Category Archives: Events

Workshops, presentations, conferences and, of course, launch parties!

Highlights from Sex::Tech 2012

Elaine and Derek are nurses who have been delivering expert and tailored sexual health information to various online communities for nearly 8 years, through a cyber-outreach program at BCCDC. We’re very fortunate to be able to work with them on several components of our proram, notably the nurse chat feature of SmartSexBC. Derek and Elaine are in San Francisco this week attending Sex::Tech 2012. Here’s what they had to say about the opening plenary:

Lots of talk at Sex::Tech in San Francisco about the value of using social media such as Facebook and Twitter to reach youth.

Texting is another way that people are reaching youth. One reason being that some youth can’t afford smart phones. One program in Orlando has created a “text hotline” that gets 300- 400 texts per month from youth asking question about sexual health. Another group found that personal responses to text questions resulted in the most communication.

But all presenters involved in sexual health education via social media said it is important to ask youth about the best way to connect with them…… whether it is Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or whatever comes next.

Anyone remember MySpace?

We heard an interesting opening presentation by Jason Rivera on social media and human connection. He says humans have a basic need to seek connections with other people and social media can be an effective way to meet that need.

He talked about short term connection for immediate emotional needs and long term attachment for emotional wellness. Social media approaches can be tailored to those needs.  Rivera says that different personality types respond differently to content, so targeted approaches and content are needed to make connection meaningful. The future success of social media will focus on building a reputation and establishing deeper connections via constant communication.

Sex::Tech…Day 1

Hello from sunny, hot San Francisco!  (yes, it really is summer here)  It’s Day 1 at Sex::Tech, and both Travis and I are super excited to be here.  There’s such a range of people here – researchers, educators, health professionals, film and new media professionals – and so many extremely gifted youth.  It’s truly an honour to be here.

This morning saw three amazing young women introduce their short films about the meaning of masculinity today, and a brainstorming session by a panel of youth experts on how social media can be used to promote each film.  This was followed by a welcome address by the fabulous Deb Levine, Director of ISIS.  She gave some highlights on their recently released white paper, which explored how youth use technology for their sexual and reproductive health.  The 4 key messages (for me, at least) were:

1. Optimize your website based on how youth search for sexual health information

2. Push information out, rather than trying to pull people in

3. Talk to youth, not at them

4. Keep your head in the Cloud (the online cloud, that is) and deliver information in the format that people want it.

And now, on to a breakout session on multimedia approaches to reaching youth.  And hopefully, a chance to meet Cory Silverberg, one of my favourite sexuality bloggers (

[12:13pm, Travis] From a session on quality of web-collected data: Jose Bauermeister suggests trying to identify duplicate survey entries (ie, those who have responded to the survey twice, often to get an extra survey incentive/payment). You can then exclude those “suspicious” duplicate entries from analysis to see if it alters your study results. He also emails those who clearly responded to the survey twice to explain to them why that is a problem (ie, help teach our study participants why data quality is important!).

[3:30 pm, Devon] Mobile health (mHealth) is the latest hot topic – and Sex::Tech has convened a panel of mHealth experts to discuss trends, issues and recommendations. Some of the items being discussed right now include:


  • maximizing mobile capabilities to promote interactivity
  • ability of mobile technology to influence behaviour, especially around sexual health
  • using mobile technology to collect data from users
  • using open architecture to promote data sharing between previously separated organizations and clinics


  • ability to merge public health objectives with technology – lack of knowledge of how to develop business plans, negotiate with carriers and providers, acquire funding, etc.
  • lack of a good knowledge base on how to actually create and implement mobile health programs – needs to be more collaboration, evaluation and dissemination of program successes and challenges
  • HIPPA and other privacy legislation is often being used to stifle programs, especially around electronic health information sharing


  • start small and then scale up – make it modular
  • keep it simple – don’t build in so many features that the user is overwhelmed
  • think thoroughly about your audience and build your strategy around their needs and wants
  • marketing is key and must be incorporated into every mobile program and campaign

mHealth experts sharing their expertise

[5:26pm, Travis] Sitting in on a section that promises to answer the question: “Is the internet facilitating risky behavior?”. I’ll let you know what answer they come up with.

[6:06pm, Travis] No conclusive answer, but here’s a thought: whether the internet provides an opportunity to have unprotected sex that wouldn’t have happened otherwise or merely attracts individuals who would have unprotected sex regardless (whether online or offline), the data are clear for gay and other men who have sex with men (and increasingly for youth as well) that those who meet partners online are more likely to have unprotected sex. And so there is an opportunity to reach them by offering services through the internet.

By the way, if you’re wishing you were here in SF with us, you can watch a live stream of tomorrow morning’s plenary (8:30am Pacific time), “Behind the scenes at 16 and Pregnant” here.

Reports from sex::tech: Researcher Pre-Conference Meeting

sex::tech starts tomorrow! Today we participated in a pre-conference meeting focused on research at the intersection of technology and sexual health.

We heard about a lot of cool technology-based sexual health programs, but the emphasis today was on research of these interventions, ie, how do we know they work?!

A few take-home messages for the work we’re doing back in BC:

  • Measuring the impact of online interventions is not like measuring the effect of other biomedical interventions. There was a lot of discussion about the need to set aside traditional models (eg, randomized controlled trials) and think about more adaptable models that follow our interventions as they change (for example, the model of continuous quality improvement, employed by technologists in other fields).
  • How can we recruit research participants online? Several researchers talked about their experience with respondent driven sampling (read more about RDS here). There has been limited success in using RDS to recruit online cohorts. The bottom line was that online recruitment is promising but needs to be supplemented with offline, face-to-face, personal connections.
  • Community-based organization partners and IT partners are all too often brought in late in the process of developing and evaluating online and other new-technology interventions. The message from CBO and IT reps at today’s meeting was that they should be included early in the planning stages as investigators in our research.
  • Finally, today’s meeting gave us the opportunity to connect with researchers doing similar work elsewhere in the world. This is very exciting, and I look forward to building new collaborations with partners in Colorado and Alaska (two of the colleagues I met today), and beyond!

Live blogging starts tomorrow as Devon and I explore the full conference in all its glory! Stay tuned…

PS One plug for a cool program I heard about ( allows you to tell your sex partners about STI diagnoses by text message!).

Are you ready for Sex::Tech??

We sure are! 


Both Travis and I will be attending Sex::Tech – the 4th annual conference on new media, youth and sexual health, held on April 1-2 in San Francisco.  Hosted by Internet Sexuality Information Services (the same people that are currently customizing inSPOT for BC), Sex::Tech brings health and technology professionals together with youth, parents and community leaders to showcase technology-based educational content and programs.


Expected to have more than 400 in-person attendees, the conference will feature a number of streams that include field reports, program successes and technology updates.  Three plenary sessions will focus on (1) a white paper on TECHsex USA: Youth Sexuality and Reproductive Health in the Digital Age, (2) mHealth: Text Messaging and Beyond, and (3) MTV’s 16 and Pregnant: A Glimpse Behind the Scenes.  In addition, a researchers’ pre-conference meeting will discuss the successes and issues of mobile and digital research with youth around sexual health.


Travis and I will be live-blogging from Sex::Tech (which should be interesting, as it’s a new experience for both of us).  The three plenary sessions will also be livestreamed at ISIS’ Partner Organizations’ websites:


 So stay tuned for reports and updates from the exciting world of technology, youth and sexual health!

Brainstorming makes for tasty Jam

On December 2nd, we had a fantastic day of social media discussion and brainstorming at a full-day workshop called the Concept Jam. The workshop was led by Social Signal, a Vancouver-based company that we have partnered with to develop our online strategy and the blueprints for our new sexual health website. The Concept Jam brought together a high-energy group of 27 participants from the BC Centre for Disease Control, a youth clinic and various non-profit and community-based organizations.  The ultimate goal was to generate and prioritize ideas for online engagement to inform Social Signal’s recommendations for the new website and web presence. Along the way, the group learned about different ways that social media could be used in their own organizations, and began to explore possibilities for future collaboration.

Our fearless leaders - Rob Cottingham and Alexandra Samuel

 Some of the main themes and recommendations for the website to emerge from the day’s session included: 

  • Content that provides locally-relevant, Canadian and BC-specific information on testing, clinic locations, events, resources, disease trends and news stories and articles
  • Content that discusses healthy relationships and minimizing risk in a shame-free and sex-positive way
  • A “what to do” guide for someone who has had unprotected sex and is worried about STIs
  • User-submitted stories and user-generated content
  • Use of videos, live chat with a nurse and widgets (such as a clinic finder)

Hands up if you like social media!

All together, it was an engaging and productive day that saw the creation of many great ideas.  Over the next two weeks, the creative minds at Social Signal will build on these ideas to develop a strategy that outlines a series of options and a recommended final approach for the new website.  We would love to hear your thoughts and opinions on this strategy, so we’ll be posting more information (and maybe a poll) in the upcoming weeks.

Picking our favorite ideas


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