Rankings and Musings

Quick post today as I have a few things on the go.

So, Wikio sent me their top 20 UK Health Blogs and again, I’ve made the list. Thanks to everyone for your support and do check out the other sites there – there are some real gems and it’s a pleasure to be among such fine company.

1 PsyBlog – Psychology Blog
2 Sarah Boseley’s global health blog
3 A boy with Asperger’s
4 Dr Grumble
5 Maternity Matters
6 Bad Medicine
7 Where Are My Knees?
8 Confessions of a Serial Insomniac
9 Fighting Monsters
10 Purple Noise
11 frontierpsychiatrist.co.uk
12 National Death Service
13 The Voyage
14 Aspergers, family life and me
15 Bah! to cancer
16 PlanetOutreach-ASD
17 the DeafBlog
18 Carers blog
19 Lake Cocytus

Ranking made by Wikio

I also was interested in this post from Community Care about crafting in care homes.  I wish there were more personalised activities (or any activities beyond the ‘singalong’ and ‘bingo’ ). It does raise important issues about the sense of self and differing interests and pursuits that one has when one might need residential care and why we make assumptions that what is enjoyable for one person would be enjoyable for the next, just because they are the same age.

With the move towards self-directed support in care provided at home, I wonder when residential services will also pick up.

On a related issue, I caught this link yesterday on Twitter about a care home which has installed touch-screen computers. For me, it’s an obvious step to take but its’ a shame it had to be provided by a grant and not by the provider service themselves – seeing how much they charge for placements!

I wonder how much these private companies are subsidised by these types of grants…

Still, it is good to see some different ideas about ‘activities’ in care homes and a challenge to the assumption that older people just want to sit around and sing ‘Knees Up Mother Brown’.

Social Media and Social Work – Part 2 Social Bookmarking

Bookmarks made of strings. Spin.

Image via Wikipedia

Social Bookmarking is a way to share links (or ‘bookmarks’) with other people or ‘on the internet’ rather than locally on whatever internet accessing device you are using.  The first ‘weblogs’ or ‘blogs’ as they became were social bookmarking sites. They were ways of sharing with others links that you found interesting or useful.

As  a disclaimer I’d say I’m not an ‘expert’ in social media but this is a personal exploration of how I use these tools to help me both in my practice and to keep up to date with issues for the purposes of writing my blog (although those two things can’t be kept separate!) as well as keeping track of interesting random things I find online that I want to come back to whether academic articles, newspaper articles or recipes to try!

Delicious is probably the best known social bookmarking site. It’s future is also somewhat uncertain as Yahoo (who own it) want to close it down or sell it so bear that in mind when I write about it.

It allows me to mark and bookmark sites and pages of interest and create ‘tags’ for them. For example, I have a ‘socialwork’ tag that has all the pages and sites I come across on my random forays through the web that I can come back to when I am writing or thinking of writing a post but also it allows me easy access to the sites that I read most frequently.

I have a ‘newspaper’ tag to group together the journals and standard sites I read and a tag for policy information. The advantage of holding this information online or ‘in the cloud’ is that I can access these bookmarks from any computer I use.

You can add more than one ‘tag’ to each site or post.

The social part comes in that people can share their bookmarks with each other.

My bookmarks are here but tread carefully. I tend to save mostly for myself and my tagging is a bit haphazard (I have a special ‘todo’ tag that means I intend to read a particular article, for example!). I also have some other, random sites in there but you might get an idea of how it works.

This post explains ways of using delicious but it is more adventurous than I have been. I use the Firefox addon.

Pinboard is very similar to delicious but it is a paid service. There is a one-off charge of about £5 (depends on exchange rate) and allows for an online backup of bookmarks and easy tagging. I probably still use delicious more but I signed up in case delicious disappears as I could port over all my saved bookmarks there.

I’ll group Tumblr and Posterous together. They are alternate blogging platforms that while allowing longer form posts referred to in the previous post in the series, seem to be better suited to sharing links, photos and ideas very much along the lines of the original ‘weblogs’.

I haven’t much experience of Posterous but have played around with Tumblr a fair bit.

Tumblr again, I often use as a bookmarking site as much as anything. I use it to put articles and information that I want to come back to but more traditionally, it can be used as a simple blogging platform. I assume Posterous works in a similar way. It is a good way of sharing links, commenting on articles and creates a ‘short form’ blog. Comments can be added via disqus. RSS feeds can be added as well.

I set up a Tumblr account here (although I have another private one!). As you will see, it is basically a mirror of this site so don’t bother following it but it is just as an example of the kind of thing that can be done. It is very easy to add posts direct from the browser (there’s also a firefox extension to Tumblr).

One of my favourite uses of Tumblr is a site set up by Malcolm Payne (of Modern Social Work Theory fame – is there any British Social Worker or Social Work Student who doesn’t have that definitive textbook? (if there is, go out and buy it! Now!)

Basically we live in times when sometimes we can suffer from information overload. We need to develop skills to sift through the information and find what is most important and relevant to us. Whether that is as social work professionals trying to keep up with the debates around us and find different views or whether it is about locating the best recipe for Lemon Linguine – sometimes we might surf past a site and want to keep record of it somewhere other than on the PC we are using at the time.

That, for me, is the beauty and use of these sites. I’m sure there are a million uses and I’d be interested to know how other people use social bookmarking sites and ‘short form’ blogs. If you have a tumblr or posterous site that you want to share, do leave a comment!

Next week – Twitter

See the my previous post in the series – Social Media and Social Work – Part 1 Blogs

Taking up Assistive Technologies

The Guardian printed an article earlier in the week about a poor take up nationally of telecare. Telecare (assistive technology)  is the system of various automatic alerts that are often used in local authorities for the care of older people.

The most familiar might be an ‘remote alarm call’ system – perhaps a pendant worn around the neck or wrist with a big red button to be pressed in case of a fall. At which point (at least with the systems I’ve worked with) a disembodied voice echoes from a small box-like device asking if any assistance is required. If there is no response or a call for help (because sometimes the button is pressed accidently or sat upon by visiting social workers.. yes, I’ve done that more than once) people will attend (they have keys) and respond appropriately.

image red at Flickr

But the world of ‘Telecare’ has expanded exponentially – or at least, I thought it had.

We have fall monitors which can test the pressure on ‘usual’ chairs or beds and alert the appropriate team if there isn’t anyone on that particular chair/bed for a programmed period of time (and it can be set so that the bed monitor is only active between certain hours and the same with the chair monitors).

We have gas detection monitors, C02 monitors, smoke detectors and heat monitors and flood detectors which all report back to a central office in case the person in question is not able to alert anyone.

There are, as I have actually been directly involved in recently, have ‘door monitors’ that can detect if someone ‘wanders’ out of a front door at night.

And probably lots of other types of equipment that I haven’t even begun to explore.

I was surprised at the poor take up because as the article notes, a lot of money has been thrown at the project – it’s certainly been very evident in our local authority. Perhaps the poor take up is related to seeing it as a ‘replacement’ service for home care workers. I’ve never considered that but more of an additional service – a kind of safety net.

Again, in my own Borough, the funding provided by central government has been used to provide the service as free on demand so we are able to offer these services to users at no current cost (although we have to explain that this may change in the future as the funding runs out). Perhaps that is why we have been more successful in rolling out the services than some.

And I have not personally known anyone considering reducing face-to-face care as a result of Telecare being implemented. Sometimes it is a more of a case of peace of mind for the carer who might not live in the same house, as much as needed for the user. I have certainly used that line as persuading factor, you know, ‘get the gas detector for your daughter’s sake, not because you wouldn’t know exactly what to do if you smelt gas during the night’.

So why the low take up, the Guardian presents a concerning but unsurprising conclusion.

In 2006, the government made £80m available in grants for English councils to pilot telecare and other forms of assistive technology…But there is uncertainty about how much of the £80m, which was not ring-fenced, was spent on telecare, as opposed to other uses

Of course the main worry has been that these new technologies will lead to a decrease in care visits but I haven’t seen it used in that way yet, and I hope it never will after all, the needs that are met are very different.

I am actually rather glad that I work in one of the authorities that seems to want to take this forward though as I’ve seen a lot of direct benefits  – in fact, someone I work with currently managed to leave the gas on and this was alerted through exactly this system. It might have been a lot longer if there had been no electronic trigger.

I can’t see it being anything other than an integral part of the packages that are delivered increasingly in the future. Technology does not have to be our enemy and it does not have to replace people.

How I write

While I was flicking through some websites, I thought I’d explain a bit about what I actually do when I write and post to this blog. I wouldn’t say I’ve set the world ablaze but for myself, I’ve found the process to be an interesting experience regarding writing in a more social and interactive (and less formal) manner than I have ever done before.

The blog has taken on something of a life of its own. Sometimes I wonder if I will be able to sustain it but those thoughts have been becoming less frequent with time. You plant the seeds and see what, if anything, will grow.

Firstly, I almost without fail write in the morning before work. It’s a quiet time in the house when my partner is still asleep. Not that he’s a bother, I just find it much easier to think when I’m on my own in the room!

Usually, I try and mix up a bit between personal stories of things that happen at work, some general social work stuff and some general mental health stuff. I work with older people so usually there is a bias towards issues that affect them as it is the area that I remain the most interested in.

I have all my RSS feeds on Google Reader – although I’ve found there’s a bit of a delay on the feeder picking them up.

So firstly, I run through a few websites (mostly those highlighted on the sidebar with a few extras) just to see what is happening and what other people are saying.

If the day has brought anything in the ‘real world’  that I think is particularly interesting or even if it hasn’t and it just inspires me to write, I might write about an incident, a meeting or expand on a thought that I had during the day when I was sitting on the bus or trudging the streets on my way to see someone.

If a news story grabs me, and sometimes it isn’t the most obvious, I might write about it. My initial idea was that I’d do a few ‘link posts’ during the week but I  haven’t really been managing that very well – partly because I generally like to find something I can apply a little commentary on.

Most of my news comes from Community Care, Guardian Society, socialworknews and Google News which I search with ‘social work’, ‘social care’, ‘mental health’ and sometimes just random general words that tickle my fancy!

I try and skim, at least, some of the main newspaper sites, the Guardian, the Times, The Independent, The Telegraph, Reuters (I know it isn’t a newspaper but I count it!), BBCThe Daily Mail (I know, I know – to understand the enemy you have to know him.. )  and The Evening Standard.

When I find something that grabs me, I’ll write.

I use delicious, the ‘social bookmarking’ site, extensively. I don’t do very much social with it, but it keeps my bookmarks in order. I also tag anything I see that I think I might write about later with a ‘todo’ note.

Apart from my family, there are three people I know that I have told about this. One is a social worker that I did my MA with now working in Children Services in a different local authority from me. Another is an OT that I’ve known before either of us even considered professional qualifications when we worked together as care assistants and the other works in a completely different field (funnily enough, I think she’s the only one that actually reads this on a consistent basis and she should recognise herself from this.. and if either of the other two are (who should also know, then this is their chance to tell me!).

My decision to remain anonymous wasn’t because I thought I’d be particularly critical about work. Apart from gripes and some dissatisfaction with policies which I am sure would happen anywhere – I am, for the most part, fine with things there. If I didn’t complain, I wouldn’t be human! I made the decision because I thought full disclosure would expose me – I also write about some of the people I see (although I do change some of the details).  I also want to reserve the right to be possibly critical in the future!

I use Windows Live Writer. I love it and could honestly not do a thing without it.

I find it much much easier to put in links and pictures – I know WordPress is easy but not easy enough for me! Live Writer, however, is and for me it’s the difference between writing and not writing.

I can’t honestly remember why I chose WordPress rather than Blogger to start with. But I’m glad I did. I like it!

For pictures, I use Flickr and on the front screen I click on the ‘Creative Commons’ part (so I don’t have to worry about copyright as long as the photos are attributed)  and then do a search on something that might be relevant to what I’m writing about.

I try to find pictures without faces if I can. I know it isn’t necessary but it’s just something I try to do.

I love Flickr. I put lots of my photos on there anyway and have been using it for years!

The only pictures I don’t credit are pictures that I have taken myself (or the ones from my sister which are the where the cat photos come in!).

Another thing I’ve tried with pictures is Zemanta, which is a little programme that automatically finds licence-free pictures, links, related articles based on the content of the post. My experience has been a little mixed but that’s where the photos from Wikipedia come from – and the links from Wikipedia. It’s a nice little tool but not one I’d depend wholly on!

Sometimes I schedule posts, for example, last weekend, I had some houseguests staying in the lounge (where my computer is) so I wrote some posts before they came and scheduled them to publish.

I currently have about 5 or 6 ‘nearly’ posts that I’d be able to drop immediately if I didn’t have time or woke up late (that’s happened a few times!). I often write something extra at the weekend.

Forget what it says in my ‘about me’ section. I don’t really take Sunday off. I might write a few drafts – but I don’t want to commit to posting daily so I try to withhold any thoughts for Monday!

Things I have gained through blogging

I feel a part of different communities as a result. Comment is king in that sense. You really feel you get to know people and that is the most wonderful thing.

A deeper and more whole understanding to some extent of what is it like to experience the service that I provide

I pay more attention to relevant news in my field

I actually read more about research papers and take a more active interest

Reflection, reflection, reflection.


Better writing (I’m not entirely convinced on this but it’s supposed to be good for you to write consistently!).

Less television (not always a bad thing, but in some ways I think some of my free time is more gainfully used now!).

I’m sure there are lots more positives and would welcome any additional ideas!

IT and me!

I like to think of myself as somewhat knowledgeable about technology . Not on an advanced level or at the level that would merit any kind of expertise – but basic stuff like checking my email regularly, being able to use database programs and getting photos from my mobile phone to my computer – the essentials!

I do though, feel sometimes like the bane of the IT department at work. I am sure I’m not alone in phoning them up regularly to ask them to reset one or two of my passwords at least every month – in my defence, I currently have to have five different log-ins for different accounts (two NHS and three local authority ones) and they all have to be reset every month at different points in the month and none of them can have repeated passwords so it does get confusing at times.

The last time I called and had my password reset to ‘password’ and was told by a po-faced technician that I had to change my password immediately to ‘something secure’, I asked if I could just keep it as ‘password’ to make it easier to remember. I was only half-joking but the reaction from the IT guy the other end of the phone was quite comical as I thought he was having some kind of apoplexy when he explained to me (in slightly patronising tones, of course!) the importance of secure passwords – I did, of course, change it. But at least I don’t, like some people in my office, have a little post-it on my computer with a list of passwords!

dirk gently dirk gently – flickr

Recently though, well, three times in the last five months, to be honest, I have had to call for replacement keyboards. The last time I had to actually get a colleague to call on my behalf because I was too embarrassed. Coffee and keyboards don’t make a happy mix. To those UK taxpayers, I am taking extreme care now (and if it’s any consolation, I’m sure I’ve paid much more than three keyboards in unpaid overtime.. probably just this week alone come to think of it!)

The most embarrassing phone call I made though was when I really did have one of those ‘Have you checked it’s on?’ remarks – and it wasn’t (in my defence, it was the printer and the little LCD lights come on at the back.. and.. and.. ok, not really a good defence!).

Oh well. at least I keep them on their toes!