Creating awareness and gaining new users

In this article I’ll give some examples about the way we communicated our initiative and how we tried to convert people into new active members for World Community Grid.

We hope this article will help organisations that might struggle with the issue of awareness and user engagement in relation to distributed computing and World Community Grid.

Our colleague Sjoerd Klomp created the visuals in this article, using our corporate style guide for inspiration on colours, fonts and drawings.

1. Explain

Most people have no idea what distributed computing is and even less of a notion about its usage in the field of humanitarian research. The fact is that even most technical people don’t know about it. This is something we noticed when we started with our project at de Volksbank.

We were able to explain the concept and technology to our fellow technical colleagues, but if we wanted to include other colleagues (or even external employees, visitors, customers etc) we needed a different approach.

To spread the word about World Community Grid, the team members presented the concept to different groups of people within the organisation, including the board. In our case, we were met with a positive response and an apparent willingness to help. Old hardware was directed our way, which we were able to enter into service, entirely dedicated to World Community Grid.

But physical presentations only get you so far. So it was decided to create large informational banners that are placed in the vicinity of our demo cabinets (mentioned in my first article).

Large canvas banners, placed in the vicinity of a working World Community Grid computer/server. Size: 2 meters tall, 1 meter wide.

The banner includes information about the project, stats, our position in the national and global ranks and a centrally positioned call to action. It also links this initiative to our company manifesto. At the bottom, an internal link is included for colleagues to find more information about the project.

2. Motivate

A pair of banners is one thing, but to really capture peoples interest, the message needs to be present at more locations during the day. If people are confronted with the project more often, in different ways, it will enter their (subconscious) mind sooner or later. This awareness makes people somewhat knowledgeable about the possibilities of computer simulations and distributed computing in general. 

An informational poster placed in our company elevators. It includes an internal link for more information about the World Community Grid project. A detailed installation guide for Android smartphones is also available at that website.

Visual that shows on our narrowcasting displays throughout the office. These displays combine office notifications, internal news and external news items. Because of this, the World Community Grid sheet is displayed numerous times a day.

After using all these opportunities to reach people, we can safely say that there is a reasonable chance that people have seen these messages at least once. And that takes us to the final step.

3. Activate

Giving people information doesn’t automatically make them active members of World Community Grid. We decided that a personal approach would be suited to make people take the last hurdle and install the BOINC client on their device(s).

For three consecutive days, between 07:00 and 09:00 in the morning, two members of our team were stationed at the entrance of our office, handing out little info cards, explaining the initiative and even helping people to install and run the BOINC app on their mobile device.

Flyer handout
Frans Bovens & Kevin Wagemakers handing out flyer cards to colleagues entering our office.
Your phone saves lives
‘Your phone saves lives.’

Because of the personal attention and the info cards, we gained a few dozen new users. We plan to repeat all of the steps above at our other office location(s), hoping to see more people enter our World Community Grid team, especially non-technical colleagues. 

We hope this article will help organisations that might struggle with the issue of awareness and user engagement in relation to distributed computing and World Community Grid.

Rick van de Westelaken.

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