22 April 2010


T4P has gone to Jazz Fest to party like my spouse is turning 40 - because HE IS!

No new posts until May 5 or thereabouts.

To quote Depeche Mode: Enjoy the Silence.

21 April 2010

What I'm Reading

  • John Haydon reviews Beth Kanter's 7 Qualities of Networked Nonprofit. How does your organization measure up?
  • 11 killer FB apps for your nonprofit, from the babes at Social Fish
  • Speaking of FB, I asked for help on figuring out the differences between FB Fan Pages and FB Groups & lots of people came to the rescue with great resources (ooo! charts!).
  • Got a FB Fan Page already? Pimp it up!
  • The Library of Congress acquires the entire Twitter archive (yes, the whole way back to May 2006 when the service was launched).  Bring on the powerful data tools!
  • Biggest detriment to happiness? Turns out yt's not fighting with your loved ones, a bad boss, annoying colleagues, or running out of bourbon just after the neighborhood liquor store closes- it's long commutes, which does not bode well for those of us in and around DC (which, I might point out, includes our nation's lawmakers).
  • Scott Briscoe hits another home run (or at least a triple) at Acronym with Uncommon Sensical HR Practices. I particularly love the idea of not worrying about all the scheduling - it's a ROWE thang.
  • Do nonprofit boards really want younger members? The answer seems to be no.
  • Fun (and timely) article from one of my colleagues:  email lessons from a hockey coach. Go Flyers!
  • Build a better "About Us" page.
  • The National Journal just released a great report, Washington in the Information Age, that shows how DC insiders are like - and different from - the general public in consumption of information.  (That link up there takes you to an interactive site for the data, and you can also download the full PDF report.)
  • Being seduced by the IPad?  12 reasons why NOT to get one, and some questions that might push you the other way.
  • Currently between books, but I'm planning to read Dave Eggers's Zeitoun while in NOLA for Jazz Fest.

20 April 2010

And the Webby Goes To...

Hopefully NACHRI!

NACHRI (well, OK, our public policy arm, N.A.C.H.) has been nominated for a Webby in the association category for our Speak Now For Kids web site. You can't help us with that, other than sending us good wishes for a win.

What you CAN help us with is winning the People's Choice award. Go register and vote for us! Hurry! Voting closes Thursday, April 29!

19 April 2010

Always the Last to Know: Trakur

Free social media tracking in 60 seconds or less: Trakur.

Thanks to @edbennett for the heads up.

16 April 2010

Friday Top 5

Annual pilgrimage to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival kicks off next week. This will be our 5th year in a row. My Top 5 Jazz Fest Moments:
  1. Everything about 2006 - it was the first time the city was open for business after Hurricane Katrina. My beloved Crescent City was still on her knees, but she was fighting to get up, and I was there to bear witness.
  2. Getting to meet Fats Domino at Tipitina's
  3. Kermit Ruffins at Vaughn's. Actually, that's any Thursday in New Orleans, but it's a particularly fun show during Fest.
  4. Prejean's quail, pheasant, and andouille gumbo. It's, like, the best thing you'll ever eat.
  5. Lunch at Commander's Palace the Monday after Fest - make sure to ask to be seated in the room with the big party that comes in every year.
Image Credit: the official 2010 Congo Square poster

15 April 2010

Handling Information Overload

I've been thinking about information overload for the past month or so.

It started with Jeff De Cagna's breakfast session on Solving 21st Century Problems back in early March.

Then the #assnchat for March 16 focused on this topic.

Then I read this fun piece by Garrison Keillor in Salon.

And, in thinking about it, I realized that I actually do a pretty good job of this. I'm not always totally on top of every latest rumor about every bleeding edge technology or device. But I'm reasonably well-informed about most things related to social media and association management, while still being productive and successful in my job, spending a fair amount of time volunteering for ASAE and other groups in the DC community, writing this blog, writing an active and well-syndicated NFL blog, preserving time to read non-work-related stuff, having a life outside of all that and unplugging on a regular basis - all WITHOUT a smart phone.

In short, I have some tips to share for managing information overload.

My number 1 tip may be the hardest to replicate: be a fast reader who has good recall. I was already pretty good at this, but I got REALLY good in grad school. I do NOT recommend starting grad school just to acquire this skill. That's like cutting off your arm to cure a paper cut. But anything you can do to speed up your pace and increase your retention will help. Yes, that means practice, and it also means focusing on one thing at a time.

That brings me to tip 2: multitasking is a myth. Music (preferably without lyrics) in the background while you're writing? Sure. Skimming the headlines on the elliptical machine? You bet. Repeated cycling back and forth from working on next fiscal year's budget to answering your email? Not so much. Every time you force your brain between disparate tasks, you lose momentum. That's disastrous, particularly for tasks that require "flow."

Tip 3: know and use the difference between "reading" and "skimming." That rapid pace deep retention reading I do? I don't use it for everything. I don't need to devote that level of energy to my morning WaPo, or most magazine articles, or some emails, or most tweets, or some blog posts. The trick is to be able to QUICKLY identify which level of attention/retention is required and choose appropriately. But be a voracious reader and skimmer - you never know where your next great idea will be coming from.

Tip 4: choose what you pay attention to carefully. Social Media Today just wrote about this under the guise of trimming your lists. But the point is: only pay attention to what you're really paying attention to. No matter how "famous" the person is, if you're not getting anything out of following them or reading their blog, cut 'em. Be ruthless. You'll never get to the meat if you're inundated with fluff.

Tip 5: have a solid information organization system. Mine's basically 3 pronged: my totally old skool, no-wifi, no email Palm Pilot (feel free to mock me, but I think, used properly, it's the greatest productivity tool ever invented), my Del.icio.us bookmarks, and my relentlessly pruned and managed RSS feed. It's not fancy, it's not necessarily the latest technology or gizmo, but it enables me to keep basically everything I need to hand. It's supplemented by a carefully chosen group of Google docs (not everything, just the really important stuff), and, again, carefully chosen tweeps to follow. I don't need to be in touch with everyone, and I prune for value all the time.

A few more:

Only touch things once to the greatest degree possible. Your Outlook inbox is not a filing system. Neither is a giant pile o' papers on your desk. Neither is an about-to-topple-over-and-crush-you-in-the-middle-of-the-night stack of books and magazines next to your bed. If it's quick, deal with it now. If it's not quick but important, put it on a relentlessly pruned, SMALL pile to deal with as soon as you get a block of time (and keep a list of your priority items and make sure you know when your next block of time is coming - and the one after that). If it's FYI or for future reference, file it IMMEDIATELY. And when you *have* a block of time, don't futz around on Twitter. Twitter's for "I have 5 minutes between finishing this task and my next meeting." Likewise, when all you have is 5 minutes between finishing this task and your next meeting, that is NOT the time to start writing the organization-wide marketing plan for next year. Fit the tasks to the time you have.

Set boundaries. Does technology really "set us free"? I'm not sure that it's progress that Dad can email from the Blackberry while on a conference call while pushing Junior on the swings, particularly given what we know about our lack of ability to truly multitask. With very few exceptions (you're a doctor or Barack Obama - and if so, thanks for reading, Mr. President!), no one's life is dependent on your being accessible 24/7. Trust me - you're not that indispensable. None of us are. And constantly checking up on your staff (which is what refusing to be offline EVER is all about) tells them that you don't have confidence in them. Is that really the message you want to send?

Does that message (that it's OK to set boundaries) have to come from the top of your organization? It certainly helps, but in my experience, no. You *can* set your own boundaries, particularly if, when you're on the job, you're 100% on, and you're clear about when you are and aren't available - and if you really feel that you can't set boundaries in your current organization, you might want to look for another job.

Related to that, beware false urgency. Just because Twitter and FB and email and smart phones make it possible for me to answer you in 30 seconds at any time of the day or night doesn't mean that you actually need that. Have you ever noticed that if, say, you're somewhere without Internet access for a few days, when you return to your email, there are THOUSANDS of messages? And if you start at the end of the various chains, you notice that 80% or more of the "issues" resolved themselves? There's a lesson there.

Own your life (work and otherwise). Own your time. Make conscious choices about how you want to spend it and what's important to you. Put down the iPhone every once in a while. Set your priorities and don't let yourself be distracted from them by what's new and shiny. It's trite, but no one ever said, on her deathbed: "Why did I spent all that time with my friends and family? Why didn't I spend more time on my Droid?"

Edited May 25 to add:  Amber Naslund (aka @ambercadabra) has a great blog post about how she keeps herself organized and together in 10 relatively simple (but not necessarily easy) steps.

14 April 2010

What I'm Reading

  • Most marketers are lousy conversationalists, which, Jason Falls argues, is a real problem for marketers trying to operate on social networks.
  • "Optimization? We don't need no stinkin' site optimization!" Uh, yes you do.
  • "ROI! ROI! ROI!" The problem is, we have too much data and too little insight. (Shout-out to Maddie Grant for the link.)
  • Speaking of ROI, a lot of calculations focus on creating the biggest "R" possible. Andy Sernovitz asks: what if we shifted our focus to keeping the "I" small?
  • Crowdsourcing moves to health care - is health care ready?
  • Talk about Battle of the Titans! Google Docs v. MS Office, and Google's betting the house on the cloud, real time collaboration, and simplicity. And they tend to win.
  • Eric Tsai's Dragon-Style Google/Twitter Fu is mighty indeed. Even better? He's willing to share his secrets.
  • I just finished the latest issue of MIT's Technology Review - it was a special issue focusing on the top 50 most innovative companies. Lots of good stuff on solar and on personalized medicine facilitated by work on the human genome, plus a feature article on Twitter.
  • I'm also re-reading Leon Uris's classic WWII novel Battle Cry. This was one of the first "adult" books my mom gave me to read when I was about 12. It's just as riveting and compelling as I remember. If you've never read it, I highly recommend it.
  • I'm also reading everything I can about the new HBO series "Treme." We just ordered HBO specifically so we could watch it. It's written & directed by the team behind "The Wire" and is set in New Orleans in the months after Hurricane Katrina, focusing on the lives of regular New Orleanians as they attempt to rebuild. I'm not a native, but I know the city and culture relatively well for a non-resident, and I'm loving the fact that they're not going to explain everything to you (don't know what a Big Chief is or why it's significant that multiple social aid & pleasure clubs are second lining together in last year's outfits? too bad) and that lots of local musicians are getting some air time, including my secret trumpet boyfriend, Kermit Ruffins.

13 April 2010

Remembering Dr. King

This month marks 42 years since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis while there in support of the striking African-American members of AFSCME Local 1733.

A memorial is in the works for the National Mall, but the fundraisers are still about $14 million short of their goal. Want to push them over the top? Check out this site for a variety of ways you can help build the dream.

12 April 2010

Always the Last to Know: iSketch

Get a cool app (for iPhone, iPod Touch and, shortly, iPad) and benefit (NACHRI member, natch) Mattel Children's Hospital in the process. Cameron Cohen, an 11 year old budding programmer and former patient at Mattle CH, has written iSketch, a well-reviewed drawing app for Apple devices and will donate up to $20,000 of the proceeds from the sales of the $.99 app.

Having fun while doing good FTW!

09 April 2010

Friday Top 5

It's the FINAL day of ASAE's call for volunteers. The Top 5 Reasons to Just Do It:
  1. You'll have a hand in shaping the direction of your profession.
  2. Resume-builder.
  3. Paying it forward - all this shit doesn't organize/write itself, you know!
  4. Badge flair.
  5. Getting to meet, know, and party with some damn fine people.
Go sign up for something. Yes, now!

08 April 2010

Food for Thought

Why oh why do we always (over) focus on: "What are the risks of engaging in social media?"


Why aren't we asking: "What are the risks of staying on the sidelines?"

07 April 2010

What I'm Reading

  • Renee Robbins on introducing social media to your team at the office for Engage365.
  • More goodness from Engage365 - Twitter tools for event marketers. Not hip to Engage365 yet? What are you waiting for?
  • Studying for the CAE Exam in May? Make sure you mark Mondays at 7 pm EDT for the YAP virtual study group (or at least check out the online transcript after the fact).
  • How do we get from Web 2.0 (the social web) to Web 3.0 (the semantic web)? Linked data.
  • Interested in using Foursquare for something other than stalking people? Mashable has some great examples (I particularly love what Chicago's up to).
  • This is a favorite topic/pet peeve of mine, but don't want to sound like a tool? Don't say any of these dumb-ass things.
  • I finished Next. Sadly, it was far from Hynes's best work. It reminded me of the irritation I frequently felt in my days of hectic business travel in the first few years after September 11, when all these people in obscure locations were always freaking out about terrorism, and I was like "Dude, the terrorists don't even know where Nebraska IS. Trust me. I live 7 blocks from the Capitol, and I'm managing not to act like a complete dolt here. Buck up."
  • I'm now re-reading Agatha Christie's classic And Then There Were None - first of hers I ever read and still the best.

06 April 2010

Generations, Leadership and Change

A number of things, including this post on leadership mindsets by Jamie Notter, have gotten me thinking about the major forces that I think are currently shaping the association community.

"The economy” and "health care reform" both seem like the obvious answers, right?

Particularly given that NACHRI is a health care organization, and we all keep getting those blast emails "from" John Graham urging us to...well, I actually haven't paid a ton of attention since I already have my mind made up on health care (the only major thing that's wrong with the bill Obama signed about two weeks ago is that there's STILL no public option, and since I lack representation in Congress, what I think doesn't really matter anyway). But (I digress) no, not health care.

And the thing about the economy is that it cycles. What's going on now is a difference of degree, not of kind.

People who know me might guess that I'd say, "Social media! And it's going to cure cancer, assure me a lifetime supply of Jimmy Choos, and get us all puppies!" Yeah, not so much - social media provides a new platform (or platforms, if you prefer), but it's for a very old school activity: communication.

I think the most important force shaping the association community today is generational change.

As described in the Lifecourse work of William Strauss and Neil Howe, generations (like the economy) cycle, but the key difference is that a large majority of associations have never directly experienced significant generational change.

Most associations were built by, are currently staffed at senior levels by, and have memberships largely made up of idealistic “prophet” Baby Boomers. I think that provides the foundation for most associations, and carries with it some very good and very bad things: the level of commitment we require of our volunteers, the fact that we expect members to happily support "common good" programs, the focus on process over outcomes, the emphasis on mission and the willingness to make personal sacrifices in service to that mission, and even the high value placed on gathering face to face.

Gen-X "nomads" are much more pragmatic - we're not joiners, and we don't follow movements. Is the membership model dying? I don't really know, but if it does die, I think it will be Gen-X that kills it - not the economy or social media, both of which are usually held at fault.

Xers lack patience with the hierarchy of belonging and with traditional forms of engagement and volunteering. If the price of admission involves reading hundreds of pages of rote committee reports and spending long hours in meetings that don’t actually accomplish anything, we'll form our own groups. Remember the Bush 41 recession of the early 90s, when Xers were graduating? No room at the (workforce) inn? Fine - I'll just go do my own thing (and invent Netscape in the process).

I think this generational shift will require that our membership models become more limited and personalized, our decision-making processes become more nimble, and our model of volunteering become more focused on outcomes and less on process.

Further complicating the picture is the emergence of the Millennials, a "hero" generation, into adulthood. Heroes value community and teamwork, in direct contrast to the independent and cynical nomadic Xers, and they are much more sanguine about institutions and authority than either nomads or prophets. This “hero” generation is our future.

To quote The Hourglass Blog:

"[D]oes leadership mean something different to each generation, and therefore our leadership systems will constantly change as each new generational perspective comes into power?"

I think the answer is “yes” – our leadership models will have to change to mirror generational change. Given the single-generation life-span of many associations, that will, I believe, be wrenching.

How will your organization respond to generational change? How will we, as a community, respond? How is generational change causing you to think differently about volunteerism? Membership? Mission? Leadership? Or are you even thinking differently at all at this point?

05 April 2010

Always the Last to Know: Twitter Contributors

Twitter is currently beta-testing a "contributors" function, which allows individual attribution within a corporate account. Apparently, they've been using it themselves for a while and are starting to roll it out to some major corporate accounts (currently at least Salesforce and Starbucks, and, by the time you read this, possibly others as well).

It seems to me that this will give organizations the best of both worlds - the ability to have an account presence that stays with the organization while also supporting those authentic individual voices that are so key to social media communication. Can't wait until they let the rest of us have it!

02 April 2010

Friday Top 5

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to facilitate the session on "World-Class Customer Service" for the ASAE Super Idea Swap. The Top 5 Lessons We Learned about Customer Service:
  1. You need to set people's expectations properly and then exceed them: "We want you to be delighted."
  2. "Just listen."
  3. Personalization, paying attention, and demonstrating a caring attitude towards your customers are key.
  4. It's amazing how far an apology can take you - and even trying to make it right earns good will.
  5. Empower your line staff to do what they need to do to fix problems - and then support their decisions.
A bonus 5:
  • Hire for fit - front line customer service reps need to like people and be able to stay calm in a crisis.
  • Just as membership is everyone's business, in an association, customer service is everyone's business. Everyone - including your top execs - needs to spend some time on the front lines talking to everyday members and listening to their everyday complaints on a regular basis.
  • Develop cross-departmental linkages and relationships. It facilitates cross-training and makes it easier to get to resolution on complex issues.
  • Pay attention to frequent complaints and seek to find and address the underlying cause.
  • Follow the Ritz-Carlton model: YOU own the problem and need to see it to resolution.

Edited May 5 to add: Great list of 10 examples of outstanding customer service

01 April 2010

Happy April Fools: Office (and other) Pranks

I've never done anything this creative, but yes, this is EPIC:

The best pranks I've been involved with have included:
  • Pulling all of inveterate Beaconfire prankster John Brian's pranks on him. All at once.
  • Taking the college game "Bang, You're Dead" to a whole new level by helping a friend send "Bang, You're Dead" postcards from all over the world to another friend over about 2 years.
  • Completely swapping two people's dorm rooms down to the last tiny detail (payback for the "Bang, You're Dead" prank, and yes, I got to play both sides of that game).
  • Lying in wait on the floor at the foot of my brother's bed at night, waiting until he got in bed & got good & comfortable with the lights out long enough to be almost asleep, then leaping up and scaring the hoo-has out of him. If he drops dead at 42, it's probably my fault.
What's the best prank you've ever pulled? The best prank that's ever been pulled on you?