Next Third Tuesday Ottawa: Canada's National Capital Commission Web 2.0 Initiatives

“Reticence is often conquered by a win, and the best way to provide a win is via a pilot project.”

Daniel Feeny, Director of Digital Communications, National Capital Commission

Here’s an interesting situation: A government agency is responsible to make decisions that affect a specific community. However, the agency’s mandate is to serve the interests of the entire population (many of whom don’t care about what it does). Moreover, the agency’s governing Directors are appointed, not elected.

How does this agency fulfill its broad mandate while being open and engaging both the directly affected community and broader constituency in what it does?

That’s the challenge that confronts Canada’s Canada’s National Capital Commission (NCC).

A textbook case study

I was one of those people who thought that the NCC made decisions in private meetings behind closed doors. So, imagine my surprise when I saw a tweet telling me that the NCC would be Webcasting a public meeting of the NCC Directors. Not only was the decision-making process open for me to witness, but I could watch it directly from my desktop without the need to attend the actual meeting. A commonplace in this age, but totally outside of my expectations for the NCC.

But it went further than that. One of the agenda items was a presentation by staff of the NCC’s Web 2.0 Strategy. So I watched. And as Daniel Feeny presented the Commission’s Web 2.0 strategy, I learned that the NCC had been integrating social media into its communications through a series of small pilot projects. They learned from each pilot, refining their approach and applying the lessons to the next pilot. A textbook example of an organization learning how to use social media – incrementally, iteratively, intelligently.

So I’m delighted that Daniel Feeny, the NCC’s Director of Digital Communications, Outreach and Youth Programs, agreed to be the speaker at the next Third Tuesday Ottawa Social Media Meetup.  Daniel will discuss what the NCC learned from its pilot approach, what he would tell other organizations exploring social media and what he sees in the future for the NCC and social media.

If you’d like to attend, you can register at the Third Tuesday Ottawa Meetup site.

Thanks to Third Tuesday’s Sponsors

Finally, as always, I want to thank the Third Tuesday sponsors – CNW Group,Rogers CommunicationsRadian6 and Fairmont Hotels and Resorts. Their sponsorship for Third Tuesday makes it possible for us to bring great speakers not only to Toronto, but to Third Tuesdays across the country. Thank you CNW, Rogers, Radian6 and Fairmont for helping us to build a vibrant community of social media practitioners.

Students will receive a refund of their ticket price

We want students to be able to experience the best social media case studies and practices. So Thornley Fallis will refund the ticket price to any student who presents a valid student card to the registration desk at the event.

I hope to see you there.

Michelle Kostya from Research in Motion speaks at Third Tuesday in December

When it comes to social media, it’s a mobile world. It’s a long time since social media resided primarily in our browser or in applications on our desktop. Today, our social media connections are rarely farther away than the device we carry in the palm of our hands – our cell phones.

RIM – Research in Motion – is the Canadian standard bearer in the mobile device wars and Canada’s leading technology hope. As social media has evolved and as apps have moved onto mobile devices, RIM has been challenged to evolve its own approach. And we’re seeing it do this. Earlier this year, RIM introduced a new operating system with embedded social features along with the Torch, a new generation of BlackBerry that combines a large touchscreen display with a slide out keyboard. In the new year, we’ll see the Playbook, RIM’s tablet offering.

As RIM evolves its platform, it’s also using social media to reach out to its users and engage with them in online community and social media. Michelle Kostya is one of the people charting out RIM’s path in social media. And she’s our next speaker at Third Tuesday.

You can register online to join us December 6 at Third Tuesday Ottawa or December 7 at Third Tuesday Toronto to hear Michelle talk about how Research in Motion uses social media and how it views the future of social on its platform.

Thank you to our sponsors.

Once again, I’d like to thank our sponsors – CNW Group, Rogers Communications, Radian6, and Fairmont Hotels and Resorts. Your sponsorship makes it possible for us to bring great speakers to Third Tuesdays across the country, including Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver. You make third Tuesday a truly Canadian affair.

Meet RichardAtDell at Third Tuesdays in Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, and Vancouver

RichardAtDell is coming to Canada next month to speak at Third Tuesdays in Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, and Vancouver. We’ll lead off with Third Tuesday Toronto #TTT on Monday, November 8, Third Tuesday Ottawa #TTO on Tuesday, November 9, Third Tuesday Calgary #CTT on Wednesday, November 10 and Third Tuesday Vancouver #TTV on Thursday, November 11.

Dell is one of the best known and longest standing case studies of the successful use of social media. It might well not have turned out this way. In fact, Dell was one of the early examples of a company on the receiving end of viral criticism and anger. Rather than go into a shell or attack its critics, Dell chose to enter the social media discussion, learn from it, win friends, and gradually turn things around. Today, Dell uses social media for many purposesw, including to connect with customers, build brand and as a retail channel.

RichardAtDell, aka Richard Binhammer, has been from the outset one of the constants in Dell’s social media presence. I first experienced Richard’s outreach as far back as 2006 when he commented on a post on my blog in which I’d written about a presentation by Robert Scoble in which Scoble had recounted the story of Jeff Jarvis’ upset with Dell. Richard reached out to me at a time when my blog had relatively few subscribers, acknowledging their problems but asking me whether I’d be prepared to acknowledge the efforts they were making to listen and act upon what they were being told. I was blown away just by the fact that a company at the other end of the continent would pay attention to me, let alone actually acknowledge me by coming into my place, my blog, to have a discussion. And yes, that made me a fan of RichardAtDell and Dell’s approach to social media.

Well, it’s not 2006 anymore. A lot has changed. And RichardAtDell has been there to experience the evolution of social media first hand. As the saying goes, he’s forgotten more than many of us ever will learn.

I hope that you’ll join us at Third Tuesday to hear from one of the leading corporate social media practitioners as he talks with us about the journey he’s been on, the path we’re following, and where he sees things going in the future.

Look for details and registration info in the next few days on each of the Third Tuesday Ottawa #TTO, Third Tuesday Toronto #TTT, Third Tuesday Calgary #CTT, and Third Tuesday Vancouver #TTV websites.

Thank you to our sponsors.

Once again, I’d like to thank our sponsors – CNW Group, Rogers Communications, Radian6, and Fairmont Hotels and Resorts. Your sponsorship makes it possible for us to bring great speakers not just to Toronto, but to Third Tuesdays across the country. You make third Tuesday a truly Canadian affair.

To whet your appetite

If you’re not familiar with the Dell story and RichardAtDell, you can get a taste of what we’ll be talking about at Third Tuesday by watching this video. Enjoy.

Third Tuesday Ottawa: Call for Organizers

Third Tuesday Ottawa

Are you interested in helping to organize Third Tuesday Ottawa? If so, then please attend this special “organizers only” meetup.

We’re looking for people to help us with

  • Managing logistics (arranging for the meeting location, sound system, lighting)
  • On-site registration (yes, we need people to greet and register people at the events)
  • Finding and booking speakers (Because we don’t pay appearance fees to speakers, we rely on the networks of our organizers to be able to reach out to top notch people they know and persuade them to appear at Third Tuesday.
  • Soliciting sponsors (to cover the cost of speaker travel, sound and lighting, hall rental)
  • Promoting awareness of Third Tuesday (a Wikipedia entry anyone?)

If you have the time and are prepared to help us with these tasks and the other work that goes into organizing Third Tuesday, then please register to attend this special Organizers Only gathering.

Katie Paine removes the mystery from measurement

Katie PaineKatie Paine earned her reputation as one of the foremost experts in public relations measurement. So, when social media emerged, it was a natural step for Katie to begin to explore the best ways to measure social media. And she has emerged as a sought after speaker on how to measure the right things in the right way.

Katie will be sharing her expertise at the next Third Tuesday Ottawa #TTO. I asked Katie to give me a preview of what she’ll be talking about. She replied:

Social media measurement doesn’t require new standards or new methods, just a new mindset. How the best measurement tools today are some of the oldest. Relationship surveys, content analysis, correlations and statistical analysis have all been around for decades, and we really don’ t need much more than those.

What we do need is a new way of looking at measurement – from a functional perspective, not a tactical perspective. It’s not about measuring what you do – those individual campaigns, or tactics, or gimmicks you happen to be using. But rather about measuring why you exist. What’ is your function within the organization, and how are you contributing to the success of your organizations objectives.

Each communicator must face the fundamental fork in the road. Are you doing social media for sales? For reputation? For cost avoidance? For crisis management?  Once you’ve decided the reason, then measurement becomes quite simple.

Third Tuesday OttawaThis sounds like an interesting perspective on measurement. I’m definitely looking forward to attending to hear Katie elaborate on it. And, of course, we’ll keep at least half the time available for Third Tuesday attendees to ask questions and discuss Katie’s ideas.

We’ll also have a bonus at this month’s Third Tuesday: a demo of Google Wave. A lot of us have heard about Google Wave, but relatively few of us have had a chance to use it yet. Come and see what all the fuss is about.

One other thing is special about this month’s Third Tuesday Ottawa: the time. We’ll be holding the event at 7:30 AM on October 23. We’ve been able to book Katie on her return from speaking at the MeshMarketing conference in Toronto on October 22. And a Friday evening event just didn’t seem like it would work. So, for this one time only, we’re making Third Tuesday Ottawa a Social Media Breakfast (Hat tip to @bryanperson and the real SMB Ottawa organizers, @sylc, @ryanAnderson and @roblane).

If you’re interested in attending, you can register online for this month’s Third Tuesday Ottawa.

Thank you to our sponsors

Of course, we wouldn’t be able to book a great speaker like Katie Paine to come to Ottawa without the support of our sponsors: CNW Group, Molson Coors Canada, Rogers Communications, Radian6, and Fairmont Hotels and Resorts. You make it possible to bring smart speakers together with Third Tuesday participants across Canada.

Third Tuesday Admission Charges: I'm always learning and willing to change

Charging for admission to Third Tuesday? Boy, did you ever give me a piece of your mind. I received some thoughtful advice on my blog, on Twitter and in person.

Third TuesdayAnd, based on your responses, I’m going to modify our approach to admissions to Third Tuesday Toronto and Third Tuesday Ottawa. But that will come at the end of the post. First, I want to review what we did, what people told me, what actually happened at the event. Then I’ll outline the new approach I hope to test at the next Third Tuesday. And finally, I’ll talk about what I learned through this experience.

What I did

When I announced the June Third Tuesday Toronto and Third Tuesday Ottawa, I introduced a $10 admission charge.

In my blog post explaining the new admission fee, I pointed to the fact that, as Third Tuesdays became more popular, the number of people who registered to attend and then failed to show up at the event was sometimes in excess of 40%. This is a huge problem for people organizing a free event. We couldn’t be sure what level of staff the venue organizers should have on hand, which is unfair to them. Even more important, other people who wanted to attend were sitting on a waiting list while people who had no intention of attending had taken all the available spots.

The folks at Meetup counsel event organizers to charge an admission fee. Looking at the experience of meetup organizers who use the site, they realized that even a small admission fee cut down dramatically on the number of no-shows.

So, I decided to implement a $10 admission fee.

What did people tell me?

The admission fee turned out to be a big deal for some people. And the discussion showed it was about much more than money.

Yes, some wondered if this is a cash grab. What would I do with the money?

  • Joe Boughner, for example, commented: “I’m also left wondering where the money is going; will there be a kitty to cover travel costs for out of town speakers or something?”

Several talked about the need to provide a break for students.

  • Malcolm Bastien argued: “One thing I hope groups of any size and industry take into consideration is the doors that the events open up to students. I couldn’t be where I was today if Third Tuesday, Refresh, and Web Analytics Wednesday were not free. I probably would still be unemployed, would have made a lot fewer connections and friends, and they would not have been able to help my education. … So for students I hope all events keep it free, at 3+ events a month, at $10 a pop potentially, then it just becomes unfeasible for students to participate.”
  • Eden Spodek commented: “Most people won’t miss $10 if it turns out they can’t make it in the end. Perhaps there’s a way TTT can still provide some free spots (or sponsorship) for students, recent grads and unemployed members of the community.”
  • Bonnie Dean echoed that sentiment: “I think Eden Spodek makes an excellent suggestion re: free spots to students, grads and those who are unemployed. If part of my $10 pays for someone else to attend who may not be able to afford it, I would have no problem with that.”
  • David commented: “I think (in Ottawa) some of the best conversation are started by students, or “newly employed.” I also think that part of the charm of the night is having a drink. Now our free or one drink night is now $15 to $20, which might not seem like a lot to some, but is a deal breaker to many.”

Some people seemed to have decided to take a pass on Third Tuesday now that there is an admission fee.

  • Dan Hocking wrote in a post on his blog: “I’ll be frank; this $10 fee that TTT is charging will ensure that unless the speaker is someone absolutely spectacular, I likely will not attend any future TTT events. This isn’t a bad thing; I’m not the direct target market for these events, so maybe by not attending I’ll help them get who they’d like.”
  • Others expressed their opposition to the move in tweets (e.g. @dbast, @tariqalexander, and @rebeccablake.)

Some organizers of other community-based events chimed in saying they understood the move to an admission.

  • Justin Kozuch wrote a post about his experience mounting the Refresh Events, saying “Like Third Tuesday, we are seeing a large number (40-50%) of attendees registering for our events, and then not attending. While we certainly don’t want to discourage people from coming out to our events, we also feel that those who register and then don’t show up are preventing those who WANT to attend, but cannot because tickets are “sold out”. It also causes us to spend additional money on refreshments based on attendee registration numbers, only to have those refreshments left over or consumed in great amounts by those attending.”
  • Maggie Fox commented: “Very interesting that we’ve all come to the same conclusion at the same time; we’re having the very same issue with the Toronto Girl Geek Dinners – when there’s a speaker it tends to be better, but our last meetup was a simple mixer and only about 1/3 of those who registered showed up. … We’re contemplating exactly the same move – and I think your logic is dead on.”

Some people suggested alternatives to charging an admission fee.

  • Phil Barrett suggested: “Industry best practice for events is to allow 2.5 times the capacity for guest list. Every event has no shows… so if you only allow capacity to register, you will never fill each venue – even with a fee or a stellar lineup.”
  • Susan Murphy offered: “Might I suggest that at least a part of people’s contribution go to a charity? Further emphasizes the ‘community’ aspect and then it looks less like a cash grab.” Stephen Clarke wondered, “why not introduce a “No-Show” policy which only charges those people who don’t show?”
  • Max Cameron suggested: “How about, you reward people that show up consistently with a free-entry membership card, and if you register and no-show three times, you lose your free-attendance privileges. Sounds complex, but there’s got to be a way to include a Carrot as well as a Stick.”
  • Peter Childs suggested a similar approach: “An alternative approach would be to charge no-shows and to prevent them from registering at another event until the fee was paid. …Of course that approach requires more overhead – both at the event and in back end systems – but much of that could be automated through the same web technology we love so well.”

Finally, some people tweeted or commented their understanding of, willingness to accept or support for the introduction of an admission fee. (e.g. @citymark, @jenmyhuynh, @rhh, @alexbrasil, and @shannonboudjema.)

What happened at the event?

The bottom line is that the introduction of an admission fee was very effective in reducing no-shows.

In Ottawa, we had only 5 no-shows. In Toronto, the number was higher. About 30 people who booked a place didn’t show up. Still, that was a substantial reduction over the number of no-shows at last month’s event (over 100 people who said they’d attend and then didn’t bother to show up or cancel.)

And here’s the telling point: Virtually every one of the no-shows this month in both cities were people who registered to attend but failed to pay in advance. Almost every single person who paid the $10 admission fee in advance actually attended.

So, what happens now? A break for students.

Community shouldn’t be about majority rules. It should be about respecting and trying to accommodate everyone’s point of view. So, while I take some comfort from the people who understood and supported the move, I’m also very sensitive to the views of those who don’t agree with what I’ve done.

So, I’m going to make a change to the way we charge the admission fee.

We will provide a refund of the admission fee to any student who attends. (All they have to do is show us their student card and they’ll get an instant refund.)

We will continue to charge a modest fee. The $10 fee did reduce the number of no-shows dramatically. And while several interesting alternatives were suggested, they all add a degree of complexity to the work of what is, after all, a volunteer-driven organization. The $10 fee is simple and effective. So, we’ll keep it in place for now.

My pledge to keep Third Tuesday a not for profit community-based event

But, some ask, where is the money going?

Third Tuesday was conceived as a non-profit community-based event and I intend to keep it just that.

You have my pledge that every penny from admission fees will be reinvested in the Third Tuesday program – to help us bring in speakers, to pay for the cost of the venue, to ensure we have WiFi at the events.

Back to you

I’ll keep reviewing this policy on an active basis. And if it’s not serving its purpose, we’ll change it.

Don’t stop talking at me and with me. I want Third Tuesday to be our community. So, if I still don’t have it right, let me know. And if I do have it right, don’t hesitate to say so. These discussions are good. They show me that you care. And if you care, then Third Tuesday must be worth caring about.

The City of Ottawa gets into social media: Third Tuesday Ottawa

cityofottawalogo-090615Over the past year, Chris Wightman (@cwightman), the City of Ottawa‘s Manager of eMedia, and his team have explored how the city could use social media to improve information sharing among employees and to bring the city closer to citizens.

Chris will be talking at the next Third Tuesday Ottawa about his experience with social media at the city. Chris will describe the hightlights of the city’s exploration of social media, what has worked, what hasn’t worked yet and what comes next.

Third Tuesday Ottawa

I think you’ll find that this is a classic case with lessons that anyone in a public service environment can use. From making a business case for each tool being explored through to making the case for open source software, Chris and his team have been there. They’ve also tackled the challenge of educating their colleagues about social media and its potential to help them do their jobs. And they’ve faced the expected corporate concerns of IT system security, privacy, accessibility and, of course, resources.

If you’re in government or a large organization, and you’re looking for inspiration and examples you can use in introducing social media in your work environment, you’ll find Chris’ presentation to be chock full of useful information.

You can register online to attend Third Tuesday Ottawa with the City of Ottawa’s Chris Wightman.

And once again, thank you to our founding sponsor, CNW Group, who have been with us from the outset. Your support enables us to continue to organize better and better Third Tuesdays.

Mathew Ingram's coming to Third Tuesday Ottawa

Third Tuesday OttawaWhen I announced Mathew Ingram‘s Third Tuesday Toronto presentation on How the Globe and Mail is using social media to connect with its readers, the session sold out in less than an hour.

Clearly, there’s a lot of interest in what Mathew and his colleagues at the Globe are up to. And there should be even more interest in Ottawa, where the government, politicians, and interest groups live and die by the Globe’s coverage.

mathewiSo, I’m really excited to be able to tell you that we’ve snagged Mathew for Third Tuesday Ottawa on March 30.

If you’re planning to be in Ottawa on March 30, you can register online to attend Third Tuesday Ottawa with Mathew Ingram.

Thanks to our national sponsor, CNW Group, this Third Tuesday will again be free to the community. CNW Group covers the cost of our sound system, which is our biggest single cost. So, thanks to CNW for supporting Canada’s social media community.

Next Third Tuesday Ottawa: Social media and not for profits

Third Tuesday OttawaThe next Third Tuesday Ottawa should be of interest to anyone in the non for profit sector, government or others who want to understand how social media is enabling people to organize more easily and with lower organizational overhead.

A panel of Kim Elliott of, Joe Boughner from the Association of Canadian Financial Officers, and Phillip Todd from the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada will tell us how they have used social media in their organizations. Along the way, they’ll cover pitfalls and the lessons they’ve learned.

This should be a good session for us to learn from people who are exploring the potential of social media in the not for profit sector.

If you’ll be in Ottawa on March 23, you can register online to attend Third Tuesday Ottawa.

Thanks to Joe Boughner for suggesting this topic and organizing it for us. Joe’s giving back to the community in a real way through this. He’s posted about the event as well.

And, as always, thanks to Third Tuesday’s national sponsor, CNW Group. CNW covers the cost of the sound system for us – helping to keep Third Tuesday a free community event.

Government of Canada's Deputy Chief Technology Officer at the next Third Tuesday Ottawa

Third Tuesday OttawaIn the autumn, the Government of Canada announced a new initiative to integrate social media into its operations: GCPedia, a government-wide Wiki.

GCPedia has been up and running for several months. However, because it lives behind the Government of Canada’s firewall, you and I can’t see it or track how the experiment is proceeding.

The curtain will be drawn back briefly for attendees at the February 2 Third Tuesday Ottawa. Jeff Braybrook, the Government of Canada’s Deputy Chief Technology Officer, will talk about GCPedia and some of the more promising social media for government pilot projects.

I believe that social media holds tremendous potential to bring government closer to citizens. And I’m looking forward to the discussion with Jeff.

If you’re in Ottawa on February 2, you can register online to attend Third Tuesday.

And thanks to our national sponsors, CNW Group, Third Tuesday continues to be a free event.

I hope to see you there.