European Conference on Social Media (#ecsm17) – Day Two Liveblog

Today I am at the Mykolo Romerio Universitetas in Vilnius, Lithuania, for the European Conference on Social Media 2017. As usual this is a liveblog so additions, corrections etc. all welcome… 

Keynote presentation: Daiva Lialytė, Integrity PR, Lithuania: Practical point of view: push or pull strategy works on social media 

I attended your presentations yesterday, and you are going so far into detail in social media. I am a practitioner and we can’t go into that same sort of depth because things are changing so fast. I have to confess that a colleague, a few years ago, suggested using social media and I thought “Oh, it’s all just cats” and I wasn’t sure. But it was a big success, we have six people working in this area now. And I’m now addicted to social media. In fact, how many times do you check your phone per day? (various guesses)…

Well, we are checking our smartphones 100-150 times per day. And some people would rather give up sex than smartphones! And we have this constant flood of updates and information – notifications that pop up all over the place… And there are a lot of people, organisations, brands, NGOs, etc. all want our attention on social media.

So, today, I want to introduce three main ideas here as a practitioner and marketer…

#1 Right Mindset

Brands want to control everything, absolutely everything… The colour, the font, the images, etc. But now social media says that you have to share your brand in other spaces, to lose some control. And I want to draw on Paul Holmes, a PR expert (see and he says when he fell in love with social media, there were four key aspects:

  • Brands (in)dependency
  • Possibilities of (non)control
  • Dialogue vs monologue
  • Dynamic 24×7

And I am going to give some examples here. So Gap, the US fashion brand, they looked at updating their brand. They spent a great deal of money to do this – not just the logo but all the paperwork, branded items, etc. They launched it, it went to the media… And it was a disaster. The Gap thought for a few days. They said “Thank you brand lover, we appreciate that you love our brand and we are going to stick with the old one”. And this raises the question of to whom a brand belongs… Shareholders or customers? Perhaps now we must think about customers as owning the brand.

Yesterday I saw a presentation from Syracuse on University traditions – and some of the restrictions of maintaining brand – but in social media that isn’t always possible. So, another example… Lagerhaus (like a smaller scale Ikea). They were launching a new online store, and wanted to build community (see videos) so targeted interior six design blogs and created “pop up online stores” – bloggers could select products from the store’s selection, and promote them as they like. That gained media attention, gained Facebook likes for the store’s Facebook page. And there was then an online store launch, with invitees approached by bloggers, and their pop up stores continue. So this is a great example of giving control to others, and building authentic interest in your brand.

In terms of dialogue vs monologue I’d quote from Michael Dell here, on the importance of engaging in honest, direct conversations with customers and stakeholders. This is all great… But the reality is that many who talk about this, many are never ever doing this… Indeed some just shut down spaces when they can’t engage properly. However, Dell has set up a social media listening and command centre. 22k+posts are monitored daily, engaging 1000+ customers per week. This was tightly integrated with @dellcares Twitter/Facebook team. And they have managed to convert “ranters” to “ravers” in 30% of cases. And a decrease of negative commentary since engagement in this space. Posts need quick responses as a few minutes, or hours, are great, longer and it becomes less and less useful…

Similarly we’ve seen scandinavian countries and banks engaging, even when they have been afraid of negative comments. And this is part of the thing about being part of social media – the ability to engage in dialogue, to be part of and react to the conversations.

Social media is really dynamic, 24×7. You have to move fast to take advantage. So, Lidl… They heard about a scandal in Lithuania about the army paying a fortune for spoons – some were €40 each. So Lidl ran a promotion for being able to get everything, including spoons there cheaper. It was funny, clever, creative and worked well.

Similarly Starbucks vowing to hire 10,000 refugees in the US (and now in EU) following Trump’s travel ban, that was also being dynamic, responding quickly.

#2 Bold Actions

When we first started doing social media… we faced challenges… Because the future is uncertain… So I want to talk about several social media apps here…

Google+ launched claiming to be bigger than Facebook, to do it all better. Meanwhile WhatsApp… Did great… But disappearing as a brand, at least in Lithuania. SnapChat has posts disappearing quickly… Young people love it. The owner has said that it won’t be sold to Facebook. Meanwhile Facebook is trying desperately to copy functionality. We have clients using SnapChat, fun but challenging to do well… Instagram has been a big success story… And it is starting to be bigger than Facebook in some demographics.

A little history here… If you look at a world map of social networks from December 2009, we see quite a lot of countries having their own social networks which are much more popular. By 2013, it’s much more Facebook, but there are still some national social media networks in Lithuania or Latvia. And then by 2017 we see in Africa uptake of Twitter and Instagram. Still a lot of Facebook. My point here is that things move really quickly. For instance young people love SnapChat, so we professionally need to be there too. You can learn new spaces quickly… But it doesn’t matter as you don’t have to retain that for long, everything changes fast. For instance in the US I have read that Facebook is banning posts by celebrities where they promote items… That is good, that means they are not sharing other content…


I want to go in depth on Facebook and Twitter. Of course the most eminent social media platform is Facebook. They are too big to be ignored. 2 billion monthly active Facebook users (June 2017). 1.28 billion people log onto Facebook daily. 83 million fake profiles. Age 25 to 34 at 29.7% of users are biggest age group. For many people they check Facebook first in the morning when they wake up. And 42% of marketers report that Facebook is very important to their business. And we now have brands approaching us to set up Facebook presence no matter what their area of work.

What Facebook does well is most precise targeting – the more precise the more you pay, but that’s ok. So that’s based on geolocation, demographic characteristic, social status, interests, even real time location. That works well but remember that there are 83 million fake profiles too.

So that’s push, what about pull? Well there are the posts, clicks, etc. And there is Canvas – which works for mobile users, story driven ads (mini landing), creative story, generate better results and click through rates. (we are watching a Nespresso mobile canvas demo). Another key tool is Livestream – free of charge, notifications for your followers, and it’s live discussion. But you need to be well prepared and tell a compelling story to make proper use of this. But you can do it from anywhere in the world. For instance one time I saw livestream of farewell of Barack Obama – that only had 15k viewers though so it’s free but you have to work to get engagement.

No matter which tool, “content is the king!” (Bill Gates, 1996). Clients want us to create good stories here but it is hard to do… So what makes the difference? The Content Marketing Institute (US), 2015 suggest:

  1. Content
  2. Photos
  3. Newsletters
  4. Video
  5. Article
  6. Blogs
  7. Events
  8. Infographics
  9. Mobile applications
  10. Conferences and Livestreams

So, I will give some examples here… I’ll show you the recent winner of Cannes Lions 2017 for social media and digital category. This is “Project Graham” – a public driver safety campaign about how humans are not designed to survive a crash… Here is how we’d look if we were – this was promoted heavily in social media.

Help for push from Facebook – well the algorithms prioritise content that does well. And auctions to reach your audience mean that it is cheaper to run good content that really works for your audience.

And LinkedIn meanwhile is having a renaissance. It was quite dull, but they changed their interface significantly a few months back, and now we see influencers (in Lithunia) now using LinkedIn, sharing content there. For instance lawyers have adopted the space. Some were predicting LinkedIn would die, but I am not so sure… It is the biggest professional social network – 467 million users in 200 countries. And it is the biggest network of professionals – a third have LinkedIn profile. Users spend 17 minutes per dat, 40% use it every day, 28% of all internet users use LinkedIn. And it is really functioning as a public CV, recruitment, and for ambassadorship – you can share richer information here.

I wanted to give a recent example – it is not a sexy looking case study – but it worked very well. This was work with Ruptela, a high tech company that provides fleet management based on GPS tracking and real-time vehicle monitoring and control. They needed to hire rapidly 15 new sales representatives via social media. That’s a challenge as young people, especially in the IT sector – are leaving Lithuania or working in Lithuania-based expertise centres for UK, Danish, etc. brands.

So we ran a campaign, on a tiny budget (incomparable with headhunters for instance), around “get a job in 2 days” and successfully recruited 20 sales representatives. LinkedIn marketing is expensive, but very targeted and much cheaper than you’d otherwise pay.

#3 Right Skills

In terms of the skills for these spaces:

  • copywriter (for good storytelling)
  • visualist (graphics, photo, video)
  • community manager (to maintain appropriate contact) – the skills for that cannot be underestimated.
  • And… Something that I missed… 

You have to be like a one man band – good at everything. But then we have young people coming in with lots of those skills, and can develop them further…

So, I wanted to end on a nice story/campaign… An add for Budweiser for not drinking and driving


Q1) Authenticity is the big thing right now… But do you think all that “authentic” advertising content may get old and less effective over time?

A1) People want to hear from their friends, from people like them, in their own words. Big brands want that authenticity… But they also want total control which doesn’t fit with that. The reality is probably that something between those two levels is what we need but that change will only happen as it becomes clear to big brands that their controlled content isn’t working anymore.

Q2) With that social media map… What age group was that? I didn’t see SnapChat there.

A2) I’m not sure, it was a map of dominant social media spaces…

Q3) I wanted to talk about the hierarchy of content… Written posts, visual content etc… What seemed to do best was sponsored video content that was subtitled.

A3) Facebook itself, they prioritise video content – it is cheaper to use this in your marketing. If you do video yes, you have to have subtitles so that you can see rather than listen to the videos… And with videos, especially “authentic video” that will be heavily prioritised by Facebook. So we are doing a lot of video work.

Introduction to ECSM 2018 Niall Corcoran, Limerick Institute of Technology, Ireland

I wanted to start by thanking our hosts this year, Vilnius has been excellent this year. Next year we’ll a bit earlier in the year – late June – and we’ll be at the Limerick Institute of Technology, Ireland. We have campuses around the region with 7000 students and 650 staff, teaching from levels 6 to 10. The nearest airport is Shannon, or easy distance from Cork or Dublin airports.

In terms of social media we do research on Social MEdia Interactive Learning Environment, Limerick Interactive Storytelling Network, Social Media for teaching and research, Social Media for cancer recovery.

In terms of Limerick itself, 80-90% of the Europe’s contact lenses are manufactured there! There is a lot of manufacturing in Limerick, with many companies having their European headquarters there. So, I’ve got a short video made by one of our students to give you a sense of the town.

Social Media Competition Update

The top three placed entries are: Developing Social Paleantology – Lisa Ludgran; EDINA Digital Footprint Consulting and Training Service – Nicola Osborne (yay!); Traditions Mobile App – Adam Peruta.

Stream A: Mini track on Ethical use of social media data – Chair: Dragana Calic

The Benefits and Complications of Facebook Memorials – White Michelle, University of Hawai’i at Manoa, USA

Online Privacy: Present Need or Relic From the Past? – Aguirre-Jaramillo Lina Maria, Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana, Colombia

Constructing Malleable Truth: Memes from the 2016 U.S. Presidential Campaign – Wiggins Bradley, Webster University, Vienna, Austria, Austria

Stream B: Mini track on Enterprise Social Media – Chair: Paul Alpar

The Role of Social Media in Crowdfunding – Makina Daniel, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa

Using Enterprise Social Networks to Support Staff Knowledge Sharing in Higher Education – Corcoran Niall, Limerick Institute of Technology, Ireland and Aidan Duane, Waterford Institute of Technology, Ireland


Behind the scenes at the Digital Footprint MOOC

Last Monday we launched the new Digital Footprint MOOC, a free three week online course (running on Coursera) led by myself and Louise Connelly (Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies). The course builds upon our work on the Managing Your Digital Footprints research project, campaign and also draws on some of the work I’ve been doing in piloting a Digital Footprint training and consultancy service at EDINA.

It has been a really interesting and demanding process working with the University of Edinburgh MOOCs team to create this course, particularly focusing in on the most essential parts of our Digital Footprints work. Our intention for this MOOC is to provide an introduction to the issues and equip participants with appropriate skills and understanding to manage their own digital tracks and traces. Most of all we wanted to provide a space for reflection and for participants to think deeply about what their digital footprint means to them and how they want to manage it in the future. We don’t have a prescriptive stance – Louise and I manage our own digital footprints quite differently but both of us see huge value in public online presence – but we do think that understanding and considering your online presence and the meaning of the traces you leave behind online is an essential modern life skill and want to contribute something to that wider understanding and debate.

Since MOOCs – Massive Open Online Courses – are courses which people tend to take in their own time for pleasure and interest but also as part of their CPD and personal development so that fit of format and digital footprint skills and reflection seemed like a good fit, along with some of the theory and emerging trends from our research work. We also think the course has potential to be used in supporting digital literacy programmes and activities, and those looking for skills for transitioning into and out of education, and in developing their careers. On that note we were delighted to see the All Aboard: Digital Skills in Higher Education‘s 2017 event programme running last week – their website, created to support digital skills in Ireland, is a great complementary resource to our course which we made a (small) contribution to during their development phase.

Over the last week it has been wonderful to see our participants engaging with the Digital Footprint course, sharing their reflections on the #DFMOOC hashtag, and really starting to think about what their digital footprint means for them. From the discussion so far the concept of the “Uncontainable Self” (Barbour & Marshall 2012) seems to have struck a particular chord for many of our participants, which is perhaps not surprising given the degree to which our digital tracks and traces can propagate through others posts, tags, listings, etc. whether or not we are sharing content ourselves.

When we were building the MOOC we were keen to reflect the fact that our own work sits in a context of, and benefits from, the work of many researchers and social media experts both in our own local context and the wider field. We were delighted to be able to include guest contributors including Karen Gregory (University of Edinburgh), Rachel Buchanan (University of Newcastle, Australia), Lilian Edwards (Strathclyde University), Ben Marder (University of Edinburgh), and David Brake (author of Sharing Our Lives Online).

The usefulness of making these connections across disciplines and across the wider debate on digital identity seems particularly pertinent given recent developments that emphasise how fast things are changing around us, and how our own agency in managing our digital footprints and digital identities is being challenged by policy, commercial and social factors. Those notable recent developments include…

On 28th March the US Government voted to remove restrictions on the sale of data by ISPs (Internet Service Providers), potentially allowing them to sell an incredibly rich picture of browsing, search, behavioural and intimate details without further consultation (you can read the full measure here). This came as the UK Government mooted the banning of encryption technologies – essential for private messaging, financial transactions, access management and authentication – claiming that terror threats justified such a wide ranging loss of privacy. Whilst that does not seem likely to come to fruition given the economic and practical implications of such a measure, we do already have the  Investigatory Powers Act 2016 in place which requires web and communications companies to retain full records of activity for 12 months and allows police and security forces significant powers to access and collect personal communications data and records in bulk.

On 30th March, a group of influential privacy researchers, including danah boyd and Kate Crawford, published Ten simple rules for responsible big data research in PLoSOne. The article/manifesto is an accessible and well argued guide to the core issues in responsible big data research. In many ways it summarises the core issues highlight in the excellent (but much more academic and comprehensive) AoIR ethics guidance. The PLoSOne article is notably directed to academia as well as industry and government, since big data research is at least as much a part of commercial activity (particularly social media and data driven start ups, see e.g. Uber’s recent attention for profiling and manipulating drivers) as traditional academic research contexts. Whilst academic research does usually build ethical approval processes (albeit conducted with varying degrees of digital savvy) and peer review into research processes, industry is not typically structured in that way and often not held to the same standards particularly around privacy and boundary crossing (see, e.g. Michael Zimmers work on both academic and commercial use of Facebook data).

The Ten simple rules… are also particularly timely given the current discussion of Cambridge Analytica and it’s role in the 2016 US Election, and the UK’s EU Referendum. An article published in Das Magazin in December 2016, and a subsequent English language version published on Vice’s Motherboard have been widely circulated on social media over recent weeks. These articles suggest that the company’s large scale psychometrics analysis of social media data essentially handed victory to Trump and the Leave/Brexit campaigns, which naturally raises personal data and privacy concerns as well as influence, regulation and governance issues. There remains some skepticism about just how influential this work was… I tend to agree with Aleks Krotoski (social psychologist and host of BBC’s The Digital Human) who – speaking with Pat Kane at an Edinburgh Science Festival event last night on digital identity and authenticity – commented that she thought the Cambridge Analytica work was probably a mix of significant hyperbole but also some genuine impact.

These developments focus attention on access, use and reuse of personal data and personal tracks and traces, and that is something we we hope our MOOC participants will have opportunity to pause and reflect on as they think about what they leave behind online when they share, tag, delete, and particularly when they consider terms and conditions, privacy settings and how they curate what is available and to whom.

So, the Digital Footprint course is launched and open to anyone in the world to join for free (although Coursera will also prompt you with the – very optional – possibility of paying a small fee for a certificate), and we are just starting to get a sense of how our videos and content are being received. We’ll be sharing more highlights from the course, retweeting interesting comments, etc. throughout this run (which began on Monday 3rd April), but also future runs since this is an “on demand” MOOC which will run regularly every four weeks. If you do decide to take a look then I would love to hear your comments and feedback – join the conversation on #DFMOOC, or leave a comment here or email me.

And if you’d like to find out more about our digital footprint consultancy, or would be interested in working with the digital footprints research team on future work, do also get in touch. Although I’ve been working in this space for a while this whole area of privacy, identity and our social spaces seems to continue to grow in interest, relevance, and importance in our day to day (digital) lives.



Reflections on speaking at TEDxYouth@Manchester 2016: Identity

Last Wednesday, I had the absolute pleasure of being part of the TEDxYouth@Manchester 2016, which had the theme of “Identity. I had been invited along to speak about our Managing Your Digital Footprint work, and my #CODI2016 Fringe show, If I Googled You, What Would I Find? The event was quite extraordinary and I wanted to share some thoughts on the day itself, as well as some reflections on my experience of preparing a TEDx talk.

TEDxYouth@Manchester is in it’s 8th year, and is based at Fallibroome Academy, a secondary school with a specialism in performing arts (see, for instance, their elaborate and impressive trailer video for the school). And Fallibroome was apparently the first school in the world to host a TEDxYouth event. Like other TEDx events the schedule mixes invited talks, talks from youth speakers, and recorded items – in today’s case that included a TED talk, a range of short films, music videos and a quite amazing set of videos of primary school kids responding to questions on identity (beautifully edited by the Fallibroome team and featuring children from schools in the area).

In my own talk – the second of the day – I asked the audience to consider the question of what their digital footprints say about them. And what they want them to say about them. My intention was to trigger reflection and thought, to make the audience in the room – and on the livestream – think about what they share, what they share about others and,hopefully, what else they do online – their privacy settings, their choices..

My fellow invited speakers were a lovely and diverse bunch:

Kat Arney, a geneticist, science writer, musician, and author. She was there to talk about identity from a genetic perspective, drawing on her fantastic new book “Herding Hemingway’s Catsâ€� (my bedtime reading this week). Kat’s main message – a really important one – is that genes don’t predetermine your identity, and that any understanding of there being a “Gene for… xâ€�, i.e. the “Gene for Cancer”, a “Gay Gene”, a gene for whatever… is misleading at best. Things are much more complicated and unpredictable than that. As part of her talk she spoke about gene “wobblesâ€� – a new concept to me – which describes the unexpected and rule-defying behaviour of genes in the real world vs our expectations based on the theory, drawing on work on nematode worms. It was a really interesting start to the day and I highly recommend checking out both Kat’s book, and the The Naked Scientists’ Naked Gentics podcast.

Ben Smith, spoke about his own very personal story and how that led to the 401 Challenge, in which he ran 401 marathons in 401 days. Ben spoke brilliantly and bravely on his experience of bullying, of struggling with his sexuality, and the personal crises and suicide attempts that led to him finding his own sense of self and identity, and happiness, through his passion for running in his late 20s/early 30s. Ben’s talk was even more powerful as it was preceded by an extraordinary video (see below) of the poem “To This Dayâ€� by performance poet Shane Koyczan on the impact of bullying and the strength in overcoming it.

VV Brown, singer, songwriter, producer and ethical fashion entrepreneur, gave a lovely presentation on identity and black hair. She gave a personal and serious take on issues of identity and appropriation which have been explored (from another angle) in Chris Rock’s Good Hair (2009). As well as the rich culture of black hairdressing and hugely problematic nature of hair relaxants, weaves, and hair care regimes (including some extreme acids) that are focused on pressuring black women to meet an unobtainable and undesirable white hair ideal. She also spoke from her experience of the modelling industry and it’s incapability of dealing with black hair, whilst simultaneously happily engaging in cultural appropriation, braiding corn rows into white celebrities hair. V.V. followed up her talk with a live performance, of “Shift” (see video below), a song which she explained was inspired by the gay rights movement, and particularly black gay men in New York expressing themselves and their sexuality.

The final invited speaker was Ben Garrod, a Teaching Fellow in evolutionary biology at Anglia Ruskin University as well as a science communicator and broadcaster who has worked with David Attenborough and is on the Board of Trustees for the Jane Goodall Institute. Ben spoke about the power of the individual in a community, bringing in the idea of identity amongst animals, that the uniqueness of the chimps he worked with as part of Jane Goodall’s team. He also had us all join in a Pant-hoot – an escalating group chimp call, to illustrate the power of both the individual and the community.

In amongst the speakers were a range of videos – lovely selections that I gather (and believe) a student team spent months selecting from a huge amount of TED content. However, the main strand of the programme were a group of student presentations and performances which were quite extraordinary.

Highlights for me included Imogen Walsh, who spoke about the fluidity of gender and explained the importance of choice, the many forms of non-binary or genderqueer identity, the use of pronouns like they and Mx and the importance of not singling people out, or questioning them, for buying non gender-conforming, their choice of bathroom, etc. Because, well, why is it anyone else’s business?

Sophie Baxter talked about being a gay teen witnessing the global response to the Pulse nightclub shooting and the fear and reassurance that wider public response to this had provided. She also highlighted the importance of having an LGBT community since for most LGBT young people their own immediate biological/adoptive family may not, no matter how supportive, have a shared experience to draw upon, to understand challenges or concerns faced.

Maddie Travers and Nina Holland-Jones described a visit to Auschwitz (they had actually landed the night before the event) reflecting on what that experience of visiting the site had meant to them, and what it said about identity. They particularly focused on the pain and horror of stripping individual identity, treating camp prisoners (and victims) as a group that denied their individuality at the same time as privileging some individuals for special skills and contributions that extended their life and made them useful to the Nazi regime.

Sam Amey, Nicola Smith and Ellena Wilson talked about attending the London International Youth Science Festival student science conference, of seeing inspiring new science and the excitement of that – watching as a real geek and science fan it was lovely to see their enthusiasm and to hear them state that they “identify as scientists� (that phrasing a recurrent theme and seems to be the 2016 way for youth to define themselves I think).

Meanwhile performances included an absolutely haunting violin piece, Nigun by Bloch, performed by Ewan Kilpatrick (see a video of his playing here). As brilliant as Ewan’s playing was, musically the show was stolen by two precocious young composers, both of whom had the confidence of successful 40 year olds at the peak of their career, backed up by musical skills that made that confidence seem entirely appropriately founded. Ignacio Mana Mesas described his composition process and showed some of his film score (and acting) work, before playing a piece of his own composition; Tammas Slater (you can hear his prize winning work in this BBC Radio 3 clip) meanwhile showed some unexpected comic sparkle, showing off his skills before creating a composition in real time! And the event finished with a lively and charming set of tracks performed by school alumnae and up and coming band Cassia.

All of the youth contributions were incredible. The enthusiasm, competence and confidence of these kids – and of their peers who respectfully engaged and listened throughout the day – was heartening. The future seems pretty safe if this is what the future is looking like – a very lovely thing to be reminded in these strange political times.

Preparing a TEDx talk – a rather different speaking proposition

For me the invitation to give a TEDx talk was really exciting. I have mixed feelings about the brilliantly engaging but often too slick TED format, at the same time as recognising the power that the brand and reputation for the high quality speakers can have.

I regularly give talks and presentations, but distilling ideas of digital identity into 14 minutes whilst keeping them clear, engaging, meeting the speaker rules felt challenging. Doing that in a way that would have some sort of longevity seemed like a tougher ask as things move quickly in internet research, in social media, and in social practices online, so I wanted to make sure my talk focused on those aspects of our work that are solid and long-lived concepts – ideas that would have usefulness even if Facebook disappeared tomorrow (who knows, fake news may just make that a possibility), or SnapChat immediately lost all interest, or some new game-changing space appears tomorrow. This issue of being timely but not immediately out of date is also something we face in creating Digital Footprint MOOC content at the moment.

As an intellectual challenge developing my TEDx talk was useful for finding another way to think about my own presentation and writing skills, in much the same way that taking on the 8 minute format of Bright Club has been, or the 50 ish minute format of the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas, or indeed teaching 2+ hour seminars for the MSc in Science Communication & Public Engagement for the three years I led a module on that programme. It is always useful to rethink your topic, to think about fitting a totally different dynamic or house style, and to imagine a different audience and their needs and interests. In this case the audience was 16-18 year olds, who are a little younger than my usual audience, but who I felt sure would have lots of interest in my topic, and plenty of questions to ask (as there were in the separate panel event later in the day at Fallibroome).

There are some particular curiosities about the TED/TEDx format versus other speaking and presentations and I thought I’d share some key things I spent time thinking about. You never know, if you find yourself invited to do a TEDx (or if you are very high flying, a TED) these should help a wee bit:

  1. Managing the format

Because I have mixed feelings about the TED format, since it can be brilliant, but also too easy to parody (as in this brilliant faux talk), I was very aware of wanting to live up to the invitation and the expectations for this event, without giving a talk that wouldn’t meet my own personal speaking style or presentation tastes. I think I did manage that in the end but it required some watching of former videos to get my head around what I both did and did not want to do. That included looking back at previous TEDxYouth@Manchester events (to get a sense of space, scale, speaker set up and local expectations), as well as wider TED videos.

I did read the TED/TEDx speaker guidance and largely followed it although, since I do a lot of talks and know what works for me, I chose to write and create slides in parallel with the visuals helping me develop my story (rather than writing first, then doing slides as the guidance suggests). I also didn’t practice my talk nearly as often as either the TED instructions or the local organisers suggest – not out of arrogance but knowing that practicing a few times to myself works well, practising a lot gets me bored of the content and sets up unhelpful memorisations of errors, developing ideas, etc.

I do hugely appreciate that TED/TEDx insist on copyright cleared images. My slides were mostly images I had taken myself but I found a lovely image of yarn under CC-BY on Flickr which was included (and credited) too. Although as I began work on the talk I did start by thinking hard about whether or not to use slides… TED is a format associated with innovative slides (they were the original cheerleaders for Prezi), but at the same time the fact that talks are videoed means much of the power comes from close ups of the speaker, of capturing the connection between speaker and the live audience, and of building connection with the livestream and video audience. With all of that in mind I wanted to keep my slides simple, lively, and rather stylish. I think I managed that but see what you think of my slides [PDF].

  1. Which audience?

Normally when I write a talk, presentation, workshop, etc. I think about tailoring the content to the context and to my audience. I find that is a key part of ensuring I meet my audience’s needs, but it also makes the talk looks, well, kind of cute and clever. Tailoring a talk for a particular moment in time, a specific event or day, and a particular audience means you can make timely and specific references, you can connect to talks and content elsewhere in the day, you can adapt and adlib to meet the interests and mood that you see, and you can show you have understood the context of your audience. Essentially all that tailoring helps you connect more immediately and builds a real bond.

But for TEDx is the audience the 500+ people in the room? Our audience on Wednesday were mainly between 16 and 18, but there were other audience members who had been invited or just signed up to attend (you can find all upcoming TEDx events on their website and most offer tickets for those that are interested). It was a packed venue, but they are probably the smallest audience who will see my performance…

The video being during the event captured goes on the TEDxYouth@Manchester 2016 Playlist on the TEDxYouth YouTube channel and on the TEDx YouTube channel. All of the videos are also submitted to TED so, if your video looks great to the folk  there you could also end up featured on the core TED website, with much wider visibility. Now, I certainly wouldn’t suggest I am counting on having a huge global audience, but those channels all attract a much wider audience than was sitting in the hall. So, where do you pitch the talk?

For my talk I decided to strike a balance between issues that are most pertinent to developing identity, to managing challenges that we know from our research are particularly relevant and difficult for young people – ad which these students may face now or when they go to university. But I also pitched the talk to have relevance more widely, focusing less on cyber bullying, or teen dynamics, and more about changing contexts and the control one can choose to take of ones own digital footprint and social media content, something particularly pertinent to young people but relevant to us all.

  1. When Is it for?

Just as streaming distorts your sense of audience, it also challenges time. The livestream is watching on the day – that’s easy. But the recorded video could stick around for years, and will have a lifespan long beyond the day. With my fast moving area that was a challenge – do I make my talk timely or do I make it general? What points of connection and moments of humour are potentially missed by giving that talk a longer lifespan? I was giving a talk just after Trump’s election and in the midst of the social media bubble discussion – there are easy jokes there, things to bring my audience on board – but they might distance viewers at another time, and date rapidly. And maybe those references wouldn’t be universal enough for a wider audience beyond the UK…

In the end I tried to again balance general and specific advice. But I did that knowing that many of those in the physical audience would also be attending a separate panel event later in the day which would allow many more opportunities to talk about very contemporary questions, and to address sensitive questions that might (and did) arise. In fact in that panel session we took questions on mental health, about how parental postings and video (including some of those made for this event) might impact on their child’s digital footprint, and on whether not being on social media was a disadvantage in life. Those at the panel session also weren’t being streamed or captured in any way, which allowed for frank discussion building on an intense and complex day.

  1. What’s the main take away?

The thing that took me the longest time was thinking about the “take away” I wanted to leave the audience with. That was partly because I wanted my talk to have impact, to feel energising and hopefully somewhat inspiring, but also because the whole idea of TED is “Ideas worth sharingâ€�, which means a TED(x) talk has to have at its core a real idea, something specific and memorable to take from those 14 minutes, something that has impact.

I did have to think of a title far in advance of the event and settled on “What do you digital footprints say about you?”. I picked that as it brought together some of my #CODI16 show’s ideas, and some of the questions I knew I wanted to raise in my talk. But what would I do with that idea? I could have taken the Digital Footprint thing in a more specific direction – something I might do in a longer workshop or training session – picking on particularly poor or good practices and zoning in on good or bad posts. But that isn’t big picture stuff. I had to think about analogy, about examples, about getting the audience to understand the longevity of impact a social media post might have…

After a lot of thinking, testing out of ideas in conversation with my partner and some of my colleagues, I had some vague concepts and then I found my best ideas came – contrary to the TED guidance – from trying to select images to help me form my narrative. An image I had taken at Edinburgh’s Hidden Door Festival earlier this year of an artwork created from a web of strung yarn proved the perfect visual analogy for the complexity involved in taking back an unintended, regretted, or ill-thought-through social media post. It’s an idea I have explained before but actually trying to think about getting the idea across quickly in 1 minute of my 14 minute talk really helped me identify that image as vivid effective shorthand. And from that I found my preceding image and, from that, the flow and the look and feel of the story I wanted to tell. It’s not always the obvious (or simple) things that get you to a place of simplicity and clarity.

Finally I went back to my title and thought about whether my talk did speak to that idea, what else I should raise, and how I would really get my audience to feel engaged and ready to listen, and to really reflect on their own practice, quickly. In the end I settled on a single slide with that title, that question, at it’s heart. I made that the first stepping stone on my path through the talk, building in a pause that was intended to get the audience listening and thinking about their own digital identity. You’d have to ask the audience whether that worked or not but the quality of questions and comments later in the day certainly suggested they had taken in some of what I said and asked.

  1. Logistics

As a speaker there are some logistical aspects that are easy to deal with once you’ve done it a first time: travel, accommodation, etc. There are venue details that you either ask about – filming, photography, mics, etc. or you can find out in advance. Looking at previous years’ videos helped a lot: I would get a screen behind me for slides, there would be a set (build by students no less) and clear speaker zone on stage (the infamous red carpet/dot), I’d have a head mic (a first for me, but essentially a glamorous radio mic, which I am used to) and there would be a remote for my slides. It also looked likely I’d have a clock counting down although, in the end, that wasn’t working during my talk (a reminder, again, that I need a new watch with classic stand up comedy/speaker-friendly vibrating alarm). On the day there was a sound check (very helpful) and also an extremely professional and exceptionally helpful team of technicians – staff, students and Siemens interns – to get us wired up and recorded. The organisers also gave us plenty of advance notice of filming and photography.

I have been on the periphery of TEDx events before: Edinburgh University has held several events and I know how much work has gone into these; I attended a TEDxGlasgow hosted by STV a few years back and, again, was struck buy the organisation required. For TEDxYouth@Manchester I was invited to speak earlier in the year – late August/early September – so I had several months to prepare. The organisers tell me that sometimes they invite speakers as much as 6 to 12 months ahead of the event – as soon as the event finishes their team begin their search for next years’s invitees…

As the organising team spend all year planning a slick event – and Fallibroome Academy really did do an incredibly well organised and slick job – they expect slick and well organised speakers. I think all of us invited speakers, each of us with a lot of experience of talks and performance, experienced more coordination, more contact and more clarity on expectation, format, etc. than at any previous speaking event.

That level of detail is always useful as a a speaker but it can also be intimidating – although that is useful for focusing your thoughts too. There were conference calls in September and October to share developing presentation thoughts, to finalise titles, and to hear a little about each others talks. That last aspect was very helpful – I knew little of the detail of the other talks until the event itself, but I had a broad idea of the topic and angle of each speaker which meant I could ensure minimal overlap, and maximum impact as I understood how my talk fitted in to the wider context.

All credit to Peter Rubery and the Fallibroome team for their work here. They curated a brilliant selection of videos and some phenomenal live performances and short talks from students to create a coherent programme with appropriate and clever segues that added to the power of the presentations, the talks, and took us on something of a powerful emotional rollercoaster. All of us invited speakers felt it was a speaking engagement like we’d never had before and it really was an intense and impactful day. And, as Ben G said, for some students the talks they gave today will be life changing, sharing something very personally on a pretty high profile stage, owning their personal experience and reflections in a really empowering way.

In conclusion then, this was really a wonderful experience and a usefully challenging format to work in. I will update this post with the videos of the talks as soon as they are available – you can then judge for yourself how I did. However, if you get the chance to take part in a TEDx event, particularly a TEDxYouth event I would recommend it. I would also encourage you to keep an eye on the TEDxYouth@Manchester YouTube channel for those exceptional student presentations!


A Summer of New Digital Footprints…

It has been a while since I’ve posted something other than a liveblog here but it has been a busy summer so it seems like a good time to share some updates…

A Growing Digital Footprint

Last September I was awarded some University of Edinburgh IS Innovation Fund support to develop a pilot training and consultancy service to build upon the approaches and findings of our recent PTAS-funded Managing Your Digital Footprint research project.

During that University of Edinburgh-wide research and parallel awareness-raising campaign we (my colleague – and Digital Footprint research project PI – Louise Connelly of IAD/Vet School, myself, and colleagues across the University) sought to inform students of the importance of digital tracks and traces in general, particularly around employment and “eProfessionalism”. This included best practice advice around use of social media, personal safety and information security choices, and thoughtful approaches to digital identity and online presences. Throughout the project we were approached by organisations outside of the University for similar training, advice, and consulting around social media best practices and that is how the idea for this pilot service began to take shape.

Over the last few months I have been busy developing the pilot, which has involved getting out and about delivering social media training sessions for clients including NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (with Jennifer Jones); for the British HIV Association (BHIVA) with the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) (also with Jennifer Jones); developing a “Making an Impact with your Blog” Know How session for the lovely members of Culture Republic; leading a public engagement session for the very international gang at EuroStemCell, and an “Engaging with the Real World” session for the inspiring postgrads attending the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science Summer School 2016. I have also been commissioned by colleagues in the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences to create an Impact of Social Media session and accompanying resources (the latter of which will continue to develop over time). You can find resources and information from most of these sessions over on my presentations and publications page.

These have been really interesting opportunities and I’m excited to see how this work progresses. If you do have an interest in social media best practice, including advice for your organisation’s social media practice, developing your online profile, or managing your digital footprint, please do get in touch and/or pass on my contact details. I am in the process of writing up the pilot and looking at ways myself and my colleagues can share our expertise and advice in this area.

Adventures in MOOCs and Yik Yak

So, what next?

Well, the Managing Your Digital Footprint team have joined up with colleagues in the Language Technology Group in the School of Informatics for a new project looking at Yik Yak. You can read more about the project, “A Live Pulse: Yik Yak for Understanding Teaching, Learning and Assessment at Edinburgh“, on the Digital Education Research Centre website. We are really excited to explore Yik Yak’s use in more depth as it is one of a range of “anonymous” social networking spaces that appear to be emerging as important alternative spaces for discussion as mainstream social media spaces lose favour/become too well inhabited by extended families, older contacts, etc.

Our core Managing Your Digital Footprint research also continues… I presented a paper, co-written with Louise Connelly, at the European Conference on Social Media 2016 this July on “Students’ Digital Footprints: curation of online presences, privacy and peer supportâ€�. This summer we also hosted visiting scholar Rachel Buchanan of University of Newcastle, Australia who has been leading some very interesting work into digital footprints across Australia. We are very much looking forward to collaborating with Rachel in the future – watch this space!

And, more exciting news: my lovely colleague Louise Connelly (University of Edinburgh Vet School) and I have been developing a Digital Footprint MOOC which will go live later this year. The MOOC will complement our ongoing University of Edinburgh service (run by IAD) and external consultancy word (led by us in EDINA) and You can find out much more about that in this poster, presented at the European Conference on Social Media 2016, earlier this month…

Preview of Digital Footprint MOOC Poster

Alternatively, you could join me for my Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas 2016 show….

Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas 2016 - If I Googled You, What Would I Find? Poster

The Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas runs throughout the Edinburgh Fringe Festival but every performance is different! Each day academics and researchers share their work by proposing a dangerous idea, a provocative question, or a challenge, and the audience are invited to respond, discuss, ask difficult questions, etc. It’s a really fun show to see and to be part of – I’ve now been fortunate enough to be involved each year since it started in 2013. You can see a short video on #codi2016 here:

In this year’s show I’ll be talking about some of those core ideas around managing your digital footprint, understanding your online tracks and traces, and reflecting on the type of identity you want to portray online. You can find out more about my show, If I Googled You What Would I Find, in my recent “25 Days of CODI” blog post:

25 Days of CoDI: Day 18

You’ll also find a short promo film for the series of data, identity, and surveillance shows at #codi2016 here:

So… A very busy summer of social media, digital footprints, and exciting new opportunities. Do look out for more news on the MOOC, the YikYak work and the Digital Footprint Training and Consultancy service over the coming weeks and months. And, if you are in Edinburgh this summer, I hope to see you on the 21st at the Stand in the Square!



Upcoming Events: Citizen Science & Media; PTAS Managing Your Digital Footprints Seminar

I am involved in organising, and very much looking forward to, two events this week which I think will be of interest to Edinburgh-based readers of this blog. Both are taking place on Thursday and I’ll try to either liveblog or summarise them here.

If you are are based at Edinburgh University do consider booking these events or sharing the details with your colleagues or contacts at the University. If you are based further afield you might still be interested in taking a look at these and following up some of the links etc.

Firstly we have the fourth seminar of the new(ish) University of Edinburgh Crowd Sourcing and Citizen Science network:

Citizen Science and the Mass Media

Thursday, 22nd October 2015, 12 – 1.30 pm, Paterson’s Land 1.21, Old Moray House, Holyrood Road, Edinburgh.

“This session will be an opportunity to look at how media and communications can be used to promote a CSCS project and to engage and develop the community around a project.

The kinds of issues that we hope will be covered will include aspects such as understanding the purpose and audience for your project; gaining exposure from a project; communicating these types of projects effectively; engaging the press; expectation management;  practical issues such as timing, use of interviewees and quotes, etc.

We will have two guest presenters, Dave Kilbey from Natural Apptitude Ltd, and Ally Tibbitt from STV, followed by plenty of time for questions and discussion. The session will be chaired by Nicola Osborne (EDINA), drawing on her experience working on the COBWEB project.”

I am really excited about this session as both Dave and Ally have really interesting backgrounds: Dave runs his own app company and has worked on a range of high profile projects so has some great insights into what makes a project appealing to the media, what makes the difference to that project’s success, etc; Ally works as STV and has a background in journalism but also in community engagement, particularly around social and environmental projects. I think the combination will make for an excellent lunchtime session. UoE staff and students can register for the event via Eventbright, here.

On the same day we have our Principal’s Teaching Award Scheme seminar for the Managing Your Digital Footprints project:

Social media, students and digital footprints (PTAS research findings)

Thursday, 22nd October 2015, 2 – 3.30pm, IAD Resources Room, 7 Bristo Square, George Square, Edinburgh.

“This short information and interactive session will present findings from the PTAS Digital Footprint research

In order to understand how students are curating their digital presence, key findings from two student surveys (1457 responses) as well as data from 16 in-depth interviews with six students will be presented. This unique dataset provides an opportunity for us to critically reflect on the changing internet landscape and take stock of how students are currently using social media; how they are presenting themselves online; and what challenges they face, such as cyberbullying, viewing inappropriate content or whether they have the digital skills to successfully navigate in online spaces.

The session will also introduce the next phase of the Digital Footprint research: social media in a learning & teaching context.  There will be an opportunity to discuss e-professionalism and social media guidelines for inclusion in handbooks/VLEs, as well as other areas.”

I am also really excited about this event, at which Louise Connelly, Sian Bayne, and I will be talking about the early findings from our Managing Your Digital Footprints project, and some of the outputs from the research and campaign (find these at:

Although this event is open to University staff and students only (register via the Online Bookings system, here), we are disseminating this work at a variety of events, publications etc. Our recent ECSM 2015 paper is the best overview of the work to date but expect to see more here in the near future about how we are taking forward this work. Do also get in touch with Louise or I if you have any questions about the project or would be interested in hearing more about the project, some of the associated training, or the research findings as they emerge.


Jisc’s 50 most influential HE professionals using social media (#jisc50social) and a #codi15 update

Today I am delighted to share the news that I have been included in Jisc’s 50 most influential higher education (HE) professionals using social media! I am also very pleased to see others on this list whose work I follow and admire, including Jennifer Jones and Sue Beckingham.

The list of 50 influencers forms a really useful array of snapshots of practice and mini case studies of how social media is being used across UK Higher Education and I’d recommend taking a look for inspiration and ideas. It would be lovely to also get more great people and social media best practice shared, so I would recommend sharing your own additions and tips to the hashtag, #jisc50social, as there is such a rich variety of use that a list of 50 people cannot, of course, capture that is taking place in the sector.

My write up in the Jisc list of influencers particularly talks about the Managing Your Digital Footprint work, which is progressing well. If you missed my posts from the European Conference on Social Media you can get a good sense of how the project is developing from my paper with project lead Louise Connelly, “Managing your digital footprint: possible implications for teaching and learning“. We are in an exciting phase of the project so do look out for new resources appearing on the project website very soon, and further research publications in the months to follow.

Finally, as the individuals who nominated me for this list did let me know that they would be putting me forward I would like to share my thanks to them for their support and enthusiasm. I feel honoured to have been regarded so highly by colleagues from the University of Edinburgh who are engaged in their own wonderful, creative, critical and playful use of social media in their day to day practice.

#codi15 update

Finally, and on a somewhat unrelated note, you may remember that I blogged earlier this summer about writing our Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas show, Back to the Statistical Future. The show took place on 26th August and I’m delighted to say that both a follow up blog post and a video recording of the full show are now available so, if you have an hour spare, do have a watch and let us know what you thought of it!



What is it like to write an Edinburgh Fringe show for #codi15?

What is it like to write a show for the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas (#codi15)? Well, as I make the final preparations for my own show, Back to the Statistical Future (26th August, Stand in the Square, 3pm, just £8 per ticket!), I thought I would share some reflections on the process of developing a show for the Edinburgh Fringe that is based on academic and research areas, but is accessible to a wider audience. And also on the nerve-jangling experience that is selling real tickets to real punters – and using social and other media to help with that!

So, firstly a wee bit of background.

Back in 2013 Beltane Public Engagement Network – of whom I am a long term fan/member/participant/event junkie – decided to create a new show for the Fringe. It was to be a light hearted academic and research led strand of one-off events for smart audiences. And this “Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas“, was to be a co-production with the lovely experienced production company Fair Pley and the unstoppable ball of energy and obscure facts that is Susan Morrison (stand up, Bright Club compere and enthusiast, and Director of the Previously… History festival). You can hear the original pitch, filmed outside that first venue, here:

Click here to view the embedded video.

That first year was an experiment (read more about our EDINA show at CODI13 here) that led to an amazing CODI (as it became known to insiders/Twitter) run in 2014. Having rushed through prep for our first CODI show, we were keen to be better prepared and planned for our 2014 show, What Skeletons Are in Your Closet?. Looking across the EDINA activities we were keen to highlight and thought would be of interest to Fringe audiences we decided that the Statistical Accounts of Scotland were an ideal candidate.  The show sold well, got some lovely comments and attention, and was great fun, and so for 2015 we are going Back to the Statistical Future, and here’s how we are doing it…

Where do you start?

The whole idea of the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas is to actually have a “dangerous ideaâ€� – something challenging or provocative. Last year we – myself and my lovely co-host and Statistical Accounts of Scotland editorial board corresponding member Helen Aiton – focused a lot on the forgotten members of society, and the ways in which the Statistical Accounts capture and share their lives. This year we wanted to do something a wee bit different, but we also wanted to be able to build on the best bits of the 2014 show, things like the background to the accounts including, as Susan calls it “the world longest letterâ€� – our enormous physical list of all the questions that had generated the Accounts in the first place (indeed we discovered 6 additional questions last year when researching the show!).

"The World's Longest Letter" being shown off at CODI 2014 (image copyright Edinburgh Beltane Network)

“The World’s Longest Letter” being shown off at CODI 2014 (image copyright Edinburgh Beltane Network).


So there we were, in autumn 2014, trying to think about what might make for a good show… because planning for a Fringe show really has to start about a year ahead to make the various deadlines. At this point we knew the Scottish Referendum result but we also knew that there would be a general election before the Fringe and that the Fringe programme deadline would pass before we knew the impact of that. Now, why would that matter for a show about 18th or 19th Century Scotland? Well, for our ideas to be dangerous and engaging they also needed to be timely and that meant making some sort of connection to the current context.

I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.

One of the brilliant things about CODI is that the production team have set a lot of early deadlines to make sure those terrifying Fringe form deadlines start to look easily achievable! This year pitches for show were due in person by the end of November or by video in early December. That means you need to know roughly what you want to talk about and roughly how you plan to do that 9 to 10 months ahead of your show. It means much of the hard work is done long before you officially start writing.

So, in November Helen and I started thinking about ideas and decided to take a wee risk. We decided that such was the focus on austerity and cuts that, no matter what the election outcome, there would be a great social policy angle tying the historical picture in the Accounts to modern day Scotland.

But then we needed a name…

Thankfully all of the buzz around the upcoming anniversary of Back to the Future inspired us. The film had been interesting partly because 50s fashions and mid-80s tailoring actually has a lot in common, which meant that whilst social attitudes and pop music provided fun contrasts, a lot of what makes that film great is the familiar being re-experienced in an unfamiliar context. With what we had found in the Second Statistical Accounts on part time librarians, pressures to pay to school your children, gentrification, increasing scrutiny of those receiving poor relief and the help of the parish, we knew we had some parallels and a perfect simple title: Back to the Statistical Future!

The next stage was to get all of our expression of interest paperwork together for the CODI producers and, once our show was selected/accepted (yay!) we needed to ensure we had all our details for the Fringe programme. Because the Fringe deadlines are very early – the final deadline for totally finalized copy, images, URLs etc. for the programme and website hits as early in January – we also had to make sure we had everything finalized. That included the modest funding to cover registering our show in the guide, in key programmes, on posters in St Andrews Square, etc. The CODI producers, being fabulous, bundle this all together into a very affordable fee that doesn’t even pretend to cover all their serious hard work supporting the shows and working to get potential audiences, as well as University press offices and local and national press aware of the strand.

So, we had a show title and basic idea… And an official listing imminently going live… What next?

Northern Exposure

Never mind writing the show itself, the next priority is actually writing the stuff to promote the show: news items for websites, tweets, blog posts, emailing contacts or nudging the press. Because if there is an audience all booked in, we not only need to have the show written but there’s a good chance it will go well. If there is no audience the best written show in the world won’t be nearly as fun.

Tickets for CODI have been priced this year at £8. That is a marker of the confidence the CODI producers have in us lot – the writers and performers – but it is also something of a challenge. If I can go see Bridget Christie for only a few more pounds, or something at the book festival for a similar price, my expectations as an audience member are set high. But I’m also really invested in what I’m about to see or be part of. Psychologically paying for stuff makes us value it more than free stuff. There is a whole free fringe, and there are also quite a lot of free events led by academics and researchers, which are frequently excellent.

A Yurt full of CODI attendees watching last years show.

Motivation to do a good job: a yurt full of expectant CODI attendees watching our show last year (image copyright Edinburgh Beltane Network).

There are other reasons to charge £8. Our venue this year and last has been a yurt in St Andrews Square, part of the Stand in the Square, one of the offshoot venues from legendary comedy club The Stand. So there are promotion costs, the venue costs (hire of space, yurt, power etc), and the costs of having an (excellent) technician keeping our mics and music working as expected – and those apply to every show no matter how famous you are.

Thus, as August draws closer you find yourself logging in daily, checking ticket sales, panicking, and working out how to make your show better, how to let people know about it in a new way, how to tell all of your friends that really, they are better booking early. Every ticket sale is a victory as well as a reminder that your show really really better be good… And so…

Writing the show itself

So, as I post this it is mid August and our show, taking place on 26th is coming together but isn’t finished yet.

Back in November, when we were preparing our pitch Helen and I both scoured the Statistical Accounts for what we call our “snippits� file – highlights, quotes, interesting leads, stories and statistics that we think might make a show. Once we had that clearer idea of what to focus on we started looking for more, digging deeper into some of our key topics: libraries; schools; literacy; public housing; disability and poor relief.

Notes from the writing process - snippets, leads, and nineteenth century finances...

Notes from the writing process – snippets, leads, and nineteenth century finances…

There were also Boot Camps to help us along – CODI gatherings in which all participants are encouraged to come along and share advice and in-progress show ideas. Some of these are in the Stand, which comes with the bonus of letting you tread the hallowed 4 feet of plywood that is their tiny stage. And for the last of these, in June, we were expected to give our 3 minute presentation outlining not just the topic, but also the structure of our show. Which means you have to have one. And even if that structure is only finalized late the night before the bootcamp, it’s still awfully useful to have. Because with that title, description, structure and a slowly booking audience all in place you have at least a full skeleton of your show, and plenty of time to flesh it out properly.

With CODI now in it’s third year there are some golden rules about what makes a CODI show too. It isn’t a presentation; it’s about interacting with the audience and engaging them. It isn’t about being the cleverest person in the room but it is about sharing and enlightening the audience with what you know. You need to be prepared but you can also count on Susan, now the compere for all CODI shows, to manage anything really challenging for you. As a bonus she’ll also dress as a minion, or a penguin, or a hurricane, or, for our show, impersonate a judgmental 19th century Minister of the Church of Scotland.

So the final stage is writing that script down. Which doing Bright Club has taught me is always worth doing for a performance where timing and wording will matter (so this is not always the case for presentations elsewhere). And that structure will get rejigged, and new data may need gathering – for instance in the last week Helen has been gathering data on average pay in 1835, whilst I’ve been scrutinizing the finances of an Edinburgh workhouse. As Helen and I are in different geographical locations emails and google docs and Skype calls have been happening to check in. And finally, as I am currently doing, it will all get into a finalized script, then read through and changed and made funnier. Then we’ll need to think “is that clear enough� and “can I back that up�…

And then, on 26th August, we will go into a wonderful and hopefully full yurt, and anything could happen… we may forget half of the content, we probably will be taken in whole new directions by the audience, why not join us and find out?


Apply to become EDINA’s new Social Media Officer!

I am very excited to announce that the advert for our new EDINA Social Media Officer job (full time, 2 year fixed term) has just gone live on the University of Edinburgh jobs site! Read the full ad, and apply, here.

As some of you will be aware I moved into a new role at EDINA, as Jisc MediaHub Service Manager and Digital Education Manager, back in February (a role that I share with my lovely new colleague Lorna Campbell). I am still passionate about social media and communication of course, but I have officially handed on the Social Media Officer baton ready for someone new…

So, what can I say to encourage you to apply?

Well firstly, EDINA is a lovely place to work – we are a friendly bunch and the organisation is big enough to include a diverse range of people with super skills and expertise, but it’s still small enough to get to know everyone, find out what we’re all working on, etc. As an organisation we work on some fantastic online services and really innovative projects, which means that there are loads of great opportunities to communicate and engage using both mainstream and emerging social media channels.

As EDINA is based at the University of Edinburgh we also benefit from the wisdom and opportunities across Information Services, and the wider organisation. Although you’ll see more on pay, terms, and holiday entitlement in the job ad I should add that EDINA also benefits from some excellent in-house baking as part of an ongoing charity bake sale!

The Social Media Officer was created back in 2009 and I have to say that I hugely enjoyed my time in the role so heartily recommend it! My colleagues have always been enthusiastic about exploring new technologies and ways to communicate, and are a skilled and experienced bunch so, whilst the job has evolved reflecting the maturity of social media tools, and their use as core communications channels, but it remains an exciting post with lots of interesting opportunities. And the role sits in our User Support team, a very welcoming crew genuinely committed to providing the best experience for our users, including thousands of students, staff and researchers across (and sometimes beyond) the UK HE and FE sectors.

As you’ll see from the ad, our new Social Media Officer will have a particular focus on communicating our EU FP7-funded COBWEB: Citizen Observatory Web project, which means engaging with citizen science and local communities across several UNESCO Biosphere pilot locations in Wales, Greece and Germany. That also means working with a wider range of communications channels and approaches, and working with colleagues in an excellent group of partner organisations across Europe – and that means there’s likely to be a wee bit of travel too!

So, please do take a look at the job ad, see if it might be right for you (or someone you know), and get applying!

Edit: Please note that applications close at 5pm on Tuesday 9th June 2015.

All those important links… 


Jisc Digifest 2015 – Day One LiveBlog

Today and tomorrow I am in busy Birmingham for Jisc Digifest 2015. As I am speaking in two sessions this year I decided not to offer my tweeting services to the fabulous Jisc live coverage team, but I will be live blogging as the opportunity arises. Do keep an eye on those tweets though – all sessions will be covered on the #digifest15 hashtag. There is also some live streaming here. For those attending the event you can find me presenting in the following slots (both in Hall 3):

When not presenting I’ll be updating this blog with notes from keynotes and break out sessions. As usual this comes with the caveats that I welcome corrections and additions since this is genuinely live updating and that can mean occasional errors etc.

And we are off! Tim Kidd, Executive Director of Jisc Technologies is introducing us to the second Jisc Digifest: This year’s theme is “connect more” so please do, with each other, on Twitter, via the event app, etc. Now to formally open the proceedings I will hand over to Martyn Harrow.

Professor Martyn Harrow, Jisc Chief Executive

Welcome all, both in the room and online, to Jisc Digifest 15. But why are we all here? Well we have serious work to do together. Unprecedented challenges face UK Higher Education, Further Education and Skills, and digital technologies are some of the best tools to enhance human efficiency. And we are here to explore the potential for digital tools for higher, further education and skills.

Jisc is funded by higher and further education, overseen by the Jisc board. We are of the sectors, by the sectors, for the sectors. Jisc is dedicated to playing our part to help you achieve your success, including better exploiting existing Jisc services and support – already saving over £1/4 billion per year, but also on ground breaking innnovation. You told us you wanted more chance to do this and that is part of the reason for this event, and also why we have a new “architecture” for customer engagement. We also have a new account manager systems – for the first time every higher and further education organisation will have a dedicated account manager, there to support you, ensure you get the best out of Jisc services and activities, but also to ensure you have a voice in shaping what we do, in new activities.

We have many partners, including many strategic partners. I would like to acknowledge these relationships which are so important in what we are trying to achieve. In particular I would like to thank today’s sponsors (AM, CrossRef, Talis), supporters (Epson, Rapid Education, ?) and our media partner the THES.

Connected is the theme of our conference, we have the power to do much more for our sector, for our universities and colleges… And what we want to achieve over the next few days. That’s what we want to achieve over the next few days: a new level of ambition.

Welcome and keynote speech – Simon Nelson, Futurelearn


University Business magazine mention for EDINA and UoE

Last month I had a request through for an interview on social media for University Business magazine, which focuses on (as the title suggests), the business and administration side of universities. That request proved to be a really good opportunity to look back and reflect on what has been happening with social media across the last 5-10 years, including some awesome innovative activities at the University of Edinburgh, many of which – such as social media guidance and advise – EDINA have been part of.

Front cover image of University Business Magazine.

The front cover of the latest issue (81) of University Business magazine.

I’m really pleased to see that some of my comments on the use of social media at Edinburgh and in the wider HE sector have made it into the latest issue (Issue 81, pp 65-8). And I’m particularly glad to see that the Managing Your Digital Footprint campaign is part of those comments as it is a really ambitious project that will hopefully have findings of use for the much wider sector.

You can read the full article – which looks at social media at a number of institutions – online here (pages 65-68).