access to web-based services, often for obscure reasons.  Consider this example.

Recently SSSC set up a Yammer network to enable people working in social care to exchange knowledge and experience on self directed support.  In a sector that is often hesitant in its embrace of social media this network turned out to be hugely popular. Sadly, one local authority member had to make this rather forlorn, farewell post:

Well I knew that this was really too good to be true. Our ICT colleagues have become aware that Yammer was being used and have instructed that accounts be closed as it is not a secure site and use of it breaches council policy.

So probably my last post for the moment at least, shame really found this useful in making links and sharing resource.

Making links and sharing resources: exactly what the modern workplace is supposed to be all about. Yammer, incidentally, is used by some 400,000 companies worldwide, including 85 percent of the Fortune 500.  Is it really not secure enough for a local authority?

This ‘command and control’ approach is rather at odds with promoting digital participation.  If local authorities do not encourage and nurture their own staff in digital participation, the communities they serve may leave them behind as they acquire the skill and confidence to build networks using the tools of their choice.

An article in the Guardian Social Care Network this week asks what’s holding back the use of social media in social care. While there are legitimate concerns, professional people are well able to decide how and when to use social networks. The article talks about about using Twitter to make connections and Yammer (yes Yammer) to pave the way for more collaboration. 

One of the biggest benefits is being able to network without spending lots of money on conferences. Communicating online, say Helen Reynolds (responsible for opening up access to social media in Monmouthshire County Council), allows you to “understand what’s going on in the industry by having that bigger network of people you can call on”.


If you are one of the digitally excluded why not have your say on Scotland’s Digital Dialogue?

What’s holding us back?

What, asks Steph Gray in his Postbureaucrat blog, holds people back from using digital tools and techniques at work? 

  • Do they need someone to tell them what Twitter is for?
  • Or does the system block it and their boss disapprove?
  • Maybe the press office runs a tight ship on the corporate channels and other people don’t know or dare to do it themselves

Followers of Just Do It will know that this question has been troubling us for some time too. After observing the Department of Work and Pensions Digital Academy, Steph has concluded that there are just two things needed to get change going in large organisations: attitude and critical mass.

Attitude picks the fights, and critical mass wins them

So we need individuals unwilling to put up with bad ways of doing things and a group of these rebels large enough that their ‘energy can be harnessed, opportunities taken, occasional failures accepted, and the crucial sense of inevitability created’.

Digital Leaders Scotland touched on a similar topic at a Salon event on whether security was an enabler or barrier to digital services.  The Salon report notes that trust more than security is the problem: the NHS trusts people to do all sort of things, such as open heart surgery, but gets twitchy about people using Twitter (echoes here of the oft quoted former Deputy Chief Constable Gordon Scobbie ‘We trust you with a baton and with the right to take away someone’s liberty, I think we can trust you with a Twitter account’). This despite evidence from people like Michael Seres who has demonstrated beyond question how social media can be used for effective and efficient communication between doctor and patient.

The discussion heard that moves to towards a more trusting regime were hampered by reports, again from the NHS, saying things like ‘online social networks are by their very nature home grown and ungovernable … universal blocking may seem like the best approach’.  That looks like a fight waiting to be picked!

Just Do It will be attending a couple of events next month. The first, on 5 June, is another Salon EventDigital Participation – whose responsibility is this, and how can we make it happen? The second is the SCVO (Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations) Digital Scotland Festival on 16 June.    

Let’s hope we find some some people with attitude and enough of them create that crucial sense of inevitability.