2 years ago I worked with Chris Corrigan and Steven Wright at the first World Indigenous Housing forum in Vancouver, Canada. With over 600 delegates, a key technical design challenge was about “how to” harvest individual and small group ideas and from a group of that size?! In a long story short, we engaged the brilliant Luke Closs to build us a text2cloud system. Our brief was to enable delegates to text their insights to a central number. We needed to be able to access the data quickly and discover themes using online tools such as Wordle. We needed a ‘digital’ harvesting tool that would capture the essence of (analogue-style) conversation between people.
Luke’s system worked beautifully for our team in North America and I couldn’t wait to use it back home in Australia. I hit brick wall after brick wall and – due to the militant policies of Australian mobile carriers – I just could’t find a way to use Luke’s brilliant code.
Then just a couple of months ago, friend and colleague Fran Woodruff asked for my advice on text2cloud systems after hearing my Vancouver experience. That’s when Fran alerted me to Poll Everywhere – a online service that essentially replicates what Luke built from scratch over 2 years ago. Thank you Fran!
Last week, I had the pleasure of working alongside Viv McWaters and together we experimented with Poll Everywhere at the Game Changer Conference with over 350 delegates. It worked and here is what we learned about using a text2cloud system to harvest ideas from large groups …
1. Text2Cloud is a useful replacement to the traditional (and tedious) post speaker Q&A session
As questions came in from the delegates, our MC and Viv reviewed the questions as they scrolled up their computer screens. The texts arrive in real time and provide the reader with an instant snapshot of the emergent questions that usually remain invisible. For some people their questions never get seen or heard. We were able to synthesise the breadth of the questions and select the most compelling or common questions to ask the guest speaker. Speakers also agreed to provide brief answers to every question after the conference – this formed part of the proceedings.
2. Text2Cloud is a great way of harvesting priorities from group dialogue and cafe-style conversations
At the end of small group conversations, we invited participants to text in the priority ideas and actions. We were able to harvest these easily and reflect them back using the large screens as they ideas came in.
3. Reflecting back the themes/patterns (in real time) from large groups is powerful
4. Applications are not just limited to working with groups in the one room. Why not use this system to capture feedback/responses from anyone involved in a project or initiative even if they are geographically dispersed!
5. Everyone (well at least 99+% of people) knows how to text and most carry text-enabled devices with them to group events
6. Poll Everywhere is a text2cloud system that is easy to learn and it does what it claims it can do!
Let’s keep experimenting with these new harvesting technologies! When used well, they can be a great compliment to processes involving dialogue and group conversations.