Jo has been hard at work this week building the additional functionality for our website to be able to host the ffrinDiaith project, which is aiming at matching Welsh learners with Welsh speakers to build friendships and regular practice opportunities.
ffrinDiaith grew out of three different seeds – first of all, Hywel Gwynfryn‘s idea to encourage Welsh speakers to ‘adopt’ learners, as he’s done himself. He was pointed at SSiW on Twitter, got in touch, and saw that our remarkably positive community was a great place to start the ball rolling. We loved his idea, and agreed to stick up a quick and dirty database for people to add themselves – via Google docs – which has already got almost 500 people registered, at about a 4 or 5:1 ratio learners to speakers.
Then, we heard from Nia Parry, who had been discussing a similar idea with Craig ab Iago (one of the finalists in this year’s Dysgwr y Flwyddyn competition) – and when we told Nia what we were already doing with Hywel, she was hugely supportive and keen to be involved. Having Nia involved with any project to do with Welsh learners is like getting a tub of fairy dust to sprinkle over everything…:-)
And then (showing that when it’s the right time, a good idea will sprout all over the place) we heard from Siôn Meredith and Siwan Hywel on behalf of the 6 Welsh for Adults centres – it turned out that they had been thinking along very similar lines, had suggested a project like this as part of their response to the Task and Finish Group Leighton Andrews AM had set up to consider how to improve the success rate of adult education for Welsh learners, and were hoping that the idea might draw down some funding.
We met for a coffee and chat in the Big Rock Café in Porthmadog, and agreed that we would be happy to invest in adding the necessary extra functionality to our website to run the project, and that we would consider the ffrinDiaith database to be shared between us and the 6 Centres, and that they’d be welcome to export the data if they wanted to go in a different direction later on. It seemed like a really positive basis on which to start working, and at the end of the meeting we had the additional delight of discovering that Charlotte, who runs the Big Rock Café, is an SSiW learner!
She promptly refused to let us pay, which made us feel like genuine rock stars, and remains one of my all-time favourite SSiW moments…:-)
So, what’s actually happening now?
Jo’s always very tied up for time, so we decided to steal him from ourselves, in a way – putting a slight delay on our own social layer in order to get ffrinDiaith ready to be launched at the Eisteddfod.
It means a number of new things for us – searchable profiles, private messages, location checking, all built around a completely new kind of account, because ffrinDiaith members will not be SSiW members unless they specifically ask to be. Complicated, but fun – at least, Jo hasn’t actually killed himself yet – I know, because I can see him on Skype…;-)
We’ve been aiming at having it ready for staff at the 6 Centres to play around with by today – currently, that’s looking as though we’re going to fall just short, and have to settle for inviting them on Monday instead.
But shortly after that, we should be ready to do a soft launch on it, and make it available to all of you in advance of the official launch on Wednesday 7th in the National Eisteddfod…:)
Over time, I think it’s going to be a hugely important project – and I’m really looking forward to when we can do some stuff to integrate video conversations and video feedback, and seeing this grow into a new and powerful way not only to welcome learners into the Welsh-speaking community, but also to revitalise and expand Welsh-speaking communities all around the world…:-)