Embracing interactivity and openness: Drugs 2.0

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of attending a presentation by Ray Stephens of Moreland Hall. Ray spoke about ‘Using Web 2.0 to engage with clients and reduce drug-related harm’.

Web 2.0 is an interactive, immersive network where participants consume and create content and connections. Young people, arguably the target group of much alcohol and other drug ‘interventions’, are primarily using the internet to source health information. Online networks facilitated through web 2.0 allow people to collaborate, gather and distribution information. Illicit drug use is no exception to this trend!

Ray argues that web 2.0 is where alcohol and other drug treatment services need to be focusing their attention if they want to capture the attention of the majority of young people who already use these online networks to discussion drug use.

The examples of online engagement in the AOD field that Ray reviewed were websites with comment facilities (like Somazone), websites that host multiple blogs (like Between the Lines) and Moreland Hall’s website Bluebelly, which is pushing the boundaries in its use of wiki articles and forthcoming feature film.

From the audience, we discovered the innovative work currently underway at the Burnet Institute using Facebook. The Queer as F**k project follows the lives of 5 fictional gay men who live together in a share house in Melbourne. The characters have their own facebook pages and interact together on the site. The main action occurs in short film clip episodes uploaded to youtube and disseminated through the facebook page. Health and social issues are introduced through the films and online interaction.

Chris Raine, founder of Hello Sunday Morning was also in the audience and had a chat to me after the show. HSM is a collective of bloggers who have taken 3, 6 or 12 months off drinking to examine why they drink and develop a new relationship with alcohol. Hello Sunday Morning uses similar logic to Queer as F**k: people who follow the experience of these individuals and interact with them will be engaged and more open to learning and experimenting with their own behaviour change. The difference is that the HSM people are real, whereas the Queer as F**k characters are fictional. There is something particularly appealing about HSM bloggers being real.

Alongside the importance of using web 2.0 to engage with people about drug issues, Ray also argued for the opening up of AOD workplaces to web 2.0. How can people who work in this field become familiar with web 2.0 when much of it is blocked by our organisation’s firewalls? How can innovation be stimulated in organisations where facebook, youtube and twitter are seen as not work related?

Ray ended his presentation with a great list of 10 reasons why we should embrace web 2.0 in the AOD field:

1. Source of information
2. Brand awareness, credibility
3. Networking and partnership development
4. Provide treatment to people we will never see
5. It’s engaging (and fun?)
6. Encourage opportunities for users to have a voice
7. Extend your staff’s working hours
8. Free (…ish)
9. ‘They’ are already using it
10. It’s not going away

What I love about this list is that it reads so much like why people should embrace the harm reduction approach to drug use. Essentially, people are using web 2.0 and it isn’t going anywhere, so we need to learn how to use it wisely and well, instead of the zero tolerance approach of ignoring it in the hope that it might be a passing phase. Hopefully more alcohol and other drug agencies will modernise their social media policies and embrace interactivity and openness through web 2.0. All they have to lose is their fear 🙂

* Thanks Ray for starting this conversation. Let’s continue it!

13 thoughts on “Embracing interactivity and openness: Drugs 2.0”

  1. Great post Monica. I really enjoyed the presentation as well.

    I think we should all form an informal group of people that use social media in the AOD sector and catch up like a professional work party to exchange ideas. What do you think?

  2. Thanks Monica! Great to see it interpreted and written down (and so quickly?!)
    I’ve also had a few organisations contact me since Friday to ask how to go about it so there is some enthusiasm out there.
    They are struggling with ‘policy’ though so I think we need to keep an eye out for good examples of policy, and make them available when we find them.

  3. Thanks Ray and Chris!

    Ray.. didn’t you mention that Moreland Hall has a social media policy in development? Once we have one example, I imagine it’ll be easier to sell to *ahem* other organisations 😉

    Chris, I see you have just joined Heads Together. I’m sure we could get a group going there. Actually there is a group called Health, Welfare, Technology already!

  4. Thanks for writing about Rays talk (I’m looking forward to him doing an audio version for the web SOON , and when you get that social policy I’d love a copy BTW)

    I totally agree that AOD services need to embrace 2.0 and I really struggle to understand why they haven’t already. In my opinion its got to be one of the most cost effective ways of getting information out there.

    I’m currently writing a days training for 2.0 aimed specifically at AOD workers and activists to run in the UK but I know that to some extent I’m going to be preaching to the converted. The people who we need to engage in this are the workers/activist/services and commissioners who DON’T get it. And I think the ways we are going to do that break down into two approaches

    1) include aspects of 2.0 on ALL training and information: have recommendations of people to follow on twitter and facebook groups to join on HepC training. Have sites like Bluebelly referenced in training on party drugs etc

    2) Wait: over time 2.0 is becoming normalised for people, we now have politicians talking about tweeting people and TV programs that encourage you to ‘join the discussion online’ after a show. We have to remember that we are the early adopters, we make the new technologies for people to come an use afterwards, and by the time they do we’ll be making web 3.0.

    As for setting up informal groups for AOD 2.0 we can of course do this with ease, we’re already growing an AOD2.0 community on twitter and via interconnected blogs

  5. Thanks Nigel.

    “I totally agree that AOD services need to embrace 2.0 and I really struggle to understand why they haven’t already” – I think Ray is right. It’s fear – of the unknown.

    I think both of your approaches could work side by side. Include 2.0 in all training so people just start to see it as normal – AND understand that this will happen without our intervention as well, through other media forms.

    Nigel, I was wondering whether anyone has set up a twitter list specifically for Drug 2.0. When I first started using twitter, I didn’t know about lists and lamented the fact that there was no obvious hashtag that people use when discussing drug issues. But we can just make a public list, right? [disclaimer: I’m still learning twitter!]

  6. OK here goes for some ‘think while I type’ ideas.

    Currently twitter lists are owned by single individuals, so I can make a list of ‘HepC activists’ but that would only include hepC activists that I am personally aware of.

    Of course being aware of people anyway helps you find more, with Twitter traditions (yes, a tradition already, gotta love how these terms change) like Follow Friday, and surfing other peoples lists you can grow the number of people you are personally aware of quite fast. And with lists you have the added bonus that you don’t have to ‘follow’ everyone.

    But how about this for an idea, between us we know a lot of 2.o people, I’m sure that your own personal circle of trust includes at least one or two people you know who really know their stuff on this as well.

    We could between us set up a twitter account to collect together and ‘crowd source’ this kind of information, the account wouldn’t necessarily follow lots of people but could instead be a ‘home’ for a number of lists (eg, HIV, HEPC, social media, activists, drug sites, drug bloggers, recovery)

    The account could be managed by each of us at the same time (I’d recommend a core of 5 people)

    I also keep thinking of setting up another one or two 2.o projects (although a lack of time and money are always an issue) that would do much the same for bloggers.


  7. (sorry for the delay in reply — I’ve been snowed under!)

    Your idea seems good to me. There can be a core group with access to the account and we can market the lists to others so people can easily follow based on topic.

    I think it would help newcomers to twitter in drugs who aren’t sure where to begin!

  8. Thank you, you’ve just put me on to lists guys (and as always you’re way ahead of me Monica).
    They are a great idea and I think Nigel your idea of a shared account to generate lists is a very good one. Finding people to follow is one of the hardest things.
    We would need another email address. I can offer Moreland Hall’s if you like.
    Unfortunately this would also generate another account for me to follow and as usual post inappropriately to. But it’s worth the stumbles.

    BTW, sorry Nigel for not getting the audio version done yet.

  9. I can set up an email address for the list have have it send to all co-ordinators. I’m off this friday so I’ll look into setting up something then, I’m also happy to do the twitter page design work and set up a page on IA explaining the reason for the ‘account’ itself for the page to link to.

    I think this is something that the 3 of use could work well on, although I’s also like to include Stephen Bamber from the art of life itself blog for the recovery orientated lists.

    I’ll contact you both when I’ve got more done

  10. Nigel, that all sounds great – yes we should include Stephen and anyone else who could assist the project. We can all note it on our blogs and distribute among our networks. I know a few people here who are curious about Twitter for AOD but don’t know how/where to start. This could be exactly what they need 🙂

  11. Monica, I can’t access the above link (its gateway barricaded) can you copy/paste it into an email for me?

    And sorry for the delay in setting up the twitter thing, I’ll get to it in the next couple of weeks as I’ve got a few spare days.


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