Tag Archives: social media

What I learnt from taking part in the #NatterOn Podcast

The way that we learn and consume information is constantly evolving. Dyfrig Williams reflects on what he learnt from taking part in the NatterOn podcast.

A copy of the NatterOn Podcast logo

For the last year or so I’ve been listening to podcasts to broaden my awareness of what’s happening in the world and to get a better understanding of how I can improve my work. The Podcast Addict app has been great in managing interesting podcasts because it brings a range of podcasts together into one feed.

Podcasts that I’ve found particularly helpful are:

I’d add the NatterOn podcast to that list too. It’s a podcast the looks at digital and marketing that’s put together by Helen Reynolds and Ben Proctor, who are two of the most switched on people I know. Helen gets how communications are being changed by social media more than anyone else I’ve ever met. And I’ve learnt so much about data from Ben. I particularly recommend his post on Data Maturity in local government, which has been the basis of my thinking on acquiring data with the Wales Audit Office’s Data and Tech Working Group.

So when they asked me to take part in the podcast, I jumped at the chance because I’d basically get an hour to pick their brains on interesting public service improvement topics.

So what did I learn?

Unsurprisingly, a lot. Helen shared a really interesting post on Unconscious Bias, which brings together many different types of bias into four main problems:

  • We aggressively filter information to avoid information overload.
  • Lack of meaning is confusing, so we fill in the gaps.
  • We need to act fast, so we jump to conclusions.
  • We’re working in complex environments so we focus on the important bits. Decisions inform our mental models of the world.

So what does this mean for public services? For me, it’s about awareness. If we take the time to actively reflect on these problems, then we can be more conscious of our bias as we interact with people and deliver services. We’ve already identified this as an issue at the Wales Audit Office, so we held an internal event to reflect on this. The Storify includes lots of useful resources, including Harvard’s Implicit Associations Test.

We also had a really good conversation about trust, PR and public services after Ben shared a post on the war on truth. Helen looked at the professions topping the Edelman Trust Barometer, which finds that people’s trust in government is generally a reflection of how content Britons are with their lot. This has big implications for how we interact with people from different socio-economic backgrounds.

As a project, we’ve undertaken work ourselves on looking at the importance of staff trust in public services. It’s interesting to take some of the lessons around staff trust and applying it in a wider context of working with communities:

  • Ability – have we shown that we are competent at doing our job?
  • Benevolence – do we have benign motives and a concern for others beyond our own needs?
  • Integrity – are we principled? Are we clearly acting in a fair and honest way?
  • Predictability – are people aware of what we’re likely to do?

After sharing a post on GCHQ’s Digital Approach, I also learnt from Ben that the analogy of frogs in boiling water is a complete lie.

What else did I share?

The Good Practice Exchange is also pondering how we can help public services develop their approaches to the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act. So I shared Chris Bolton’s post on Sustainable Decision Making and Simulation Games as it’s been useful in getting me to think differently about how we as a project might respond to the legislation in order to help services improve.

I’ve also been pondering about how we learn and develop in the workplace. In my ten years or so of working in public services, only three of the training courses I’ve attended have actually had any impact on my work. So how might we tie in our own learning and development with better organisations and improved public services? Carl Haggerty has written a great post on this.

Horses for courses

We have a slide that we use at our events that shows the many different that we share information – through our blog, social media, Randomised Coffee Trials, email and phone calls. We recognise that not everybody wants to receive information in the same form, and not everybody processes it the same way. One of the key principles of our work is that there isn’t a one size fits all approach for better services. Podcasts are another useful way of sharing learning and information, so it’s well worth having a listen to this and other podcasts to see whether they can help you improve your work and what you do.

Could you go without internal email?

Is email bound up in the future of the way we work, or can new ways of working help us to share information more efficiently? Dyfrig Williams spoke to Lee Mallon of Rarely Impossible to find out.

LocalGovDigital's Unmentoring Logo

We all know the feeling of returning to work after a holiday to find a mountain of emails waiting for us. I always have a nagging feeling that I need to get to grips with my emails before I can start with the “real work” that I have in front of me.

My colleague Beth recently blogged about the recent review of our Randomised Coffee Trials, which pair people randomly to discuss the topic of their choice.

Alongside that, I’ve been taking part in LocalGovDigital’s Unmentoring, which is their version of Randomised Coffee Trials. In my latest discussion I had the chance to see if email really is a help or a hindrance by catching up with Lee Mallon of Rarely Impossible, who have ditched email for all internal correspondence.

Why chat about email?

Email has some issues, and a lot of that is down to behaviour. Whether it’s sending unsolicited emails or a dodgy use of the cc function to justify a sense of importance (check out Chris Bolton’s series of posts on bad email practice), a lot of the problems that come with email are down to us as users. The latest Natter On podcast gives a good account of both sides of the Email: good vs bad debate.

Another issue with email is that it tends to focus on work that specific individuals do rather than teams. That’s where tools like Slack can potentially help, as the format encourages people to work in teams. Tools like Trello can also help – why don’t we just log in and check the current state of play instead of sending a long series of email updates?

That’s not to say that changing the means of discussion is an answer in itself. Adopting a new tool comes with its own issues. People may not be particularly happy about having another source of communication to check, and an informal work tool like Slack (which comes with Emojis and GIFs) may be an anathema to some organisations’ working culture.

But if society is changing, and people’s expectations of public services are changing, do we as public service providers need to change too? A lot has already been written about how we can’t continue to communicate in the same way when using social media (including Helen Reynolds’ great post on psychopathy and social media). Can we really connect with communities when our day-to-day staff communications are inherently different? There are already signs that young people are choosing to communicate through apps instead of email.

What are Rarely Impossible doing?

I found my conversation with Lee really valuable. Not only was he happy to share his experiences over the phone, but he was also happy to share resources afterwards. It was fascinating to hear about the channels they were working through after 6 months, and their “1 year on post” is a fantastic “How to guide” for reducing your reliance on email.

And in case you think that it’s one thing for a private company to go email free and quite another for a public service, check out the work that’s taking place at Halton Housing.

Although email is our current default means of online office communication, we’re in a fascinating time where new tools are being developed all the time. If your organisation is thinking of ditching email, we’d love to hear from you so that we can share the learning from your experiences and whether it’s helping you to deliver better public services.

5 things for public services to think about when using Periscope

How might public services use Periscope? In this guest post, Will Barker, Project Support Officer (Social Media & Digital), 1000 Lives Improvement, looks at ways that we could use the app.

Periscope

Persicope is a new live streaming app that is linked with Twitter – it’s just over a month old and already it has been sighted as a game-changer in the way social media effects broadcast news, and the next big platform to come along since Twitter.

It works simply by choosing what you want to broadcast, setting a broadcast stream title and clicking ‘broadcast’ this then links with your Twitter stream and your twitter followers can join the broadcast, as well as anyone around the world who is interested in what you are showing.

As with all new technology and social platforms, we have to take these statements with a pinch of salt – many thought that Vine was the app to tick this box, but it has taken a different path to what was first expected. Nevertheless, it is worth exploring how the public sector could potentially use this live streaming app to their benefit, particularly whilst there is still a lot of intrigue around it.

Forums, events and conferences

This could be one of your own, or one that you are attending/ have a stand at. Often, the aim is to ‘join the conversation’ using the conference hashtag. Perhaps Periscope could be used to shape a conversation or create new ones, beyond tweeting each other. Want to discuss key topics and highlights from the day, why not set up a broadcast that does just that, almost like a panel session. At 1000 Lives Improvement (@1000LivesPlus), we did exactly this. At a recent conference, we gave highlights and interviews with our staff via Periscope about what learning they had taken away from sessions, we think it gave an extra element to those following us on Twitter who couldn’t be there.

Question and Answer

Keep getting the same questions asked via your social media channels, or simply have the opportunity to get some key experts in their field in the same room? Through live streaming via Periscope you have an opportunity to answer important questions in more depth and more immediately. You must keep in mind that, though, that if you do open yourself up for a Q&A session, you are open for all types of questions, so it’s worth setting some house rules in place, for example: ‘today we’ll be discussing these set topics, for answers around other topics, you can reach us here’.

Important news

More and more we are seeing people, news outlets and organisations turning to Twitter to break important news. Why not use Periscope? You can keep control exactly what you’re saying, put it across in more than 140 characters and still get the benefit of reaching your audience online. It’s worth noting that with the size of audience that Periscope is bringing, and with it being so new, this type of communication shouldn’t be in isolation, as the majority of the audience is likely to miss it.

Open meetings

Got a planning meeting that isn’t sensitive and would really benefit from input outside of your organisation? Why not open it up to get the thoughts of people across the world, you never know; someone’s suggestion could be the start of your solution.

Showing the work being done/getting behind the scenes

Behind the scenes has been used a lot on Periscope already. Whether it’s the BBC showing behind the scenes of The Voice UK Live Finals, various news organisations giving behind the scenes footage of their election coverage or Cardiff Council giving viewers a guided tour of the RHS Flower Show before it opened. Giving your audience something they wouldn’t get anywhere else is a real perk of Periscope, so why not think about how that could translate to your organisation or project?

Remember what’s out there. Take a look around.

Periscope may be new and exciting to many, but remember that live streaming has been around for many years. It’s worth taking a look around at what else is out there to make sure you are using the right platform for your requirements. With periscope only being (currently) available on iOS devices, linking with Twitter and broadcasting in portrait, is it the right platform to reach your audience, or would other live streaming products like Bambuser fit better? Not to mention the rival to Periscope: the live streaming app called Meerkat, but that’s a whole other story.

There is plenty out there for you to read about Periscope (and Meerkat) for you to make your own mind up, so go and have a look – and if you can, start experimenting with how you might use it in your organisation.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on using Periscope in the public sector, or how you’ve got on if you already have used it. Leave a comment below or tweet me @willdotbarker.

WhatsApp: Could it help you make your community a better place to live?

As the world changes, it’s fascinating to see how public services are changing too. A few years ago, an organisational social media account was a novel thing, like when Helen Reynolds created a MySpace page for Shire Hall in Monmouth. While lots of us are still getting to grips with what social media means for the way organisations interact with communities, it’s embedded in the way that we communicate as individuals on a day to day basis.

WhatsAppIt’s probably no surprise then that there’s a lot we can learn from the people within our communities.

As budgets are shrinking, public services are being asked to do more with less. Organisations are starting to move away from the paternal role that they’ve often played in the past to enabling people to make the most of their opportunities. We shared how the Bromford Deal is doing just that as part of our Adopting Preventative Approaches Seminar last year. You can find out more about the deal in the video below.

I’ve been using WhatsApp personally for a while. I’ve been intrigued as to how it might be used to improve the way we work, but I couldn’t quite get my head round how that might happen. This Storify by Will Barker of the #nhssm Twitter Chat changed that, and I could instantly see how organisations could use it to better inform people about what they’re doing. It’s startling that in the case of the Oxford Mail, WhatsApp has a six or seven times times greater conversion rate to page views than Twitter.

Trafodaethau WhatsApp DiscussionsBy sharing that Storify, I quickly got into a conversation with Ben Black, whose street is using WhatsApp in a really interesting way. The platform gives people the chance to better connect with each other (Ben tells me there’s a fair bit of banter on the thread). It means that when the power’s gone out, there’s a quick way of checking if it affects one house or the whole street. If one resident is heading to the dump, a quick message to the group means that they can take other people’s rubbish while they’re there. When a restaurant on the street applied for licensing, it was used to send feedback from the council meeting. It’s been used to highlight issues that affect the street like potholes, or to see if people can lend or borrow equipment or even each other’s time, such as by cutting each other’s lawns.

I was just thinking about using WhatsApp to communicate with people, but Ben and his neighbours have taken it that step (or five) further and are actively using it to help make their street a better place to live.

I bet if we asked people how they felt about the public services they received, the vast majority would ask “what public services?” Through tools like WhatsApp and Streetbank, people are actually delivering some aspects of services themselves. If we spare a second to think about how we might work differently and take a lead from Ben’s street, I reckon there’s a lot we can do to improve the work we do.

Dyfrig

From Financial Audit to Good Practice Exchange

Michelle Davies has recently been working with us at the Good Practice Exchange. It’s been great to have her on board, and we’ve been learning from her about her work and vice versa. In this blog Michelle tells us about her experiences of working with us.

Michelle DaviesI’ve recently completed a Good Practice project where I helped deliver the Facing Financial Challenges Webinar (which you can watch in full on Vimeo). For those of you who don’t know me, I’m normally found working in the Mid and West Wales Financial Audit Cluster working on the exciting stuff – Local Government and Health Accounts!

So, Why I did I want to get involved?

I was both curious and ignorant as to what went on with the Good Practice Exchange Team, what do they do and how do they do it, what circles do they move in, what are their goals in our organisation? After working in Financial Audit in the West for over 10 years, I was desperate for a change of scenery. Getting out and about more, even working in the Cardiff office was a change of scenery.

I learnt loads of new skills, from different approaches to researching topics which I had little or no knowledge of at all. And as for social media, well it would be safe to say I am a little rusty around the edges; I needed to move with the times and the promise of being taught how to ‘tweet’ was appealing. Don’t you just love it when people say “it’s easy?”

I guess to work differently; sometimes you have to work with different people. Although a little daunting at first, you soon learn personalities and expectations. You can learn so much from other people, a kind of inner confidence starts to grow as you bounce ideas off colleagues and share their experiences and excitement.

What I learnt

Researching
Firstly I had to research the subject area, surfing the web, trawling through the current relevant reports, any conferences, seminars, identify potential speakers and produce a scoping document to present with my findings and identify the key themes for discussion.

Briefing
Armed with my research material, I sat and discussed my findings with Ena and Anthony Barrett to agree on a punchier title and to identify speakers that were able to discuss current, relevant good practice identified within the public sector. I learnt the importance of does the title say what it does on the tin?

I held my first speakers briefing with Guy Clifton from Grant Thornton over the telephone, explaining the webinar structure, format and timings and taking away additional housekeeping issues he had for the Good Practice Exchange Team to confirm.

Social Media, i.e. twitter schedules and live tweeting
I had a lesson in tweeting and was asked to tweet live at a few seminars, helping the Good Practice Exchange Team when they were short staffed or at a larger event where there were several workshops running at the same time. A lesson in tweeting, was as I discovered, not always going to ensure it goes smoothly on the day!

Confidence in getting it done
Ummmm, what do I do now, what do I do next, am I doing this right, all my worries and part of the learning curve. Ena would smile at me and say, what do you think, tell me what you feel, what is your gut instinct? Now go and do it!

Behaviours
The Good Practice Exchange Team use a different way of working, they need to be ambidextrous within the team. You learn to work backwards. The team know what they want to achieve, so how do they get there, their focus is on impact.

The good, the bad and the ugly

I’ll do the ugly first – helping on an external seminar specifically to tweet live, I connected to the wifi, ok, sitting at the front of the audience listening to Huw Vaughan Thomas deliver his opening speech – I’m connected but hey – no internet! No matter what I tried it just wouldn’t work! At the end of the opening speech I managed to get Dyfrig’s attention and he miraculously connected my machine, phew! To play catch up I started copying and pasting from a twitter schedule – it wouldn’t work! It took about 15 attempts and a rising temperature before I realised that there were too many characters! Ok – no stopping me now…. except every photo I took of the speakers to upload with their key messages would appear upside down! No photos then!

The bad – well actually I don’t have any bad experiences, so far they have all been good or ugly, and even the ugly one is funny now. You learn from your experiences and I have, tweeting live at the webinar last week went well – phew!

The Good – I have thoroughly enjoyed my experiences, I have learnt a new set of skills and gained an inner confidence and passion that was missing. I have been fortunate in meeting many people from all walks of life, with a range of skills and personalities, some impressive, some humbling, some inspiring, and some eager and switched on.

What I would say to anyone else who wants to get involved

Do it! – You won’t regret it and if you have any concerns and worries I can help you overcome them. The sharing of information this way is important to the future of both our organisation and public services.

Our Yammer journey – how we implemented an enterprise social network at the Wales Audit Office

In a few online and offline discussions recently, we’ve ended up discussing how the Wales Audit Office is using social networking to improve internal communication. Mark Stuart Hamilton has blogged about how we’re using it and the work involved.

The Wales Audit Office Intranet, with a Yammer feed on the right hand side / Intranet Swyddfa Archwilio Cymru, gyda ffrwd Yammer ar y dde

The Wales Audit Office Intranet, with a Yammer feed on the right hand side

We’ve recently introduced Yammer at the Wales Audit Office – for internal use. Like other social media, Yammer is a platform where people can post messages to each other, start conversations and improve knowledge sharing.

The difference between Yammer and many other social networks is that Yammer is designed specifically with business in mind.

We had been thinking about launching an internal social media platform for ages, but the time was never quite right. But after redesigning our intranet we revisited the idea.

Our old intranet had a system called post-its, which allowed people to post short messages to the front page. Original discussions focused on expanding that system (such as post-its being targeted to specific groups of people). But we soon realised that a different solution was needed.

Various options were explored and, after careful review, it was agreed that we would choose Yammer.

Yammer has a paid-for enterprise version and a free version. The enterprise version offers more administrative tools, although the free version was good enough for us for testing purposes. So, we set up the free version, along with a small pilot group.

At the start, this pilot consisted mainly of people who had asked for a system like Yammer since they would be more willing to start new discussions and breathe life into the system. We wanted as much content on Yammer as possible before the launch, so people would think of Yammer as something others use on a daily basis – not something to use a lot for the first day or so and then immediately forget about. In line with this philosophy, we expanded the pilot over time, so that more groups and content would be created.

That said, we still wanted to generate hype behind the main launch and get people excited – to encourage as many staff as possible to join in once it was officially launched. We have two television screens in the Cardiff office that display corporate news on a slideshow.  One of these slides was changed to read “Stop! Yammertime” and posters featuring MC Hammer were placed around the building carrying the same motto.

At the start, we provided no other information about Yammer. We wanted to generate discussion and a sense of mystery. Over time, we revealed more and more information, but the intent was always to instil Yammer into people’s minds rather than introduce it as a surprise.

We scheduled training sessions for people to attend about how to use and get the most from Yammer. Some staff were initially sceptical about Yammer and we have worked hard to show how Yammer can be beneficial for business, for networking and social interaction with colleagues. However, it is worth noting that marketing Yammer as “Facebook for business” is likely to generate a more hostile reaction from people who do not use or dislike Facebook (or other social media).

A few weeks after the Yammer ‘teaser’ advertising and the ‘taster sessions’, we officially launched the redesign of our intranet. We wanted to integrate Yammer into the homepage to further solidify the intranet’s role as the primary communications platform. The homepage now has an embedded Yammer feed in the sidebar.

The new intranet was originally planned to have a Yammer notifications icon that displayed the number of unread Yammer messages received, but this was cut from the release for technical reasons and will be re-added later*.

Our old news ‘comments’ system was also replaced with a ‘separate’ embedded Yammer feed. Yammer comments automatically provide a link to the article being read thanks to the Open Graph protocol.

Before we launched Yammer, our vision was that it would become a knowledge-sharing utopia. Almost everything would be sent to specific, targeted groups, and these groups would be made public so that people in different areas could provide insight into things that they otherwise would not know about.

In practice, it is hard to tell how much knowledge sharing has occurred, since people who learn something do not usually leave a comment to say that they have learned something. We also underestimated the importance of private groups. Some members of staff feel more comfortable if their messages are not sent to the whole organisation.

We will be doing a bit of work soon to evaluate how it’s being used by staff and analysing the take up, activity rates and value to the business.

Overall though, we consider Yammer to be a success – based on the amount of interaction taking place – and expect it to stay that way in future. Generally, it has been positively received and this is reflected in the kinds of discussions that are happening.

*For the curious, the unread messages icon is actually deceptively hard to create. The short version is that it requires creating a Yammer app, using the Yammer API to make the app impersonate a user by getting and storing their bearer token, and then getting their unread message count. The problems are performance-related and should be fixable by moving certain code client-side.