Lessons learned from web chatting

So yesterday I ran the ‘what next for digital engagement’ web chat.

It went ok. You can find out for yourself by checking out the archive of the chat.

In the end not that many folk turned up – but that’s not a problem, after all, it’s the quality not the quantity that counts!

However, we ran into problems with the software I used, which was CoverItLive.

CiL allows the person running the chat to moderate what people are saying. Moderating every single message can be tiresome and adds lag to the process, so I tend to just whitelist people once they have said one, sensible thing.

However, one participant decided to be mischievous and realised that they could change the name they used within the chat, and started spoofing other chatsters and posting a couple of unpleasant images.

I must admit, it’s probably the first time such a thing has happened to one of my activities.

Anyway, so what would I do next time?

1) I’ve have a look for alternatives to CoverItLive

2) I’d seriously consider moderating every message to retain control

3) I’d make sure I knew exactly how to boot people from the chat before it started. During yesterday’s chat, I didn’t know how this was done.

4) These things might work better in less open spaces with more trust, like my community.

Next live webchat – Tuesday 26th July on overcoming barriers

We haven’t done a live webchat this month yet, so let’s squeeze one in before August is upon us!

So, at 11am on 26th July, please join me on the Kind of Digital site for an hour’s live chatter about overcoming barriers to implementing social media type online innovation.

Am sure there’s plenty to keep us occupied on that topic!

If you head over to the chat page now, you can sign up for an email reminder.

One resource that’s worth scanning before we get together is Tim Davies‘ great wiki on the barriers to getting going with social media.

Looking forward to chatting next Tuesday! 😉

Webchatting in Kingston

Being part of something big is really nice sometimes. Take being on the Learning Pool team, for example. Now, quite a few people read this blog, and my gibbering on Twitter – but really, relative to the number of councils and government departments out there, it’s hardly any.

But Learning Pool have over 80% of UK councils signed up for one product or another, and from time to time I get to talk to those councils – usually by turning up to a meeting and performing, but sometimes in other ways. Normally I’d never get a chance to find out from these people what the issues are that they face, and how I might be able to help out.

I’ve spoken from my desk via a live webcam thingy using Skype, and have pre-recorded webinar type things which have been played within organisations or at meetings. Occasionally it’s a mixture of a couple of ways of interacting.

A great example of this is the work we are doing with the The Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames. A couple of weeks ago, RBK launched their Learning Pool based learning system, which is called Evolve. To provide some light entertainment I went along to present on the subject of all things social.


It seemed to go down pretty well – and I’m going to do a question and answer session this Friday with RBK staff on what they might want to use the social web to do, and how they can go about it. Only, I’m not going to Kingston to do it, I’ll be at home in my office, contributing to a webchat on Evolve. Here are some of the topics I’ll be covering:

1. During the presentation the other week, I showed several examples of public sector organisations engaging with citizens about the services they provide. Could your service reach out to residents in this way? What would be the advantages, and what are the barriers blocking you from doing this?

2. A major theme of my presentation was about how we can apply the tools of the social web within organisations, to improve learning, collaboration and knowledge sharing. How could these tools be used within your council and what are the issues they could help tackle?

3. An important part of any organisation’s approach to using social media is that it has the appropriate governance arrangements in place in the form of corporate strategy and user policy. What are the important things to consider when drawing up these documents? How do you think you can get buy in both from senior management and from staff?

4. I bought an iPad on Friday. Anyone want to know anything about it?

The Learning Pool system, you see, is based on a bit of open source software called Moodle, which you may well have heard of. It’s the pre-eminent learning management system, used widely in academic, perhaps most notably at the Open University. We call our version of it the Dynamic Learning Environment (DLE).

The DLE isn’t just about e-learning though, it also includes social stuff like forums, wikis, blogs and the ability to run chatroom style webchats. Hundreds of councils in the UK have this technology available to them thanks to Learning Pool – although not many use it to its potential.

Kingston really want to make the most of it though, which they are running my Q&A as a live webchat. It’ll only take up 2 hours of my time, rather than the whole day which it would take were I travelling down. Hopefully it will be of help to the council, as well.

We are always looking for interesting and innovative ways that we can help councils. If your organisation has a Learning Pool DLE, and fancy doing a webchat or similar, let us know. Even if you don’t, we’re testing things like GoToMeeting and DimDim to provide online sessions to anyone who wants to join in. Get in touch!