Category Archives: Training

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 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.

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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”.


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

What’s on the EYC unConference programme?

A wordle that captures essence of 2010 unconferenceAn unConference is unlike your everyday conference. Until the day, we do not know the details of what is going to be covered.

The programme is co-created by participants at the beginning of the event. Everyone attending can run a session.

These can take a myriad of formats: presentations, case studies, interactive workshops or even inviting others to respond to your particular challenge or problem.

While there is not a pre-determined agenda, there is a structure and a theme. At the EYC unConference, on Saturday 22 February at Massey University’s Wellington campus, we’re splitting the day into five sessions, each 50 minutes long. There’s difference spaces available for each session.

Our theme is: finding and using the best of what the web has to offer for people working to make the world a better place.

It’s a crazily broad topic which could touch on everything from resizing images, creating mobile apps, database selection through to high level social media engagement strategy.

Ahead of the event, people registering will have chances to share ideas of the specific topics they want to cover.

Ideas are already bubbling away. One of our co-organisers wants to run a speed geeking session: he envisages people rotating around 3-4 rapid fire presentations on essential web tools and skills. As we’ve access to a theatrette at Massey University, we could open the doors for people to share a favourite #nptech video.

Feeling a little uncertain about participating? Here are some ideas from Scott Berkun in 2006 about “How to run a great unconference session”.

Presented with a blank agenda, along with gentle encouragement, people don’t actually run a mile. They dive in. I’m sure it’ll be the same again next month. Come along.

Register now!!!

Engage Your Community (EYC) unconference, Saturday 22 February 2014

Details at:
Registration just $30 per person:

Organised by Wellington ICT in partnership with NetSquared Wellington and Massey University.

From coffee to 603 chalkle° classes

Silvia Zuur, chalkle° co-founder, presenting to #net2welly meetup

Chalkle° offers proof that if you’re prepared to ask provocative questions, you will get some amazing results.

The question chalkle°’s co-founders Silvia Zuur and Linc Gasking sat down over a coffee to ponder on was: “what does enabling life long learning in all communities look like?”

Just over a year after having that first cuppa, the chalkle° adult learning program in Wellington has run 603 classes with 4,500 people participating.

Silvia expanded on the answer to the confounding question with participants at NetSquared Wellington’s October meetup.

At it’s core Chalkle° connects willing teachers with people who want to learn. Technology supports new ways of unlocking knowledge otherwise inaccessible within communities.

Seven weeks after the now infamous coffee, the pair set up the beginnings of a learning network. The core of this is supporting teachers to run classes. Chalkle° handles all the non-teaching parts of the process, such as room bookings, registrations and promotion. Plus gives vital support and encouragement.

Anyone can be a teacher. Chalkle° leaves it up to the learners to decide whether a teacher knows their stuff.

Anyone can sign-up to receive alerts about new courses. Now 8-10 classes are run each week, with 10 people on average participating. Fees charged are low, to ensure everyone can access learning.

The topics have been many and varied: ukele, new economics, computer coding, makeup for beginners, and Spanish en el restaurant.

Venues are often outside the formal classroom. Learning has taken place everywhere from an organics shop floor (out of opening hours), Deloitte’s boardroom, Innermost community garden and in the Wellington railway station lobby.

That chalkle° has achieved such an enormous amount in short is clearly due to the determination and passion of Silvia and her co-co-founder. It’s also down to the philosophy they’ve adopted: start simple and go for there.

A good example is collecting fees and paying teachers process. It started on paper, moved to a spreadsheet in Google Docs and will soon be handled by a custom-built platform.

Having come up with a working model, the latest provocative question for Chalkle’s chiefs is to find a way of keeping things going. A new software platform is being built, and a social franchise model is being explored.

The NetSquared Wellington meetup session with Silvia was very inspiring and provoked much discussion. In the end, we didn’t talk much about the technology as we were too interested in the learning revolution going on.

Chalkle° on the web:

BTW: the name chalkle° is a made-up word: it’s a verb from “chalk” used on blackboards and street art to share ideas.

Announcement: register now for webinars for NZ NGOs

Group of people in seminar with questioning looks on their faces by Melbourne WSG

For webmasters and other people running NGO websites in Wellington there is an abundance of ways to learn about the craft. As well as fairly regular NGO focused workshops, conferences and networking sessions, there is a whole raft of opportunities for professional website designers, content producers and others.

This is of course fabulous for organisations based here. But if you’re running a website for an NGO in Gisborne, Greymouth or further afield, I’m not aware of there being many opportunities to access training or to connect with peers.

Of course, there is plenty of written material available. This is great, but you can’t really enter into dialogue with a resource manual, nor make connections with others.

If you are really keen there’s nothing to stop people from getting up early to join in online presentations from USA, UK or other far-flung lands. The content may be great but connecting with others across time zones isn’t easy.

In my mind this I adds up to something of a gap, and an opportunity. And to steal a phrase, I’ve been thinking.

So, without further ado, I’m delighted to announce that next month I’m offering two online sessions for NGO website managers working in Aotearoa New Zealand. These two hour long webinars* will deliver some advice on keeping your website up-to-date and accessible to all visitors. You can find out more and register on the webinar series one page.

Webinar 1: Three ways to get insights into what your visitors want. Presenter: Stephen Blyth, Common Knowledge. 2pm Friday 23 March 2012.

Webinar 2: Learn how you can ensure all your visitors can access your website. Presenter: Mike Osborne, AccEase Ltd. 2pm Friday 30 March 2012.

Along the way I would love to hear your feedback. This will help the team running the sessions learn how things went. We want to know everything from time of day, price, content and any technical issues you face.

If there is demand I’ll look into running further sessions later in 2012.

As well as running a series for NGO website managers, I realise many people will want to explore how to use different tools to support the work of their organisation or network.

To help get you started I’m offering monthly drop-in session focused on running effective online meeting and webinars, what tools to use, and so on. You can come along to a casual session for an introduction, with plenty of time for questions.

At this stage, I am using the Citrix GoToMeeting/ GoToWebinar platform which TechSoup New Zealand is distributing to NGOs at a discounted rate for the first years subscription.

Find out more and register for an upcoming drop-in session. The first one is on 2pm Friday 13 April.

Now that the brochures are in the post and adverts online, I’ll have to wait to see if my hunch is right about NGO webmasters wanting to learn how they can improve the quality of their websites. I’m looking forward to seeing what people think.

* A webinar is an online presentation with opportunities for participants to ask questions and make comments. Or according to Webopedia a webinar is “Short for Web-based seminar, a presentation, lecture, workshop or seminar that is transmitted over the Web. A key feature of a Webinar is its interactive elements — the ability to give, receive and discuss information.”

Update (4 April): Recordings, links and other resources are now available now.

Photo credit: Melbourne WSG

A tip for presenters – take your own bottle

Photo of a water bottle sitting in front of a MacBookI’m going to skip making any introductory comments and get straight to the point.

If you’re doing a presentation and are worried there’ll be even the faintest possibility you might spill a drink on your laptop then:

  1. drink from a bottle, preferably one you brought from home of course (and make sure the lid is closed)
  2. by all means fill (or half fill) a glass with water, but keep it well away from the computer
  3. abstain: wait until you’ve finished to have a drink.

I’ve arrived at this tip through hard won experience. Seven days ago I had a “this couldn’t possibly happen to me moment”.

Near the beginning of my Fine-tune how you harvest (online) information workshop I knocked a glass of water on my precious laptop.

Argh!! My stomach sunk almost visibly in front of the small group of workshop participants. Stunned and aghast, I didn’t quite know what to do. Except for not panicking.

With some help I mopped up the water as best I could, and then drained the laptop when I got my wits about me.

After 24 hours of drying I gamely pressed on the on switch to see if there was any life. There was. But, and it’s a big but, no bluetooth, no audio, a malfunctioning tab button, things running slowly. All a bit haywire.

Following the instructions of our insurance company I took the wounded gadget off for an assessment. The verdict was not a happy one: “Sir, you might like to sit down, I have some bad new, it’s not economic to restore the machine to its former glory”.

Now the laptop is off to the wreckers yard. I am pleased that Connect NZ, the company who did the insurance repair assessment, makes some bold statements about it’s environmental credentials. They strive to “maximise the value in technology whilst simultaneously reducing the amount of landfill” and “achieve zero landfill in components, PCB’s and toner cartridges.”

This is small comfort as I had hoped this dead box of electronics would last at least as long as the iBook I bought in 2004. A device we’re still using this around the house.

Longetivity is particularly important as a way I can minimise my environmental footprint. This is especially important as I can’t do without given my line of work.

I’m acutely conscious (and, to be honest, a bit guilty) about Apple getting my support. They have a long way to go in terms of there environmental standards. They were rated 9th of 18 top manufactures of computers, mobile phones and other devices in the latest Guide to Greener Electronics prepared by Greenpeace, released October 2010.

Water will be kept far from my shiny, new MacBook. In an attempt at rote learning, I’ll repeat to myself without fear: when worried a waving arm might dislodge a glass, use a water bottle instead.

PS Because I had good back-ups, etc, setting up the new laptop has been almost painless.

Photo credit: Klafkid