Monthly Archives: February 2014

Sharing EYC unConference gems

Animated discussion about tech topics around table, at EYC unConferenceSpontaneous. Serendipity. These two words are still echoing in my mind from the wrap-up session of the Engage Your Community (EYC) unConference.

At our closing session last Saturday we asked all the co-learners to shout out words about the day. These ‘s’ words really did capture the spirit of out time together.

It may seem a terrifying prospect to start a learning event with a blank agenda. We didn’t know what would be covered. Who would talk. If people would jump in to learn together.

But jump in everyone did. There seemed barely a wasted minute. Discussion about using tech and the web for community was loud and continuous.

Included in the list of topics covered were Google tools, accessibility, basics of web design, responsive design in wordpress, Chalkle community learning and online collaboration. The full agenda is recorded on the front page of the EYC unConference wiki.

The final session was an experiment: we called it speed geeking. In a fast and furious session people learnt about wikis, blogging and URL shorteners.

The topics for this session were chosen through an impromptu voting exercise, and the ‘presenters’ volunteered to speak on the fly. The format had people moving every 10 minutes between the three topic tables.

Our motto for the day was that no burning question would go unanswered. We’ll have to await for the report on the evaluation forms people filled in to see if we achieved this.

As one of the co-organisers, I left happy. My litmus test of success was whether I enjoyed myself and learnt things, and seeing if people stayed until the end. I maybe biased, but I’d say all were achieved.

As for my own learning, I’ve already been following up on some links. These include to site monitoring services like site247x.com and WordPress emulator called Instant WorldPress, sadly Windows only.

Thanks are due to:

  • Andrena for her work coordinating everything
  • Our volunteers on the day – Keith, Eileen and Justine, all NetSquared Wellington stalwarts
  • Massey University for hosting us
  • Microsoft NZ and Wellington City Council for sponsorship support.

When we debrief about the event next week, our agenda includes the question of when to run another unConference. I’ll report back after we talk. If this is something that you’d like to help with, don’t hesitate to raise your hand.

EYC unconference, 22 February 2014EYC unconference, 22 February 2014EYC unconference, 22 February 2014EYC unconference, 22 February 2014EYC unconference, 22 February 2014EYC unconference, 22 February 2014
EYC unconference, 22 February 2014EYC unconference, 22 February 2014EYC unconference, 22 February 2014EYC unconference, 22 February 2014EYC unconference, 22 February 2014EYC unconference, 22 February 2014
EYC unconference, 22 February 2014EYC unconference, 22 February 2014EYC unconference, 22 February 2014EYC unconference, 22 February 2014EYC unconference, 22 February 2014EYC unconference, 22 February 2014
EYC unconference, 22 February 2014EYC unconference, 22 February 2014

We’d love to add more photos to this album – get in touch if you’d like some help sharing.

Learning from language on the street

Concept map showing Wellington as a place to  "do" and " be" , in pictures

You’re likely to be a little surprised at some the language around you. That’s if you stop to pay attention.

Rushing around we notice a fraction of the words and messages directed toward us. It’s little wonder. Some estimates put the number of messages we’re exposed to everyday as high as 5,000.

Mostly we don’t stop to think about this. Not the individual words, nor meanings.

Last week, I got a chance to pause and reflect on the language we’re surrounded by. I was fortunate to attend a workshop at Webstock 2014 led by Liz Danzico called “Use Your Words: Content Strategy to influence behaviour”.

Our workshop leader — who who is part designer, part educator, and hails from New York — guided 20 of us through a day-long learning experience where we paid close attention to the language of Wellington city.

After discussing the way language can shape behaviour in many, varied and nuanced ways, the workshop participants where charged with closely observing and recording words in Wellington.

It was a revelation. There are lots of words! Big, small, subtle and bold. Language is everywhere. It was a joy spending an hour noticing just some of the many signs of the city. (The photos from my hour are available on flickr).

Once we were grouped together and sharing our perspectives on the language we’d found (both implicit and explicit), it was possible to read a narrative into the city that isn’t evident when you rush by. Or look at just individual words.

Each of the four groups who workshopped their ideas (using tools adopted from UX approaches to content strategy) revealed different hidden undercurrents or themes.

I was delighted at the conversation about Wellington that emerged from team Headquarters of the Verb. Not only did we reference creativity and nature, but also participation and giving. You can see the concept map we created above.

Even if we didn’t talk at length about the mechanics of websites, the learning Liz facilitated has application. Two main things remain with me:

  • be alert to hidden, unintended meanings of language
  • take time to see your city, site or user experience from a fresh perspective: turn things on their head (so to speak).

As I’ve long been interested in place-making (particularly as advocated by David Engwicht of Creative Communities), the stretch from observations about the city to the web were entirely credible (if not somewhat unorthodox). Liz referred to the Project for Public Spaces, whose examples reminded me of heated discussions about situationalist tactics from my protest days.

Will I pay more attention to language around me, everyday? Probably not. However, I can see myself being attentive to unintended meanings, associations and language at particular key junctures of web content projects I’m working on. And I will definitely stick to one of Liz’s parting shots: “Get outside your comfort zone”.

Resources

Use Your Words: Content Strategy to influence behaviour presentation by Liz Danzico. She’ll also share details of her Webstock talk via an article with video. (I’ll add a link when this is generously shared.)

Designing for Behavior Change (2013) by Steve Wendel