Brett Sadler

Digital Influence In #ukhousing (and Beyond)

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Just what is digital influence? There are social media metric tools that reportedly measure digital influence, including Klout and Kred. I’ve used both of these before. My Klout rating in particular has steadily reduced over the month of August (I’ve not been very active on social media) so it’s fallen from 57 down to 49. Has this meant that I am any less influencial? Well that depends on how you measure influence in the first place. There are many doubters of Klout (me included – I blogged about it some time ago here) but it does mean that you can ‘measure’ yourself against other like-minded or influential people.

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I was also lucky enough to be in the top 50 Digital Power Players 2014 list produced by Paul Taylor and Shirley Ayres, in conjunction with 24 Housing Magazine – a kind of ‘digital influencer’ list. This was a great honour, despite some of the negative comments that followed about it being a closed list. It’s a digital list, so if by being closed you mean it excluded anyone not digitally connected, then I guess it was. But I’ve always maintained that I’ve learnt a lot from being digitally connected and will continue to do so.

But social media continues to amaze me in that even if I think nobody is listening to what I say, people it seems always are. I’ve lost count of the number of times people who follow me on Twitter have commented on something I’ve tweeted previously, when to all intense and purpose it had no reaction at all at the time (it was not favourite or retweeted). But having a tweet favourite or retweeted is just one measure of influence. I’ve been told by some that they do follow my tweets and what I say, but if I hadn’t had the real world conversation, I may never have known this. Is this real digital influence?

So to get back to my original question – just what is digital influence? Digital influence for me is having someone (anyone?) listen to what you say, take it on board and use it in the future. I would never say that I’m an influential person really – I just do what I do because I like it. I love being connected to people that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to speak to – I’d guess over 90% of my Twitter followers are people I’ve never met face-to-face and probably never will. I’d also say that a healthy % of who I follow are not working directly in #ukhousing which gives some nice variety to my twitter feed.

I have said on many occasions that Twitter is my connection to the wider world – I get best practice tips, pick up on new innovations and hear up-to-the-second news and views on things that I would otherwise miss. I wouldn’t change that for anything.

The Digital Inclusion Blues

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I’ve been ‘drafting’ a Digital Inclusion strategy for what feels like an ice age (for the record it’s been several months). I’ve had countless conversations with people, both face-to-face and via Twitter about the subject, I’ve also attended workshops and I’ve read tons of digital inclusion strategies and statistics.

So why the difficulty in writing a Digital Inclusion Strategy? For one thing, the picture is ever changing. The pace of technological change is fast and constant and not a week goes by without a new technological advancement that could be applied to #ukhousing.

Another challenge is that there is just so much to do to tackle digital inclusion. For the DI Strategy I’m writing, I’m trying to cover lots of different sections within our organisation, with a wide range of skills, experience and ages. This is just not easy. One answer for one group of tenants isn’t going to work for another. This leads to a really lengthy strategy, which I hate. I really want to keep this as short as possible, otherwise no-one will read it (including me). There’s also the challenge of rural vs coastal, the sheer availability of reliable and affordable internet access and mobile blackspots. You just are not able to connect in some areas.

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A third challenge is that to some degree we are all working in isolation. We have social housing tenants, private tenants and owner occupiers, many of which are suffering from digital exclusion, but we don’t always offer the same things to everyone. My DI Strategy for example is aimed at our tenants and customers. There’s no real mention as yet about the many tenants and owner occupiers who aren’t our direct customers accessing what we are looking to offer. Sure, I’ve had some conversations and meetings with other social landlords, but nothing has got off the ground about this (although I haven’t given up on this!).

Like a lot of organisations, we’ve been gathering some profiling data from our tenants. One area in particular I’m hoping to gain some insight on from the tenant profiling data is on digital inclusion. After asking on Twitter for some suggestions, these are the questions we included in our questionnaire:

  1. Do you have access to the internet at home?
  2. Do you have a smart phone?
  3. Do you access the internet on your phone? (a) on 3G (b) on wifi?
  4. Are you confident in your internet skills?

Now the sheer volume of suggested questions I received was amazing! I decided on asking the above questions as a ‘phase 1’ set of questions; ‘phase 2’ would go into a lot more detail than this. We’ve also been carrying out some more specific digital inclusion questionnaires in our Extra Care Housing Scheme (for Older People) to see if this shows us anything.

This is all coupled with some crystal clear statistics available which include:

  • Latest figures show there are still have a million people in Wales who are digitally excluded. One in five Welsh adults has never used the internet. Source: Wales Co-op, Digital Inclusion: Stronger Communities, 2014
  • 46% of social housing tenants do not have access to the internet within their own home. This amounts to over 214,000 digitally excluded tenants. Source: Welsh Government, ‘Device use and household access, by tenure’, National Survey for Wales Internet Access Figures, 2013

I have had some successes though (well one). I’ve been trialling the £30 UbiSlate tablet from Datawind and I’m now starting to roll this trial out to include some tenants (it’s not much of a success but I’ll take it).

However, I am really pleased to say that I’ve finally come to a conclusion – one which I have really had since I started drafting the DI Strategy. It’s not going to change the world, but for me it’s a really important step in the process.

It’s better to get on with doing something than just talking about it.

Mind you, first things first, I just need to complete and gain approval for V8 of our ‘draft’ DI Strategy……………

HouseParty14 – innovate or stagnate?

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Should #ukhousing or other sectors prioritise and push innovation or risk stagnating as a sector?

This is the question that sprung to mind when thinking about HouseParty. As a first day attendee of #hseparty14, the unofficial fringe event in Manchester, I thought I’d have a go at answering this.

First things first, I obviously heard about HouseParty via Twitter. This is like a lot of things nowadays, with Twitter being my ‘finger on the pulse newsfeed’. After looking into it, I thought I’d better book on to attend as it looked like something different, which I’m always attracted to it seems. The fact that it was co-created and organised by HACT and The Social Change Agency was an added appeal – if it had been organised by an organisation I’d never heard of before, I might not have been so keen, but I really wanted to see what this would be about and to be part of it in some way.

It goes without saying that from the outset the event had a very different feel to it. You were given ticket options to purchase via Eventbright – either a full paying ticket, a donation towards a ticket or a free version; the first of many differences. Leading up to the day via the dedicated twitter account and hashtag there were regular updates and new sessions announced. It felt exciting to be attending – almost secretive and special!

On the first day of HouseParty, I got off the same train as I would to attend the main CIH Conference – Oxford Rd. Although I’d been mulling over for some weeks whether to flit between the HouseParty event and the main CIH Conference, I decided that as I was only going to be there for the first day, that I’d dedicate my attendance to just HouseParty. On arriving at the HouseParty venue there was a sign outside announcing I’d got to the right place:

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I was given a HouseParty lanyard and shown where the tea and coffee was. So far, just like every other conference I’ve attended.

I made my way downstairs to the main hallway to where various social enterprises had set up to show their wares. This felt a bit different. Everyone (apart from those who jumped over from the main CIH Conference) were casually dressed and the feel of the event was very relaxed – not very Housing like. I managed to attend various sessions throughout the day including a ‘Fireside chat with Anne McCrossan’ and a session showcasing new apps developed by social enterprises. All of the sessions I attended were informative, within fairly small groups and the chance to ask questions and get involved.

On reflection, three things struck me about the event.

1)      Although some Housing Associations got involved in HouseParty by either sponsoring or attending the event, the vast majority of showcases were by organisations that would not have had the same platform or opportunities at the main CIH Conference.

2)      As the event was organised through Twitter, there was a distinct Social Media flavour to attendees. Quite a few of the Social Media #powerplayers14 attended over the few days and gave talks of some form or another – a great chance for people to meet in the flesh they’ve connected with and followed on Twitter. I’m sure some people would have paid more for the chance they had to hear from some of the speakers.

3)      The event felt quite unstructured and chaotic at times. I personally thought this was a good thing and only added to the sense that the event was meant to be different!

I had the chance to talk with one of the HouseParty organiser’s Matt Leach (CEO of HACT) about the event and the reason for organising it. In essence, it was a chance to offer something different to the usual CIH Conference. Quite how the CIH will deal with the event remains to be seen, as I’m sure a lot of the HouseParty attendees would have agreed that the more relaxed, disruptive feel to the event was a pleasant change. Whether Matt Leach, Esther and their teams will ultimately want to organise another event next year (I bet they were tired at the end of the two days) also remains to be seen.

So, overall I thought HouseParty was a fantastic event that can only get better as time goes by. The people I spoke to on the day also seemed to be enjoying attending. The chance to fine tune the agendas and timings would make it even better. There were certainly some elements that the main CIH Conference should consider taking on board (like the cost of attending and who was attending) but again that remains to be seen.

I managed to have some great conversations with lots of amazing people over the day and made some great new contacts for the future.

It seems that the rise of alternative/fringe events like #hseparty14 and #commshero are here to stay. Long may the disruption revolution continue!

My #powerplayer14 pledges

spidermanI was so pleased to find out that I was in the top 50 alternative digital #powerplayers14 list produced by Paul Taylor and Shirley Ayres. I’m listed alongside some mighty big names from the #ukhousing #digital world which is both humbling and exciting at the same time.

In keeping with other similar pledges like the one made by Rae Watson (also one of my #powerplayers14 nominations!), here are my #powerplayer14 pledges:

 

  1. With great power comes great responsibility

Seeing as I’ve now been put no.36 out of 50 digital #powerplayers14, I do feel an obligation to live up to this great responsibility. There are some amazing people who didn’t even reach the top 50 – it would be very rude not to. (I’ve also been looking to add this Spiderman quote into a blog post for some months now, so mission accomplished). I’ll have to make sure that any content I push on Twitter, G+ and LinkedIn is suitably ‘#powerplayer14 ish’.

 

  1. Pushing the Google+ Housing Community

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What do you mean you’ve never heard of this? (of course I’m joking, you’re already a member……..). Some months ago I set up the G+ Housing Community. I’m a big advocate of G+ and talk of its virtues to anyone and everyone I can. For me it’s about the possibilities that G+ could represent to housing organisations. Come and join us for the ride.

 

  1. Continuing to spread the digital message

One thing I have been doing for several months now is pushing the positive reasons for organisations and individuals going digital and being connected. I’m always talking about this to pretty much anyone I meet, both internally and externally. I’ve seen first hand the power of social media and being digitally tuned in – just look at me. I never would have guessed I’d be on a Power players list of and kind for being digital and just a few years after getting on board, here I am, ‘living the digital dream’.

 

  1. Keep on blogging

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I’ve been writing a blog for several months now and covered lots of digital, social media and housing subjects. I’ve had some great responses to what I’ve blogged about and recently passed 50 ‘likes’. Some months ago I also reached the milestone of having 2,000 views of my blog and after a (friendly) challenge from Andy Johnson about setting my next target, I set this at an ambitious further 2,000 views by the end of the year. Although yes, it’s not just about volume, it’s about content. Hopefully I’ll manage both?

 

So these are my four pledges for the year. I do hope that the top 50 #powerplayers14 will add their personal pledges as well.

One final thought – I wonder how different the #powerplayers15 list will look? Thoughts on a postcard, or comment below on this blog, or on Twitter, or on Google+……………..

UbiSlate £30 tablet – the game changer?

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In 2012, a company called Datawind in India announced that they were going to produce a cheap tablet for the mass market.

Like many people, I assumed that cheap would either mean:

  • Really cheap (and subsequently next to useless);
  • Not so cheap (so probably of some use).

When the tablets were available to buy from the UK they cost just £30 to buy the basic model. For this you get:

  • 7’ TFT touch screen tablet;
  • Andriod 4.2.2 operating system;
  • Wifi enabled;
  • 1 year warranty;
  • Memory card slot.

Initial reports were quite encouraging – here’s a great blog post from Ed Bullock/Nick Atkin at Halton Housing Trust on the test they carried out at Halton Housing Trust.

Although obviously for the price they are not going to rival a top end tablet like the iPad in quality, power or usability, overall feedback has been encouraging.

Fast forward several months, and as part of our drive towards being a digital first organisation and to help tackle digital inclusion, I thought I’d order a UbiSlate through work to see just how good they are. So here’s the story so far.

I ordered the UbiSlate 7ci through their website on the 6th May 2014. It was a standard (if anything rather easy) ordering system. The cost of the tablet was £30, but postage and packaging was a further £9.95, making the grand total of £39.95. I received the Emails back by return saying the order had been received.

On the 12th May 2014 I Emailed their customer services to find out when I could expect delivery. They replied with ’due to high demand we are fulfilling orders on a first-come-first-serve basis. We anticipate your order to be fulfilled from our next delivery of products due in week commencing the 12th of May.’

I dutifully checked their website a few times a week to be told that the order was ‘pending’ and to check back regularly.

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Then, out of the blue on the 27th May (the day after a bank holiday) I received my UbiSlate through the post. What was interesting was that I had checked that morning on their website and had been given their standard order ‘pending’ message, so it really was a nice surprise.

So, to the UbiSlate. I carefully ripped open the packing (I was very excited) to find the box inside.

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The Tablet

On opening the box, I found very little packaging. The UbiSlate had a thin protective plastic sheet on the front and back, along with the charger and an instruction booklet.

On getting the UbiSlate out of the box, I managed to accidentally turn it on. Then I proceeded to try and read the instructions quickly to check whether I needed to charge it first. The instructions said it needed 6-8 hours charging before use. I quickly plugged the charger in! It seems that the UbiSlate was already nearly charged, which was a nice surprise. I’ve no idea whether this is standard practice though.

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The tablet itself looks really nice. It doesn’t weigh too much, but feels sturdier than I expected. Not expensive feeling, but certainly not dirt cheap feeling either. I’ve had it sat on my desk for most of the last week and I’ve taken the opportunity to ask a few staff what they think. They seem to agree that it looks pretty good.

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Upon turning it on and it loading up with the Datawind logo (10 seconds or so), I was faced with a screen showing the time, along with a small lock image. With my finger I just moved the lock outside the circle and you are in. The initial screen looks a lot like the Samsung Galaxy tablet main screen. You’ve got the main 5 app icons along the bottom, one of which shows you the 46 apps already on the UbiSlate. Some of these you would just uninstall (as the UbiSlate was primarily made for Indian school age children, you probably won’t find a use for ‘Talking English’) and you can obviously add any apps you want as well.

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The tablet comes with two web browsers installed – the one at the bottom of the main screen just didn’t work for me, so I used the generic android browser. The first website I went on was google.com (had to be, didn’t it?) and I found that the google search box was just off the page. Turning the UbiSlate to portrait seemed to fix that. I’m sure more tekkie minded people would know instantly how to fix this, but I didn’t.

The £30 tablet connects through Wifi and the experience of connecting to the internet was fine. No problems at all to report.

I used the SlideMe to download a few apps. After putting in some basic logging details, it was pretty easy to find the apps and download them. I went for LinkedIn and Twitter, to give them a good test. Both worked well, downloaded quickly and although they looked different to what I’m used to, they were more than useable and easy to navigate.

The tablet comes with a front facing camera, meaning you can take those all important #selfies. But it’s fair to say that the picture quality isn’t great. I read elsewhere that the picture quality reminded them of the quality you used to get on the first webcams that came on the market. Spot on description. That said, its better having the camera than not. It also potentially makes apps like Skype useable through the UbiSlate, although I haven’t tested that out as yet.

As with a lot of lower end tablets, if you don’t turn the tablet off (just holding the top right button until it turns off), then it will drain itself of power over a few days. Thankfully it doesn’t take long to charge up from 0% to 100% – about 2½ hours. For 100% power use, you get anything from around 2 ½ hours to 3 hours battery life which if not bad at all. I’ve seen laptops with less.

So, overall I’m pretty impressed by the UbiSlate 7ci. It’s not too heavy, fits in your hand nicely and really is pretty easy to use. It’s certainly a useable tablet which opens up some interesting options.

Future Uses

One option is to give this to tenants who could easily save the £30+ cost on savings they gain through buying things through the internet or from the savings we as a landlord would get for a tenant contacting us digitally rather than by telephone or face-to-face. The other option is to give this for staff to use for some basic work functions. Both of these would obviously require some additional field research, but certainly seem worth exploring further. Of course, this would also require decent Wifi connectivity, or you’ll have to opt for the more expensive 7C+ version at £69.99.

My initial thoughts are that you would want to take most of the pre-loaded apps off and put some specific ones on that tenants could use to contact the organisation, or ones to save them money. There is no reason why the content can’t be more targeted according to the audience. Also, let’s not forget the cost. This is really cheap for a tablet. People spend more than this on a lot of smartphones today and they are seen as an essential item for a lot of people.

They would also make great options for digital inclusion training sessions for tenants, as they are so cheap. You could buy 10 or so of them and (as long as you have decent Wifi) get them used to using a tablet and surfing the web. Other options I’ve read elsewhere is to use them for showing video clips (for example on a reception desk) or as digital signboard outside meeting rooms. There certainly seems to be lots of possible options for the UbiSlate in the future.

I’ll continue testing the UbiSlate through work and I think it’s highly likely we’ll look at getting some more of them to conduct some specific tests and projects.

Watch this space for more details!

Bridging the Digital Divide

ImageI consider myself quite a tech savvy person and I can certainly see the benefits to #ukhousing staff and customers of being digital included, but with digital inclusion being one of my areas of responsibility, tackling this area has been no walk in the park.

I’ve been drafting a digital inclusion strategy for several months now. It’s not that I can’t write the strategy, it’s that technology is changing so fast.

So let’s go back to the start of my journey. When researching the digital inclusion strategy, two quotes jumped out at me:

  • Research has shown that getting someone online can save them an average of £560 a year and has benefits for education, employment and retirement.
  • The introduction of Universal Credit will also mean that going online is the only way to apply for and manage Universal Credit applications for the majority of those in receipt of benefits.

These certainly set the scene well and are very hard to argue against.

Then there’s the added complication of the methods that customers are accessing the internet. It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was talking to our IT department about a PC Loan scheme. Now this seems like a crazy, outdated idea. Once upon a time tablets were really expensive and out of reach for most people, now there is a £30 tablet you can buy (watch this blog for a review on this tablet soon). The same used to apply to smartphones, but these are now commonplace and ‘standard issue’. The pace of change within technology is amazing.

Once upon a time, broadband was seen as the panacea for social housing tenants, opening up a world of opportunities, cheaper deals and jobs. To some extent this is still the case, but the rise of cheap smartphones has opened up a whole other avenue for tenants to be digitally active. Just read this article on the Guardian website – Housing Providers Need to Think Mobile.

There are also lots of articles being regularly published challenging some of our most closely held ideas about digital inclusion and internet use. For example, this article highlights that ‘there is no difference between consumers aged 30 to more than 70 when it comes to general attitudes to online shopping’.

Couple these with the governments push towards Universal Credit being accessed online and it paints a clear picture that organisations need a major shift in focus to offer services digitally and not just to those customers in receipt of benefit.

Recently I was lucky enough to give a talk with Nick Atkin on ‘Housing Goes Digital’ at the Welsh Housing Conference in March of this year. I was able to follow this up with a workshop on the same subject at our staff conference. The results really astounded me.

After the conference talk I was amazed at just how much positive feedback I received from Housing organisations about what we were talking about. Essentially it was about the need for organisations to consider and adapt to the changing digital landscape. This was followed up by my staff conference workshop.

It’s fair to say that I wasn’t sure how our staff would take what I would be talking about during the workshop; essentially that we need to change our future offer to tenants to offer more services ‘digitally’, giving examples of some organisations like Halton Housing Trust and Bromford Group who are already making great strides forwards in this area. Although I know I put a good business case together (and a good Prezi! – for anyone interested, here’s a link to it), I was still amazed at how positive and engaged most staff were. There was a real buzz about the workshop that I naively hadn’t expected. I even got some volunteers to be on our digital first project during the workshops and I hadn’t asked for any!

Following the success of the workshops, I tweeted out pictures of the flipcharts that we’d produced:

ImageImageImageImageWithin minutes I’d received a tweet back from one of our current tenants providing real time feedback on some of the ideas we’d come up with and after a quick twitter conversation, the tenant offered to be involved in the project to give the tenants perspective. What a result!

What this has shown me is that there are ways to bridge the digital divide. One such way is to get as many staff and customers involved as possible. It’s certainly something I’m hoping to build on further and although I know we are still only at the start of this, our digital journey continues………….

#commshero – the future of events?

ImageAfter reading Phil Jewett’s blog on #commshero, I thought I’d also write one with my take on the event.

Now there are a few things to say up front. For any of you that have met me, you’ll know that I’m not a life of the party kind of guy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m up for a laugh as much as most and I’ve come to realise that you have two choices in life – to embrace or not.

The reason that this is important is because the #commshero event was anything but your average event. If you were a shrinking violet, then this event would have pushed you to the edge and beyond.

Prior to the day, the activity under the hashtag #commshero along with the dedicated @commshero Twitter account made it feel quite a different event; the sort of event that I really wanted to be part of. So, I duly responded to Asif’s call to action and agreed to attend. I received an invitation, handwritten note and details of the event through the post. I was already excited!

ImageKnowing Asif as I do, I knew it wouldn’t simply be a sit and listening event. I was not disappointed. On arrival we were given ‘swag’ bags full of goodies, along with the opportunity to put on a cape and get our picture taken. Then the days event started off with a sing along. Yes, you read right, a sing along. Just look at the #commshero hashtag on Vine and Twitter and you’ll see the video’s of the sing along, and for anyone who attended, it’s safe to say that ‘I’m a Comm’s Hero’ will forever run through our minds. On repeat and rewind.

Then followed the main speakers Grant Leboff (@grantleboff ), Dan Slee (@danslee), Helen Reynolds (@helreynolds) and John Popham (@johnpopham ). I would happily have attended the event just to hear one of these speak, so getting to hear all four in the day was a real honour and a treat. The day was broken up with frequent 10 minute breaks, one after each speaker. Conference organisers take note – this felt good! The chance to stretch our legs and network only enhanced the feeling that this event was something different.

The afternoon was interspersed with more audience participation in the form of an organised ‘laughing session’ (again check the #commshero hashtag for vine video’s and pics of this), along with a #commshero labelled Krispy Kreme donut each, delivered by the facilitators for the day (including me) dutily dressed with cape.

Late morning we were told that the #commshero hashtag had been trending that morning on social media above Jeremy Kyle and below Jay-Z, and at the end of the day we were told the @twitter reach had been 154k accounts reached with 1.5million impressions. Talk about some heroic stats for the day.

Not that things have ended there. Resource Housing (who organised the day) have put together an epic Storify of the event, which I’d recommend having a look at and the conversation is still continuing on twitter as we speak.

ImageOverall, the event was excellent, and I was pleased to hear that before the event had even finished, dates were being talked about for an event in Wales and other areas. Huge thanks and congratulations to Asif Choudry (@asifchoudry) and the Resource Housing team who really provided a brilliant day for all.

So to say that I enjoyed this event would be an understatement. Now you’ll have to excuse me, I’ve got to go and save the world………….…where did I leave my cape?

Powerplayers14 – much more than just a list

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I was unsure whether to write this blog, but I can resist no longer. You see, I’ve got a slight problem with the alternative Powerplayers list (#powerplayers14), much the same as the main Powerplayers list from 24Housing magazine earlier this year.

Now I follow Paul Taylor’s blogs and tweets pretty closely and I think the alternative power players list for 2014 is a great idea. I certainly had a good look at the list for 2013. I’m just amazed how hung up people can become about the list, rather than the opportunities it represents.

I’m the first to admit that I’d be more than happy (and honoured) to appear in the alternative power players list, but if I am really honest, I kind of don’t really care. I’ve never been on a list before and I’m pretty sure that being on a list in the future won’t irrevocably change my life either.

For me, I’ll still try to do the best I can each and every day at work. I know what things I’m interested in and what makes me tick, I know which people I admire in the #ukhousing world (I’ve voted in the power players list) and ultimately where I want to get to in my career. Whether ultimately someone appears in the list or not is immaterial. It’s the conversations that happen before and after the list that really count. One’s like this:

These conversations are important. They are challenging the norm in #ukhousing, rather than accepting it for what it is. They are (potentially) getting to the nub of some of the issues. Ade Capon (@adecapon) summed it up well for me:

It’s about influence, collaboration, community, support etc. plus

all the engagement possible with customers.

I think it’s rather too easy to dislike or ridicule something, when ultimately it’s another platform to have some grown up and constructive discussion on the issues that matter, aided by some of the most influential #ukhousing people around.

For me, the people I voted for in the power players list were people who have influenced me on a personal and professional basis through social media. They are ones that I may have only met once but have conversed with lots of times through social media. They’ve helped me to question some of the norms I had always previously accepted and ultimately for me to develop further. For that, I thank them, whether they appear in the final power players list or not!

I also could have come up with a giant list of power players as there are a whole ruck of people out there who have influenced me, but that would definitely have been a lot more than 50!

With the near torrent of nominations now coming in through social media for nominee’s, its hats off from me to both Paul Taylor (@paulbromford) and Shirley Ayres (@shirleyayres). It will be no easy task to collate all of the replies!

Here’s to the discussion continuing……..

There’s a #commshero in all of us

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With a few weeks to go until the above event, I thought I’d put a few of my thoughts down prior to attending the first ever #commshero event in Manchester on the 13th May (here’s a link to the website).

For any of you that don’t know, #commshero is the idea of Asif Choudry (twitter handle @asifchoudry) whom probably most, if not all of #ukhousing already know of. To say he’s well connected just doesn’t do him justice!

So, first things first. Why exactly am I attending #commshero? After all, my job is as Assistant Director of Neighbourhoods. I don’t formally look after communications with my organisation and ‘communication’ is not directly mentioned once in my role profile.
But I am really interested in communications. I can see the benefits, both on a personal and an organisational basis. Everyone needs to communicate effectively. One thing that always comes up as an issue within organisations I’ve worked in is the difficulties in communicating well. This can be between staff, the leadership, board members and tenants.

I’m only after a snippet of good practice in how to improve this within my current organisation. That alone would make it worthwhile me attending #commshero.

Another reason is that I love the vibe within the #ukhousing #comms community. It’s a positive, can-do, anything is possible kind of vibe. Just the sort of thing I like and want to be part of. I’ve used Twitter through the #comms and #ukhousing hashtags to ask lots of questions from other professionals and I’ve been blown away by the responses I’ve had. People are just willing to give their time, views and professional experiences (as long as you ask nicely!).

Just look at the invitation I received for the event:

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It’s amazing! I love it because it’s different, it’s colorful and it’s inviting. These are just some of the things that I think #ukhousing is more in need of. Amongst many things, I’m a big fan of innovation (here’s an earlier blog on this) and doing things differently and #commshero is in the same vain.

No pressure, but I’m expecting big things from #commshero when I attend. I’m expecting a similar feeling to when I attended my first #hgd13 event in Liverpool, where I came away totally energised and enthused – I felt I could have taken the world on all by myself and this lasted for days and days. Let’s see how long it lasts after the #commshero event!

 

Where next for Google+??

ImageIf you’ve read the tech news in the last few days you’ll have seen that Google+ is now under threat, with commentators ranging in opinion from ‘it sounds the death knoll for Google+’ to ‘time will tell’.

It’s all down to one man announcing that he is leaving Google – Vic Gundotra – the reported driving force behind Google+.

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Vic Gundotra

As the Guardian article puts it, the fate of Google’s ‘Facebook killer’ is now unknown. It goes on to say that ‘despite building 300 million monthly active users by October 2013, Google+ is still dwarfed by Facebook’s userbase of 1.28 billion monthly active users. But the key quote in the article is from Larry Page, Google, Chief Executive – ‘we’ll continue working hard to build great new experiences for the ever increasing number of Google+ fans’.

I still think Google+ is a great social media network. I went on to Google+ to see for myself what it was about, but before I knew it I was hooked. It’s just very useable and marries a lot of the good points from Twitter with Facebook and others. The other thing is that it’s obvious there is a large community on Google+. When I’ve posted queries about Google+ on a few of the more established communities, I’ve had replies back within minutes and this is one of the things I want from a social media network – to know that there are conversations to be had with people of interest from around the world. To say I’ve learn’t some new things whilst using Google+ would be an understatement.

I guess time will tell with what happens to Google+ in the future. As Google have already embedded Google+ and Gmail into so much of what they offer, I’d be very surprised if they just pulled the plug. It might well be that they just stop developing Google+ further. Recently there have been some minor (but important) tweeks to Google+ in the Communities sections, reflecting a lot of user queries and requests. I was hearted to see some of these introduced.

I for one hope that Google+ continues, not least because I’ve invested some time and energy into creating a ‘G+ Housing Community’ for fellow #ukhousing professionals to converse and exchange ideas on using Google+ in the world of Housing. Although it’s been a slow burner, it has been starting to gain some momentum. For the time being at least I’m going to continue investing in using Google+.

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G+ Housing Community

My final thought is that I’ll be watching Google+ closely over the coming months to see whether the platform continues to invest and develop further, or whether indeed the plug will be pulled on Google+. If it was pulled, what a mighty big (and arguably success) experiment Google will be closing.

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