Using Web 2.0 to Benefit EA Professionals: Savvy Employee Assistance Professionals Will Find That Using Web 2.0 Concepts and Technologies Can Enhance Their Practice

By London, Marina | The Journal of Employee Assistance, January 2009 | Go to article overview

Using Web 2.0 to Benefit EA Professionals: Savvy Employee Assistance Professionals Will Find That Using Web 2.0 Concepts and Technologies Can Enhance Their Practice


London, Marina, The Journal of Employee Assistance


Use of the Internet is exploding, with European penetration estimated at 48.1 percent of the adult population and U.S. penetration (the highest in the world) at close to 74 percent. Worldwide usage has grown more than 300 percent since 2000 and shows no sign of slowing, particularly in Asia and Africa (Internet World Stats 2008). By 2011, an estimated 22 percent of the Earth's population will surf the Internet regularly (Jupiter Research 2007).

Although overall usage is rising, a British study shows that people 55 and older are significantly less likely to spend time on the Internet than the general population (U.K. Statistics Authority 2003). The average age of EAPA members is roughly 52, so it is probably safe to surmise that many employee assistance professionals have little experience using the Web.

DEFINING WEB 2.0

The disparity in usage rates is probably even more pronounced with respect to Web 2.0 tools, although no research has been conducted specifically on EA professionals (there are, however, a number of studies on the "grey digital divide"). Web 2.0 is still a new concept--Tim O'Reilly, the chief executive of O'Reilly Media, a company that publishes books and produces conferences on technology topics, is credited with first coining the term in 2004--and its meaning is not well understood by those who are unfamiliar with computers.

In essence, the term "Web 2.0" describes changing trends in the use of Web technology and design that aim to enhance information sharing and collaboration. Web 2.0 is all about interactions between Internet users.

To appreciate the difference that Web 2.0 tools can make, let's assume that an EA professional is looking for some information about employing technology during critical incidents. Using a "Web 1.0" approach, s/he would browse through the online archive of the Journal of Employee Assistance, a static collection of Web pages. Eventually, s/he will find an article, "Using Technology in Mass Disasters," published in the 2nd quarter 2008 issue.

Alternatively, the EA professional could join the EAP Manager Listserv by visiting http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/EAPManager. A listserv is an electronic mailing list that allows for immediate, simultaneous distribution of information to many Internet users. This specific listserv is dedicated to providing EAP managers with a range of professional information.

Using the EAP Manager Listserv, the EA professional could type, "Do you know of any articles that discuss the use of technology during critical incidents?" and instantly reach more than 600 leading EA professionals. A half dozen or more will probably respond within a couple of hours, mentioning not only the Journal article but also the pending online availability of a panel presentation, "The Critical Incident Continuum of EA Services: Technology Makes a Difference," delivered at EAPAs 2008 Conference.

This simple example illustrates why all EA professionals should, at a minimum, understand the basics of Web 2.0 and identify and use Websites and Internet platforms that emulate core Web 2.0 principles. Following are descriptions of a few sites and platforms with particular relevance to EA professionals.

USING BLOGS

A blog (an abridgement of the term "Web log") is a Website, usually maintained by an individual, with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, and/or other materials such as graphics or videos. As of December 2007, Technorati, a leading blog search engine, was tracking more than 112 million blogs.

Blogs currently are the province of the young--more than 90 percent of blogs are managed by people under the age of 30 (Caslon Analytics 2008). The millennial generation, a.k.a. Generation Y, reads blogs on a regular basis. It behooves EA professionals wanting to connect to, serve, and professionally interact with these young people to both read blogs and consider writing one, though there are other reasons to do so as well:

* To stay on top of the EA profession;

* To promote your business, which you can do by writing a comment on another person's blog (you can reference your EAP or your Website); and

* To increase your Website's relevance by linking to a blog from your site. …

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