Social Media and the Workplace – Common Craft Video

For Local Government Colleagues who are keen to explain what social media in the workplace means but struggle to get their point across…

A colleague of mine @carefulkeith pointed me in the direction of  “Social Media and the Workplace Explained by Common Craft

It states:

This video takes a look at how social media sites like blogs, Twitter and Facebook are changing how companies think about external communication. It includes points on:

  • How social media sites are making organizations rethink external communication
  • How one company confronts a crisis – and learns how social media can help
  • The role of empowering employees to participate
  • The role of policies and guidelines in social media participation

Common craft videos are also available on you tube but this one isn’t available.

Why can’t Online be more like Offline

As I said in my previous post I have spent a bit of time cleansing my social networks to make them work better for me and hopefully enable me to engage with them more often and in more appropriate ways.

The underlining issue for me is that unless the social networks and social media tools I use can actually blend into my life and activities then I’m unlikely to engage with them (selfish I know but how different am I to most people) – this is a recent change of tact for me as I used to love playing with new networks and seeing their potential benefits and uses. But my available time has reduced dramatically over the last few months due to a number of reasons and I am finding that I simply don’t have the time to engage with some social networks because they take too much effort to interact with and they don’t always contain the people or connections I need in a given situation.

A couple of examples being Gowalla and Foursquare – I used to enjoy checking in and finding out who was either in the same location or who I’d missed etc, but now I simply don’t bother – lazy perhaps. This doesn’t mean that Location Based Social networks aren’t useful – they are, but the mass public are using them yet and not enough of my friends or groups I connect with are using them often enough to justify the investment of time – I no longer have the time to simply find out what loose connections were or are doing. But I believe there is something a bit more fundamental to this feeling.

My general lack of available time leads to less engagement with a variety of “fringe” social networks and has made me think about those networks which offer me most value and that in turn lead to the cleansing exercise – as my involvement in these networks has to deliver value for me or I’ll simply drop out of them. In terms of location features, a lack of take-up amongst my Facebook connections means that Facebook places hasn’t even attracted my time yet?

It also poses another issue which I only really thought about recently when I bought my wife a new iPod Touch. If as a fanboy of social networks and social media in general I struggle to engage with some of these sites then what is the impact on general public. My wife’s use of Facebook has increased since she got the iPod touch, my view on this is that it is easier for her to engage with then waiting for the PC to start-up and then access the browser and most, if not all of her connections are on that network.

I think the challenge and issue I was trying to solve with the cleansing exercise is captured in the following very long but surprising easy to digest presentation by Paul Adams:

“I don’t have a single bucket of friends”

I am however connected to a variety of  people who make up groups each with a different identity and each with a different purpose and within those groups I have different relationships with people – strong ties, weak ties and temporary ties.  (the definition of these is provided within the presentation below)

This is exactly how my offline life is – a series of connections to groups and relationships all separated by boundaries of one form or another and generally they don’t overlap. Due to my commitments  – my family + my full-time employment + my part-time employment + being a school governor – managing these relationships, boundaries and connections online requires working harder than I do offline – surely this isn’t supposed to be like this!.  I know that managing my networks in the way I have decided will enable me to create some aspect of separation but not to the level that reduces my overhead in managing my online presence.

I have made use of Facebook lists to provide a level of additional privacy, but will need to review after my cleansing exercise. But other networks don’t really provide the same features, and this is why I have decided to use each network in the way outlined in my previous post.

Seeing this presentation made me feel a bit better because it wasn’t down to me not using the networks properly but because there is simply no social network that allows me to do this.  I know we all need to grapple with the blurring of our lives, but sometimes boundaries are their for a reason and we need support mechanisms to maintain these boundaries should we choose to.  This is often one of the barriers that people state to me when not engaging with social media within the workplace. People are concerned that aspects of their lives will be shared with people who they simply don’t want to share it with.

Shaking up my social networks

I spent quite a bit of today going through some of my social networks, mainly Facebook to be honest and seriously thought about who I am connected to. I’ve made a recent decision to separate out my social networks and to make them work for me in different ways and in some way the way I think they ought to be used.


I recently created a twitter policy which has helped me decide who to follow on twitter.  As I state in my twitter policy – what I am actually saying when I follow someone is “you say interesting things and I want to keep listening – I hope you don’t mind”.

I want to use twitter as a way to connect to people whilst also accessing insights from people and relevant news and events etc. I am a regular user of twitter via the web and on my iPhone, so actually enjoy the variety and of personal stories, professional insights and general banter between people.


I have taken a decision to use Facebook for people who I actually consider to be a friend – not always close friends but people who I have enjoyed spending time with (past and present) and people I respect. I also had to ask myself whether or not I was happy sharing aspects of my personal life and photos of my wife and kids with these people.

I have gone through my friends list and have been ruthless and culled a large number of people. It did feel quite nasty doing it but I’m hoping that I am able to connect with those people in other networks.


An obvious choice, but LinkedIn is the network I am using to connect with work colleagues and professional contacts. I don’t have to have met you to connect on LinkedIn but as long as there is a reasonable reason why then I am happy to connect.

The other networks I am part of are generally topic or subject specific so have not taken any action on these networks.

I look forward to connecting with you in one of the above networks.

Learning from Devon School Closure Information

During the extreme weather in early 2010 The county council’s website struggled to keep up with the demands and high volume traffic and essentially deliver timely up to date information relating to school and route closures.

This consequently led to a review of a number of things including the performance of our website, the supporting processes and the wider business continuity plans.

A few meetings occurred which I was fortunate to be involved in and we considered a range of options about how we could respond and deal with this scenario in the future.

An example of the options we considered included:

  • SMS Solution Providers
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google Docs (spreadsheets and forms)
  • WordPress

The Approach:

The approach we settled for was to focus on improving and automating the information collection and ensuring that this was in a consistent and reusable format. Once collected the information could then be republished automatically either to the DCC site, a local school site or even to the local media

The web team in our Children and Young People’s Service (CYPS) currently host and maintain approx 50% of school websites in Devon and would be able to implement a solution without too many issues.

On review it was considered that the most suitable and low-cost option would be to use Google – Total cost of development came to £240.

By using google it was possible to deliver an embedded form (which fed into a google spreadsheet) into a static HTML page with an iframe which could collate all the responses – this form would be password protected. Google also allows the content once collected to be emailed, published as a webpage or even reused via an RSS feed.

By implementing a simple PHP script the CYPS web team we were able to publish the appropriate content onto the DCC website and also to the school website without the need for a member of staff to re-enter any content.

The site is live and available at

The process now essentially allows a Head Teacher or School Admin officer to access the form via their own website and to submit the details relating to the schools status. Once submitted the information is republished to the councils website and relevant DCC officers notified via email, all without any further manual intervention.


It was essential to ensure that the focus was always on the business issues and problems and not on the technologies themselves. To allow the techno logy to drive the solution could lead to greater risks and unforeseen issues further down the line.

By ensuring we focused on data collection and automating the process we were able to understand where new technologies could add value to the process and how they were able to facilitate a greater reuse of the data.

Location, Location, Location

I’m fascinated by the increased conversation about Location based Social Networks as i personally find them really interesting.  Back in January this year i predicted they would be big in 2010 (albeit my rationale was deeply flawed and influenced by a particular phone!!).

However they do seem to be growing in value and more and more people are seeing business opportunities and benefits from working with them. It is also interesting to see Google and Facebook both supporting Location based features of varying levels that if they see value then i guess we won’t actually get much choice. Location will just be another feature of our interaction with our friends and colleagues.

I was thinking the other day – what would happen if all of the content from TripAdvisor (ratings, feedback, pricing etc) was integrated with a location-based network like Foursquare or Gowalla. In fact there is almost a duplication of content happening at some level anyway. The power of that information is already influencing people’s decision – but if you could see that someone who actually said they liked the place had “checked in” say 10-15 times, would you believe them more than someone who checked in only once?

This is where these tools are starting to move, if businesses are savvy, and want to manage their brand they will need to understand this stuff. I say understand as it is still early days and most of the benefits and new features are becoming useful because the companies themselves are adding value by linking with other sites or companies.

But there is a dark side – isn’t there always!

Privacy is something that a lot of people care about, most people were vocal about Facebook’s dealings of privacy – so we can assume that it is an important thing to get right – it is also an important thing an individual needs to get right so that it doesn’t back fire.

An example of how weird and creepy it can get can be found on Shea Sylvia’s blog. It is the type of story that people will use to say that these sites don’t offer value and that they will only lead to bad things – well i don’t agree with that….Shea’s situation and experience is not something i’d like to go through – i’m glad she shared the story, but it does offer us all a valuable lesson and one which made me think about how all this stuff fits together.

In Facebook i have quite tight privacy controls and only (as a rule) except friends who i have actually met in person – Facebook is a place where i share photos of my family and more personal events. So i’m happy to share this with people i consider to be friends in one form or another.

On twitter, i have a public profile (i don’t protect my tweets) but i generally use this as a professional tool and only occasionally use this in a personal capacity – i do however consider a good proportion of people i follow on twitter (those i have met and some i haven’t) as friends also.

Foursquare and Gowalla – These tools don’t really do privacy that well in my opinion or at least create an illusion on privacy, yes you can accept friends but when you check in somewhere it will share that with anyone who visits that location. I can see the value in this, but why can’t you restrict you check in information to only those people you accept as friends?

My point being that when you decide to share something, it should be based on your own understanding of how you have set your privacy settings – it can’t create loop holes for your information to leak out to anyone.

I will personally be revisiting all of my privacy settings and how they interact with each other so that i can be sure who has access to the information i post to the web.