WordPress Community Conversation
I started my day with a third and final WordPress community session.
We had a great brief conversation about the challenges around using automatic machine translations on websites:
- Assessing dangers of mistranslation of medical, legal, etc. terms
- Implying that you provide services in languages where you don’t have any staff capacity
These are thorny questions my clients run into, and I still don’t have great answers.
We also talked about the wonders of a good staging site to test changes and WordPress updates and also hosting and scaling (when you get lots of traffic quickly).
Intentional Facilitation Choices: Creating Online Meetings for All to Enjoy
Cindy Leonard, Griffen Castillo, Jeanne Allen, John Kenyon
Collaborative notes for “Intentional Facilitation Choices”
The presenters needed to walk their walk by running an inclusive and accessible presentation. That included these techniques (I probably missed a few):
- Described images on the slides
- Described their appearance when introducing themselves
- Shared their pronouns
- Acknowledged they’ll mess up people’s names and asked for corrections
To manage meeting dynamics and make them inclusive and manage power dynamics:
- Discuss visions for inclusion with those with privilege to get buy-in on strategies.
- Ask participants about their needs up front (ideally during planning)
- Set guidelines for participants
- Communicate about recordings ahead of time and allow folks to opt-out of recordings
- Provide downloadable and printable copies of all documents/presentations
- Using a talking protocol
Question: How do you handle “talking pieces” online? Use the chat or put all people’s names on a slide.
Question: Best way to balance recording a session for accessibility with allowing people to opt-out of recording for privacy or any other reason? Suggest people who don’t want to be recorded turn their cameras off. You have to think carefully about when you are recording online meetings.
They highlighted that when using 3rd-party tools, have a backup plan in case it doesn’t work.
“Chatterfall”: Have everyone type a topic, thought, question, or whatever to start a discussion into the chat but don’t hit send immediately. Then have everyone submit the message at the same time. This gives everyone a chance to speak and prevents fast typers and talkers from taking over a discussion.
Jamboard: We had people place their initials on a spectrum to capture opinions. It seems like a great tool
Google Docs: Put everyone’s name into a document (or a table for people to fill in) and then give everyone time to type into the document. Alternately, assign people by first/last name to be in a “Pro” or “Con” group when making a decision and so people are forced to consider both sides.
The presenters asked us to reflect on the following questions and you should too!
- How can I improve how I address what people need?
- I shared the importance of proactively practicing inclusive techniques. Multiple people added the good idea of sharing agendas ahead of time to help people prepare.
- What can I do to provide an excellent experience for everyone?
- Sometimes I know I’m frustrated in a group where I feel like the leaders could be doing more to be inclusive and engage with the full group. In those moments, I want to focus on being a great, accessible, inclusive participant.
Beyond TikToks & Tweets: Long Form Content Strategy
Chandra Hayslett, Emily Patterson, Nathan Gasser
Collaborative notes for “Beyond TikToks & Tweets”
What is long form content? It’s a single piece of content that takes a while to produce, is many pages long, and released all at once. These are most often posted as a PDF. Think: white papers, annual reports, etc.
Three relevant resources related to this session:
- “The solutions to all our problems may be buried in PDFs that nobody reads” on The Washington Post
- “Gateway Pages Prevent PDF Shock” from Nielsen Norman Group
- “PDF: Still Unfit for Human Consumption, 20 Years Later” from Nielsen Norman Group
There are a number of third-party tools for creating interactive long-form content. The presenter mentioned that these are often very specific and so may not fit your exact needs. Some tools shared by participants included:
- “Editorial”, a free HTML site template for long-form content microsites
- Timeline from Knight Lab
- Adobe Spark
- Sway from Microsoft
- Storymaps from ArcGIS
First thing to do is building “gateway pages” for PDFs. These are web pages that describe a report (summarizing its contents) and make it easy to download/view.
Another good solution is to make a microsite. In this situation you break up the document into multiple pages with navigation to move through the report.
As the presenter shared (and I strongly agree with), posting web pages opens up your report to include multimedia, forms, calculators, worksheets, interactive data visualizations, and more! I’d add to that that content can be responsive (easy to engage with on phones), accessible, and faster to load.
Analytics for Long Form Content
Basic analytics tell us whether people go to pages but not if they really are reading it. They also don’t capture things like the category/topics of information people are most interested in.
Google Tag Manager (GTM) can help with this. GTM tells Google Analytics about what content to track and how to track it. For instance, GTM can do “scroll tracking” to see how far down a page people get. Using the “data layer” feature of GTM also allows categorizing of content for integration with your other Google Analytics data.
To put this to use, a presenter shared an example of looking at which topics generated the most email signups vs. views. You could use that to create new content if trying to develop more newsletter subscribers.
An example of an online report using these principles was shared in a brief case study: ALEC Attacks.
Great point: If you have a document that is meant to be used (like a handbook), then PDFs are a terrible format for that because people usually just need a single section or need to jump around in a way links provide but scrolling makes hard.
Community Conversation: “Website Best Practices”
This was a wide-ranging conversation that got to way more than just websites. At one point, we all stood up and jumped around to wake up from our digital conference malaise!
A few other notes:
- We had people moving to Squarespace and leaving Squarespace. The grass is always greener!
- Wireframes can be a useful tool for testing ideas without getting attached to content, especially when doing forms of participatory design. However, they need to follow a communication plan or similar to clearly explain content.
- Before a site migration, do a content audit:
- Use analytics for page views (what users think is important)
- Have different groups of people define what they think is important
- Then work through those dropping as much content as possible (and centering user needs)
- Use this as a chance to get rid of PDFs (see above)
- People will shout if you drop a piece of content they were relying on
- Make sure to set up redirects for removed content so traffic is sent to somewhere useful
Design with empathy and agility to create equitable products
Joel Alcala and Terea Macomber
Collaborative notes for “Design with Empathy and Agility”
This was a fabulous case study about using a very intentional design process to make a tool to increase equity.
In technology, we must always fight against “Conway’s Law” (this is a useful frame for the keynote following this).
That’s more than just navigation’s that match the org chart. (Though those are also bad!)
Their goal was to break Conway’s Law. That required empathy with their users and agility in how they worked. They used “Working Agreements” with their team to try to build an open equitable working environment for the project and with their consultants.
No matter what we do, we always bring part of ourselves into our work. So it’s critical that we acknowledge that, reflect on that, and work to redesign processes to challenge bias and build a more equitable product (and community!).
Closing Keynote: Grief and Grievance in a Digital Age
I didn’t expect to take many notes in this session while I just focused on listening, but it was too good not to keep writing down important takeaways. My notes do not remotely do this talk justice.
Without the internet people couldn’t:
- Receive public health guidance
- Attend school online
- Even access entertainment and distraction
- Grieve the loss off loved ones with friends and family
The isolation caused by the digital divide has combined with other structurally racist systems to cause an epidemic of Black grief.
The tech industry furthers social divides by creating massive wealth for people who already had easier access to wealth.
The media ecosystem drowns us with information but deprives us of insight. It drowns us in content but denies us context. It agitates us with hysteria, but fails to direct us with history.Malkia Devich Cyril
Technology follows the dynamics of power. It doesn’t change them.
“The people closest to the pain, should be the closest to the power.”Ayanna Pressley
It’s the responsibility of an activist to live in three places at once:
- Understand the history of where we’ve been
- Be with people in the present
- Look to the possibility of we can, need to, and must be if we want the planet to survive
Question: People talk about “transformative” efforts but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of transforming going on: Nonprofits are corporations in a corporate society. How much will we let that determine how we work and how can we align our values with the collective community?
We must accept and acknowledge what we do not know. You learn and innovate and win by failing and trying again.
Questions: What does it mean for technologists to try to make change while relying on problematic tools? It’s no different from relying on democracy while trying to fix it or living in a capitalist society. There is an inherent contradiction in most things, and we must have both a “strategy for now” and a “strategy for later”. We limit ourselves and our goals based on what’s possible without dreaming of what could be achieved in 10 years.
Remaining “neutral” means aligning yourself with existing systems of power. Everything is informed by perspective, experience, and positionality. It’s easy to hold a tremendous amount of power (whiteness, male, etc.) without feeling like it as you focus on your experiences and can’t see the structures of society. We must abandon the concept of neutrality. Neutrality = Leave it how it is.
Building solidarity requires acknowledging that we have a perspective and we don’t/can’t always understand the perspectives of others.
Phew. 21NTC was a great experience, and I learned a ton. Also, a 3-day fully-online conference from 8-2:30 with only a few 15-minute breaks is exhausting.
As is often the case, I’ll leave this conference with both new ideas, skills, and lessons, but also a bigger thematic takeaway. My takeaway—at least in this early moment and put tersely and clumsily—is simply that injustice thrives when we get complacent, and it’s much easier to get complacent when you are removed from the everyday impacts of injustice, whether by your race, gender, sexuality, or even your job. As a white male consultant, I am paid for my technical knowledge and skills that I disburse from the safety of my home office and digital presence. I am shielded by my circumstances and ignorance of so much pain and inequality. It is my responsibility to pay attention, speak up, and act.