Monthly Archives: March 2012

200 short digital stories to peruse

Screenshot of sign on page where livestreaming of TechSoup digital storytellling completition happened: "now offline".Sadly I missed the livestream of the TechSoup 2012 digital storytelling awards last night. But this morning I woke to find the list of #TSdigs 2012 winners announced.

The one-minute digital stories from the winners are mostly pretty slick. They’re like mini TV commercials. Not ads for products but calls for action from pretty big NGOs who are well known and well resourced.

It’s the more humble, quirkier stories that appeal to me. Norton Public Library share 12 things to do in a library by turning the pages of a beautiful, handmade book filled with hand-drawn illustrations and pop-outs. A take on Bob Dylan’s “Subterrenean Homesick Blues” uses flip cards held up by a dozen people sharing what the Alliance Center for Independence does.

The full list of 200 digital stories are still available on YouTube. Amongst these is the “Diversity” entry featuring residents from WCC housing at the Arlington computer hub run by Wellington ICT. I also noticed Amnesty International NZ submitted an entry, but ‘m not sure if there were any other New Zealand entries?

Amidst all the solemnity of the causes featured, there are are lighter moments too. A good thing for a Friday.

PS I couldn’t help sharing a digital story which tickled by sensibilities. You’ll see period costumes from “The Charles Dickens Bicentennial Birthday Ball!” run by the The Period Events and Entertainments Re-Creation Society:

Resource spotlight: Idealware’s software fieldguide

Cover of Idealware Field Guide to softwareEven as a smartphone/ mp3 player/ laptop toting digital denizen, I’m still a fan of printed guides and manuals.

There’s something about printed resources being self-contained and complete. After getting to the final page it’s almost like a statement rings out: there’s nothing more you need to know. Unlike reading online where links lead in all sorts of directions, and nothing seems definitive.

That’s part of why like Idealware’s compact “Field guide to software for nonprofits”. It suggests online applications useful to community organisations fit within an ordered universe.

I liked the fieldguide so much I’ve bought copies to share around. You can enter a draw for a one of five copies of the fieldguide by signing-up to my (irregular) email newsletter by 6 April 2012.

I’ve been dipping into the fieldguide for a while now, so I thought my views are somewhat biased. To address this lack of objectivity, I invited a couple of independent minded community folk to share their thoughts on the fieldguide.

(NB The 2012 version is due out any day now.)

Review by Peter Mitchell, Communications & Fundraising Manager, Wesley Community Action

This handy 139 page guide targets useful software information for the not-for-profit sector covering topics such as; accounting, office management software, case management software, social content websites, event management, donation management and much, much more.

Based on the Idealware web-site the information is up-to-date and current, however it is its origins from a web-site or from blogs that is to my mind the book’s downfall. Put simply, the inter-connectivity of an on-line web-site version would be much better than this rather one-dimensional book version, (and it hurts this book loving reviewer to say that!)

If the reader/viewer was able to click on all the many web-sites and links detailed and highlighted in the book and instantly explore the options mentioned, then the experience would be much richer. The printed version left me having to absorb names and take a note of web sites for a future ‘on-line’ session in order to explore them further.

Another shortcoming is a heavy bias to USA based software options, for example the discussion of accounting software (a key need for the not-for-profit sector,) mentions the USA favoured Inuit software, but fails to mention worthy Australasian alternatives such as MYOB and Xero. The absence of the later is particularly sad, as this NZ ‘Cloud’ based service is widely thought of as ‘the next best thing in accounting systems,’ not just for NZ, but internationally.

So, a handy guide, yes, but not as handy as an on-line version could be.

Review by Julian Apatu, FiveStroke Web Solutions

I’m going to start this review with a couple of cautions.

This book doesn’t set out to be comprehensive in terms of depth, with its single page descriptions and lists of software in many categories. However, it will be very useful for many NGOs looking at organisation wide technology integration as it has a very broad scope.

With guides of this nature, it will always be impossible to keep up with the latest and most popular software in each of the areas covered. I noticed that many of the current and recent software applications that I have personally used and am interested in are not mentioned.

As the Field guide is written for the North American non-profit market, some software options mentioned are not available here. Nonetheless, a fair amount of the concepts can be easily transferred to apply to New Zealand situations and conditions.

Where this book does well is covering the breadth of applications available and describing how they can be used by organisations. There is also advice on how to go about introducing new technologies. Organisations are encouraged to be very clear on what they want before introducing new technology.

So, who should read this book? The book is aimed more at Information Technology managers and similar decision makers, but can still provide useful insights to end-users as well. Decision makers will find some good background into each of the categories and what solutions are on offer (even if the products lists only provide a starting point).

As well as product listings, there are case studies that provide a more practical approach and real-life issues. Take note of the (large) budgets available to the organisations featured.

The software applications that are mentioned in each of the main sections have been covered in varying degrees of detail, but are generally described to a level where comparisons could be made. I do like how the five main sections are started with headings “Strongly consider”, “Keeping ahead of the curve” and “On the cutting edge…”. These sections summarise things that need to be considered when making a decision on software.

I wouldn’t rely on this book alone when making a decision on software or applications. As the book is written for a US market there may be significant differences or subtle issues with how some of the terms of the software can be used in New Zealand. You’ll need to find other sources of information.

If possible, find someone who has implemented a solution for the same problem and see what real life issues they have had. Use online search engines to do some research on options. You could also ask friends and colleagues if they know of any useful technologies that might be worth considering. Keep an open mind, but have a core list of requirements for the system you need.

All in all, I feel that the book provides a great baseline for any decision makers in NGOs who are considering an investment in software to support their organisation. Use the book as a reference and seek additional advice to rationalise a decision.

[Presentation] Webinar archive: Give your website some TLC, March 2012

Here is the presentation, recording and links from my “Give your website some TLC” webinar held on 23 March 2012. This was part of the NGO website manager series one.


Webinar recording

Don’t give up if you think the sound interference in first few minutes carries on for the whole session. The problem that caused this was fixed by the time we got to the second slide (of 44).

Website links

A Few Good Web Analytics Tools
by Laura S. Quinn and Kyle Andrei, April, 2011 Idealware

Overcome the Google Analytics Learning Curve in 20 Minutes
by Danny Dover, 26 May 2010, published on the daily seo blog

How-to: Calculate the ROI of Your Online Ads
Brett Meyer, NTEN, 17 May 2011

Rough and ready user testing
The Hey, You! user-test in action
Web site usability testing: recommended procedures
by Rachel McAlpine, circa 2002 or so

Rocket science made easy: the do-it-yourself guide to user testing” book
by Steve Krug, 2009

10 Quick Usability Testing Tips
by Jacob Creech, IntuitiionHQ, May 2011

Questioning visitors – why are you here?
by Stephen Blyth, 26 April 2011

The three greatest survey questions ever asked
by Avinash Kaushik, 10 April 2007

A book that covers it all:
Web analytics: an hour a day by Avinash Kaushik

Analysis Exchange
Get some free web analytics consulting for your organisation. Each organisation matched with an experienced mentor and a willing student. I’ve had help from the Exchange, and here’s what I said about it: “Diving into Google Analytics with the Analysis Exchange”.

My collected web analytics links:

Specific tools


Google Analytics

5 second test

Intuition HQ



This webinar was made possible with invaluable help from:

My co-producers:

My wonderfully talented graphic designer and brand advisor Luke, of Vida & Luke Kelly Design fame



Getting started with ICT planning

Graphic recording of what was covered MeasureIT workshop, created by Tracey EzardIt’s something of a truism to say that there are lots of demands on managers of community organisations. An indicative list might include things like service delivery leadership, overseeing staffing and financials, attending to the board, reporting and risk management, supporting fundraising and community engagement.

It’s little wonder that managers shun adding anything else to an already demanding role. How could anyone possibly add anything else on top?

Attendees at the Connecting Communities events participating in sessions run by Andrew Mahar, Infoxchange Australia’s founding Director, were challenged to get control of their ICT by starting to plan. Working alongside graphic facilitator Tracey Ezard, Andrew introduced the MeasureIT framework that has been used in Victoria for more than five years.

A fundamental, underlying rationale for undertaking planning needs to be accepted before getting started: becoming digitally proficient will reap rewards for individual staff, the organisation as a whole, and ultimately people receiving support or services.

An aim of the planning framework is to take the pain out of getting started. Groups are encouraged to take the bits of a plan that suits their organisation’s situation and run with it. It does look like big or small organisations could equally well benefit.

It’s not about rigidly applying a complex and technical model that is reliant on outside help. Anyone familiar with business or strategy planning is well equipped to give it a go.

As well considering what boxes and wires and organisations have and need, MeasureIT puts a strong emphasis on understanding skill levels of staff. A detailed ICT competency audit can help identify skill gaps. Andrew says there are all too often assumptions made about the skill level of staff. Inadequate training and support is often a cause of low levels of digital proficiency.

Not everyone attending was won over, but many people commented they were ready to take the approach further. They could see benefits for improving quality of IT services available to staff, and using it as a way of to advocating for the resources required to get good at using ICT.

Thinking back to a similar session I attended in Bendigo last year (see my blog post “On the road with iTaGNO”), I can see how an awareness raising session is just the beginning of the journey. It’s important to be able to link with others and access refresher help with the planning, alongside actually making progress with strategic priorities. Results count, otherwise planning is any empty gesture. It takes commitment to become more digitally proficient as well as time.

Whether people will follow-up after they left the workshops is another question. The imperatives of everyday work demands can mean the important gets squeezed out by the urgent.

Anyone who wants to share how they’re going with ICT planning in their organisation is welcome to share any thoughts here.


Here are links to a iTaNGO suite of planning tools to get your organisation started with ICT planning:

iTaNGO ICT plan template
iTaNGO ICT steering committee model
iTaNGO ICT policies
Digital proficiency maturity table
Digital proficiency self-assessment checklist
ICT training needs assessment