Beth's Blog

The Art of Less As More: Micro Content

Visual.ly has published this really useful and free e-book on Micro Content.   As our attention fragments and more and more of us are reading content on mobile devices, content creators are finding that the best way to engage audiences is with shorter, bite-sized chunks of content known as “Micro Content.”    The e-book, which at 32 pages, is definitely long-form content provides context, best practices, examples, tools, and resources.  I don’t know about you, but as a content consumer, I still do consumer long-form content to get a better understanding of a topic.   As a content creator,  one thing to keep in mind, that if you can create long-form by aggregating micro content or take the Lizzy Borden approach and chop up an existing long form content piece – either way if you create in this modular way you have both forms to publish.

Flickr Image by theamarand

What is micro content anyway?  Yes, it is the opposite of longform content – reports, books, slidedecks, articles – and even blog posts.    Micro-content is optimized for social media channels and sharing.   There many forms of micro-content: tweets, Facebook status updates, curated links, Vine videos, photos, visual quotes, etc.     The e-book gives an entertaining historical perspective on micro-content which is not just a product of a networked age.     For example, gum wrappers and fortune cookies are micro content.

The e-book also points out that headlines may be the most basic type of micro-content, and have been a part of print publications for decades – think newspaper headlines.   Headlines are really tweets and more recently good headline writing is an essential skill for nonprofit marketers who embrace social a la “the Upworthy headline.”   The e-book covers examples of micro-content on different social media platforms and channels, pretty much the usual suspects.  However, here’s one to think about data visualizations.  Not just infographics, but a snippet from an infographic or a chart or graph to illustrate a statistic. Small visualizations of data or illustrations of ideas are effective visual micro content, especially when they are fun and easily digestible piece of content.

Tricks of the Trade

The e-book offers some useful tips or best practices in producing effective micro content.   One suggestion is to make it stackable:

With so many media options available, from TVs and laptops to smartphones and tablets, consumers are often engaging with multiple platforms at the same time. Research firm Millward Brown’s recent AdReaction study found that more than 40% of 16- to 45-year-old multiscreen consumers in the United States use devices simultaneously. You can hone in on this audience by crafting stackable content that meshes well with other platforms and encourages sharing.

Tools

The e-book has a good list of micro-content creation tools, many free or low cost for your tool box and for your mobile phone.   Here’s two new ones that I discovered and have added to my tool box.

  • Quozio makes quotes visual – and shareable. “Just provide the text, pick a predetermined style and share. It’s that easy! Its bookmarklet makes it even more convenient to create an eye-catching quote – highlight text on any web page, click the bookmarklet, and your text is delivered into the tool for a hassle-free experience. The only downside to Quozio is its lack of font choice and custom styles. However, its favorable price tag – free! – and the convenience of no registration required makes this a charming, great-to-know tool.”
  • Cogggle Sometimes, you may be dealing with a difficult subject that can be daunting to your audience. A great way of inviting your readers to dive into your post is to create a mind map. This visual can help guide your reader through complex ideas that otherwise might have gotten lost in translation. Coggle is a free, straightforward mind mapping tool that allows you to work independently or invite others to work on the map as well, after signing in with Google. Just double-click on the main Coggle to get started and the rest is cake.

You can download the e-book here.

Explore Impact Leadership at NTEN’s Leading Change Summit: Free Registration Giveaway

I’m giving away a free registration to NTEN’s Leading Social Change Summit.   If you want to a chance to win, leave a comment on this post sharing something that you’d like to learn about Impact Leadership or some wisdom from your experience about practicing impact leadership!  I’ll pick a winner by July 3oth.

NTEN is hosting the “Leading Change Summit ” in San Francisco from September 3-6th.  (Early bird registration ends on July 31 and scholarship information is here.) This conference will be different from Nonprofit Technology Conference which is geared for a wide nonprofit audience.    The summit will be an opportunity for deeper peer learning for nonprofit change makers in three theme areas: digital strategy, impact leadership, and the future of technology.    I’m excited to be co-facilitating the Impact Leadership track with colleagues John Kenyon, Elissa Perry, and Londell Jackson.

As you can see from the schedule overview, this is more of a participatory event versus the traditional conference with powerpoints and panelists.   While participants in each track will explore their topics in depth and in the context of a facilitated structure, there will be inspiring keynotes and opportunities for networking for all participants.  The event will end with an “Idea Accelerator” where participants will have an opportunity to develop and pitch an actionable idea for feedback and funding.

Over the past few weeks,  I’ve been working with my fellow track facilitators to design the process that we will lead the participants in our track through.   We’ve settled in on an innovation lab process that will help participants reflect on their current “Impact Leadership” practice,  brainstorm solutions to key challenges, and come up with innovative and practical ideas to implement.   We envision that participants will walk away with new insights, but they will also experience an innovation process that you they take back to your own organization.

One of our first design tasks as facilitators was for all of us to get clear on what we mean by “Impact Leadership.”   While the specific topics will emerge from the people in the room,  impact leadership is focusing within, people, processes and plans to help the org reach it’s mission.  Our first session will set the stage and context for the practices of “Impact Leadership.”   We’ll hear some brief lightning talks from participants and experts on technology planning, organizational culture, and the human and technical sides of impact measurement and reflect on what it means for our organizations.  The facilitators will lead participants through human design facilitation techniques to gain both individual and group understanding of this question:  What are our current organizational practices?   What are the points of pain, strengths, and opportunities?

We know that leadership isn’t just about talking about the problems, it is also about discovering solutions.  Today’s nonprofit leaders embrace collective creativity.   We will facilitate a  brainstorming and creative process of generating ideas that address the question: What are some ways that we can improve our practice of  technology planning, organizational adoption, and impact measurement to get better results?   Of course that particular question will change, morph, and multiply based on the earlier session, but it will provide a rich framework for generating many useful and practical ideas.

What great about this conference is that we will have creative immersion and change to “sleep on our ideas.”    The brainstorming techniques from the previous day will yield many, many insights and ideas.  However, putting great ideas into action calls for making things happen in a resourceful manner and frequent iteration.   We facilitate small groups of participants to synthesize and create different prototypes for their ideas, bringing them to life — all with the goal of improving their organization’s current practice of impact leadership.     Participants will not only end this session inspired and armed with a playbook of techniques and ideas to try back at the office, but may also have the genesis of a great idea or two to collaborate on during the next day’s Idea Accelerator.

The magic will happen based on who is in the room and the conversation.    Colleagues like Deborah Finn and others are excited about the opportunity to learn from nonprofit tech peers.    The deadline for early bird pricing is July 31st and if budget is tight, there are some limited scholarships available.   And, if you are lucky, you might win a free registration by sharing your thoughts about impact leadership in the comments below.

Can My Fitbit Data Make Health Care Better?

I first put a fitbit, a digital pedometer that tracks steps, calories burned, food intake, and other personal analytics data,  on my wrist back in October. After some results from routine tests during my annual physical,  my doctor informed me that my cholesterol was high.    ”Start exercising more and stop eating bacon cheese burgers ” were the doctor’s orders and we’ll retest in 6 months.  Otherwise, I would need to go on statins.

As a data nerd, I couldn’t resist the fitbit and its ability to track my every move during this glorious science experiment.   After six months of monitoring my personal health analytics and making better decisions,  I’m happy to report that my cholesterol  is in the normal range and a side benefit of loosing 20 pounds.    I also started living the fitbit life, especially around finding ways to incorporate walking into my work – at client meetings,  trainings, and even keynotes.

Many people are embracing wearable devices and apps that monitor their health and use it to improve their health.  In a recent article in the MIT Technology Review about mobile health care data, making this data actionable can be life saving for the patient.

“Data is changing the role of patients, offering them a chance to play a more central part in their own care. One way is by using mobile technology to monitor sleep patterns, heart rate, activity levels, and so on. In development are even more advanced devices capable of continuously monitoring such key metrics as blood oxygen, glucose levels, and even stress. And companies like Apple are hoping to become repositories for all this information, giving consumers new ways to track and perhaps improve their health.”

Is there the potential for greater good from aggregating and analyzing our collective fitbit and other personal health data?  Are there other benefits? What are the challenges?

These are the questions discussed during the Health Datapalooza conference in Washington, D.C. last month.  According to Information Week, the Health Data Exploration Project, California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2), announced it was forming a network of academics, scientists, and health IT companies interested in figuring out the logistical, practical, and ethical issues related to mining consumer health data to spot public health trends.

The project published the Personal Data for the Public Good and has recently received funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to explore the issues identified in the report.   They are defining health-related data as the data being collected by wearable devices and smartphone apps as well as ambient social data as people communicate on social networks and leave digital footprints related to personal health tracking, monitoring, and decision-making.

As the report points out,  “personal health data” falls into a bermuda triangle as it is currently mostly outside of the mainstream of traditional health care, public health or health research.  Medical, behavioral, social and public health research still largely rely on traditional sources of health data such as those collected in clinical trials, sifting through electronic medical records, or conducting periodic surveys.

The initial survey and interviews found the following:

  • Individuals were very willing to share their self-tracking data for research, in particular if they knew the data would advance knowledge in the fields related to PHD such as public health, health care, computer science and social and behavioral science. Most expressed an explicit desire to have their information shared anonymously and we discovered a wide range of thoughts and concerns regarding thoughts over privacy.
  • There is a great deal of experimentation taking place.  For example, SmallStepsLab serves as an intermediary between Fitbit, a data rich company, and academic researchers via a “preferred status” API held by the company. Researchers pay SmallStepsLab for this access as well as other enhancements that they might want.
  • There are clearly some obstacles around privacy and access. The report pointed out these:
  • Privacy and Data Ownership: Among individuals surveyed, the dominant condition (57%) for making their PHD available for research was an assurance of privacy for their data, and over 90% of respondents said that it was important that the data be anonymous. Further, while some didn’t care who owned the data they generate, a clear majority wanted to own or at least share owner- ship of the data with the company that collected it.
  • InformedConsent:Researchers are concerned about the privacy of PHD as well as respecting the rights of those who provide it. For most of our researchers, this came down to a straightforward question of whether there is informed consent. Our research found that current methods of informed consent are challenged by the ways PHD are being used and reused in research. A variety of new approaches to informed consent are being evaluated and this area is ripe for guidance to assure optimal outcomes for all stakeholders.
  • Data Sharing and Access: Among individuals, there is growing interest in, as well as willingness and opportunity to, share personal health data with others. People now share these data with others with similar medical conditions in online groups like PatientsLikeMe or Crohnology, with the intention to learn as much as possible about mutual health concerns. Looking across our data, we find that individuals’ willingness to share is dependent on what data is shared, how the data will be used, who will have access to the data and when, what regulations and legal protections are in place, and the level of compensation or benefit (both personal and public).
  • Data Quality: Researchers highlighted concerns about the validity of PHD and lack of standardization of devices. While some of this may be addressed as the consumer health device, apps and services market matures, reaching the optimal outcome for researchers might benefit from strategic engagement of important stakeholder groups.

There are more and more people like me who are tracking their health on their smartphone or on social networks and a growing number of wearable devices that can track data. There are many more on the horizon, for example, even a digital plate that count your calorie intake.  The report identifies a lot of interest from individuals and researchers to make use of this data.  However, privacy, balancing open science with intellectual data, and other issues need to be addressed before personal health data can be maximized for public good.

While social media and social networks were the first wave of connectedness, we are now entering what Geoff Livingston describes as a “post social era.”   This is a world where everything will be connected and generate data, even cows will tweet.   We’re just beginning to look at the implications for the social good sector.

Are you tracking your health with a health app?   Would you be willing to share your personal health information with researchers?

 

 

Stop the Glorification of Busy and Thrive



I just returned last week from vacation with my husband and children at the Jersey Shore where I grew up.   It was great to sit on the beach and do nothing, get lots of walking in, and hang out with family.    Above all, it is a great escape from your never ending to do list.   I did take along a few books, including Ariana Huffington’s Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder.

The book is about how to reframe success away from money and power to a third metric.  She identifies this as “thriving,” where you get enough sleep, take care of yourself, and work isn’t your whole life.    Over the past year,  I’ve been trying to incorporate thriving into my life – most recently with integrating “walking” into work and embracing the personal analytics movement to pay attention to health.

When I got back online, I discovered Guy Kawasaki’s excellent visual review of the book on SlideShare created with Canva.   I thought he captured the essence of the book’s important message.   The first point – redefine success as making a difference in the world – is something that people like us who  work in the social change sector have already done.  We think about that every day and try to live it.     But, unfortunately, sometimes we are so driven by passion and compassion that we don’t follow Ariana’s other tips and end up burning out or a working and living with a high functioning depression.

She talks a lot about self-care and nurturing yourself.    Whether this is taking time to meditate, walking, take breaks from the screen, eat healthy foods that don’t promote stress, get enough sleep, spend time with family, or whatever that is besides grinding away at work.    The biggest challenge is making this part of your life is doing it before you reach a crisis stage – and not feeling “guilty” or “selfish” for taking care of yourself.

Thriving requires taking a digital detox – going offline and focusing on the other people you are with.   I’ve written a lot about mindfulness and managing your attention in an age of distraction, including the use of “conscious computing tools.”   But it is also important to just turn off the damn computer and mobile phone and spend time with your loved ones or your own thoughts.

I love the takeaway around “Keep on Learning,”  this is what has fueled me over the span of my work.  However,  after you’ve been working in your field for decades or you are overworking yourself, you can be in danger of reaching a place of ennui – where nothing excites or interests you.    I’ve found that one way to avoid this is to find a new perspective on a topic or dip your toes in a completely new topic area.    Often, that’s where I discover something that can inspires a whole new wave of learning.

Thriving is about being intuitive and being able t listen to your inner voice and not be so busy that you can’t hear it.  Recently,  I listened to a Radio Lab episode where they were discussing an experiment where they found a way to take away a human’s understanding of language and making connections by having them shadow or repeat another person’s speech.  The experiment subjects could not make good choices.  I think the drone of a constant to do list and social chatter, and distraction can take away our ability to listen to our own hunches – and then we get trapped because we’re not making good choices.

Thriving is about finding solitude.   More and more in a connected world where the collective is the norm,  that is harder to find and make the space.    I think that we need to learn the skill of balancing solitude with social connection in order to thrive.

There are many great ideas and takeaways in the book – and well worth reading.

How are you taking care of yourself so you can avoid burnout, be successful, and change the world?

 

 

Markets for Good Post: Design A Better Dashboard

Flickr Photo by PetitPlat - Stephanie Kilgast

This post was also appeared on the MarketsforGood site as part of my regular column, “Between the Dashboard and the Chair.”

How Human-Centered Design Methods Can Help You Design A Better Dashboard

Take a look at any nonprofit dashboard and the most effective ones probably have an organizational process that lies beneath. Dashboard design is more than simply clarifying outcomes and key metrics. Dashboard design should also inspire buy-in and continuous improvement by using “human centered design” methods.

But shouldn’t dashboards be designed by data scientists and graphic designers? Yes they can be part of the team, but anyone can be a designer! These are methods for developing solutions (any type) in service of people. By applying this approach to any program development or strategy and even your organization’s dashboard, your nonprofit can more innovative and get more impactful results.

Many times dashboard design is focused on “getting it done efficiently” and graphs and does not address the human side – buy-in, learning from data, and consensus on metrics. A focus on the bar charts without taking the time to understand the challenges and open up creative thinking will not inspire organizational buy-in which is so important.

Here are two stories about two very different nonprofits and how they approached designing their dashboards with human-centered design techniques.

Tracking for Impact and Learning

Edutopia, a project of the George Lucas Educational Foundation, is an online web site that creates and curates content that is distributed through mobile, social media, video, and offline channels. They also have a robust online community. The ultimate goal is to improve the quality of education. Their theory of change is about raising awareness of the issues and then inspiring, engaging and encouraging their audiences to take actions around this goal.

Their dashboard already did a great job at tracking impact metrics about the reach and size of their audience, but they wanted to go deeper in tracking engagement and taking action. With a large staff producing and marketing content, they also wanted a way to capture data for ongoing feedback to improve their content.

Again, using design-thinking facilitating methods, the process started with a presentation from the executive director on the strategy for the year and measurement. Staff were asked to use a technique called “Rose, Bud, Thorn” to identify strengths, challenges, and opportunities for change. They created a concept map of the different themes that emerged. While technical topics such data and measurement processes emerged, so did a lot culture change issues.

Next staff identified key impact metrics by creating a paper prototype of the dashboard on the wall, with sticky notes. Using a sticky dot voting process to identify metrics most important to senior management and the board and those most important to different staff departments, they were able to design different “views” – a high level for impact and more detailed version for “learning.”

What emerged from the conversation was a plan for impact reporting, but also a process for more intentional experimentation and learning linked to key metrics.

Metrics for Movements

GivingTuesday, a philanthropic movement to promote a national day of charitable giving that takes place the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, organized a convening of key stakeholders called “Measurepalooza.” The gathering followed on the heals of the “Best Practices Summit” where partners and participants came together to share and learn best practices and identified the need for the movement to also capture metrics beyond “dollars raised on the day” numbers.

In particular, they were interested in looking at transformational metrics such as donor engagement, building nonprofit capacity, and global reach.

As a movement, GivingTuesday needed to address and get consensus on two big measurement questions: What metrics should the movement as a whole measure? What should participants each measure for their individual campaigns?

The session started with setting context on the accomplishments of the past year’s campaign and a summary of what was learned during the best practices summit. This lead to a discussion about the need to capture both “transactional” and “transformational” metrics related to specific outcomes as well as what and how to effectively use both quantitative and qualitative data for both movement level learning and for participating partners.

Through a facilitated design thinking process, small groups of participants created a draft of the Giving Tuesday movement level and partner level metrics.  As a consensus building process, participants used “sticky dot” voting to identify the most important metrics (green for partners; red for the movement as a whole). This allowed everyone to see visually what the group consensus was and hone in what was most important.

Summary

Whether you are using data to inform a digital content strategy or to build a philanthropic movement, it is important to remember that effective measurement begins with people.

How has your organization achieved buy-in from staff or senior leaders about what data to collect for impact tracking?  What are the processes that your organization is using to help ensure that data is used for decision-making and learning and not ignored?