Launching a new White Water Writers homepage!

Over the last few days I’ve complately rebuilt

It was a very generic site advertising an academic project to strangers and now it’s for our writers to see the results of their work. It took quite the mental shift to go from ‘we are running educational interventions’ to ‘we are a publisher that runs social interventions’ and the website change is part of that shift. We might lose a little bit of random buisness, but the our writers will get more our of their time with us.

I personally don’t think we’ll lose much buisness. White Water Writers is a complex project that produces incredible results and nobody really believes in it until they see it working. That’s made worse by the half dosen companies that claim to do what we do, but don’t. The result is that most of our work is repeat work, and the vast marjority of our new work is by referral (a suprising amount of our new work is ‘teacher from previous school moves to new school and calls us’).   This isn’t a project that grows because of advertising; it’s a project that grows because teachers rave about it.

That means our website is mostly likely to be used by people we already work with (teachers, writers, parents of writers), or people who have already heard of us and want to check us out. It’s not a place for us to sell directly to faceless individuals.

That’s actually quite freeing – that means that the website doesn’t have to worry about sales funnels or collecting emails, we can make it exactly how we like.

I decided to keep it simple. We publish books, so we should have a book publisher’s website.

This has a bunch of advantages:

  • It feels right. A lot of the value we give to our writers is that this is a real project and they really are publishing. So we should support that in every way we can.
  • It makes the books central rather than the process – and only I’m interested in the process.
  • It’s one simple angle: The project has to balance a research side, a process side, an advertising side, a charity development side and a parent-facing side. That’s a nightmare to write copy for on the same website and leaves us messy. This website is going to be about what our writers have produced and everything else can go on

From the technical side, this version will be easier to maintain and cheaper to host than the previous one (It’s Github Pages rather than WordPress). I learned a lot putting it together and while I was doing it I migrated our email services away from a expensive host that I’ve grown to dislike (Dreamhost) to a free host that I trust (Google Suite). I suspect that all future sites will be on Github Pages. You can read about all the technical challenges at the project issue.

Would you like to be a trustee?

We’re looking for trustees!

eQuality Time would like to add two to four new trustees over the next few months, both to replace trustees that have moved on and as part of a general desire to continually bring fresh views in.

We are looking for individuals who can offer the following:

  • A commitment to the organisation
  • A willingness to devote the necessary time and effort – we meet once a month online for around half an hour.
  • Strategic vision – we want to grow.
  • Good, independent judgement – always do what’s best for the charity.
  • An ability to think creatively – as you can see, we have a varied range of projects, and are often coming up with new ideas.
  • A willingness to speak their mind – challenge us!
  • An understanding and acceptance of the legal duties, responsibilities and liabilities of trusteeship.
  • An ability to work effectively as a member of a team – we’re a great team and work together for the good of the charity and its beneficiaries.


You can find out more about the charity here and about our projects here.  If you would like to find out more, please email

eQuality Time coronavirus response

At their meeting on 1st April,  eQuality Time’s trustees decided to put the COO (the only current member of staff) into furlough from the 6th April.

The decision process and reasoning are covered in this briefing document that was written ahead of the meeting: eQuality Time Coronovirus Response.

Until 6th of April, the COO will be spending his time making sure that any project partners or volenteers  have everything they need to keep the organisation working during the furlough.



For the next few months eQuality Time is going to be focusing it’s efforts on a complete rewrite of the code for the Open Voice Factory, as well as experimenting with creating virtual White Water Writer camps.

There’s a lot of reasons for the rewrite:

  • The old github repo is extremely large because it contains quite a lot of versioned PowerPoint files and other ‘stuff’ – we want a much smaller repo for people to check out and play with
  • The current architecture forces us to use a particular layout of input grids – we want something much smoother and more extendable
  • OVF is written in Python 2.7, a language that ended full support this year – it’s time to be working in python 3.
  • There are bugs – there are sneaking and horrible bugs lurking around and by the time we fish them all out we made as well have rewritten the whole codebase.
  • We want to release a new version of CommuniKate, which is ready to go, but we want to add some features to both the templates and the codebase at the same time – and it’s better to do it all at once.

You can keep up with the rewrite here:

Analysis of White Water Writers Camp costs

Today I’m looking into the proper costs of a White Water Writers camp.  I periodically do back-of-the-envelope calculations for quoting invidual camps but it was about time that I got some proper numbers involved.

I’m doing it publically for all the normal reasons and one extra one: it might help some organisations tailor their requests a bit and say things like “Can we have more books, but give you access to campus accomodation?”  (Campus accomodation is quite nice and we’d like to encourage this).

We quote for a wide array of camps – I’ve choosen five types here but most don’t fit exactly into these brackets.  I’ve put some examples for costs at the end.

Item 10 students in school 20 students in school 10 students in school with hotel/long distance transport 20 students in school with hotel/long distance transport
10 students lead by organisation’s own staff
Cost of printing books £197 £394 £197 £394 £197
Staff time £490 £620 £490 £620 0
Hotel 0 0 £625 £750 0
Remote support staff (publishing and so on) £225 £225 £350 £350 £350
Staff expenses/transport £80 £150 £250 £375 0
Cover art £50 £100 £50 £100 £50
Core costs £325 £325 £450 £575 £450
Total £1367 £1,814 £2,412 £3,164 £1,147

Some notes:

  • Hotel prices can vary widely – I’ve used a representative one.
  • Cover art is supplied by this system:
  • Core costs is worked out using the Randy Pausch Rule for the purposes of this exercise.  (
  • Leaders are paid £13 per hour, and this calculation assumes a secondary school. Adults would be another £130 because they work longer hours.
  • Some camps come in cheaper – schools we work with regularly need far less support and draw on less core costs.
  • We lose money on a fair few camps. Sometimes that’s because they were harder to arrange than others, and sometimes it’s because we took a loss for, say, our first camp in Africa or some of our work in special schools: we are a charity after all.
  • We are trialing colour books for Caesar Bond, this analysis doesn’t include that.

This could be worked out more thoroughly by going through QuickBooks and my own timesheets (I am the remote support staff at the moment) – but I doubt that would move the needle more than 20% in any direction.

Screenshot 2020-03-02 at 09.14.16 Screenshot 2020-03-02 at 09.22.36

Slides from CM2019

Joe presented at Communication Matters this year and we’ve just realised we didn’t make the slides available (well, they are on the web, we didn’t link to them). Our bad:

Our abstract is:

Last year Comic Relief gave us £45,000 to make copyright-free resources for AAC.  We made what we thought would work, interviewed some AAC VIPs and then found out that we’d built the wrong thing.  So we made them again. We repeated that process a couple of times and rewrote The Open Voice Factory (our free open source AAC-software) completely from scratch.

In this talk we’ll show you the software and pagesets we made. We’ll talk about the many ways we messed up. We’ll talk out being on the wrong end of fraud, being prepared to bankrupt our own organisation, crying down the phone at regulators, and about how it’s easier to talk to Lee Ridley than it is the RCSLT. This talk is for anyone who wants to share their work, anyone who has written a pageset, and anyone who’s ever been enraged by red tape.

…and the slides are here.

Cover Artists Wanted!

We’re looking for artists. At MCM in October I saw various artists selling custom sketches for £20-£35 and thought “£50 worth of that sort of art would be good enough for us to use as a cover for White Water Writers books”.
So I contacted a bunch and we’ve had some awesome covers come through that I’m really pleased with. We’ve got several artists we’re now working with but we’d like to have more because that gives us a variety of styles and some resilience for when we’re doing six or so books in a week. So if you know anyone who does Good Art and would sell us a sketch for £50 of around this sort of quality please send them my way.
I’m hyper aware that artists should be paid fairly, and I want to be very clear that I’m NOT looking for “Produce me a high quality professional cover for this low fee” I’m looking for “Give us a sketch that we can use in our cover for this book that these kids made for this set fee”. It’s very much “£50 worth of your art” rather than “Do lots of art for £50”.
What I need is: Referrals to artists who you think might be interested. Ideally I want a sample of the sort of work they can produce for the fee.
You can see all my previous working on the ‘improve cover art for WWW’ project at and I’d be broadly interested in what people think of that.
Any ideas?

This is rubbish

In February we developed and applied for funding for a new project about improving recycling. You can see the developement at application here. I’ve now got around to blogging about it.

This is rubbish increases recycling in a local area by working face-to-face with residents to give them the information, feedback, and, dare I say, competitive incentive to do so.

The short pitch goes like this:

“Sam wants to recycle, but keeps putting rubbish in the wrong boxes. Sam mostly buys the same things every week, so when Alice came to his house and showed him how to sort one of his bins properly it meant it got it right for years to come. She came back a couple of weeks later to check in, and gave him a big fancy sticker to put on his recycling bin.

Alice also got to visit other houses in the street and say ‘you know, some people on your street doubled the amount of recycling they’re doing recently, would you like some help with your sorting?’. It turns out that ‘what your neighbours do’ is a really powerful way of encouraging behaviour change, and so the rest of the street put much more thought into recycling.

Our project pays people like Alice to do these visits and we believe that this will raise the amount and quality of local recycling in a highly cost-effective way”

We even filmed a handy video!

We love this project, we love that it motivates people who don’t normally engage, we love that it’s highly kid friendly “no daddy, that goes in the blue box”, and we love that the hyper local nature of it means that it cuts through many of the national issues with recycling (different local authorities accept different products in different setups). Most of all we love that it solves a tiny but ridiculously common problem – that tiny doubt that everyone has when they put something in the bin that they’ve chosen the wrong one.

The funding was denied (The request was for a small pilot study) but it will remain in our list of projects that we’re hoping to build something with.

New Project: Caesar Bond!

Caesar Bond is our first prison project.

We have a collaborative writing project that we do in schools and universities.In involves groups designing a narrative together, and then each taking charge of different character’s actions as they work out the detailed steps of the plot. The writers keep control of their character right through until the book is published, which is normally five days after they start working.

When we started working in prisons, we took a slightly different approach. We’ve been working with groups of fathers, who obviously don’t see their kids much, so rather than making a character from scratch and seeing how that character fits into the story, the writers have been using their kids as the characters in the book. Better yet, the kids get an extra visitation day and come in during the project to illustrate the book. It’s really quite emotional.

We call this project “Caesar Bond” (as in, ‘seize the bond’), which is also the pen name we use for the books.

You can see the results of the first project here.