Thursday, 19 March 2015

I'm An #EdChatMod... Get Me Out to ISTE2015

I let educators know that I had updated the list of EdChats on the Chat Salad platform yesterday, and I received some comments from educators which suggested it might be time to re-visit an idea that I blogged about 10 months ago.

The topic and idea then was based around recognising EdChat Moderators time and commitment by getting them to ISTE2015 (Previous post "EdChatMod: ISTE or Bust") 
Before exploring this idea, I want to highlight and demonstrate the value that a little bit of patience can have... Even in the hustle and bustle of the NOW! NOW! NOW! Business world, as it is relevant to this idea.
When I say patience I mean both that an idea's time will come if it has merit... And the patience to give educators the time and space to test any new ideas or services. Let them explore things at their own pace... Not at whatever pace the Managing Director needs for his P&L statement, or the sales team's so they can hit their targets and get bonuses.

However, in order to be able to do this, it's essential that you stay as small as possible and for as long as possible. The more overheads you pick up... the more the company will need to push their sales efforts.

This is the reason I help startups when and where I can, it's not just to assist the startup because I like the sound of their idea and vision. It's also because this has the potential to give educators a little time to explore a new idea. If you are able to give it a little space to breathe (and if the idea/concept is sound and fulfils a need) it has the potential to be adopted organically.

If there are no sales overheads, there there is no need to rush any growth plans. So no need for any sales calls. Here's an example.

A (Business) Lesson in Patience? 
In October 2013 I wrote a post called "The Connected EdChat Moderator," while the post did get a few comments, there was not a great deal of enthusiam for the suggestions. Even if there had been, I wasn't aware of any platform that could deliver the kind of stats that I thought would be useful.

In April 2014 I found out about Nurph when Founder, Neil Cauldwell, was a panelist on #Cmgrhangout: So you want to grow a community. When I saw Neil's bio I checked out his Twitter chat platform... and got very excited when I saw it! I felt this might be able to deliver some of the ideas from the post that was written 6 months earlier.

I contacted Neil to see if these ideas were possible and if he would be open to developing a dedicated space for EdChats on his system, he said the ideas were possible, and he would commit the development time for the dedicated EdChat resources if enough moderators/EdChats used the system. 

I spent 4-6 weeks working on this EdChat Resource Plan document to demonstrate the benefits of Nurph to EdChat moderators. At the end of July 2014 this was circulated.

I let people know about Nurph while working on this plan and Steve Isaacs (@Mr_Isaacs; EdChat: #EdTechBridge) was the first to explore it in June 2014. Nikki Robertson (@NikkiDRobertson; EdChat: #TLChat) was another early adopter EdChat moderator to use Nurph, both have been strong proponents of the platform since.  

The uptake was slow with other moderators to start with but, through Steve and Nikki's evangalising, momentum grew.
Today Nurph and Chat Salad are well known amongst the EdChat community... and, as far as I am aware, not a single sales call has been made. I certainly have not made one... Nor would I if I was asked to!
My days of pointless cold calls, wasting people's time and all the rejection are done! (OH Man! The rejection!), I would not make any sales calls for the same reasons I don't force any of the ideas from my blog.

What's the point of telling you this? I can assure you that it is all relevant and connected to the topic in question, so please bear with me.

Good Roll Out Processes Come to Those Who Wait 

My blog is full of ideas, many of which I am very confident would work, but sometimes the timing is not right. I think the example above supports my idea that Good Roll Out Processes Come to Those Who Wait

If I blog about an idea and it gets no response, I will try to find other ways of showing people the value of the suggestions. If the arguments I make are still weak I'll continue to try to improve it. If the feedback is still not positive (or non-existent), I'll do one of two things;

1) Drop the idea entirely. Just because I think something is a good idea... doesn't mean that it is! 

If educators don't like the idea and if I can't find a way to effectively convey the value, I'll take Alistair Darlings advice (There's a first!) when he was debating with Alex Salmond during the Scottish Independence Referendum;

"But just suppose for a moment you're wrong... What if you're wrong"

 Just because I think something is a good idea doesn't make it one... Neither does attempting to combine the mix of Jedi mind tricks, a telephone and a sales person and then tell them to cold call educators and whisper "You WILL think this is a good idea... This IS the EdTech you have been looking for" down the phone to them.

*In my best Obi Wan impersonation* on phone to EdChatMods
"These aren't the droids you are looking for, you will look for the Nurph & ChatSalad droids instead" 
2) The timing isn't right. The timing can be wrong either because people just are not ready for it, or worse, you've missed the boat. 

You were a few months late taking the idea to your community and someone else is in the space and is doing a good job. Your idea may even be an improvement on the incumbent supplier, but bad timing means that the idea could be headed for trouble. 

The very platform that we are discussing here, Twitter, may not exist if the founders had not been bold enough to face the extremely tough reality: After working on their core business (which was podcasting) for a few years, they had to admit that the idea was dead! People had not adopted their platform and Apple launched Itunes which could host podcasts... They saw that the writing was on the wall, so "Pivoted" to focus on micro blogging something was just a fun little side project.

I'm happy to re-present any ideas to see if the timing is better... But I definitely don't want to be putting any effort into the second problem with timing, ie you're just flogging a dead horse. 

I think that the timing for reviewing the idea of EdChat Moderators getting support to go to ISTE2015 is right. Not least because I think there is a very good candidate for testing this as a pilot, which is extremely importantly with this particular idea.

This is an organisation that I don't think anyone can argue with...even though this has been a tricky topic to raise and discuss previously.

ISTE or Bust? ISTE and Bust? Or "I'm an EdChat Moderator... Get Me Out to ISTE2015"
Just like my Connected Educator Moderator post in October 2013, there was not a huge reaction to my idea of using "social tipping" to get educators to ISTE just under a year ago... sure some people commented "Neat idea, worth exploring" but there wasn't enough interest to do a huge amount of exploration with it.

Then there was the fact that there were some other moderators who REALLY didn't like the suggestion AT ALLIf I had pursued this idea back then, even by simply trying to keep the discussion going, it may have risked facing a backlash from this group of detractors.

The Tech marketing Guru Geoffrey Moore's recommendation when dealing with what he calls "Laggards" is to "neutralise them from blocking the sale"

Please don't be put off or offended by any business rehtoric here, but this is kind of what this post is about... to remove any objections to facilitate some pilot projects for ISTE2015. 

I understand the concerns, and the best thing to do is to put anyone's mind at ease is to establish a successful pilot with those who do like the suggestion. In the event that the pilot works, you share the results... If it doesn't you either try again or just admit that it doesn't work "Fail Fast. Fail Cheap"

But last year I think the voice of the detractors would have "Blocked the sale" as Moore might put it but, by some extremely happy co-incidences, a pilot project may now be possible. 

Since yesterday's outreach to moderators I've had more people say that getting support to go to ISTE was a good idea. Not only that, there is more enthusiasm with messages like

"Oh man! I would love to go to ISTE, I've never been! Would love it if someone could help with the costs in this way"

Alright then, you might think... Let's go! Let's explore this thing, let's do it!

Sales Guy Vs EdChat Supporter
Hang on there sparky, says I! There are still two significant issues that we need to consider;

1) We are talking about a sector where people who win awards involving cash prizes give it all away! And we're not talking $10-20 here, we're talking about Nancie Atwell giving away $1 million! I know! See what I mean about "Selfless Givers" in last years' post on the topic!

2) I have experience in sales. This isn't always entirely helpful. I think if educators take a look at my profile or experience they might make some assumptions about me, or question my interest in EdChats and my motives around why I'm doing all this work.

So if I mention anything involving money this may support some of these assumptions, do I run the risk of people thinking "I knew there was an angle...of course there would be money involved somewhere along the line," and the record of sales people might justify this train of thought.

But would it be too good to be true if the intentions here were to use these sales skills to drive the EdChat agenda forward? Or if this idea had nothing to do with any sales experience? 
Could this suggestion have come as a result of;

1) Joining #EdTechChat regularly and hear moderators like Alex Podchaski say they can't make it to ISTE due to costs?

The #EdTechChat Mods at ISTE...with @ajpodchaski on iPhone screen

2) Spending 12 months helping to establish one chat and 6 months or so with another (#Startupeduchat... another of those ideas where the timing wasn't quite right, but it got there a few months later)

Through supporting these chats I saw how big a commitment it was to moderate a Twitter chat, and the amount of time that people put into them. I also saw the difference the support can make to participants.

For moderators to selflessly put in all this time towards something that supports others and clearly makes a difference, BUT... to then not be able get a little support themselves so they can attend a conference that they'd love to go to?! Really?!

That's a group of selfless givers that needs a little bit of sales hustle, me thinks! So here it is... as best as I am able to provide.

Due to a lack of interest in this idea from educators, I had not sounded out any suppliers to see if there would be an interest from their perspective... That is until last night.

I ran the idea by 3 companies who I thought would be open to the idea, because they listen to their users and want to engage educators in a welcome and ethical way.

The response? They are 
intrigued enough that they want to hear more... and told me they will be reading this follow up post with interest. So this section is for suppliers, as well as our moderator friends. Here's the pitch, value proposition and the case study. 

First, the case study. I have two questions for any suppliers who were at ISTE last year or who followed on Twitter:
  • What was your highlights of ISTE2014? 
  • Was there any brand that got a particularly large amount of attention?
For me it's... drum roll please... Ready? Take a bow Susan Bearden (@S_Bearden)! Owner, Developer and Marketing Supremo of Tweachme (@Tweechmeapp), an app developed by an educator in collaboration with Crescerance and Mad-Learn,  a partnership that I would argue (from what I understand about the project) is a model example of Edu/EdTech collaboration, co-creation and organic word of mouth roll out.
The buzz that this created at ISTE2014 was impressive, and is something that this idea just might be able to replicate for other suppliers, to some extent.

Value Proposition
If you were to help get a moderator to an event that they wanted to go to, but were unable to attend without your assistance, what do you think the reaction would be? 

What kind of buzz would there be on social media if it was your company/brand that helped make it possible for the moderator to make an EdChat Tweetup, that they would have otherwise missed? (Imagine missing a Tweetup for a chat that you had worked so hard to establish... Ouch!)

Do you think there would be any Tweets like "Dear Vendors, Leave me alone when I'm in the blogging cafe! Stay in the vendor area!" I would have thought that you just might get INVITED into the cafe to write a guest post WITH the educator.

Doing something that helps someone who has a loyal core following via their chat regulars, and who is also a "Connected Educator," followed by other "Influencers" ...I'll leave you to do the math.

However... A temptation that suppliers assessing this idea might want to avoid, is to wonder "If we were to do this how do we get the most bang for our buck?" and then quiz moderators about how many followers, participants, impressions etc that they get" as part of their marketing department's due diligence and/or in the hope of finding the right chat to support for maximum reach. 
My fav comment when discussing the issue of Pearson monitoring students SM accts
In my opinion, this will be the wrong message to send. A moderator who has "Only" XYZ followers and regulars, is spending the same amount of time organising their chat as a moderator for a chat with a lager audience, more followers etc.

My advice would be to find a chat that fits your product: Here's a
EdChat List which includes the hashtag, chat description and moderator accounts.

If moderators like this idea, I don't think you'll need to worry about whether to support this EdChat or that to ensure you get maximum reach. I'd imagine other moderators would pitch in to help get all the reach you need.

Marketing Opportunity Vs Thank You!
If you're still with me on this idea, around about now both educators and suppliers may be thinking;

"Yeah but what else would the moderator do?" 

Moderators may have concerns about having as much branding as a Formula One driver? Or walk about with the companies sign for the whole conference? ...And some Sales Director might actually want to suggest these things! My suggestion on this issue would be;
  • Educators: Only agree with anything that you felt happy with.
  • Suppliers: If I was a supplier looking to sponsor a moderator? Here's what I would say:
"You don't have to do anything at all for us... because you've already earned this support! You have given up one evening every week of the year to be there to support others in your community.

This isn't sponsorship, marketing, sales or any incentive for you to do anything for us... It's about being there for members of our community in the same way you have for yours. 

It's not a marketing opportunity for us, it's simply us saying thank for the work you've already done!

Obviously it would be ideal if any supplier supporting the moderators was a brand they used, liked and was relevant to the EdChat theme... I think there would be some issues if this was a brand the moderator or community didn't use or like.

Getting the Ball Rolling
Right! Taking everything into account from the discussion above, I am now thinking of some possible pilots to test this idea with.

First of all, I would like to counter any thoughts people might have about "This sales guy is trying to make money here" with this comment and suggestion.
  • I have put anywhere between 2-4 months into introducing educators to Nurph, I have not been paid for any of this work... which is exactly the rate that was agreed! I liked what the company did, I felt I could help, so I did! (Honestly, if you're reading this give it a try. This is a very genuine offer: How can I help you achieve your goals)
  • If the work I'd done had been paid employment, at the very least, this would come in at £2,019 (Figure is based on two months work on the UK minimum wage of £6.13 per hour)
  • It would be absolutely fantastic if any savings made as a result of my involvement with this project went towards covering someone's expenses to go to ISTE2015
Nurph Sales Team
While I hope that my efforts have helped Nurph, it's Nikki Robertson and Steve Isaacs that's got others onto the platform.
  • Nikki has already given talks dedicated to how to get the best use out of Nurph at conferences
  • She is also prepared to do a whole heap of work at ISTE for Nurph... If she is able to make it.
So whether you look at this from the perspective of the amount of time put in, the results already achieved or the evangalising that Nikki is already doing voluntarily and free of charge, how can you argue against this particular case as a pilot?

The results to date might have cost quite a bit if it was not for this EdTechbridge-style collaboration, and I'm sure Nikki's ISTE Nurph discussions would do more than the most proficient of sales people.

There surely can't be any ethical issues or suggestions of "selling out" or "monitisation" edchats here, can there?

PLEASE NOTE: A major caveat here! This post is not meant to put Nurph on the spot in any way... I have simply explored an issue and thought through the current obsticles, objections and challenges. When looking for the best possible candidate for a pilot, this is where the discussion took me.

From what I understand Nurph is a small startup and, as regulars of my blog will know, if there's anyone with less disposable income than educators it's the Founder of a startup! So, even if Nurph agreed with all aspects of this discussion and idea, they may not be in a position to take this forward.

Speaking of which, there may be as many education startups who cannot afford to attend or exhibit at ISTE,  as there are educators who struggle with the costs. Could this idea be a welcome and cost effective way of these startups to have a presence at ISTE even if they can't afford to attend?

ISTE but not Bust: Next Steps for Other Mods
As for other moderators... Is it worth exploring this idea further? Is the timing right to discuss the merits of this idea? 

If any moderators would like to go to ISTE and/or are struggling with costs please feel free to leave a comment below. It might be useful if you could include any brands that you would be particularly interested in. Feel free to also include how much you might need to make it to ISTE... Without you going bust! (Or DM me with this info if you prefer).

Any suppliers who are interested in discussing this idea or exploring it further, please also feel free to comment on any thoughts you may have about this.

Or, as this is Twitter EdChat's we're talking about, maybe some moderators want to establish a hashtag to discuss the merits and concerns about the idea with other moderators and suppliers.

For those of you who still don't like this idea after this follow up and think

"This is a bad idea, and... What if you're wrong?" My reply is... not a problem! 

If Nurph is able to pilot this then we'll have a case study for next year.If others agree with your perspective then, just like a year ago, The idea will go nowhere outside of this follow up... it will be another post in a blog full of similar bad ideas and ideas where the timing just wasn't right ;).

Any action or inaction will be dictated by the reaction to this post by educators, so... It's over to the EdChat moderators and the kind of comments and feedback they provide.


  1. I think this is a great idea. This is a value added propsition for both sides. If we think about the swag that gets given away at ISTE vs the authentic conversations generated from an #edchat about product use and value.

    Coming from Wyoming my cost would be in the $2000 range. GoPro, Aurasma, Promethean & Hootsuite are the products that come to mind when considering this post. #Wyoedchat

  2. Hi James,

    Thank you so much for both taking the time to read this (rather long) post, and for being the first to comment on it.

    I am delighted that you can see the value of this and I could not agree more about the incentives at conferences. I wrote a post on what I would have at a conference and it was 1) An empty table with a laptop to show a demo and 2) An educator who loved the product.

    That's all I'd have... and, in my opinion, I think that's all you need if you're product has achieved "Product Market Fit," but few products have and that's part of the problem here.

    I hope that it's OK with you if I take this particular conversation over to Twitter and Mention a few people in the Tweet.

    1. it is for sure ok. Passion, belief and real stories are what sells any ed product.

  3. William,

    Thank you for contacting me and thank you for writing this post. I get involved with one Twitter chat every once in a while (#edtechbridge) and that is because of Steve Isaacs and Katya Hott. I don't have a ton of time for chats because of family, teaching, and my podcast (@EdGamer). My podcast is my connection to the masses. It is not as interactive as a chat, but is helpful to educators and developers. I have always promoted products that I use and recommend. As a teacher, I am always looking for new ways to reach my students. Developers are always looking for a way to test their products. If I feel their product could be useful, I am willing to try it. Most of the companies are happy to let me try the product for free and offer discounts in the future if there is a cost.
    As much as I would like to go to ISTE, I don't think it will happen this year. I have too many plans this summer. (Unless an offer comes up that I can't refuse)

    Just to share....

    Companies that are helpful to me in the classroom.
    Minecraft and MinecraftEdu
    The game Civilization (2K and Firaxis)

    EdReach (hosts EdGamer)
    Playful Learning (Games Learning Society)


  4. Hi Zack,

    Thanks so much for taking the time to read this post and for the comment. I have been a little remiss with this post by focusing purely on EdChats, I understand that running a podcast and GHO's can be just as time consuming, if not more so, as they can take 3-4 hours a week of preparation.

    There is one thing that I would like to mention about the companies that educators would be happy to receive support from and discuss with colleagues at ISTE... most appear to have Community Managers.

    I wonder if there is anything in this? I will explore that one in more detail once I have more feedback from educators and suppliers.