Category Archives: social media

Infographics. Telling stories, rather than loosing the will to live with dull stats…

visually-social-media-censusI admit it.  I think I’ve probably produced more than my fair share of excel pie charts and graphs over the 15 years.  Often in the name of the annual report, tenants’ newsletter or performance report for the board papers.  They were certainly an improvement on a table of numbers (unless like me, you happen to love numbers), but I’m not sure they really told their story effectively.  I reckon most folks still had to ‘pay attention’ and concentrate to plough through the details, which was a disheartening after the all the work that went into collecting the data.

So I’m loving seeing the growth of ‘infographics’ as a way of interpreting data.  Telling stories with data.  Engaging the audience, pulling them in with interest, rather than requiring them them ‘to pay attention’.  I think of the creative folks who produce these as ‘data-artists’.  The disciplines of numeracy, logic and statistics are coming together with those of story-tellers and communicators, with spectacular results.  I really look forward to seeing an RSL annual report done in this style soon. is a useful showcase for inspiration.  It’s where I found the one the one on the left (and there’s over 3,500 more to check out).  It’s an infographic community site – a for infographics if you like.  You can check out work that other users have uploaded.  If you register, you can upload your own work, and seek feedback on it from the community.  There’s a cute twitter visualisation tool to get you started – you feed in your twitter @name, select some display preferences, and it’ll auto-generate a visualisation of your activity on twitter.  They’re also planning to release some further tools to help with creating infographics, so keep an eye out.  Follow them on twitter (@visually) for a regular feed of new data-loveliness

One thing I’ve noticed with lots of the most engaging infographics, is how they’ve given a simple, humanised interpretation of the headline data.  It was easy to forget that facebook receives however many squillion page views per day in the UK, but I’ve remembered (since last November) that it’s one in four pages viewed.  I’ll be trying to remember that next time I write a stats heavy performance report.


How local authorities are using social media

localbysocial-screen-shot-213x300I first read this pamphlet from IDeA and Nesta just over a year ago when it was first published.  Having just re-read it again this afternoon, it’s stood the test of time – a year in social media being a pretty long time.

There’s a wealth of examples of how local authorities are starting to use social media to engage with their communities.  And just as interestingly, some great examples about how local communities are organising themselves and engaging with their local authorities – that ground up approach rather appeals to my inner activist.  There are schools using twitter to keep parents up to date; enabling people to log details of problems which are piped directly to the relevant local authority for action, and many more.  It’s available as a download or read it online at .

It’s candid about some of the challenges involved in deploying such projects.  There are new and evolving skills needed to resource them, and the fear associated with trying something new in the public eye.  Though this quote from the intro pretty much sums it up for me…

The problem for councils though, is that not engaging now represents a far greater risk than engaging. Citizens will still use these networks to talk about you, whether you add your voice to the conversation or not.

I’m not going to summarise it further, as it deserves a full read.  The author (@gandy) makes it a breeze to work through 44 pages.  And I defy anyone to get to the end without thinking of something they could do in their organisation.

I haven’t come across a similar publication for the social housing sector yet.  I wonder if it exists but my google-fu is failing me?  Maybe it doesn’t exist yet?  Maybe we could crowd source writing it…?


Mindmeister: A SaaS mind mapping tool


I’m quite a visually-driven person and I really like using mind maps to sketch out ideas, take notes and plan things.  My daily notebook used to be full of ‘em.  In order to make them more useful (and legible) for other people, I started using some mind mapping software a few years back.  My favourite to date is mindmeister by a country mile.

Its a SaaS tool, which means there’s no software to install – just a few details to set up an account and you’re started straight away.

It’s intuitive and and easy to use, opening up with a large blank canvas.  You start by making your central node, and then add branches as you need them.  There’s everything you’d expect from a mind mapping tool…

  • lots of styling options
  • expand/collapse feature for big branches
  • auto-placing for optimum layout
  • embed icons, links, images, notes
  • export your map to a pdf

The fact that it’s SaaS also means…

  • mind maps stored online – you can access them from any computer connected to the internet
  • you can invite others to view or collaborate on your maps
  • mind maps can easily be embedded in a web page

There’s a iphone and ipad app for mindmeister, which, as a regular commuter, I love.  It means I get to make use of journey time to do a bit of work without the faff of getting the laptop out.

I’ve use mind maps for loads of things, but my favourite is taking notes during meetings, with can then be shared with everyone else for instant minutes.  I used to spend lots of time bothering about getting minutes neatly typed up, in numbered paragraphs with action points.  I’m much less bothered about the format these days.  By sending out the link to the mind map at the end of the meeting, folks can immediately review whilst things are fresh in the mind (and no-one misses the colour-highlighted action points).  The only downside I’ve found is we’re all used to people taking notes on paper during a meeting, but someone tapping at a computer seemed a bit rude, like they weren’t really paying attention.  I try to link the computer to a big screen during the meeting so folks can see what notes are being made – that seems to work quite well.