It’s been a little busy around here

April 29, 2009 § Leave a comment

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past week, the H1N1 (swine flu) virus has taken over our area.  The school district I work for was the first in the state, and the country, to shut down because of the virus.

You would think I’d be relaxing poolside with a cold one in my hand, but you’d be thinking wrong.

Being part of the tech staff means that you get to help in spreading the word when there’s an emergency.  I have become, in this past week, part of the PR team for our district.

Now understand, I’m not complaining one bit.  I’m actually enjoying the challenge this change in routine has brought on.  I’m able to use my understanding of the tools out there to help our district spread the word about anything and everything related to this closure.

It started on Sunday, when I got a call from my boss.  “The Superintendent wants to do a podcast,” he said, “and was wondering if you could come up and help her do it.”

I had heard Saturday that we’d be closing one high school, but on Sunday, it all changed when the Department of State Health Services shut down our entire district.  Word needed to get out quickly, and in as many ways as possible.  We’d updated the web site, and put out an auto-call, but there were more ways to get the message out, so I opened up my arsenal and started asking permission.

The two things that we’ve done this week, based on my suggestion, was to start a Twitter account for the district, and to live stream the Superintendent’s daily press briefings on UStream.  Sunday and early Monday, I was tweeting district updates on my own twitter account and on Facebook, but it got to be a bit much, and I didn’t want “official” word coming from me.  I wanted it to be something that people could look at and say, “Yes, this belongs to the district.”  So up went the district’s twitter account.  In just over 48 hours, we’ve gained almost 100 followers, including several of the local news outlets and reporters.  Several of the names I recognized as district teachers (and I was surprised by how many of them are on twitter), and several more are students – it’s easy to tell the students by their user names or profiles.

The UStream of the press briefing got its first trial today.  While the audio was off a bit, I think if the Superintendent just speaks up a little it will be fine.  Unfortunately, UStream is having recording issues, so there was no way for us to have it available for playback.  We embedded the stream on the district home page for the duration of the press briefing, and I also put the URL for the UStream page on Twitter.  At one point, we had about 20 people watching, which was way more than I expected.  Only one question came in via Twitter, although I expect more tomorrow.

Every evening, I get the audio for the podcast from the Superintendent, edit for about 20-30 minutes and post it to the district home page, as well as her podcast page.  If she sends me the transcript of the podcast, I post that to her blog page as well.

Luckily, our web site has been holding up incredibly well under the strain.  Before this week, our normal, weekday average was 2500 hits per day, and that’s with students in the district opening the web page any time they open a browser.

On Saturday, we had almost 4000 hits.  Sunday, we broke 10,000.  We had another 10,000 Monday, and dipped to 7300 yesterday, but as of this posting, we’re at 11,500 and will probably hit 12,000 before midnight this evening.

Our distrit has gotten national attention because of this outbreak, and I hope that the information we’re putting out has been able to keep people informed.  We’re doing as much as we can, as best as we can.  Our Superintendent has been doing an outstanding job, and has been interviewed by major news outlets all over the country, from the Wall Street Journal to NPR.  And every night, before she goes home for the day, she sits down and records audio for me to edit for the podcast.  With everything else on her plate, I’m proud of her for sticking with it.

Hopefully, when all of this is over with, we’ll continue to put our information out there using Web 2.0 tools. Hopefully, this this a turning point for our district in information distribution!

What marketing execs don’t get about Twitter

April 20, 2009 § 3 Comments

So the world is all a-twitter now that Oprah is on, and I’m sure there will be millionns of new people trying it out just because She is on.

I was watching the news this morning and heard a story about Pizza Hut looking for an intern in social media.  Of course, the news story called it a twittern.  But here’s the thing. Big companies just don’t get it.

What I envision is some marketing hot shot thinking “Hey, let’s get Pizza Hut on this Twitter thing.  Oprah’s doing it, why can’t we?”  The problem is, people who use social media aren’t dumb. They use it because the want to follow someone, not because they’re forced to.  Social media is so completely different than traditional media…you don’t sit idly by while you are bombarded with advertisements.  In fact, in my own experience, if someone in the social media groups you follow starts throwing out advertisements, you just block, unfriend, or don’t follow them.

I’m starting to notice this trend on Twitter of people following me who don’t have anything in common with me.  It’s so easy to follow someone, why not just mass follow a whole bunch of people in the hopes that they’ll reciprocate, right? But like most of the people I know who use social media tools, I check out everyone who follows me.  If their twitter page looks like a bunch of ads, or if they aren’t giving me information I need, I’m not going to follow them.

The people I follow on my social networks fall into three categories: 1) Family and friends, 2) Learning network – professionals who are in education and technology, 3) Celebs I like.

If anyone that I follow abuses twitter, I stop following them.  Simple as that.  Early on, there was a professional contact who tweeted 5 times within about 10 minutes.  To me, that’s abusing the system.  You’re not tweeting, you’re putting up a blog post in 5 parts.  Use your blog for that.

And that’s what ad execs don’t get.  I see them flooding their followers with advertisements, and the thing about social media is that we don’t want to watch ads.  If we did, we’d sit in front of the TV, where we don’t have to participate.

Touchpad vs mouse

April 19, 2009 § Leave a comment

I’m sitting here at home, watching my not-quite-three-year-old daughter navigating the PBS Kids web site, and building sandcastles with Curious George on my wife’s laptop, and found myself wondering if she would be able to do as well with a mouse as she does with a touchpad.

As she moves the mouse around, any time she wants to click, she takes her finger completely off the touchpad, then moves to the buttons.  With a mouse, she wouldn’t be able to do that.  The mouse would continue to move around as she tried to click the button.

Which got me thinking about adults.  Using a mouse doesn’t come easily to older folks, and I’ve seen firsthand fully grown adults who can’t hold a mouse still while they try to double click, or even single click.  Maybe that’s what leads to some of the anxiety adults feel when they try to use computers for the first time.  The hand-eye coordination can be difficult, at best, if you’ve never used a mouse.  At least with a touchpad, you can take your eyes away from the screen and focus on your finger, and don’t have to worry about moving the cursor when you want to click.

And by the way, just the fact that my 2 3/4 year old can navigate with a mouse freaks me out.

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