Here’s something new for you, dear readers

As always, I am trying to be helpful.

No, really! I am.

So, here’s a new thing. Every so often I will answer some questions put to me by visitors to this blog.

All you have to do is ask a question, about a topic big or small, in the comments below.

Then, once I have come up with an answer, I’ll record a video or something and publish it here on the blog.

It could be about anything to do with online innovation, so could be external digital engagement, or internal online collaboration. Something small like what sort of content to use to engage people on Twitter, or something big, like the best way to implement a strategic approach to social media in an organisation.

So, go ahead! Ask a question in the comments, and then I’ll pick one to answer in a few days.

School of digital

SchoolofDigital is bringing together something I’ve been wanting to do for a few years now – effective online training that brings together the advantages of e-learning with the benefits of face to face training.

It’s a hard nut to crack, but with some of the experiments I’ve been running recently with Steve DaleDavid Wilcox and others; and following the online learning thought leadership of the likes of Donald Clark, I think I’ve come up with the best balance.

Hence SchoolofDigital – which is where I’ll be running courses on innovating online, by using innovative online delivery methods. The key elements are:

  • asynchronous – learners don’t have to be in the same place at the same time
  • social and personal – as well as shared resources, content and discussion areas, learners get one to one support from the course facilitator
  • responsive – because this isn’t a pre-prepared day long course, there is the opportunity for content to be created to meet the specific needs of delegates as they arise

The first course we will be running will start at the beginning of May, and is on successful digital engagement.

Here’s a quick summary of how that course will work:

The course consists of eight lessons, which last for a week each. Total learner time per lesson is around an hour, which they can do in one chunk or spread throughout the week – it is entirely up to them. The idea is to provide a social, asynchronous learning environment  where the learner can access materials and get involved at a time that suits them, within the framework of a weekly lesson format. We do as little synchronised activity as possible, to make things as flexible as we can.

Support is provided both to the group as a whole, with discussion and sharing of experience and knowledge encouraged; and privately through email or telephone discussion between the course facilitator and learners.

Each lesson will include some or all of the following elements:

  • An introductory video introducing the topic and explaining some details
  • Downloadable templates, resources, guides and case studies
  • Links to further reading and case studies
  • Interviews with practitioners
  • Screencast demos of how to perform certain actions
  • Learner discussion areas
  • One to one private email or telephone support
  • Additional content in response to queries and requests
  • Assignments to practice learning

The eight lessons in this course are:

  1. Introductions, objectives, how the course and the platform works
  2. What is digital engagement and what defines success?
  3. Strategies for successful digtial engagement
  4. Popular platforms
  5. Emerging platforms
  6. Other tools and techniques
  7. Skills and roles
  8. Bringing it all together

The course is suitable for people already comfortable with the internet and social media, and who want to take their use of these tools to the next level in terms of meeting personal or organisational objectives.

The course costs £450 + VAT per delegate.

Here’s OurHousing!

The Nominet Trust has announced what for us is some jolly exciting news, which is that they have approved us for funding to develop OurHousing, a new social startup that will encourage dialogue between social housing tenants and their landlords to improve services and enhance community spirit.

Fraser and I are delighted because we’ve been working on this, under the radar, for most of the year so far.

We’ve been really impressed with sites like Patient Opinion and MyPolice, which use the web in very simple, but useful ways to bring public service users into the process of improving those services. At the same time, we’ve been keeping tabs on the movement to digitally enable those living in social housing, whether as tenants or within shared ownership schemes.

Bringing these two strands together made perfect sense, and OurHousing was born. Social housing customers leave feedback about their landlords on the site, where it can be discussed publicly, and the landlords can respond officially. As a result of these discussions, services can be improved with the knowledge gained via the independent feedback process.

In developing OurHousing, we have been helped enormously by Jayne Hilditch of Thames Valley Housing. TVH is a development partner of OurHousing, supporting us financially by investing early in the service, and by advising us on the finer points of the social housing sector and relevant policy.

Our team is also starting to develop, with Philip John providing the technical nous, and Janet Harkinleading on the marketing effort. We’re also blessed with a fabulous advisor on the business side of things, in my old boss Mary McKenna.

We’ve a long way to go, but  with the funding we have attracted, the people on the team and our own enthusiasm and motivation, we feel we’ve got a product that can make a real difference to people’s lives.

Please keep in touch with us, by signing up for our newsletter, and following us on Twitter. If you’re from a housing provider, and would like to know more about the service and perhaps getting involved, then please get in touch.

New website, with added blog

Hello!

If you can see this, it means that Kind of Digital’s new website is now live. We’ve given things a new look, and have organised the content a bit better, to give folk visiting the site some kind of idea about what we actually do.

A bigger change is that my blog, DavePress, is now incorporated into the main Kind of Digital site, and indeed DavePress now is no more. It’s a bit of a wrench, as I’ve been writing on that site since 2008, but the time has come where I needed to focus on the thing which is meant to be where I’m making some money.

In other words, I don’t think people generally associate the helpful things I post on my blog with Kind of Digital, the business through which I earn a living. Maybe I’m over thinking things, but at least having just one website to update will make my life easier.

Don’t worry if you are a DavePress subscriber though – we’ve moved you all over automagically. Likewise, all the links out there to posts in the DavePress archives will redirect to the appropriate posts here. It ought to be seamless. Still, if you spot anything janky, do let me know.

This move, enabling me to focus on this website alone, will also mean some more interesting things in terms of exploring good practice in digital engagement. So, expect more handy guides, video interviews with people doing awesome stuff, web chats and webinars. I’m looking forward to it, and hopefully you are too!

WordPress for local government

wordpressWordPress, the open source content management system that I use here on this blog, is growing in its utilisation across government. It took root a bit quicker in central government, with the Number 10 site, Defra, Wales Office and the Department of Health, amongst others, using WordPress to deliver some or all of their web content.

There’s increasing evidence of its use in local government too, mostly for micro-sites rather than being used as the main content management system for a council’s corporate website. Take the ‘digital press office’ sites at Shropshire or Birmingham, for example.

Carl Haggerty recently blogged about two new WordPress sites Devon County Council have published – a newsroom site and a networking site for social care commissioning.

Some councils have the capacity to run their own servers for hosting WordPress, and to keep the software maintained, templates developed and so on – which is great. But what about those authorities that lack the in-house knowledge, or perhaps just the time?

At Kind of Digital, we are currently supporting one district council to make the most of WordPress by supplying a comprehensively supported platform to run multiple WordPress sites for a small yearly subscription fee.

The platform provides:

  • a dedicated virtual private server hosting a WordPress multisite instance, with no limit on the number of sites hosted
  • maintenance of the software, plugins and themes, with regular upgrades taking place
  • daily backups both locally and to the cloud and an SLA guaranteeing uptime and availability
  • telephone, web and email support, and written and video-based documentation and guidance
  • a number of training and consultancy days every year to help people use the platform to its potential
  • a number of templates to use on sites, including microsites, blogs, commentable documents, consultation sites and much more

The organisation will soon start to see considerable savings as microsites hosted in a number of locations are brought together and re-hosted on the multisite platform.

We’re already talking to a couple of other organisations about supporting them with a similar arrangement. As I mentioned above, many organisations can support WordPress perfectly easily themselves – but for those that need a helping hand, we’ve got a nice system ready and waiting to go.

Interested? Drop me line!

Covering events with Kind of Digital

One bit of work we’ve been doing a fair bit of at Kind of Digital is putting events on the web. One example is the seminar that took place in Leeds yesterday, run by Local Government Yorkshire and Humber.

The idea is that these public service type events are all about getting the message to as many people as possible – which usually is a lot more than those in the room at the time.

Rather than live streaming we take the approach of getting event speakers and organisations, and occasionally delegates, to provide short interviews about the event and what they will be talking about.

We also take photos, and can live blog and tweet, too. The content is uploaded to YouTube and Flickr, etc, and we can create a microsite to host the content too, if required.

Of course, none of this would be possible without the Kind of Digital media maven that is Andrew Beeken, who is a dab hand with a camera and editing video.

It seems to work well, and all our clients so far have been pleased with the cost-effective results. If you have an event coming up that would benefit from this, do drop me a line on dave@kindofdigital.com.

What happened to November?

April may well be the cruellest month, but for me November was the busiest – and the illest (as in, I’ve been poorly. I’m not starting to talk “street”, you’ll be pleased to know*) as well.

Kind of Digital seems to have had time to get settled in now, and we’ve so much work on it’s meaning that I have no time for blogging or emailing any more, which is a real shame – even with the team growing all the time. I’m looking forward to some time over Christmas to get my thoughts together and start publishing here a bit more often.

Here’s a quick run through some of the stuff we’ve been doing this month:

  • I had a lovely trip to Oslo and met with representatives from all the ministries making up the central government there to talk about how we do digital in the UK and what the two sides could learn from each other. There’s a proper blog post brewing on this one.
  • UKGovCamp tickets were released and sold out in a matter of minutes. The two day format seems to have gone down well with most, and we should see some real outputs from the event this year. We still need sponsors, and if you are interested in being involved, do drop me a line.
  • We’ve been beavering away on a great project for Consumer Focus which will hopefully emerge soon. It’s an online database of digital engagement methods, which we will be developing to include case studies and links to examples. Searching will be done by choosing various variables from dropdowns and sliders, so you can choose the type of interaction you want, the demographics you want to reach and so on, and a list of the best methods for you will then be presented.
  • We’ve also been covering some events for the LGA as part of their healthy communities programme. This involved live blogging keynotes speakers, video interviews with various people involved, taking photos of the action and tweeting updates as well. All the content is presented on a microsite which we developed and hosted, and having done two events in Bristol and London, we’re next up at the late event in Leeds on 8th December. If you’d like to get your events documented in this way, you know where I am.
That’s probably about it. We’ve another couple of busy weeks in December coming up and then things wind down for the festive period. I’m looking forward to it!

* Yes, I know. I’m turning into Alan Partridge.