One Page Guide to Google Groups E-mail Lists

One Page GuideEven with all the amazing social web tools available out there – e-mail remains a key communication tool for most people.

For many committees, projects and associations – an e-mail list has a lot to offer as a co-ordination and collaboration tool. This morning I’ve been working on preparing a web presence for the DFID Civil Society Organisations Youth Working Group (a group of development agencies and youth charities focussing working with the Department for International Development to promote youth engagement and the role of young people in development), who are currently only online via the Youth Guidance Project. Because the Youth Working Group is essentially a network of organisations and individuals, with no permenant secretariat or central body – we’re building the whole web presence around e-mail lists for the central group and it’s sub-groups – set up to be open to anyone who wants to get involved. Content from the e-mail lists will be fed via RSS ito a website based on DokuWiki (a fantastically flexible and easy to use wiki).

This set-up will involve the chair of each sub-group managing their own e-mail list, and all the members or associates of the Youth Working Group understanding how an e-mail list works.

So – I took the opportunity to create a ‘One Page Guide to E-mail Lists with Google Groups‘.

You can download the PDF here, view the full thing below or on Scribd, and get the original to adapt for your own use in it’s original Open Office format, or MS Word if you prefer.

P.S. A slight tweak in the design this time, copying an idea from Amanda‘s adapted versions of the One Page Guides for 2Morro festival (under ‘Get Involved’).

Trying to explain network effects & motivations for using social media tools

picture-101I’m putting together a series of short guides for different clients on how to use social media tools in shared learning and online outreach. These will be a mash-up of my existing practical One Page Guides with a bit more theory on effective use of social tools.

One of the important bits of theory I want to try and get across is around network effects. Often the reasons given for using a given social media tool focus on the ways they are used once a network effect has kicked in: once, for example, lots of people have started following a Twitter account, or once a network of residents has grown big. However, when you start using a social media tool – particularly if your interests are in sectors other than technology (community music for example) – there is often a slow lead in before the network effect starts generating dividends from the time spent using the tool. Thus, it can be important to offer a different motivations model for using new social media tools.

You will probably notice, from the paragraph above, that I’ve not found a great way to communicate this point.. and I would really value your input.

Below is what I’ve written for one of the guides so far, but it’s much in need of a re-write. How could this be better said? Or should I be saying something else entirely?

Being open to the network effect

Many social media tools have a network effect. For each extra person who starts using them they become more useful (for example, the first telephone landlines had a big network effect – when only one person had a fixed line, it wasn’t all that useful a thing to own!). When you start using a new tools you may not have a ready-made network to join in on. If you focus on making new social media tools work well for you in your existing day-to-day work, then when the network effect kicks in it’s an added bonus.

For example, with social bookmarking, you can switch from saving your favourite links on your own computer (or scribbling down websites you must go back to look at on little scraps of paper), to using delicious to save them in a public online space. This is useful to you – as it means you can find your favourite links from any computer.

But it also brings a possible network effect. You might find people with shared interests who have bookmarked the same links as you. Or you may start to find a shared ‘tag’ to add to your bookmarks which helps you share information with an informal network of other users of the service.

If you start using a new tool only for the network effect, and you expect to get instant benefit from it – you may be disappointed. Networks are like communities, they take time to develop and grow. However, if you use a new social tool and weave it into your day-to-day practice, then you are sure to find a new connections, ideas and opportunities emerge over time.

Connected Generation: 2009 unConference on online youth engagement

The social media game

[Summary: Registration open for the 2009 unConference on youth engagement in a digital age]

Some point just after the first BarCampUKGovWeb back in 2008 I floated the idea of a BarCamp, or an unConference to explore the ways in which organisations whose work involved young people could make the most of social media and new digital technologies. After a few false starts, that turned into UK Youth Online* – a gathering of over 60 fantastic folk one Saturday at the offices of DIUS in London where we had explored all sorts of elements of online youth engagement: tools and technologies; issues of safety; participation online; implications for youth workers; the social media game; and loads more. That event led to the growth of the Youth Work Online ning network, currently fairly quiet, but helping to carry on the conversations from our face-to-face event.

Since the 2008 unConference I’ve met a whole load of fantastic people working to explore and use social technologies in youth work, youth participation and outreach work with young people. From software developers and central government policy makers, to local authority web teams and front-line youth workers – and of course, many young people themselves – as volunteers, activists and innovators. However, in all these meetings, I’ve not come across a forum that brings together practitioners, social entrepreneurs, developments, policy makers and young people to get stuck into sharing their learning and building the sorts of informal and formal networks that will drive forward greater and more effective uptake of social technologies to make a difference in the lives of young people.

Summing upSo – I though it might be time for another unConference. And this is the rather roundabout way of announcing: Connected Generation 2009 – unConference – exploring youth engagement in a digital age.

It’s taking place on the 11th July, it’s free to attend, in the same place in Central London as last years thanks to Steph Grey and DIUS, and registration is now open.

So, erm, get registered if you can join us, and spread the word!

More details below…


If your work involves young people, then understanding and engaging with social media and online technologies is a must. This event is an opportunity to explore big ideas, and practical realities of weaving the web into work with young people.

As an unConference, the exact programme is created on the day by the participants, who will convene conversations, provide demonstrates and share their insights. However, themes that are likely to be explored include:

  • Communicating with young people online – from promoting youth services and positive activities, through to hosting two-way dialogues with young people in online spaces.
  • Social networks & youth participation – how can Facebook, Bebo, MySpace and Ning be part of the participation workers toolbox? And how does social networking have the power to change the face of participation?
  • Digital inclusion for young people – making sure that all young people have the access to technology and the skills they need to get on in the digital age;
  • Practical action – how to make sure online engagement is based on safe-and-sound foundations; getting policies in place; and making sure the technology and staff skills are available to make the most of online engagement;
  • Hands-on learning – exploring different social media tools that you can use in your work, and sharing tips with other participants about the best way to use them;

Bring your own sessions!

An unConference is created by the participants – and it works best when everyone comes prepared to offer a session. Your session could be a short presentation of a project you have recently worked on using digital media for youth engagement; or it could be a topic for discussion; or an issue you want to get the insights of others on.

When you register you have the opportunity to suggest a session you may offer.

How the day works
If you’re never been to an unConference before and are wondering what to expect – here is a rough outline of what the day might look like: Planning out the different time-slots for the day

  • 10.00am – Arrive, coffee and introductions
  • 10.30am – Suggesting Sessions – participants will be invited to announce and introduce sessions they would like to run during the conference. These will be assigned to a time-slot and break-out room. There will probably be 6 break out rooms, allowing 30 different sessions to take place during the day.
  • 11.00am – Parallel Session 1 – some of the sessions just announced will take place and you can choose which to take part in.
  • 11.45 – Parallel Sessions 2 – more sessions taking place
  • 12.30 – Lunch
  • 13.15 – Parallel Sessions 3 – more sessions taking place
  • 14.00 – Parallel Sessions 4 – more sessions taking place
  • 14.45 – Break and review – A change to check if any new ideas for sessions have arisen throughout the day so far, and to plan in a few extras
  • 15.00 – Final sessions
  • 15.45 – Wrap and close

You will get to take part in at least five sessions on key topics in youth engagement and new technology. If you find a topic you want to discuss is not being covered, you have to opportunity to suggest a new session to explore it – and the facilitators will do their best to make your new session idea take place.

We’ll probably end the day at a local coffee shop or pub for those who can stay in London a bit longer.

Who is behind it?
The 2009 unConference is being organised by Tim Davies as a voluntary project.

The venue has been kindly supplied by DIUS, arrange for by Steph Grey.

Other volunteers will be involved on the day. Check for more details.

Sponsorship welcome
We welcome sponsorship to help us cover the costs of the event. Sponsors have the opportunity to display materials at the event and to place items in the conference bag – as well as to feel good about making a great event take place!

Any questions?

If you’ve got any questions then drop a line to
or give me a call on 07824 856 303

*Note: The 2008 event was not associated in any way with the charity UK Youth, and at their request we are not longer using the ‘UK Youth Online’ title for future events.

Networked Participation: opening up

Networked Participation - funded by LGIU
Networked Participation - funded by LGIU

Just a quick (and slightly late) note to let readers interested in Youth Participation & Social Media that we’ve opened up the Ning network for the Youth Participation and Social Network Sites action learning set to anyone to join.

You can access Networked Participation here.

You need to request a membership to access all the content – but as long as you provide just a few details I’ll get any requests to join approved quickly.

Inside the network you will find shared resources and slides from our expert speakers and all sorts of other bits and pieces from the last four months of explorations of what social network sites and online social network has to offer to effective youth participation.

Can social networks bridge the participation gap?

[Summary: Online social networks have a role to play in bridging one off engagement with more structured forms of participation.]

A bit of scene setting

Image from Hear by Right book (p.g.7)

The ‘Ladder of Participation’ which asks organisations to consider the depth of youth participation in particular activities will be familiar to many people in youth engagement. Using Hart’s Ladder of Participation you can assess whether a youth council is acting as a genuine structure for youth empowerment, leading to young people and adults sharing decisions and creating change – or whether it is really a tokenistic gesture, creating the illusion of participation whilst adults are actually running the whole show.

But youth participation is not just about youth councils and young mayors. Good youth participation offers young people the chance to get involved and influence issues that affect them in a wide variety of ways, from one-off input into feedback and complaints processes, through to more structured engagement in the governance of organisations. On it’s own the ladder of Participation doesn’t show the full picture. That’s where the ‘matrix of participation’ comes in.

It’s a tool I’ve been using in training sessions for years, having first discovered in whilst working with Bill Badham delivering Hear by Right training. However, as far as I can tell we’ve never written it up online (though it is written up in this book which you can search inside with an Amazon account (search for ‘matrix’)).

The matrix of participation includes Hart’s Ladder of Participation on it’s vertical axis, and adds a horizontal axis consisting of different participation approaches, running roughly from one-off, short term or informal approaches on the left, to more structured and long-term approaches on the right.

Organisations can map the different participation opportunities they provide against both their level of participativeness, and against the type of approach they represent.

The matrix is particularly useful to encourage organisations to consider whether they are offering young people a spread of engagement opportunities, and our experience is that attempts to just provide opportunities at one side or other of the matrix is unlikely to lead to sustainable and effective youth participation which leads to positive change for young people.

An observation: the gap in the middle
When Bill Badham joined us at the April meeting of the Youth Participation and Social Network Sites Action Learning Set he led the group in using the matrix of participation (plus some post-it notes and a big sticky sheet) to put together a big visual representation of the different participation approaches in use amongst the 20 or so local authorities participating in the learning set.

Standing back from the wall where this matrix had been put together during the lunch break we spotted something interesting. The participation methods shown were clustered on the left and right of the matrix, and things were thin in the middle.

Already participants had been talking about how many of the more structured participation methods to the right were limited in their efficacy because they only managed to attract certain groups of young people who did not reflect the diversity of the young people the organisations worked with. And this got us thinking.

Participation methods towards the middle of the matrix are really important. It is through involvement in events; in creative projects; and in short-term activities that many young people can develop the confidence to express their views and can build the networks with other young people and with supportive adults that enable and encourage them to then get involved in further participation. The middle of the matrix is a key point on young people’s ‘pathway of participation’. Without opportunities to gain experience, information and develop networks – many young people (and often the young people we most need to hear from) may never go on to speak up in forums where they could have power to make serious change happen.

Bridging the gap: online social networks
Online social networking is not a cure all. But it seems that it could have a role to play here.

Right now, young people engaging in participation on the left of the matrix of participation, in one-off participation opportunities have few ways of connecting this engagement to longer term involvement in participation. Filling in a paper form to provide feedback on an activity and handing it in can often feel like a participation dead end.

But what if, instead of just handing in feedback, young people were encouraged to digitally provide their ideas for improvements to a service, and were to vote for the ideas supplied by other young people (see tools like UserVoice)?

And what if young people taking part in survey and small-scale engagement were offered an opt-in opportunity to connect with the person who will take forward action based on their input, so they can continue to engage with further questions that crop up as a policy or practice comes to be implemented?

And what if young people who want to express their view on a single issue could do that by joining a group within a social network, in the process coming to discover the other issues their peers are working on – and becoming part of a shared network with young people already involved in formal participation structures?

Not all young people will go on to ‘leap the gap’ themselves and move from one-off engagement to sitting on a youth forum or governance board (nor should they), but perhaps some will – and perhaps, equally importantly, those young people who take part in formal participation structures will have ways of keeping connected with the issues that matter to their least advantaged peers, and will be better able to represent the views of others and to advocate for improvements that benefit those most in need of change.

How are you blending online and offline social networks into your youth participation practice?

Online Citizenship for young people – e-safety project ideas

[Summary: Ideas for online citizenship, digital youth work and e-safety programmes]

Project proposals
Project proposals

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of working with Jonathan and Jackie from the E-Safety Sub-Group of Brent Local Safeguarding Children Board to develop ideas for a range of projects and programmes that could be run in the Borough to promote positive online citizenship amongst young people.

Brent LSCB have long been leaders in the drive to encourage every local authority to have an e-safety group within their Local Safeguarding Children Boards – and in encouraging organisations working with young people to have e-safety co-ordinators. Refreshingly their focus has not just been on a narrow definition of e-safety and safeguarding – but they have pro-actively recognised the importance of supporting young people to thrive online and be active online citizens as a means to promote online safety. And they have been very kind in letting me share the project and strategy ideas we developed.

So – here is Citizenship for Young People: promoting e-safety through promoting opportunity – proposals for positive project as a PDF download.

The document sets out a small portfolio of projects – some specific to the work in Brent – but, along with the critical questions I shared from this document previously, hopefully also provides a few general purpose projects that others working on e-safety might find useful. In particular:

  • The Content Creators (PDF) project proposal sets out a process for encouraging young people to consider online safety through creating digital media in their local areas. In particular, it works alongside the Critical Questions framework in the main document to suggest a series of stages of planning and working on online content with young people that provides opportunities to consider and reflect upon key online safety issues.

    Draft structure for the Content Creators programme
    Structure for the Content Creators programme
  • The proposal for Skill Swap sessions (PDF) suggests ways of getting young people to teach each other about online tools and technologies – and suggests using this as an opportunity to add in some e-safety messages. Underlying a skill-swap model, where young people are encouraged to teach each other about managing their online identities and keeping safe is a belief in building young people’s resiliency, rather than putting up barriers to protect young people; and a thesis that, given the right opportunities for reflection and discussion, young people are able to identify relatively unprompted, many of the steps they may need to take to be safe online.

    Both Content Creators and Skill Swap sessions have possible use in digital mentor style programmes with young people.

  • The Connection Hubs proposal (PDF) has a slightly different focus – on online outreach and taking content to where young people are. It outlines a possible strategy for having a core project presence online, and then ‘hubs’ out in different social media and social networking spaces to be able to engage with the online communities of young people in those spaces. It also fits with the idea of having a content strategy rather than a web strategy.

All the above are under a Creative Commons licence, and are very much initial ideas and sketches of possible projects. Brent LSCB have only been able to take a few of them forward at the moment, but hopefully in allowing them to be shared there may also be some value in here for other organisations exploring e-safety.

And of course – your feedback, reflections and comments (and edits even – let me know if you would like to Open Office/Word originals to work on) to help improve these would be most welcome.

Post your policy: e-safety, online youth work, e-participation

[Summary: Towards a pack of practical guidance for youth workers and participation workers using Social Network Sites]

I’ve just shared a copy of my latest attempt at putting together guidance notes for youth sector professionals exploring safe and effective engagement with social network sites, created as part of a series of training for youth services and other youth sector organisations that I’m currently preparing to pilot*.

You can grab a copy of the five-page document over on the Youth Work Online website. But, rather than just read the notes I’ve put together – I would love it if you could share any existing e-safety and e-participation policies or guidance you’ve put together in your organisation. There has a been a lot of discussion in the ‘Policies, guidelines and boundaries for interacting online‘ thread on Youth Work Online about what a good policy or guidance note might look like – but as yet we’ve had no draft policies or notes shared in full. It’s time we changed that.

*If your organisation might be interested in piloting a one-day workshop on ‘Safe & Effective use of Social Network Sites in Youth Work/Participation Settings’ then do drop me a line.

(Update: It seems some Local Authorites have trouble accessing the Youth Work Online website (and some even have trouble accessing this blog…). If that is preventing you accesing the document mentioned in the post above, or preventing you sharing a policy or document you would like to share, drop me a line…)

Explaining Twitter in one page…

I’ve been trying to create a general purpose one page guide to Twitter for a while. I’ve made two attempts in the past for particular situations – although with the end of SMS based access to Twitter in the UK those guides are both out of date.

But – I think I’ve finally created a guide I’m happy with – with this guide created for an Action Learning Set on Youth Participation and Social Network Sites I’m currently co-facilitating – but written to work as an introduction in just about any circumstance.

You can get the PDF of this one page guide to Twitter from (look for the download link) or, as this guide, like all the other one page guides, is provided you can download an Open Office copy (ODT) to edit and re-purpose as you wish (just make sure you let me know about any updated versions).

(Thanks to Harry @ Neontribe for photos and feedback used in this guide)

Guide preview:

How can Facebook fight AIDS?

[Summary: help us explore the role of social networks in the fight against AIDS]

The world has been managing the global AIDS epidemic for more than 25 years. 2031 will mark 50 years since the first report of AIDS. While great strides have been made, there are persisting as well as emerging challenges that must be addressed.

aids2031 is not about what we should do in 2031, but what we can do differently now, to change the face of the pandemic by 2031.

aids2031 is a consortium of partners who have come together to look at what we have learned about the AIDS response as well as consider the implications of the changing world around AIDS.
AIDS2031 Consortium

The world is changing. The way people communicate is changing. And AIDS communicators are thinking about how they need to respond.

    How are Social Network Sites changing the way people communicate?

    How are Social Network Sites developing in different ways in different countries and communities?

    What are the implications for AIDS communication and AIDS communicators?

Those are some of he questions I’m exploring on a research project led by Pete Cranston, and commissioned by the Communications Sub-Group of the AIDS2031 Consortium. And we could do with your help.

We know that Social Network Sites means many different things to different people – and that they are adopted and used in different ways in different communities. Only some of that it written up in literature, and our on-the-ground research partners can only cover four of five different countries and contexts. So – whether you work with local government in a UK inner city, you’re using social networks to connect with friends and family in countries across the world, of you’re not using social networks at all – we would really value your insights.

Take a look at the four questions on our project blog and please do take a few minutes to offer a comment or two.

(This is a short-term research project, so the blog is only open until the end of Feb – and we hope to share some of the initial research findings from the blog soon after.)

TV, Channels and Social Networks – a day with DigiTV

I was speaking yesterday at the DigiTV Stakeholder Event alongside Steven Flower of Substance/Plings – exploring how information providers can ensure their information and services are ready not just to feed into the ‘channels’ young people use, but also into the networks and social networks through which young people and the wider population are increasingly accessing information*.

Presentation slides
If you were at the event and are looking for the slides I promised to share, you can find them as a a PDF download here or Slideshare here.

The future of TV
The last time I lived in a household with a TV was 2003 and that was an old analogue set, so I’ve not yet got my head fully around the current versions of digital TV. Which meant that and hearing Ian Valentine from Miniweb (and formally from the R&D team at Sky) speak about both the present and the future of digital TV was a bit of an eye-opener for me. The convergence of TV set and always-on broadband internet connection looks set to have some really interesting implications.

Below are a few quick reflections on some of the content of yesterday:

  • An interactive platform for the household? – The mobile phone, laptops, and even family computers are set up as private screens. One user at a time. The TV still appears to operate in most settings as a shared screen. With digital messaging (TV e-mail / RSS feed to TV?) and social interaction features (share with a friend etc.) built directly into the television watching experience, not as separate applications that requires a move away from TV watching to access, is there a potential for digital messaging and social-networking features based less around the individual, and more around the household?
  • Digital TV services are not just for access at home – Continuing the theme of the shared screen – one presenter talked about how they have installed digital TV in some community venues they work in, in order to provide access to the services they have developed digital TV interfaces for. At first this seems odd – surely those venues already had internet access and computers which could be used to access the very same services. But the Digital TV interface was, perhaps significantly because of the constraints of the platform, much easier for the target group of the service to use. The idea of simple interfaces to interactive tools on a shared screen is really quite appealing for a lot of contexts (e.g. youth group working on a consultation without other digital distractions etc.).
  • Service delivery via digital TV will no longer just be a way of reaching the 30% or so of internet non-adopters. As the TV becomes a broadband internet access device to parallel other alternative screens such as the phone screen, it is reasonable to assume it will become increasingly important to create TV-ready websites. Ian from MiniWeb spoke a bit about the wTVML markup gateways they have been developing as a way of translating standard CMS driven websites into TV-ready interfaces with the addition of a little XML to the website templates. This makes it more important than ever to develop standards compliant sites from the start.
  • Social Networking comes to the TV. Some of the features of next-generation digital TV shown at the event highlight the potential for rich social networking tools and platforms to be built into the TV. This is one to keep an eye on when it comes to Youth Work & Social Networking – and thinking about safer social networking.

Even so, I’m sticking to the Radio.