Outreach

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OWEA outreach and feedback discussion group, OWEA summit, Chattanooga Tennessee, August 7th 2009

Write up by Chris Mills

OWEA Members Involved in the live discussion:

  • Chris Mills (lead)
  • Aaron Gustafson
  • Ben Friedman
  • Jeff Brown
  • Mark DuBois

Other OWEA members involved in the discussion

  • Aarron Walter
  • Leslie Jensen-Inman
  • Scott Fegette
  • Terry Morris
  • Dave MacFarland
  • Contact Chris Mills if you are interested in this project

Introduction

In this breakout session, we discussed what OWEA should be doing in terms of outreach - getting our name out there, promoting web standards, and getting people looking at an using our courses. We decided that feedback should also be included in this project, as the conversation needs to go both ways, and they are a natural fit together. In the end, the four areas we discussed were:

  • The audience: What target audience groups do we want to do outreach to?
  • The method: What outreach methods do we want to use to reach our target audience?
  • The message: What are the key messages that we want to give to our target audience?
  • The feedback loop: What general feedback mechanisms do we want to use to get feedback from our target audience?

    Below I've listed all of the brainstorm ideas for these different sections, along with indicators as to how important/easy/effective they are to implement.

    Summary of next steps

    I've put this here so you don't have to wade through what's below to get a summary of the next steps.

    1. Refine the below lists
    2. Identify the global messages across all target audience groups, and where the messages deviate across those groups. Write messaging/templates/personas for each group
    3. Write some practical guides to carrying out each type of outreach
    4. Identify outreach methods most important for each group
    5. Identify the outreach methods we should get started with
    6. Basically I'm working towards writing a kind of "Evangelism bible" for OWEA, although I won't call it that (see comment below on terminology)

    Notes on Internationalisation

    There will be differences (in terminology, audience types, educational institutions, etc.) between different locales, which makes the outreach job even more complicated. I propose that we don't try to deal with these differences ourselves, instead getting volunteers to do this work. I will ask the ILG for advice. I'm thinking we will need translations of all our courses, outreach materials, etc. in the long run.

    Notes on terminology

    We discussed terminology a few times over the course of the We rock summit. I know we are planning to keep a note of terminology somewhere. The implications of defining say, a "Web Developer" or a "College" goes beyond outreach, but in outreach we still need to be mindful of making sure were are clear who we talking to, and what language and messages are appropriate to them.

    In addition, there are some common words we use when promoting technology that would not be suitable when talking to a non-geek audience. The ones I am thinking of are "preaching/preach", "bible" , and "evangelism/evangelise". We are comfortable with their use in a technology context, but non-geeks might find them confusing or even offensive. So I think we should avoid using them externally wherever possible.

    Notes on organizing ourselves, and spamming

    As with any outrach/marketing effort, we need to be wary not to spam people too much with it, otherwise it will create bad feeling and dilute our efforts. I propose to:

    • Keep a database of contacts, searchable by name, occupation and organization, to avoid duplication of effort and multiple spamming
    • Keep a record for each contact of what has been said to them, and any feedback we got from them

    The audience

    The audience is listening... -- Steve Vai

    This section contains subtypes (where appropriate) and descriptions for all the target audience groups we identified in the breakout session. Future work will be done to add notes on outreach methods to use for these groups, and how to alter our general messaging to speak better to these different groups. I think "Audience group" will be the primary category that we should use to divide up outreach projects - different project groups doing outreach to different target audience groups makes most sense.

    Educators

    Educator subgroup Description Messaging notes Outreach notes
    University Educators teaching at university    
    College Educators teaching at colleges    
    School Educators teaching at secondary schools - high school down to primary school (younger children?)    

    School/University adminstrators

    Not educators, but still very important to reach - these folks make the important business decisions at educational institutions. Someone like Leslie or Jeff will be able to provide more insight here.

    Businesses/clients

    Business subgroup Description Messaging notes Outreach notes
    Managers The people at businesses who make the decisions to hire new staff to work on their web presence, or hire in temporary contractors to do so    
    HR Those in the business responsible for finding those hires    
    Accounts Those in the business who hold the purse strings    

    We need to do outreach to businesses in a different way to educators - we need to teach businesses how to hire good people, how to work with a developer to build a good web site/brand (what a good web site needs), and what web standards mean in terms of advantages to business.

    Students and parents

    Students are of primary importance here, as we not only want to show them the right way to build web sites and get them passionate about web standards, we also want to get students doing outreach work to other students, teachers, and their local community. This is especially important for universities, schools, etc. that are not teaching best practices and resistant to change (that'll be a large proportion of them, then).

    Parents are a secondary concern, but it is also important for parents to be assured that their children are going down the right paths, and learning the right things. Also, parents can often be very good student motivators, and many will have sway in their own communities and with their children's schools. Parent-Teacher Associations, etc.

    Trainers

    Trainer subgroup Description Messaging notes Outreach notes
    Professional trainer Trainers that run private training sessions attended by individuals or teams at a company    
    In-house trainer Might be their full-time job, but more likely to be employees called in to give training to new hires on an occasional basis    

    Hobbyists/Self-taught

    Either:

    • Those wishing to get into the web industry (how many of us learnt initially) - either those already in a profession and wanting to retrain or those just leaving school
    • or hobbyists that just want to do some web stuff in their spare time to share photos or videos with their family, or just to keep their mind active

    Government

    Those in government that are connected to education need to be taught why OWEA is important, and leaned on to help get web standards content and best practices into schools/universities

    In addition, the government needs to be made aware of the importance of best practices on their own sites - the usability/accessibility/legislation angle.

    Public/Media

    It is a no-brainer to put these groups together, As there will be times when we will inform the public directly, but more commonly the media will inform the public. Therefore both groups require pretty much the same message/language.

    Web professionals

    Web Professional subgroup Description Messaging notes Outreach notes
    Web professional (standards-aware) Already live and breathe web standards. More likely to evangelise and advise on content, rather than learning directly    
    Web professional (would like to learn more) Could stand to learn a lot from our courses, and then go on to become standards-aware, if their employers will let them. Some web guys that don't use standards do care, but are shackled by their employer's infrastructure    
    Web professional (doesn't care) "Dark matter" developers that don't see why they should learn a new skillset to do what they can already do. This type of attitude is very hard to change...    

    Whether we are talking to designers, developers, programmers or whatever, we need to do outreach to industry give them awareness of our courses, and how they can be helpful to them (Opera WSC has already proved to be a good place to send clients and family members when they ask too many silly questions!) We also need to get feedback from them about what graduates should know before they will get hired in their companies, and link them to educators for sources of new hires/interns.

    And not all web professionals are standards-aware - some could stand to learn a lot from our courses, as well as just evangelising them, although it will take a lot of convincing to get some of them to care.

    The method

    Hey, you, get off my cloud

    You don't know me and you don't know my style
    Who be gettin flam when they come to a jam?

    Here I am here I am, the Method Man --Method Man, The Wu Tang Clan

    In this section I will outline all the methods of outreach we thought of. I have provided a description where necessary, plus there are three other columns, which will take boolean (yes/no) values:

    • Important: Is the outreach activity more important to our cause? than some of the others listed
    • Easy: Is the outreach activity easier to perform than others listed?
    • Effective: Does the outreach activity give more bang for our buck than others?

    the strong rows indicate the activities I think it would be easiest/best for us to start with. We are doing a lot of these already, and the ones that are not easy are ones that I think we should really aim to start up as soon as we can

    Outreach activity Description Important? Easy? Effective?
    OWEA profiles/interviews Interviews with various members/showcasing their work and giving tips on education, success stories, etc.   yes yes
    Guest lectures/talks Lectures/talks at universities, schools, companies, conferences, anywhere that will have us. Effective because they can be recorded and reused     yes
    Uni/college open days Similar to the above, but more of open day format than a lecture. Try to get involved with careers fayres?      
    External interviews/case studies Interviews with prominent educators, students, industry figures, etc. to showcase their efforts and say why web standards are important   yes  
    Articles Not the education learning articles, but articles in online magazines, newspapers, etc, to highlight our cause and advertise events   yes yes
    Contests/sexy standards (XXXHTML/slip between the Style Sheets, to quote Molly Holzschlag) - hold contests to get students passionate about doing col things with web standards. the WOW already knows a thing or two about this ;-)     yes
    Press packs Put together a press pack consisting of articles, contact details, mission statement, even T-shirts, buttons and other schwag for physical press packs. Journos love to look at shiny well-presented packages yes   yes
    WE rock tour kit Teaching people how to run their own standards outreach advocacy days, in a barcamp styl-ee. This is vital to turn OWEA into a global movement yes   yes
    Advocate pack/rewards Offer students (others?) freebies and recognition for becoming local OWEA promotors and doing advocacy work for us      
    Liaison/partnerships with government, accreditation bodies, trainers and agencies Get important key contacts in these areas, build ourselves up to be THE body to go to for web education intelligence. Governments/unis will be powerful allies, and so will be accreditation bodies (for giving us certification) yes   yes
    eSeminars, resources, tools, templates Keep publishing nice online goodies to go along with the main courses. This reflects very positively on us, and keeps interest rolling. Templates and things are quicker to publish than whole courses, so helps maintain interest in fallow periods      
    "Train the trainers" we are already discussing creating materials deliberately aimed at teaching the teachers how teach this stuff, such as Jeff's book proposal yes    
    Testimonials/statistics Quick soundbytes from educators and industry who love our work, to display on our site and improve confidence in our resources   yes  
    Endorsements/seal of approval This involves us having some kind of stamp of approval to give to educators to say their course is approved by us. A nice thing to have, but it will require us to build a solid reputation first      
    Lobbying I think this wil be a part of many of the other ideas      
    Forum Already got this   yes  
    Blogs     yes  
    Twitter     yes  
    E-mail     yes  
    Podcasts        
    Viral videos/comic strips Funny little skits that get passed around a lot, and put our name out there. Very effective if done right     yes
    Internship/recruitment program Very important activity to help bridge the gap between education and industry - get both sides talking on a regular basis. Very effective, and could also be easy to pull off if we deal with it through local advocates yes yes yes

    The message

    Don't push me 'cuz I'm close to the edge
    I'm trying not to lose my head -- The Message, Grandmaster Flash

    This is the part that needs the most work. what follows is a list of key message soundbytes. the strong ones are ones that we feel are equally important messages to give to all of our target audience groups, so these are ones we should start with. I will be working on crafting these into some sample press releases/descriptions/e-mail templates/flyers that we can start using to reach out to people. I've obviously like input into what we needed. A further step will also be to write detailed sections covering each target audience group that contain messaging specific to those groups. Obviously an outreach message to a student will use very different language to an outreach message aimed at a school administrator or a politician.

    Well-rounded students Employable/internships
    Curriculum Accreditation
    Engagement Problem solving
    Lifelong learning Ubiquity/Omnipresence
    Accessible/relatable (to normal people) Delivery medium for information/lessons/work
    International Web tech is exciting!
    Differentiation More income/endowment
    Enrollment increased success rate/metrics
    Community/ecosystem Bottom line
    Fostering communication between industry and education Requirements (for good web devs)
    Relevance Valid/future-proof skillset
    Awareness Professional development/Retraining
    Web stewardship Legislation/legal risk
    Demystification and personal relevance Information accuracy
    Improve respect for our craft  

    Feedback

    Gathering feedback is something we should be very careful about. We need to not beg too much/spam people, otherwise it will act against our best wishes. We need to collect it in an organic, unobtrusive way. And we need to maximise signal/noise ratio - invite too much feedback and it will be unmanageable. Below are a few notes, which I will expand on later on.

    Initially, we should:

  • Tell key educational contacts about OWEA, and what we are doing with it, and see what they think. Ask them how useful it sounds to them, and what they would like to see.
  • Start pinging educators at universities/colleges/schools you think are worthwhile and ask them what kind of web dev teaching they have, and how to OWEA could be useful to them

    Then later on:

  • Ask these contacts what they think of the existing structure
  • Ask them what they think of the courses/material we are linking to, and what else they would like to see available

    In the long run, it will be an idea to have a little feedback/info section posted into the bottom of every OWEA mail we send to people, explaining in two sentences what OWEA is, where you can find out more, and how you can get involved/give feedback. This will elicit more feedback and involvement without being pushy about it.

    Of course, when you have build up good enough relationships with key contacts, then you can start asking them explicitly for feedback on certain things ;-)