Interesting use of Linkedin

Here’s a quick social media case study.

Over the last couple of days, I’ve been in Lincolnshire, delivering Broadband for Business Workshops as part of the work I am doing with CDI Alliance for Lincolnshire County Council via their OnLincolnshire programme.

I happened to have a conversation with someone unconnected with the workshops, who asked me what I was doing in the area. When I explained, he told me that he had an interesting use for Linkedin. He had bought a cheap boat in Turkey, intending to do it up for use for mini-cruises and sail it to be based in Spain. However, there had been a number of unforeseen financial obstacles to moving the boat, which had led him to keep it based in Turkey. He had employed a local captain and set about advertising it for group cruises. However, he had found the cost of newspaper and magazine advertising to be prohibitive.

But, he had hit upon an unusual way of recruiting people for the mini-cruises. He had trawled special interest groups on Linkedin and contacted people to find if they were interested in running mini-cruises for people with common interests. He had found a number of people willing to do so, and his model is to pay their air fare to Turkey and give them a free place on the boat in return for them recruiting groups who pay their way. Apparently, yoga cruises are particularly popular. The leader gets a free holiday, and the boat owner gets paying customers recruited for him.

I thought this was a particularly interesting use of social media.


Two ears, one mouth

It’s long been my view that there are far too many people in life who fail to recognise why we all have two ears and one mouth. I have always tried to remember that listening is one of the most important things we can do. In the world of social media, as in other aspects of life, there is too much talk and not enough responsiveness.

Today, in the Our Digital Planet Internet Station, I spent more than an hour listening to someone’s life story. It was far from an easy listen. He told me he was desperate to tell his life story to someone, and that he wanted to do it to a camera. Failing that, he would seek to go on the Jeremy Kyle programme because he felt the need to tell the world why he is like he is. I told him that I could provide a camera and he is coming back on Thursday.

I am not at all sure that is a good idea. The story he told me is one of child abuse, physical and sexual; crime, petty and not so petty; drug abuse, his own and that of those around him; and of finding his sister’s husband brutally murdered when he was 12 (he described this in graphic terms). It was interspersed with affectionate tales of the pets he had loved, most of which seemed to have come to an untimely end.

I think he needs counselling. I agreed to provide the camera for his interview because it seemed a better idea than him going on Jeremy Kyle. If he comes back, should I do the interview? And, if I do, should it be made public?

Digital Technologies, Older People, Trust, and Isolation


In this post, I am straddling two projects I’m currently working on, both sponsored by Nominet Trust. For Our Digital Planet I’m on the last week as Manager of the Internet Station, which has involved being part of an exhibition in the city centres of Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff, Liverpool and Glasgow (Lloyd Davis did Brighton and Cardiff), helping non-internet users get online, and assisting others with specific problems regarding their internet use.  The other project, which I’m playing a minor role in, is the Exploration of the Role of Digital Technologies for People in Later Life. This post takes some of the lessons from the former project, and seeks to apply them to the latter.

There are a whole variety of reasons why older people don’t use new technologies and the internet. A key reason, is obviously, lack of familiarity with computers. They would have left school before computers were introduced, and may have worked all their lives in jobs which didn’t require computer use or involve coming into contact with them. But there are many other barriers. One of which is trust. During Our Digital Planet, I have come across a number of older people who are implacably opposed to sharing personal details online, which specifically manifests itself in not wanting to give away financial details. I have seen people desperate to shop online because they are too frail to carry goods back from the supermarket, and needing to access paid-for genealogy sites as part of courses, but for whom fear of sharing personal details over-rides that need. They may own credit or debit cards, but still do not trust the unknown on the internet to share those details. I think we urgently need to find methods that people with such fears can use to pay online that they can trust.


Another thing that concerns me is that there is going to come a time when people realise the true implications of the forthcoming introduction of Universal Credit and that is going to be the Tipping Point which forces them online. They will do so reluctantly, and it may feel like a punishment. This could well be counter-productive. I think we have a very short window (possibly as short as 12 months) when we need to pull out all the stops to get people to see the benefits of being online to all aspects of their lives, and, in particular, that it can be real fun, like it is for most of the rest of the population. I think lots of people have a responsibility in this respect, including older people who have already embraced technology, charities and support organisations, employers, social housing providers, care homes, and health authorities.

I believe there is still a lot of work to be done in persuading the agencies and professionals working with older people that new technologies offer solutions and can be trusted. Many of them and their staff are technophobes themselves, and this is severely holding back progress. If they fail to address this issue, agencies are failing the people they profess to help, and some are putting their own futures in jeopardy, as they risk financial melt-down.


There is plenty of evidence that loneliness and isolation are major problems for people in later life; and further evidence that being online helps to address these issues. Some of the people who have approached the Our Digital Planet project, have done so because they are keen to re-establish links with friends and family. With other people, I have witnessed a dichotomy over cause and effect. They are clearly lonely people; a number of visitors have told us they have no friends. Are they lonely and isolated because they are not online, or is not being online just one manifestation of their lack of ability to keep in touch with social networks? Clearly, those who have visited us are recognising they need to do something about it. There are thousands more who do not do anything about it.