March 13- 17

Weekly work update:


Drafted the new videos handout. The addition of 5 new titles and the upcoming transition means that we have to rethink layout, organization, and the inclusion of additional information. This one had to be an additional four pages (or one 11 x 17 folded in half of course).

Drafted my section of the Board report, which requires one of my favourite tasks; exploring the online stats (video, website, social media) to see what’s going on. I found some huge increases in video stats (due to more marketing in social media, our newsletter and some test GoogleAds), and significant increases in the website visits, unrelated to the video increases. These are in part because news of the transition means that people are curious, but also some impressive increases in acquisition due to social media, AdWords and newsletter mentions of different products.


Non-work focus has been divided in applying for jobs, self-motivation, and reading a novel.


A massage to open up my diaphragm so I can work on my breathing. Terrible sleeps this week.


Who is our audience?

The autism community. In B.C., specifically.

That narrows it down, but not by much. We are working on the development of a new website at work because at the end of June, a contract we’ve had with the Ministry of Children and Family Development for 12 years is terminated. As this was 3/4 of our product, and a significant source of traffic to our website, we need a considerable re-think.

Who will our audience be? The autism community, but more internationally.

I know. It just got WAY bigger. But. If you remove the very B.C. specific service we provided, and look at the information and online training that we provide? We know there are huge gaps that the autism community in different provinces, states, counties and countries are facing. So who are we looking to reach in this global community?

  • parents seeking high quality training and information resources so they can help their kids.
  • community professionals without autism training seeking to provide better supports for kids with autism.
  • community professionals with autism training who are seeking informal (and sometimes formal) professional development

What are some of their characteristics?

  • Mostly English speakers (we do have some information in Chinese)
  • Parents will come from the entire range of education and income
  • Most will  be seeking information that can be applied (less theory)

I would guess that the first two users are looking for specific topics (choosing an intervention, help with toilet training or puberty), whereas the third more likely to browse.

Step two – what do we want them to do on our site? What’s in it for them?

Reflecting on 2016

As an organization (and myself specifically), we hit the ground sprinting in 2016 and didn’t really come up for breath.

March/April: we delivered our annual focus on research, but added webstreaming. This was a Board suggestion; I was wary, as we had tried it several years ago, and it was a slog, and without positive outcome. This time it went much more smoothly; people logged in and participated independently, and had opportunity to pose questions which I read out to the presenter. Financially we didn’t do so well; we did not have enough paid participants to cover the cost, but that was not expected for the first year.

May/June: After that event, we turned to planning a large fundraising event, also based on a Board suggestion. As it was our first time doing a major fundraiser, we were developing processes as we went, and it consumed the office. It took well over 50% of my time for about three months and probably more for the event planner! I wrote press releases, supervised the development of a website and coordinated donor recognition.

July/August: Wrote and delivered a survey to 10,000 people. Collected, analyzed and reported on results. Whiplash, it went so fast. It was an important reminder that for all the audience statistics we can collect from Google Analytics (what people do), we get valuable information from the survey (what they value and want).

September: And the reason we did a survey in the summer? To use in our reply to an RFP.  The contract with a government department was up, and so that required analysis of what we do, and what more we could do; what directions we’d like to go. A challenging time, requiring coordination, attention to details and lots of reflection and writing.

Following the Google Analytics Flow

We’re collecting website stats for our Quarterly Report, and I’ll report on the usual stats: our registrations, where our visitors come from (email/search engine/direct link, etc) and so forth. But I can’t help but start looking through Google Analytics. I have only lightly scratched the surface, and was getting frustrated with the bounce rate, exit and entrance pages. There are multiple ways that people arrive at and use our site and I was getting frustrated drawing conclusions based on an entire site of activity. Our site has many, many pages (too many?) which clouds our understanding of what people are doing and perhaps dilutes our objectives?

So I explored some more, and right now I’m enamored with the Visitors Flow: at a glance it’s telling me where most of my visitors are landing, and most importantly where they go next. I’m also learning that our site is organized in such a way that Google Analytics (GA) sometimes has trouble following. Due to our odd information infrastructure, it’s not making connections that a human makes, and I either can’t or haven’t figured out how change how pages are categorized in GA. Due to the sheer number of pages on our side, GA has categorized most of them as “misc”, it seems. I’m not sure how much of this is due to the fact that our site is built on Joomla, which creates specific nesting of sites and how much of it is our IA. Both, either, that and more?

Regardless, lots of happy browsing ahead. Any advice or suggested readings?

Following the pathways: our flow 

Project management with sticky notes

My job title is: Online Learning Community Project Manager.

And I’m learning what that all means in a BIG way. There are a million* little strands that require my attention. Some today, some yesterday and some on an ongoing basis. And oh, boy, do I get overwhelmed. (Should I admit this online? where current or future employers might see it? Ah well). I can easily get trapped in the putting out fires circle, spending all my time answering questions and running around giving pep talks and troubleshooting every little thing. I can also easily lose track the parts where I’m waiting for feedback, updates or resources from colleagues. It’s not very productive and then I keep picking up and dropping things according to other people’s immediate needs.

So I have a new plan (I love plans. And lists. And colour-coding both).

To prepare, I got a legal sized file folder and some sticky notes. I wrote each major part of the project on a separate sticky note: upgrade software (find virtual server); write handout (review draft #1); finish instructional design for module x. And this is the secret and the brilliance; I put all the sticky notes inside the file folder.  This morning I got to work, looked in side, and chose to focus on ONE task. I pulled out the associated folder (I’m writing an evaluation report on a grant), and have worked on that this morning. It works, it really works!

This is working for me for a few reasons.

  1. I can brainstorm and let my mind find and elaborate on the tasks better with pen and paper.
  2. The individual tasks are hidden in a closed file folder. If they were on the wall of my cubicle, I’d freak out about all the tasks I have to do, and think about each one for 15 seconds on an endless loop. Not productive.
  3. I can move the sticky notes around (like near like) to see which ones feed off each other (very efficient).
  4. I can see the whole project at once to more easily decide what my priority is each day.
  5. It’s beyond easy to update the notes, or throw them out and write new ones as that part of the project advances. It’s also low stakes to update and scribble on the sticky notes.

Do some people keep this all in their head? I can’t believe that. One former colleague has the most elaborate excel spreadsheet that works for her. I tried it for a while, but I got lost updating the spreadsheet instead of work (when it takes two minutes to find, open and update the spreadsheet for a 30 second task, that’s not productive). Another former colleague would write everything in a beautiful notebook (she said, but not in so many words, that beauty begets a peaceful mind). I tried that, but as soon as I turned the page, I forgot about the notes and lists that I’d make. One current colleague has a stack of loose papers on her desk, but that just fills me with anxiety. What if I LOST something? I’m pretty happy with my technique – what’s yours?

* I admit, a slight exaggeration. What about it?! (grin).

Graphic Syllabus

I am reading a book right now called “The Graphic Syllabus and the Outcomes Map: Communicating Your Course” (by Linda Nilson). The authors objective is to demonstrate how a syllabus drawn like a concept map (for example) can show how a semester long course discusses the similarities and differences between two theories, or how initial background information is the building blocks for later units. It’s a very interesting book, and I’ve started looking at museum introductions, workshop outlines, and even correspondence as graphics, not paragraphs of text.

One of the observations that the author makes is that her students were using her graphic syllabus’ as a reference point during the semester (instead of immediately ignoring it). They were tracing their route, and checking their learning against this document. Fun stuff.