Last week we told you we were going to do another entry on social networking sites–but we decided to preempt that post because we’ve reached an important anniversary, and we held a meeting about AIDS.gov’s future. We want to tell you about both of those things, and get your input.
When we launched this blog in January, we said that after three months of posting and receiving your comments, we would evaluate whether the blog was meeting the needs of AIDS.gov’s readers, and then decide if and how the journey would continue. Well, the three months is up, and we want to pause and turn to YOU and our AIDS.gov planning body for direction:
- How are we doing?
- What could we do differently?
- What topics would you like us to cover?
- How well is this blog contributing to the fight against HIV/AIDS?
We have heard from some of you who have provided positive feedback about the tone and content. You have also challenged us to provide HIV-specific resources and personal accounts of how new technologies are changing HIV programming.
We’ve also turned to some of our Federal colleagues for their feedback. Last Wednesday, March 26, we held a meeting of the AIDS.gov Planning Committee. Members of that committee include leaders from across the Federal government who are responsible for the development, content, and management of Federal domestic HIV/AIDS web pages.
During that meeting, we learned of many key Federal resources and furthered our understanding of how Federal HIV/AIDS programs are working to assess how to adopt or effectively use new media tools to improve their programs. We also learned that our colleagues, like many of us at AIDS.gov, often struggle to learn what tools work best for them, how to evaluate these efforts, and how to secure buy-in from their colleagues. Throughout the meeting, we were struck by our colleagues’ challenges and accomplishments and want to share some key themes with you:
- It’s all about the users. In February, we discussed the importance of usability testing, and, in turn, conducted our own usability test of this blog. Many other Federal agencies are also doing usability testing. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) told us how their Office of AIDS and Special Health Issues website has evolved in response to the demands and needs of their users. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) said they are renovating their site and focusing on the usability needs of their target audience.
- We’re exploring new media. Through our podcasts, wikis, blog, and RSS feeds, AIDS.gov strives to use new tools to reach our audiences. And we’re not the only ones. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted that they are using social networks on Facebook and MySpace; CDC also has regular podcasts. The National Institute on Drug Abuse highlighted the interactive elements of the Drugs+HIV site, which includes web banners and “webisodes,” to reach diverse (and younger) audiences.
- Accessibility is key. Across agencies, the issue of accessibility and Section 508 compliance continues to be a priority (and a challenge). Veterans Affairs addresses accessibility issues by including alt tags with images in their drug dosing toolkit. The National Institutes of Health’s AIDSinfo told us they have increased the reach of their Spanish site by not simply translating content, but by also culturally adapting the site for Spanish speakers.
We are grateful for the support of all of our AIDS.gov Planning Committee Members mentioned above, as well as the Office on Women’s Health, the Office for Civil Rights, and SAMHSA, among others. They make AIDS.gov possible by supporting the site and working collaboratively to ensure that visitors to AIDS.gov have access to current content on Federal domestic HIV/AIDS programs, resources, and information.
We’re pleased that the committee supports the blog.
However, we’ve challenged ourselves that we can ONLY continue blogging–as long as we clearly define how to best measure our success!
Our goal is to better define our progress by answering the questions at the top of this blog, and also asking ourselves, “How has this blog motivated others to engage in a dialogue on new media and HIV/AIDS?”
We can only do that if you tell us your stories about using new media.