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2020 challenges, pivots and reflections


Business speak for changing  focus, determining what works – YT prefers the sailing term ‘changing tack’, moving a sail around to make best use of the wind. Pivoting can bring benefits by stripping back a business to what it is good at, here is an interesting example on Quora. The time is now for a change to accommodate people needing the service amidst the social quarantine that UK Gov has imposed.

This post is an outline of the processes, procedures and understandings of creating remote services for people. YT is well aware this is as much a work in progress as it is a new arena.

Going online, losing people as we go..

Transposing my freeform (not structureless!) and hands on attitude to an online format would / continues to be quite difficult, the process precluding some people too; the session goals for socialisation and digital ownership were not always equally achieved as outcomes. Some people attending were there for the chat and support without having to try too hard – that is not judgement (its part of the remit of Reach Out), but it meant that the times spent ‘Techy Timing’ would be lost in the transition to the new Zoom based sessions. Zoom was chosen over What’s app (tablets and phones only) as it offered an easier route to use than Skype, which had been deteriorating in quality and usability IMHO – managed obsolescence by Microsoft?

Inspect Your Gadget (IYG) + Techy Times (TT) online

The IYG and TT sessions have been really well received as social touch points, also as a local trustworthy support mechanism for people needing digital advice and guidance; shown which buttons to press and why. The value added part of this included the good work by the dedicated volunteers that turned up regularly and had to listen to me expound, waffle and (ahem) generally explain a whole bunch of topics, especially when participants started getting involved asking questions. The structure of each session was thematic and participants voted on what was important to learn about each week.

Inspect Your Gadget, yes please

YT used to provide one to one support on  a Tuesday afternoon with the aid of a worthy volunteer every fortnight for many months, now it is full circle; teacher training started when leaving the 12 hour hell of technical support for an internet company. IYG online is about to start again, the only hold up at present is the SIM card needed for an alternative phone number to limit active consultation times. A basic logging system has been started (with a need to create IDs for each record) and volunteers have been willing to assist with follow ups/ call backs as there are time limits of 20 minutes for each call. YT is wary of pulling too much from volunteers, but the pool of participants has yet to be assessed with initial calls.

Techy Timings, put your hand up to speak!

TT sessions always started with a chat from YT to provoke discussion or to present an outline of a particular technology or process to achieve a task. As the ‘club members’ become comfortable, so the interruptions became digressions and indeed prompted more explanations. A pleasant and sociable anarchy which my game show host persona thoroughly enjoyed and played with.

This joyful state of affairs doesn’t really translate to an online chat/webinar, as any interruptions become intrusive, and digressions become awkward, likely counter productive too.

The sessions so far have been about navigating and getting used to Zoom -this will be a constant issue, complicated by the different platforms and the differences in each system and device.

The sessions are now to have a very optical approach, which started as activities moved to my (thankfully open) studio with fibre based broadband which improved the overall facilitation and interaction which my home based situation didn’t offer. These structured sessions started with podcasts  and online radio – what is it and how to do it?  and the next will be about Video chatting online. The next sessions will be using (and hopefully building on) the essential skills and ownership list YT has created:

  • ICE (In Case of Emergency) details set up on phone
  • Email set up on device and is usable
    • Bonus: Able to send an attachment, e.g a picture/photo
  • Make and take calls on a smart phone / mobile phone
  • Use SMS or suitable messaging app (What’s app, Facetime etc.) for messaging or video chat.
  • Participant has had a tactile introduction to their device – where buttons are and what they do.
  • Can take a photo with a tablet / phone
    • Bonus: Able to edit (crop, adjust brightness / contrast or add filter)
  • Has been set up to use device(s) with suitable accessibility settings or additional apps (high contrast or bigger keyboards, SMS apps, alternative launcher, etc.) 
  • Email account and details are stored in a suitable place
  • Can turn on and  log in to device(s) unassisted
  • Optional: use of a video chat application (facetime, skype)

The participants of my real world sessions need to reconcile the above to move along, and I’ll be talking about:

Web (online navigating)
  • Able in navigating to particular web address unassisted
  • Can perform a search for a particular topic and find suitable information in a page
  • Log onto GP and NHS online services independently
Scam awareness
  • Understands the manipulation involved with online scams
  • Able to recognise phone calls pretending to be tech support or other scam artist
  • How to report scam emails
  • Able to use Online streaming services – BBC, ITV, Youtube etc.
  • Use online services to find out about events

These are very basic guidelines, social media activities to follow; there is a lot of variance in the group of take up of some online activities, and teething problems are still occurring 4 weeks in, video meetings are not easy and definitely complex to relate. Extra support and some remote hand holding may be appropriate.

New-ish hardware, definitely new software and services.

Desk riser with a laptop and monitor on top of a desk
This brought me much relief with my sciatica

With a lot of change and the work changing, new services and devices have to be purchased – only the software is new, the hardware is always refurbished; I’ve basically bought an upgraded version of my trusty Lenovo x230 laptop (for spares at the moment) and small form factor Dell Optiplex desktop for easy access to some grunt for content creation outside of my studio. I am now using Window 10, a situation am not overly happy with; its expedient and needful. YT wonders if an iPad would be of use, though this is a big jump.

The only ‘really new’ addition has been ergonomic and a total boon and blessing – a TotalAV desk riser (which seems to have disappeared from Argos at the time of writing), which has brought relief of my constant sitting and resulting sciatica.

Services and software have been upgraded – Pro package of Zoom has been purchased to make best use of more time with groups, and Serif affinity packages are being looked at as a definite option to create good quality materials – open source ha been good to me so far, but desktop publishing has been problematic, especially on Linux.

New home for the website, new thinking for marketing and income.

soulchip communications is proud to be a social enterprise, and YT is a proud fellow of the School of Social Entrepeneurs. Recently YT attended an all day set of  Zoom meetings (as most are nowadays) about fundraising and generating income for a social enterprise. It was most reflective and useful, enabling a new evaluation of income streams – Asking to Generating income and all points in between.

The session created some new thinking about the need for more content in lieu of hands on working, and also new web site to facilitate this; even just putting the link on the site will be promoting a donation, although Patreon may not be appropriate just yet.

In terms of content, blog posting should be moving on from reflective journal pieces to more informative and useful content for enabling clients / participants to move along with their learning.

As I’m proofing this post it is soulchip communications 10th anniversary since its inception, these thoughts to be carried over for the coming years of change. Acceptance of change is crucial in these pivoting, changing outline of a butterfly and the soulchip symbol