31 March 2009

Spread the Word to End the Word

I'm blog-jacking myself to promote Special Olympics' Spread the Word to End the Word campaign.

Join the fight to end the use of "retard" as an epithet.

30 March 2009

Always the Last to Know: Buzz Meter

The March issue of MIT's Technology Review profiles Jon Kleinberg's Buzz Meter. Kleinberg, a Cornell computer science professor who is also a MacArthur Foundation "Genius Grant" winner and an elected member of AAAS and the National Academy of Engineering, studies the flow of information around the Internet.

The Technology Review piece is about an algorithm he invented to allow social scientists to track the flow of the news cycle across the Internet in far more accurate ways, without having to have an exact text match for particular names, events, topics, or phrases. Kleinberg discovered that, while mainstream media is generally the first to break stories, blogs provide the "long tail" coverage after CNN et. al. have moved on.

The site requires login to read the article and see a larger version of the above graphic, but log in is free.

27 March 2009

Friday Top 5

Since I asked for your ideas yesterday, here are my Top 5 Unusual Online Sources of Inspiration and General Awesomeness:
  1. Salon.com - yeah, it's "traditional" media, but it's smart, liberal, and broad-based. I always learn something.
  2. Techmeme - all the tech news that's fit to print (online).
  3. Hecate - she's my friend, she's awesome, and it's TOTALLY unlike anything else I read on a regular basis.
  4. Frozen Tropics - because I need to know what's going on in my neighborhood.
  5. Go Fug Yourself - because we all need to laugh, and laughing at bad celebrity fashion choices is both fun and harmless.

26 March 2009

Baby Needs a New Pair of...

NOT shoes...OK, well, actually I always need a new pair of shoes, like, say, the ones to the right, but that's not what this post is about.

I'm getting a little burned out on my RSS feeds and could use some new inspiration.

What's your favorite UNUSUAL source of creativity, great ideas, awesomesauce, and general bad-assed-ness?

Note: no offense, but Beth Kanter, Katya Andresen, Guy Kawasaki, Seth Godin, Andy Sernovitz, Chris Brogan, Acronym, and all us bloggers on the A List and/or the Blogoclump do not constitute "unusual."

Hit me up with your favorites in the comments, yo!

24 March 2009

What I'm Reading

And finally....


Ada Lovelace Day Post: Mary Dixon Kies

In honor of Ada Lovelace Day, I'd like to recognize Mary Dixon Kies, the first woman to be awarded a patent from the US Patent and Trademark Office, in May of 1809, over 100 years before women could even vote. I quote USPTO:
In 1809, Mary Dixon Kies, a native of Killingly, Conn., received the first U.S. patent awarded to a woman for a process of weaving straw with silk or thread. Unfortunately, all records of this patent were destroyed in the Patent Office fire of 1836. First Lady Dolly Madison praised Kies for helping the hat industry and boosting the economy because, at the time, the U.S. government had put an embargo on all European goods.
Mary Dixon Kies was 57 years old at the time she was awarded her patent. Although women had earlier invented patentable devices, in keeping with the times when even a woman's ideas were not her own, their patents were awarded to their husbands. Mary Dixon Kies' invention simplified the process of weaving straw with silk and thread, contributing to the vital straw hat industry of the early 19th century. She was unsuccessful in profiting from her invention, however, and died peniless in Brookyln in 1837, at the age of 85.

Other Ada Lovelace Day posts about Mary Dixon Kies:

23 March 2009

More on Generations

Good presentation from Cherilyn Cepriano, who also happens to be one of my CAE Action Team rock stars!

(Sorry - wanted to embed it, but LinkedIn and Google docs seem to be un-matchy things.)

20 March 2009

Friday Top 5

I got hooked on Boston Legal reruns on Ion during all my client travel to Seattle last month, and it reminds me just how much I LOVE James Spader. So this Friday Top 5's for him.

Top 5 Best James Spader Roles EVER:
  1. Alan Shore, Boston Legal and, before that, The Practice
  2. E. Edward Grey, Secretary
  3. Steff, Pretty in Pink
  4. James Ballard, Crash
  5. Graham Dalton, sex lies & videotape
(And by the way, is that some awesomely feathered hair or what?)

19 March 2009

Got CAE?

Or thinking about it?

Weigh in on the discussion about the certification going on at Acronym.

Image Credit: Association Executives of North Carolina

18 March 2009

What I'm Reading

  • Have Twestions? Lynn Morton has answers.
  • Frank Fortin has a great post on the concepts of rhythm versus nourishment versus balance. I think he's spot-on about the utter uselessness of the concept of balance, by the way.
  • Bored with blogging? Chris Brogan can help you get past your writer's block.
  • Salon.com reminds us that if you aren't pissed off, you aren't paying attention.
  • Warming my little heart, the latest issue of MIT's Technology Review just showed up. Haven't dived in yet, but it's the annual 10 Emerging Technologies issue! YAY! Also, lots of good Always the Last to Know posts likely on the way....
  • Happy 1000th post, Ben. Although I'm not sure if I should take it personally or not:
For my own part, I have mixed emotions. I used to be, well, one of only a handful who blogged about associations. Now there are dozens. Whatever differentiation blogging once brought me is long gone. But on the other hand, I’m excited to see that the association blogging community has graduated from a blogoclump to a blogosphere. And I’m always willing to spread the love.

But with the masses comes more volume. More noise, less signal. More politics, less community. More distractions, less clarity. How will you feel when it tips?

Here's hoping T4P, despite being one of the "new kids" (although I'm an "old kid" blogger, just not about associations) falls on the side of the blessed redeemed in signal/community/clarity, and not the heathen infidels of noise and distraction....

17 March 2009

It's Not the Tools, Yo!

It's the management!

One of the MAIN points I make in any presentation I do on SocMed is that people who want to ban b/c of “productivity issues” are focusing on the wrong thing. Big time.

What they're talking about isn't a technology issue - it's a management issue. If someone is inclined to screw around on the job, they're going to do it by whatever means necessary. Block social media tools? They'll play solitaire on the computer. Uninstall solitaire? They'll surf the web. Block web access? Personal phone calls. Turn off the phones and block cell service? Coffee breaks and walks around the block. Lock them in the office? Bathroom breaks. Monitor bathroom breaks? Aside from turning into the USPS, you can't prevent people from daydreaming.

Any tool - ANY tool, including a pencil and a piece of paper - can be mis-used. That doesn't mean we should run around banning things that are useful, just because someone might use it to be less maximally productive every single second of every single work day.

And where did we EVER get the idea that people can be laser-focused for 8 solid hours, 5 days a week, anyway?

16 March 2009

Always the Last to Know - Guidestar

Now, I know Guidestar. You know Guidestar. We all know Guidestar.

But did you know that they've completely upgraded their interface?


13 March 2009

The Friday Top 5

My Top 5 Favorite Ways to Pimp My Cubicle:
  1. Lava lamp. Classic.
  2. Potted plant pink flamingo. Why should yards have all the fun?
  3. 4-foot tall blow up Scream. Because a visual representation of my state of mind = hours of fun.
  4. Dogbert, Evil Network Administrator. Those were the days...
  5. Conference badges, complete with attached badge flare.

Photo credit: elated

12 March 2009

Always the Last to Know - Sixth Sense

This is so freakin' cool.

I quote my spouse: "What I find the most incredible about it is that it uses completely existing technology to create something greater than the parts."

11 March 2009

What I'm Reading

  • Twitter. But not excessively. But I'm still not really "getting it" outside of conferences, where I can DEFINITELY see the benefit.
  • A bunch of deliverables for clients. Actually, writing and reading those.
  • Kevin's great post about the success of the ACCA annual conference. Meetings professionals should check out the lessons ACCA learned and think about how you can apply them to your own organization.
  • The new Hourglass Blog, particularly the post about Gen-x and leadership. Very active comments - go weigh in!
  • Posts about changes to FB pages and terms of service. Is your organization on FB? Educate yourself.
  • Speaking of FB, Maddie's rant is hilarious. How do you know FB is over? When your mom sends you a friend request. Wish I could take credit for that, but it's a paraphrase of a recent tweet by @BstTwt.
  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. I used to belong to a book club (until everyone started having kids and wanted to meet at 8 am in Silver Spring on Saturdays rather than downtown over dinner on weeknights), and several members were BIG fans of Kingsolver as a fiction writer. Me? Not so much, to the point that I've given away or sold my copies of her books that I purchased to read for the book club, and that's QUITE unusual for me, as my many overstuffed bookcases can attest. AVM is different - it's a non-fiction, essay-style account of her family's year of eating only local, in-season foods. It's kind of preachy and her "aren't we the coolest family EVER?" tone can get more than a little annoying. But her larger points about the hidden costs of the "cheap," out-of-season goods provided by industrial agriculture are quite good.

10 March 2009

Visual Thinking

Still pondering the whole idea of visual thinking from Dan Roam's keynote at the recent Great Ideas Conference.

I am not a visual thinker. There are white boards all over the offices at Beaconfire, and 90% of them have all sorts of diagrams and sketches all over them. Mine falls into the other 10% - largely blank (at least when it's not pro football season). I'm a "Red Pen" person 100%. Actually, the point of the red pen person is that you can eventually get them up to draw on the white board if you can make them mad enough that you're oversimplifying the problem. I guess I have an exceptionally long fuse, because I'm never going to get up and take the pen of my own accord. So I may be the elusive "No Pen" person. I'm all about words, baby.

And yet, the concept of visual thinking is really appealing to me.

Roam pointed out that ALL 5 year olds report being able to draw, if you ask them. But at some point, most of us decide that we can't, and that's that. No more drawing. Or as he put it, we're "not taught to make use of our inherent visual sense."

And I really love the idea of simplicity on the other side of complexity, which is what I think this is fundamentally all about. My spouse, who also foolishly studied philosophy, calls it the "essay paradox." Most philosophers start out expressing their ideas in essays, generally 100 pages or less. Then a handful get famous and decide they need to write books. BIG IMPORTANT books. The next thing you know, you're saddled with all 600+ pages of A Theory of Justice when "Justice as Fairness" says pretty much the same thing in WAY fewer words.

As Roam articulates them, the rules of visual thinking are:
  • Whoever best describes the problem is the one most likely to solve it.
  • Whoever draws the best picture gets the funding.
  • The more human the picture, the more human the response.
So how do you do it?
  • Draw a circle & give it a name (Roam says it should generally be “me” because people are usually at the center of their own problems.)
  • Divide problem into 6 slices: who/what, how much, where, when, how, and why
  • Determine which of the 6 are involved
So what about those of us who, left to our own devices, will literally NEVER do this? Are we SOL?

I don't think so, and here's why: those questions are the key.
  • Who/what?
  • How much?
  • Where?
  • When?
  • How?
  • Why?
Sure, you *can* answer them with pictures. And if that's the way you work, go for it. But it seems to me that there's no reason you can't answer them with words, if that's the way your brain works. And (Red Pen Person alert) with words, you can explain the thinking behind your answers. Additionally, Roam identified one potential flaw in answering "why?" with a picture - confusing correlation with causation. It seems to me that if you're forced to document your reasoning (by using words), you'll be less likely to fall victim to that confusion.

Or am I completely wrong and doomed to be mired in complexity if I can't overcome my disinclination to draw stick figures?

09 March 2009

Going to SxSW?

SxSW kicks off in Austin, TX this Friday, March 13. If you'll be going, be sure to swing by Beaconfire's Lounge with a Conscience (aka "The Beacon") in room 19-A on the fourth floor of the Austin Convention Center.

Check out the Schedule of Events (some of which include free food) or follow us on Twitter @TheBeaconSXSW.

06 March 2009

Friday Top 5

Top 5 Signs that Spring is ON ITS WAY!
  1. Big March snowstorm Monday that's already completely melted.
  2. Daffodil tops poking up (through the snow earlier this week) in my front yard.
  3. It's warm enough to crack open the window at night.
  4. I didn't need my winter overcoat today for the first time in months.
  5. It'll be 75 degrees Sunday, and I'll be in my garden, cleaning up winter debris!
Photo credit: algo

05 March 2009

Always the Last to Know - Life Magazine Photo Archive

LIFE magazine has digitized their famous photo archive and made it available through Google.

How awesome is that?

I'll tell you how awesome that is - REALLY awesome!

04 March 2009

Always the Last to Post - Great Ideas

(I do have an excuse – I went almost straight from sunny Miami to snowy Seattle to visit a client out there.)

Scenes from Great Ideas:

YAP can party, part 1: for me, the conference opened with an unofficial YAP meet up in the Champions Sports Bar on Friday night, with all the usual suspects showing up as people’s flights got in.

Saturday, Dan Roam kicked us off with a presentation on creative problem solving based on his book, The Back of the Napkin. As someone who is definitely a “red pen” type, the idea of trying to sketch answers to problems is more than a little terrifying. But I loved his contention that anyone can solve any problem s/he can articulate at all with pictures, the simpler the better. Now I just have to get over my fear of drawing unrecognizable stick figures and try it. ASAE's posted video of the session.

Lindy Dreyer and Scott Briscoe rocked it out with a double session on Blogging and Twitter in the Social Media Lounge. I joined Twitter after the Technology Conference a month ago, but it wasn’t until I installed and started using Tweet Deck during their presentation that I finally started to get it. I was live tweeting what was happening, picked up @JeffHurt as a follower, and was able to ask his questions and get responses for him and back to him in the session. How cool is that?

Lindy and Scott also raised two important points about blogging: one, that you drive traffic just as well by being thought-provoking as you do by being controversial; and two, that there are LOTS of ways to measure the impact of a blog that have nothing to do with the number of comments you get. And someone in the audience posed a great question: when does social media move from the midnight hour "I'm doing this on my own time because I enjoy it and/or it's the right thing to do" to a 9-to-5 job?

YAP can party, part 2: Purdy Lounge. The first rule of Purdy Lounge is you don’t talk about Purdy Lounge. The second rule of Purdy Lounge is you do not talk about Purdy Lounge. Fortunately, LOTS of people took pictures! I don't know what was in those blue Yaptacular drinks, but Steve the Bartender, my hat is off to you!

Sunday morning, Jason Della Rocca's and I gave a repeat of the session Amy Hissrich and I did on wikis in the Social Media Lounge at the annual last August, but with a twist: Jason and I divided our participants into groups and had them write on flip charts everything they knew about:
  • the uses of wikis
  • the technology and tools
  • management issues and questions
  • "the bad stuff" (aka legalities)
By the second round, our clever session participants had figured out that we were doing collaborative creation of knowledge in a way that encouraged people to focus on the process rather than the technology (which can scare people). The second half of the session was a debrief of all the information people had posted and their questions.

To make it even more meta, I posted the session notes to the Associapedia entry on wikis afterwards - go check it out & add stuff!

A bunch of us had presented Sunday morning and it was a GORGEOUS day, so the better part of wisdom for the afternoon was an unsession by the pool. I won't steal Sterling's thunder, but I will point out that I think we brainstormed the future of integrated (online and off, pre- during, and post-) events. No one cares about the glass - they only care about what's IN the glass. And once the glass is gone, what happens to the contents? Why does it have to go away, too? No tweets because I didn't want my laptop to get wet - and I had yet another "ah ha!" Twitter moment when I got back online and saw the plaintive "where did everyone go?" messages.

At that evening's reception, I hooked up with some great association types who were very au courant about Miami. We headed down to South Beach to the Van Dyke Cafe for dinner and live music. It was the first time I spent an evening out in the United States where most of the evening took place in a language I don't speak. Which I think was a phenomenal statement on the role of globalization in our society, and our need, as association professionals and Americans more generally, to broaden our knowledge and experiences to be ready to engage the world.

Monday, I must admit to skipping Patti Digh's session. I think I'm categorically too cynical and probably would have spent the entire time tweeting snarky remarks. I texted Maddie near the end to see how it was going, and she texted me back that everyone was crying. Which is great for them, but SO not my scene. If it IS yours, check out the session video.

I did, however, go to Jamie Notter and Jeff De Cagna's totally tubular session on Leadership Lessons from 80's Music. Apparently, we have Jeff, a well-known lover of 80's music, to thank for the tunes angle, but the lessons themselves were very timely:
  1. Embrace Common Purpose
  2. Everyone Leads
  3. Be Global
  4. Be Open
  5. Learn about Science
  6. Learn about Generations
Jamie's blogging in more depth about several of the topics on Get Me Jamie Notter, so go check it out.

(It also reminds me that I need to go hit iTunes for some critical missing elements in my own 80's playlist.)

After MORE COWBELL, it was time for a session on ASHA's use of social media led by Maggie McGary that touched on a new research report by Stratton Publishing, and then back to the airport.

Want more?
(yep, this is also this week's What I'm Reading blog roundup post)

03 March 2009

Always the Last to Know - DC Snowmap

Hopefully, yesterday's storm was the last gasp of winter here in DC, but just in case, check out this cool mashup from the DC government that allows you to track snow removal on a street-by-street basis:

DC Snow Response Reporting System

Image by theothertiger

02 March 2009

Let The Members Decide!


Because you know what always happens - you only find out what you already knew because that was all you thought to ask about.

Also, you're terrified of including any open-ended questions, not only because all that commentary screws up your nice cross-tabs, but also because you're worried that it will set expectations among your members that you're actually going to DO EVERYTHING they suggest. Even the totally contradictory stuff.

Does Starbucks hold the answer?

No, I don't mean the traditional $5 Starbucks gift card as a bribe to encourage participation.

I mean MyStarbucksIdea. Starbucks recently launched a community site to allow customers to make suggestions. Then people discuss the ideas. Then the community votes. Then they take action on the winning ideas.

What a radical concept!

And you notice how Starbucks is using this to create engagement among the members of their community? And you know what they say about engaged members, don't you?

01 March 2009

The Friday Top 5

(a little late)

Top 5 Things That Are Great About Being Home (after way too much travel in February)
  1. Saturday and Sunday WaPo delivered to my door. And the time to read them in my own kitchen, rather than at National airport.
  2. Finally getting started on this year's New Year's resolution. The first batch of baguettes tasted great and had quality crusts, but the interior was a little too dense. I think I needed an extra 30 minutes on the final rise.
  3. Getting to put the suitcase away.
  4. Planning and shopping for a whole week's menus with my spouse. And looking forward to being around to eat them.
  5. Finally having a few spare minutes to complete my CAE renewal paperwork.