Springing online

People (sometimes rightly, sometimes not) often criticise the concept of European Years for not achieving much, and not reaching out beyond the usual suspects. I chair the national steering group for the European Year of Active Ageing in the UK and we have been making an effort to make sure that we have a real impact on the people the year is about and also achieve something that will have value after 31 December 2012. Friday 27 April saw achievements that I think work on both those areas.

Firstly, in the morning, we hosted a digital clinic at Europe House. It was linked to the Spring Online campaign, and the idea was to provide a chance for older people to get advice on all sorts of technical issues. I helped with items as varied as teaching someone to cut and paste, demonstrating Skype, discussing how to host a blog and purchase a domain name, and unblocking hotmail accounts. We had iPads and Kindles for people to try out. We set up Facebook, Twitter and Skype accounts. The over-50s had signed up via Age UK London and we had volunteers from there, this office and the Department of Work and Pensions helping people out. I also noticed a few of the volunteers sneakily getting advice from their more digitally-inclined colleagues! The feedback on the day was amazing, with all the participants really valuing the time that the volunteers had given to help out. In fact, there was significant demand for another event, and we’ll bear it in mind.

Secondly, that afternoon, I chaired a meeting of the national steering group for the European Year, and we spent considerable time talking about how we can make the year mean something for the sector. We’ve had some good ideas, and I hope that in a month or so they will be clear enough to be able to see whether they will work. We’re clearly focusing on sustainability, in terms of, who will carry the work forward if there’s not longer a reason to meet as the steering group. We’re not interested in creating things for the sake of it, without the support of and investment (in the broadest sense) of the sector. Watch this space.

Rethinking digital measurement

One of my responsibilities in the Representation is managing our digital and social media presence. In order to improve how we do this, we have been doing monthly reports looking at each of the channels (Facebook, Twitter, the various websites) and seeing how many hits they get, what the most popular items have been and what search terms are used. There is then a qualitative section that tries to explain the numbers and draw lessons for the future.

So far so good and I think it is worthwhile. But we’re not totally happy that we’re getting the right feel for how things are working, or making the most of analytical possibilities. So I was hoping people out there that know more about this sort of thing than me might have some suggestions for how we could improve our evaluation and monitoring of our online presence. This isn’t an invitation for you to pitch for a consultancy contract or an expensive monitoring service as we have zero budget. I would just hope that there were some tips on what questions we should be asking ourselves.

Thanks for listening :)

Completing the move. Almost.

So I now seem to have managed to do an almost complete import of the old blog onto this platform, which is great. Some images seem not to have made the move, but I’m not sure it’s worth fixing that until I need to on a case-by-case basis. So now it feels like the boxes are unpacked and I can enjoy the new place.

I was pleasantly surprised to be mentioned in Ron Patz’s post today about women Euro-bloggers, as I don’t write half as much as I a) used to and b) would like to. Some of a) is about the fact that I changed job, and also that we got better at a Rep level – the creation of the Euromyths blog on the Rep website replaced the subject that dominated my early posts. Twitter is a better place for bringing people’s attention to interesting links or items. And my focus is much less political these days – I’m dealing with schools and information networks and things like that, not the stories dominating the headlines. Which is not to say that what I do now is not important – on the contrary, I think it’s importance is undervalued (though I guess I would say that, wouldn’t I!). So I will continue to write about what I do when I can and hopefully that will be interesting to at least some of you out there.

So what am I doing? The next thing that I’m quite excited about is our Spring Online day next Friday. As part of the Digital Unite Spring Online campaign and taking into account this year’s focus on Active Ageing, we are going to host a digital clinic here in Europe House with about 50 older people from across London. Volunteers from this office and the Department of Work and Pensions will help them with their digital queries from sending a text message to setting up a skype account. We’ll have Kindles, iPads and Wiis to demonstrate. The whole thing should be useful and fun and I’m really looking forward to it!