Category Archives: Life online

Online learning, the web and social media

For years I’ve been interested in how adults learn. Now, given the range of opportunities afforded by online learning, I am interested in what has remained the same and what has changed in this area. Is there a difference in how we are taught and how we actually learn compared with the past and today?  

Almost every day I learn something new through social media. Are you the same? I pick up new insights from my network by reading posts and watching different videos. Online learning on YouTube with Sofie Sandell

Learning is also simply a consequence of living. By just getting up in the morning and going to work new learning takes place.

Can we bring quality education to people online? The answer is a bit of a mixed bag. We can and we can’t.

Key factors in learning 

Knowledge, skills and attitude are all key factors in how we learn. What is your pre-knowledge about a topic? Do you possess any relevant skills already? And what’s your attitude to the topic? Are you interested in it or a bit ambivalent?

The number of courses that are available online is growing every day, yet when I ask people in my network about the online courses they undertake I hear repeatedly that they don’t complete them.  Even if they paid big money for them.

Education is big business and the online market is worth billions. Sebastian Thrun, the founder of online university Udacity, told Fast Company that he is concerned with the low number of people who actually finish any of the classes offered on the platform, which is less than 10%.

Do we have to get people to sit in a classroom to find the peace of mind they need to actually finish the courses they sign up to?

Will online training ever be worth as much as live training? Can we do anything to stop the drop-off?

When does learning take place? 

Online learning can take place on YouTube or anywhere else online, and you have to ask yourself when attempting to learn online: will this content provide me with an improved ability to think critically and to ask new questions? And, will this content present the topic from a different perspective or not?

If your answer to both questions is no, then you need to move on and use another source when learning about a given topic.

What drives learning? 

Two of the biggest drivers when we learn are inner motivation (your level of curiosity) and your environment – that is, both your physical environment and the people around you. Does the environment you are in allow you to think differently and does it offer you the freedom to find new solutions? Also, another major factor for success is the ability to practice your new insights immediately. The peer group factor.

Creating groups and encouraging discussions online makes a huge difference. Udacity has created hundreds of learning hubs using – check it out, there may be people out there with the same interests as you. Social media encourages collaboration and that is one reason why you should get social media involved in the learning process.

If you are a beginner, then formal learning and courses will help you to reach a certain level, but if you would like to become an expert then you need to connect to modes of informal learning. Informal learning takes place at work, during discussions and through hours of practice and personal experience.

Your final customer 

Before I began lecturing at INSEEC University in London I worked at a company that certified businesses in ISO 9001 quality management systems. One thing I learned there was that the businesses that preformed the best were those that were most concerned about what the end customer thought about their products and services.

This attitude is directly relevant to learning and online learning. If you as a learner are keen to make the extra effort to learn about a subject more thoroughly, then you will spend the time studying and will listen to online classes. But, if your motivation is to just pass the test and then go back to your normal practice then you will not gain much from an online course. Your final customer will be your employer and your future clients. Will they like you and your service?

My final observation is this: your attitude and why you want to learn something will have the greatest impact on your learning experience whether your learning takes place in a classroom or online.

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Troll Hunters – new Swedish TV series – please do something similar, rest of the world.

I love a good TV series and the other day I watched a new Swedish series called Troll Hunters or Trolljägarna in Swedish. Robert Ashberg, a Swedish TV journalist with a lot of authority, is looking into cases in which people have been harassed online.

If you are from the UK you might be familiar with the TV series Watchdog. This was similar, but it revealed the identity of the creeps who hide behind their usernames and write insulting comments in blogs and other online forums. This kind of TV and awareness campaign is needed in more countries. Pestering other people about their lives while hiding behind a screen should be a criminal offence.

What’s your thoughts? Please comment.


Download 13 tips how to protect yourself from internet trolls and other nasty people online. 


Trolljagarna med Robert Ashberg

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How should we handle digital afterlife?

I have two friends on my Facebook who passed away and a few days ago one of them had their birthday. Some of her friends wrote ‘Happy Birthday – miss you” on her wall. My other friend’s family removed her account from Facebook.

How are we managing our digital afterlife? What will happen with our private content when we die?

What will the future Internet ethics look like?

When someone dies their families have to deal with lots of physical practical things, and now with all digital accounts – how shall they deal with that?

Maybe setting up a digital will can help – I mean that we all say on a will website what should happen to our digital presence when we have no physical presence.

Post-mortem social networking guidelines are needed. Time for all social networks to discuss this matter me thinks.

This is a big question that we have to deal with. What’s your thoughts?

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5 great ways to use social media to connect better!

It’s a new year and in the last couple of weeks hundreds of my friends on Facebook have been sharing their own videos celebrating ten years of Facebook. Facebook has really been hugely successful in making the world a more connected place. Now with Facebook acquiring Whats app we will be even more connected.

Thanks to Facebook and one of its groups I have gotten involved in an international European Commission project focused on training people in how to use digital media. It’s designed for people who are not tech savvy at all. In fact, they may not have any interaction with the digital world. I really enjoy sharing my knowledge with others and I will do my best to make the digital world accessible for more people.

I’ve collected five universal tips about using social media that I would like to share with you. They will work from east to west and north to south! So, here we go:

1) People are curious about each other so share insights into your life with a photo. We love to see a good picture with a new perspective on someone else’s life. Of course, you choose what to share and on which online networks to share it – Instagram and Facebook are both great platforms for this.

2) To strengthen connections, encouragement works! We love to be seen positively by our peers online and in real life. Everyone, young, old, male or female, appreciates encouragement. Share encouragement in public or send encouraging messages in a text or email. Just a few words or a ‘like’ works!

3) Share other people’s posts, images, tweets and insights at least once per day. When you share other people’s posts you show them that you would like their message to reach farther. This creates a special bond between you and the original poster and they might share your posts in future.

4) Don’t use social media to vent your negative views too often. What you say online about yourself is an extension of your own values and beliefs and we are not usually interested in working with pessimistic people. Keep negative posts to a minimum.

5) Be yourself online. We can all sense when someone is not honest or is not trustworthy. I call this feeling my online bullshit detector (OBD). You and your brand must be clear about what you believe in and should share your own experiences. When someone is making something up it just doesn’t feel right.

Recently I attended a conference and sat next to a speaker who I’d only seen before in online photos. She is a very nice person but she has used too much photo-shopping on her online portrait. There was a significant difference between how she appears online and how she appears in real life. A bit of air-brushing is okay, but don’t make yourself look twenty-five years younger online. It creates distance when you meet your connections in real life.

Be yourself and embrace your online connections!

By Sofie Sandell @Soffi_Propp 

Sofie Sandell is the author of the book ‘Digital Leadership: How Creativity in Business Can Propel Your Brand and Boost Your Results’ and she is s professional speaker giving talks about the digital world, creativity and leadership. 

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The Digital Leadership Interview #3 – How teens use social media and their digital devices

I am interested in communication and how human beings talk to each other. Over the past few years I’ve read several blog posts and research articles about how teens communicate online. However, all of the articles I have found are about teens from the US. As a Swede based in London who works all over the world I decided to have a chat with teens outside the US to learn more.

Often, those who wish to make predictions about the future say that we must look at how teens are using their mobiles, tablets and computers to understand how we should shape our digital future. This is my contribution. To get to know more about teens and how they use digital tools to communicate, I interviewed Felicia, 16, and Leo, almost 16, both from Gothenburg, Sweden. This is not an academic study or the like; this is just a discussion about how teens use social media today. I hope to be able to interview more teens around the world this year.

My digital story

I spent my teenage years chatting and gossiping with my friends over the phone for at least two hours a day. I watched Beverly Hills 90210 and I loved the TV series Twin Peaks. I got my first Hotmail address when I was about 20 years old and my first mobile phone a year later. I grew up in the analog era and, honestly, I have no idea how we survived without a mobile phone. My mother and I once arranged to meet in Gothenburg city centre at 15.30 and forgot to say where. Luckily we both managed to guess where the other might be and we found each other at 15.45. Now, with mobile phones, I think we manage to locate people more easily, but we are also still a bit lazy about planning exactly where to meet. These days I use my iPhone every day. I share updates on my social networks daily, I have a blog and a website and it helps me to stay in touch with people. One of my digital problems are all the emails I get, I get far too many.

So, here are the interviews. They took place at the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014 at different locations. I’ve merged the answer and have also translated the interview into English to make it available to a wider audience.

In short, here are my conclusions: 

  • Teens around 16 years of age are getting back to basics and want more meaningful interactions with the friends they meet up with in real life.
  • Teens send loads of text messages and group text messages.
  • Music online is super important.
  • Snapchat is driving conversations.
  • Teens want social media networks and digital devices to be fun and easy to use.

You can listen to a summary on my YouTube Channel

How do you use your mobile phone?

Leo: I use it to make calls, send texts, listen to music on Spotify and for Instagram and Snapchat. I am not using Facebook at the moment.

Felicia: I use my phone as an alarm clock in the morning, I listen to music all the time, texting, of course, some phone calls, but not that many, Snapchat and I check Facebook.

Sofie says:“It looks as though teens are using their mobiles more as a phone now. They are going back to basics. They want to stay in touch with their friends and keep track of what’s going on. Snapchat has almost turned into a new text messaging service.”

If you compare how you used your mobile and computer a few years ago with how you use them today, what’s different?

Leo: My friends and I, we are almost only using text messages via WhatsApp groups and Snapchat. That’s how we communicate now. And I also use Skype to stay in touch. I play more online games and it’s a fun way to stay connected. At the moment, I’m not using Facebook, sometimes I check it out, but I only change my profile photo like once a year. I think Facebook was more fun when I was younger.

Felicia: I use Instagram and Facebook less now. I feel it’s more important to be close to my friends. Texting and Snapchat are great ways to keep in touch. I love calling people I know and I am much better at sending texts now compared with a few years ago. If I could I would only call people, but texting them is so easy. I am much more chilled online today compared with a few years ago.

Sofie says: “If a social media network does not give teens really interesting information and meaningful connections with people they know then they’ll tune out. This is a problem that many companies selling products and services to teens have noticed.” 

What’s so good about Snapchat?

Leo: It’s fun and quick, people are more quirky on Snapchat, you are more likely to send something stupid to a friend if you know it’s not going to be saved somewhere. It feels safe.

Felicia: It’s fun and easy, you are just sending quick images and messages to each other which won’t be saved.

Sofie says: “It seems to me that it’s the surprise element and short availability that makes Snapchat fun. We all want to watch fun things online and by simply making them available to watch only for a short period we are building up the excitement.” 

When you were younger, were your parents and other adults around you nervous about what you did online?

Leo: Not really, I only played games online when I was younger and then started to use Facebook. They didn’t know exactly what I was doing online and they weren’t too worried.

Felicia: Yes, they were. I started with MSN and an image journal. Then I moved onto Facebook. Sometimes they would look over my shoulder and try to see what I was up to. Then, after a while, they relaxed and trusted that I wouldn’t connect with any weird people.

I have been running social media workshops for young people who are about to apply to university in the UK and one thing we have worked on is their online profile and how they want to be seen online. Do you think about the digital shadow you leave online?

Leo: I am aware of this and I know that what I share online can be saved there forever. I mostly use my digital devices to stay in touch with my friends, and I don’t share many posts online, so there is not a big risk of me leaving a bad digital shadow online.

Felicia: No, not really. But, at the same time, I don’t share images and messages online that can be seen as offensive. In general I don’t upload that many posts. I think it’s more fun to follow people and friends online.

Sofie says: “Your future employers, clients and partners will google you and read your online profile to see what it says about you. In some countries, such as the UK, it is normal to google and research people online. In Germany it’s not allowed for employers to google the people they are planning to employ which protects their privacy. This law may not always be followed, of course, but there might be legal cases in the future in which someone claims that they didn’t get a job because they were googled! I believe this will be more regulated in the future, what’s okay to google and what’s not okay to google. 

Have you recorded and uploaded any videos to YouTube?

Leo: I used to do that when I was younger, but not anymore. I am not sure what I would make a film about. I used to use Keek for videos a few years ago, but not anymore. If I decided to film a video I might use Instagram or Snapchat.

Felicia: Yes, I’ve done that, but I don’t have a YouTube account myself.

Which email provider do you use?

Leo: Hotmail and Gmail.

Felicia: Hotmail.

If anyone contacted you about a summer job or something similar, how would they get hold of you? For example, if they wanted to share some important information about a training event you needed to attend.

Leo: Email would be best. I have it on my mobile, so I would see it’s there.

Felicia: I don’t check my email that often, but if I were going to start a job I would check it then. I always have my mobile with me, so I would check it there.

If I sent some really important information to you, where would you prefer that I sent it?

Leo: Email.

Felicia: My email, probably. If I am expecting to receive important updates I would check my email more often.

Sofie says: “When you send out important information you need to send it as an email. Teens and adults keep important emails, but information in social media can easily be filtered out by other messages and updates.”

If anyone you know chose to stay outside all social media networks what would you think about them? And how would you connect with them?

Leo: I would send them a text message or call them. It would only be a problem if I didn’t have their mobile number and they were not on Facebook.

Felicia: That’s not a biggie, it would be ok. I could still text and call them. I’ve myself been considering whether I should leave Facebook and Instagram because I think the information is repeating itself. Nothing much new comes up.

Sofie says: “I think having a Facebook account can be equal to a phone number sometimes, it’s a way to connect and share information.”

What would you do if someone left a mean comment on your wall or update stream?

Leo: I would just ask them what was going on the next time I met them, just have a chat with them. I want to have fun online, not argue.

Felicia: I would comment back, I think, ask what it’s about. And it does depend on what kind of comment and why they did it – if it’s a joke or if it’s a genuine mean comment about me. If they wanted to hurt me I would try to speak to them and see what’s going on. Or, if it feels like it’s not worth it, I would just ignore it. If you have something to say to someone you should say it to their face, not online. People who make mean comments online do it because they have nothing better to do with their time.  It’s very easy to write something mean online, but very few people would dare to say these things in real life.

Sofie says: “I’ve had people write mean and weird comments on my social profiles a few times and I’ve asked them over email or via a message to stop and that helped. Also, I deleted their comment. I told them that I would remove them from my network if they wrote any more strange things.”

Do you play many social games online?

Leo: Yes, almost every day. I keep in touch with my friends after school by doing that. It’s fun to play with them and we’ve been playing for about three years now. When I am gaming with them online I get to know them better. Next year when I change school I wonder which online gaming platforms my new school mates will use.

Felicia: I haven’t properly started to play games, and I’m not prioritizing games at the moment. I love to play online games, but I’m not doing it right now.

Sofie says: “Getting to know people better online can be extremely valuable when you meet up in real life. You will have more things to talk about. Never neglect that. Online games are interactive and if you play you are fulfilling part of your social needs.”

For those of you who are not familiar with online games, you can play online social games using loads of digital devices such as iPad, Google Android smartphones, iPhone, your PC, PlayStation, Nintendo, Wii and Xbox. You connect with your friends online and then you start playing together.

Are you using WhatsApp? 

Leo: Yes, I use it a lot. In my class we have a group and if something is happening we send out a message to everyone. It’s our private group.

Felicia: I removed it, and now I mostly use iMessage on my iPhone. I had too many Apps on my phone which made it too slow. I have organised my contacts into groups and it’s easy to text them.

Sofie says: “There are thousands of private groups on WhatsApp that only include friends with certain interests. These interests can be a particular movie, a sport or an event. Only the people in a specific group will get the message. It’s quick and easy. I’m using WhatsApp with some of my friends and it’s perfect to share only with them. As long as you have 3G or wifi you are okay, it can be annoying if you don’t.”

Are there many people in your online network that you’ve never met?

Leo: I used to have some strangers in my networks, people I just added when we met online, but now I only hang out online with people I know in real life.

Felicia: No, not at all. I know and have met all of them, but, of course, some of my Facebook friends just go to the same school as me.

Sofie says: “We all have different personalities and styles and some of us are introverts and others are more extroverted. How we like to share online is really up to each of us. There are many good online practices you can learn about if you would like to be seen as a star online. It’s about practicing and getting to know your friends and what they enjoy hearing about. I’ve made some great connections online using Twitter and LinkedIn and it has really helped me several times.”

When we do things online it’s important that it’s fun and that we feel we are part of the group. When we feel that we belong somewhere we will go back. I think this is a universal phenomenon, and that will steer the destiny of which social online networks that will survive.

Thank you, Felicia and Leo, for sharing how you use social media and your digital devices with me!

Sofie Sandell

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Digital Leadership interview #2 – Terry Brock

Hi Terry, it’s great to be connected and I’m very much looking forward to learning more about you and your view on Digital Leadership and our digital world. Terry and I connected on Facebook after a friend in common, Andy Lopata, mentioned Terry in a comment in one of my updates.

My status update was
“Yesterday at the ‘Digital Marketing Show’ I heard that the number of real and engaged connections you have in your social media networks is the new currency. Do you agree?”

Terry’s reply was:
“Hi Sofie. Yes, digital influence is important today. Many buying decisions are being made based on a score like the Klout Score. Good to look into it and know what it is about today and why it matters.” 

So let’s see what Terry has to say about digital leadership, influence and Klout.

How are you today Terry?
Doing very well and it is great to be with you, Sofie!

What is your background? How did you become a speaker and author? 
I have a background in radio, newspapers and television with an undergrad degree in that. My MBA is in marketing and I have been working with companies around the world since 1983 advising and helping with issues related to marketing, strategic deployment of technology and building business relationships.

I became a speaker as I found that speaking was a good tool for communicating information to help people change their lives in a positive sense. Just this year I celebrated my 30th anniversary as a professional speaker.

Where you are based?
Planet earth! 🙂  Well, for government purposes, I’m domiciled in Orlando Florida, but I really live on Delta Airlines, British Airlines, Japan Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Southwest Airlines and various other Airlines around the world with stops at Marriott, Hilton, Sheraton and other hotels along the way. It is a fun lifestyle!

You are a professional speaker, I’ve listened to two of your videos online. What kind of audiences are you normally speaking for? Give me some examples.
Like many speakers, I speak to a variety of audiences. Recently I spoke for audiences in the credit union industry, insurance industry, funeral industry, and a group of entrepreneurs. The common theme is they are looking to build better relationships with their customers and stakeholders.

They want to deploy portable technology in the right way and make the best use of social media tools like Twitter, Facebook, Klout and more.

What is making social media so fascinating according to you? 
Social media is connecting people with people. It is not about blasting a message out to people with the old “Spray and Pray” method of marketing and advertising. Social media has turned traditional marketing upside down on its head! One person with a smart phone today can literally reach millions of people.

That has not been possible before in history. Today a person who understands how to best use the technology can make a profound difference as never before. It is great to be alive today with all this cool technology and possibilities!

What is digital influence?
Digital Influence the the ability one has to create action by others. When you offer advice, how many people will respond to what you ask? What type of people respond and monitor what you’re doing? Klout is a way you can measure this. Instead of just using a “gut reaction” you find out in a quantitative way, how influential a person is.

Digital influence is becoming more and more important as more of our world operates digitally. Therefore, those who have more influence in the digital world will be able to yield even more influence. Yes, it has a compounding effect.

How do you describe a digital leader?
One who can influence the actions of others. A leader in the digital world is one who can put out, say, a Tweet on Twitter and have many others respond to it and comment about it. They Retweet the content of a digital leader much more than a regular user of Twitter. The same can be said of other platforms like Facebook, YouTube and other networks.

What does digital leadership and digital influence mean to you?
It is something we need to pay attention to and figure out the science behind it. This is no longer optional for marketers or thought leaders. It is important. It is like the old phrase goes, “What is important is what important people think is important.”

We have to focus on what important people (read buyers) say about areas that impact us. These are the people we should pay attention to and follow.

When we are measuring online influence there are many things that matter; engagement, reach and if anyone takes action from the message. How do you think we are going to measure online influence in the future?
In the future, and now, we are using tools like Klout to measure how influential someone is in the digital space. A Klout Score is much like the BMI (Body Mass Index) used in the medical community. The goal is not to hit a certain BMI but rather to have optimal health.

A Klout Score is not the ultimate goal. However, by embracing and doing those things that contribute to being a good social media citizen, you’ll see your Klout Score increase.  Klout Matters. It is a way to measure (at 12 billion data points per day) how effective you are in generating digital influence.

Many businesses and organisations are lacking in knowledge about the digital tools, they feel overwhelmed and they don’t know where to start… If you would advice a medium size business (European size 100-250 people) how to get started with B2B social media marketing, what would you tell them? Most of the people in the business would rate themselves as beginners in the digital world.
That is understandable and it is all right. Social media is still new to many people and we’re all getting our “sea legs” as we go on it. We are finding key ways to make it work better. The most important element, and what we stress in our book, Klout Matters, is to engage with others. It is not about broadcasting (or “blasting”) your message out to a bunch of people.

Effective marketing today is about engaging with people as human beings first. Answer their questions. Build and earn the respect and trust of those with whom you want to do business. You enhance your reputation as a trusted advisor in your area of expertise. Then you make wonderful compelling offers to them on how they can get involved with you and your products.

Do this by listening to what they are encountering and engage them with helpful conversations. Find ways they can increase their business and connection in their communities.  This is really about helping, not selling. It is about connecting with people as human beings, not “targets” in your marketing plan!

Can leaders benefit from knowing more about how online influence works and how it can help them? If yes, why should leaders pay extra attention to this?
Can pilots benefit by learning better how to fly? Can athletes benefit by learning their sport and craft better? YES! It is now imperative for leaders in business to know about social media and digital influence and what works. This is where our world is today.

We have to focus on those areas that help us grow and become more of who we need to be. Leaders should pay extra attention to social media because it is vitally important today. If you lived in the year 1720 and wanted to do more business, you’d hang out where buyers are. This might be a local pub or gathering place.

Today, you still need to hang out where your customers are. Today that place is social media. Networks like Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and more are where people hang out. Find where your communities hang out and be there for them. Don’t go there just to sell your stuff, but be there to help and assist. The sales will naturally follow if you do it right.

You’ve written a book about Klout and online influence. What are the key messages in your book? 
Successful leaders today engage (key term) with their audience. They earn their likeability and trust first before engaging in commerce. There are ways you can build your digital influence as we site in the book. Give good advice on specific topics. Be the person who connects others. Use pictures, for instance, in a powerful way on Facebook and it will garnish more attention for you.

These and many other techniques can help you to build your connectiveness with others.

Do you know any organisations that are using Klout in an excellent way? Role models we should follow and learn from.
Many are making some incredible business advances. Chevy wanted to reach top influencers in the areas of cars and love of the environment. They went to Klout who worked with Chevrolet to give the use of their Chevy Volt for a long weekend to these key influencers. Chevy won. The users and influencers won. Klout won. All received what they wanted in a favorable, mutually-beneficial way.

American Airlines gave a free day pass to their prestigious Admirals Club for anyone who had a Klout Score of 55 or higher —— and you didn’t even have to fly American Airlines that day. This gave great exposure for American Airlines to those who fly a lot and would use their Admirals Club. The people receiving these awards won. American Airlines was able to connect with a key market and everyone came out much better.

Klout is a tool that helps you find out if what you’re doing in social media is right. Don’t obsess over it worrying about your daily score, but use it as a guide to keep doing social media activities right. This is the key.

Is there anything our readers can help you with? 
Come on over to our site, and visit. We have free videos and training there to help people learn more about social media, how to connect with customers and build your Klout Score. If someone has a question where I can help, please connect with me on my personal email,  I look forward to helping where I can.

Thank you Terry!!!

You can connect with Terry Brock: 

Terry Brock, MBA, CSP, CPAE

Connect on Social Media
Twitter: @TerryBrock
Facebook :
Business-Building Videos:


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Digital Leadership in Action in Acton – West London – the Oaks development and Waitrose

In the last couple of weeks I’ve been following the development of the High Street in Acton. Acton is an area in West London and their high street has potential of becoming a nice area if you put in some effort into it. Now it’s full of one pound shops and to become more upmarket it needs new energy.

A property developer wants to build a huge complex that will cut off the natural connection between two of the streets, the High Street and Churchfield Road. The big complex will be a gated community and will not make it easier to connect the streets and parts with each other. This will mean a cut off of the natural blood stream to some of the shops.

The developer also got Waitrose (a posh super market) onboard as a tenant. And who doesn’t want a new big Waitrose shop in their community? One of the problems that has been pointed out is that the new supermarket probably won’t have enough customers, and that it will eventually close down.

The people living in Acton are angry! They don’t feel as if their local politicians are listening to them, they now hope that the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, won’t approve the plans – the Mayor has to approve all major changes in London.

By creating a campaign that’s inspiring more people to take action they hope to influence the Mayor and his team.

This is one example of Digital Leadership in action. The citizens are making their voices heard in different ways and they are using some digital tools to create a stronger effect. Have a look at their video and listen to some of them.

If you would like to read more about the campaign check out this article by Toby Young in The Spectator.

Watch the video in which several of Acton’s citizens are making their voice heard

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Social media with a screen reader. What’s it like?

I had the opportunity to interview Waqas Chauhdry about how it is to use websites and social media using a screen reader. Waqas has been blind for many years, and his computer and mobile device read out the text for him.  Waqas Chauhdry Director, DEO Consultancy

Which websites and social media networks are you visiting when online?
I visit BBC news website daily. Social media networks will include Facebook and LinkedIn at least twice a month.

Which websites are your favourites? And what it is you like about them?
I’d place BBC news in the top slot because of its screen-reader friendliness plus one gets a variety of quality and well put together information in one place.

Of the following social networks: twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, which do you find easiest to read and navigate? How come?
Facebook is reasonably accessible with a screen reader whereas LinkedIn is getting worse. I don’t use twitter although, many users tell me that I am not missing much there!

Have Facebook and LinkedIn improved their accessibility over the last couple of years when they have been upgrading them?
Unfortunately developers do not really understand the importance of web accessibility and usability.

More often than not, accessibility and usability is an after-thought rather than being at the heart of the design process. Therefore, it becomes a “retro-fitting job” when users start complaining about upgrades which make such networks inaccessible.

A classic case is LinkedIn, they introduced Captcha (visual verification code) as part of their log in process.

LinkedIn captcha

Although, there is an audio alternative available in theory but it is impossible to get it right therefore, rendering this useful business networking site effectively unusable for screen reader users.

Is it a big difference to read a website on a computer compared with a mobile device?
Yes, it is in most cases. Interestingly, organisations who make their websites “mobile platform friendly” usually improve the accessibility and usability as well by removing unnecessary clutter and by following a more logical and userfriendly approach.

What is the most annoying mistakes that many website developer make when they are developing a new site?
Well where to begin! I suppose poor contrast and font, lack of appropriate caption and labelling of links, use of visual verification code (Captcha) and not using logical tabbing to name but a few.

If you can give some top tips to website developers how to build better and accessible websites what would that be?
I think the most important tip is to think about the diversity of your visitors at the design stage i.e. people of all ages, literacy skills and computer / IT knowledge etc. Then, under each category consider how will you ensure that someone with poor sight or limited mobility will access your website such as those who may not be able to use the mouse and completely rely on the keyboard.

Similarly, how do you present the content i.e. is it presented in a logical and easy to understand manner with suitable pictures, good colour contrast and font size.

Many thanks Waqas for sharing your thoughts with me. When I was working as a digital marketing manager we were always working on accessibility improvements. It’s very useful to see how people with different abilities are using your website and digital media, it will make you understand how you need to mange and design it to make it work for better for more users.

Facebook screen shot

Waqas company DEO Consultancy  provides a web accessibility and usability audit service whereby they do a technical audit as well as conduct a panel usability test of the website with a panel of disabled users with a variety of impairments using different platforms and technologies. Evidence shows that by following their recommendations clients have significantly improved the web experience of all users as well as improved their SEO. Most clients see a 100% or more ROI in the first 12 to 18 months.


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