30 September 2010

Here Comes Clay Shirky

Next entry in the irregular "What I highlighted and why while reading Here Comes Everybody" series.
If everyone can do something, it is no longer rare enough to pay for, even if it is vital.

Chapter 3, pg. 79
This relates to what Maggie McGary's been writing recently about getting paid for blogging, and the recent story of the HuffPo blogger/citizen journalist who quit because they wouldn't pay her (which Maggie also references/links).  It also relates to previous conversations that have taken place in the association blogosphere on crowdsourcing and the concept of "free." 

Associations have long served as sources of authoritative information for our professions and industries, and as sources of connection among our members and other audiences.  In fact, that's pretty much the "there" in our there.  The Internet provides lots of information - for free - and while large amounts of it are, frankly, crap, there's enough good stuff out there that we can hardly claim to own that space any more.  And social media makes it easy for people to connect.  None of this is news.

And information and connection are, indeed, vital to our members, otherwise they would never have joined in the first place. 

But if they can get that all for free, what do we bring to the party?  "Tradition" is not an acceptable answer.  Neither is "support us for the overall good of the industry/profession!"

Whadda ya got?

29 September 2010

What I'm Reading

  • The 7 deadly sins, social media style.
  • Having trouble managing all your online outposts? Cisco's LaSandra Brill has some good advice.
  • I think this experiment reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of what social media is for and about.
  • Joe Gerstandt says: quit worrying about "empowering" me and just get out of my way! (PREACH!)
  • Want to kill all your innovation initiatives?  The Harvard Business Review blog tells you just what to do (and the only sure  way to keep them alive).
  • Lots of interesting discussion in the association blogosphere on leadership lately.  Cecilia Sepp has a different take on failures of leadership, illustrated well with an interesting personal story.
  • Hip to The Power of V yet? 
  • Is everything we collectively "know" about writing for the Web wrong
  • Do association execs really need all those consultants, or have we just overscheduled ourselves to the point that we have no time to think or work on big projects? 
  • About your "about" page, according to Seth Godin.
  • Amber Naslund shares tips for being more productive, and I can highly recommend ALL of them, as I do them myself.
  • Chris Brogan shares his thoughts on which social media metrics really matter. Unsurprisingly, they're the same metrics that matter in ALL our outreach efforts.
  • I'm reading my first book on my new toy, my brand-new Amazon Kindle 3G.  It's fluff - Jennifer Weiner's Certain Girls (which is definitely not her best book - that honor, in my opinion, goes to Little Earthquakes) - but that's kind of the point: it had been on my Amazon wish list for a while, but at $10 plus shipping, I wasn't in any hurry to get it.  $10 delivered wirelessly immediately?  Sign me up! I'm finding that I like the Kindle interface well enough, but it is definitely a different experience than actually reading a book.  Is it truly an acceptable substitute?  Time will tell...

28 September 2010

Honesty, Leadership and Professional Opportunity

I've only had two opportunities to work directly with volunteer groups while at NACHRI, and both times I've apparently put my foot in my mouth (and gotten reprimanded for it) because I answered a direct question honestly (some would, I'm sure, say bluntly) rather than giving the politically correct answer (which to me feels an awful lot like lying).

And I'm starting to wonder: is it me or is it the system? A lot of associations complain that our volunteer leaders are disengaged or make unrealistic demands or just don't understand the reality in which we operate. But is it our fault? Are we, in an effort not to hurt anyone's feelings or upset them, holding back too much information?

And this is far from just a NACHRI thing - I've seen it at every association I've worked for or with as a consultant. If we can't be honest with our members about the hard realities, how on earth can we expect them to be willing and able to make hard, realistic choices?

Ultimately, of course, I'm starting to wonder what kind of (presumably negative?) effect this tendency is likely to have on my long-term career prospects. I'd like to be a CEO/ED some day, but if it requires not being honest with members or volunteers about something that affects them, I'm not sure I can do it.

Maybe I'm seeing this too black and white. But it doesn't feel that way. And maybe we need to trust our members and volunteers to be the grown ups they are and realize that they don't need to be handled with kid gloves, and ultimately, it benefits neither them nor our organizations.

27 September 2010

Always the Last to Know: Google Instant

Noticed something new in Google lately? Yep, Google Instant has landed - it uses a bunch of predictive technologies to anticipate what the rest of your search phrase is likely to be and deliver results based on that before you complete your search. And yes, if you hate it, you can turn it off.

24 September 2010

Friday Top 5

FINALLY a weekend at home!

Top 5 Things I Love about NOT Traveling on a Weekend
  1. The Sunday Washington Post - and the time to read it.
  2. Not having to pack.  I hate packing.  And I'm REALLY bad at it.
  3. The Sunday morning pre-game shows - and the time to watch them.  And being able to watch the games in my own house with my own DirecTV Sunday ticket and my own friends who don't look at me like I'm a crazy person when I start yelling at the TV.
  4. Puttering around the house, accompanied by non-pissed-off cats.
  5. Sleeping soundly in my own bed because I'm not worried about missing a flight or having programmed the unfamiliar alarm clock wrong so I miss an important meeting.

Image Credit: Shining Sun Garden Works

23 September 2010

The Metro Song

Warning: this is not as funny as the Arlington Rap. But it's still pretty damn funny.

22 September 2010

What I'm Reading

SUPER short list this week - I've been SUPER busy.  I promise to have more goodness to share next week.
  • Have you checked out the Year of Giving?  It's an interesting and inspiring project (and thanks to NACHRI member Amy Buehler Stranges for the info).
  • These opinions are my own - or are they?  
  • Shelly Alcorn describes why "leadership" is dead, and what we should be doing instead.
  • I've been reading the feminist classic novel The Awakening.  It's both an excellent work of literature and a very important book (concepts that don't always go together).
  • In other reading news, my darling spouse recently surprised me with a present:  a brand-new 3G Kindle.  This could be trouble for an avid reader such as myself....

21 September 2010

World Car-Free Day

Did you know that tomorrow, Wednesday September 22, is World Car-Free Day?  

Even if you can't completely leave your wheels for the day, think about how you might be able to go car-lite for the day - carpool to work, drive to work but walk to your lunchtime errands, public transportation to your evening events, etc.

I'll be getting up early to take Metro tomorrow.  Will you join me?

Also, Capital Bike Share launched Monday in DC just in time!

20 September 2010

Always the Last to Know: Facebook Places

I really am the last to know, because I'm not on Foursquare/Gowalla. Call me anti-social, but I really don't want people knowing where I am. And some people are starting to experience "foursquare fatigue."  But Facebook has jumped into location-based services with Facebook Places.  Let the battle for supremacy commence!

17 September 2010

Friday Top 5

My travel schedule has been out of control recently. This weekend will mark the 6th out of the past 7 weekends I'll be out of town (some's been for fun, some work).  And I'm once again missing the H Street Festival, which really annoys me. 

But there are good things about being out of town, too.  Top 5 Good Things About Being Out of Town on the Weekend:
  1. Jim takes care of the grocery shopping.
  2. I'm forced to not spend the entire weekend on laundry and dull errands.
  3. Seeing old friends and new colleagues.
  4. More frequent flyer miles, baby!
  5. The BEACH (well, this weekend, anyway).

16 September 2010

Rush Limbaugh REMAINS a Big, Fat Idiot

DC Central Kitchen's Robert Eggers, on the other hand, is a rock star.

Talk about using a negative event to make a strong case for your mission!

15 September 2010

What I'm Reading

Too many member meetings at SHSMD this week to have much time for reading, but here's a few good links for you:

14 September 2010

Old Skool, New Skool and Free

A few weeks ago, I was invited a book launch event.  Several things struck me as a little odd.

We were all sitting around a conference table, but the author used PPT slides as a crutch when talking about the book even though there was no "presentation" per se, and certainly no projector.  The slides were provided to attendees, but it also made me wonder:  are we now so dependent on PPT that we can't be trusted to take notes without it? That's a shame.

Also, I was clearly the lowest person on the totem pole in the room, which was otherwise full of lots of CEOs with lots of experience in the topic the book was addressing, and yet it was viewed as a SALES opportunity by the author. Not including me, many of the people in the room seemed pretty senior and pretty experienced in the topic at hand. So what could have been the chance to get the book into hands of people whose influence is wide was reduced to an opportunity to sell maybe 10 books (I didn't buy one).


Now I realize that it's possible that ASAE paid for them, but did you notice that we all got free copies of the books of the two keynote speakers at the recent Annual?  I'm not saying I loved either of their talks and I may not like their books very much either, but those two got their books into the hands of THOUSANDS of people who directly and indirectly influence MILLIONS.

Which seems like the better investment?

13 September 2010

Always the Last to Know: "Who To Follow"

I NEVER log in to the main Twitter site, which is why I didn't know about this.  When I present on social media, one of the constant questions I get is, in fact, "who should I follow on Twitter?"  I always tell people to start with following people they know who they know to be interesting and people whose blogs they read, then start looking at who *those* people follow, etc.  Well, now Twitter's helping people to answer that question by looking at users' existing connections and making suggestions based on them.  How useful!

10 September 2010

Friday Top 5

I'm heading to Chi-town this weekend for the SHSMD conference (for those of you keeping score at home, yes, this is the 5th weekend out of the last 6 I'm going to be out of town).  I LOVE Chicago, particularly during any part of the year when it's NOT bitterly cold.  Top 5 Things that are GREAT about Chicago.
  1. Awesome public art (check out the picture attached to this post)
  2. Equally awesome architecture
  3. The town is equally sports-mad to my home, Philadelphia.  Finally, I'm not the "crazy one."
  4. Great local blues scene (I'll be awfully busy, but I really hope I get to check some of it out - I particularly like Buddy Guy's Legends.)
  5. Getting to spend time with some of NACHRI's amazing members. The main reason I go to the conference is to meet face to face with members who are attending and find out more about them and their needs.  I already have appointments set up with about 20 people over 3 days (don't worry - I'm meeting with more than 1 person at a time in many cases), with more to finalize.  It will be exhausting but exhilarating, as seeing the commitment our members bring to the amazing work children's hospitals do renews my love for this industry and my job serving it.

09 September 2010

Here Comes Clay Shirky

I finally finished Here Comes Everybody recently.  Plenty has been written about the book, most notably (in our world) Matt Baehr's review/recap posts as he read the book.

So I thought I'd take a different tack.  I highlighted in a limited way as I read through it, and I thought I'd start an irregular series and pull out things I highlighted and explain why they struck me.  We'll see how this goes.
In that chaotic period, the old systems get broken long before new ones become stable.
Chapter 3, pg. 68
It's an article of faith at this point that associations are risk-averse. Which means the above is a problem.  Assuming Shirky's right, "the way we've always done it" is going to stop working *before* "the way we should do it" becomes apparent.

What does that mean? We have to be willing to experiment with as many options as seem reasonable and we can manage at one time as quickly as possible.  We have to start actually paying attention to which things work and which things don't.  We have to be willing to fail.  We have to be willing to be criticized.  And we have to be nimble enough to move on without wasting time on the circular firing squad of blame.

Are you up to the challenge?

08 September 2010

What I'm Reading

Short and busy week this week, so I don't have many items:
  • FBML on its way out? Yep. Now what are you going to do? John Haydon has some advice.
  • Maggie McGary addresses What Free Costs Me.  "Free" is a great concept, but we still haven't resolved the fundamental problem that I noted as a result of Jeff Howe's crowdsourcing keynote at ASAE's 2009 Technology Conference:  what about people who lose not only their jobs, but their careers
  • Our friends to the north (aka the the Canadian Society of Association Executives) have featured a terrific case study breaking down what went wrong with an association marketing plan.
  • I finished the second Sublette book over the holiday weekend and am currently reading Tony Bourdain's latest, Medium Raw.  He seems like he'd be a real SOB to know, but he's hilarious to read.

07 September 2010

Big Questions for Associations - Part 3

This is part three (aka "the conclusion") in the series inspired by Jeff De Cagna's March breakfast briefing on associations and mobile technology. Read Part 1Read Part 2.
Question 3: How will we manage the change from a pre-set package of options (membership) to an individually negotiated exchange of value?
In other words, we're moving from "you can have any color you want as long as it's black" to a world of mass personalization.  And, as we learned at Hackation, many of us don't do a particularly good job at the whole "value proposition" in the first place.

This idea has actually been around associations for awhile, in the guise of "cafeteria membership" (if you follow that link, you'll notice the article is dated 2002).  The thing is, cafeterias generally have a limited set of options.  Is "print journal" versus "no print journal" really a meaningful choice?

On the other hand, we're also constantly exhorted to focus on our "core competencies" as organizations (often with the implied "and outsource everything else" trailer).  Don't try to be everything to everyone - just know what's really important to your audience and do it better than anyone else.

Another thing we have to contend with is the whole membership model - i.e., you have to be a member to get X at all or to get X at a reasonable price.  But what I'm not actually a participant in the profession/industry, and, as an interested onlooker, all I want is X?  Is it really OK to price gouge me?  Or totally deny me access?

This becomes an even bigger deal as associations start promoting what we do through social media channels, with the potential of LOTS more people finding out about the good stuff we offer (positive)...and then not being able to participate (extremely negative).

We recently ran into this at NACHRI, when someone forwarded a potential tweet to that week's editor about an upcoming webinar that was free, as long as you're a NACHRI member, but not available at all to non-members.  You couldn't even see information about the webinar if you weren't a member.  And it was a topic with potential wide interest, if it "got out." After a fairly lengthy internal debate, we opted to create a landing page outside our member wall (and notice the fortress terminology there, and don't pretend you don't use it at your organization, too) with information, rationalizing that anyone who was really interested enough to register (which required membership) probably had an affiliation with one of our member hospitals anyway.  We haven't gotten complaints (that I'm aware of), but it's only a matter of time.

But shouldn't our offerings stand on their own two feet?  If people want something, they'll pay for it.  If they don't want it enough to pay for, then maybe we should stop doing it.  I realize there are limits to this line of thinking (witness all the people who bitch & moan about taxes and the federal government, yet keep using the police, the fire department, public roads and bridges, public water and sewage systems, public education, etc.).  But if a program can't support itself, unless it genuinely is for the good of the profession, the industry or the public, maybe it's time to kill it.

The comfortable thing about the membership model - and the reason so many of our organizations are loathe to even consider alternatives - is that, with very few exceptions, it provides a steady and reliable source of revenue that allows us to keep on ignoring those sacred cows.  Thing is, they aren't going to die on their own.  And (I know I've linked to this article before, but...) this problem is just going to get worse.

I don't have an answer to this. But I do know that, particularly for individual membership associations (and trades, we shouldn't kid ourselves that we're immune), we're already past time when we need to figure out how to let our audiences have it their way.

06 September 2010

I Have No Reason For Posting This...

Other than: IT'S AWESOME!

Go out and get you some joy!

03 September 2010

Friday Top 5

Assuming Hurricane Earl cooperates, we're heading to New Hampshire (via Boston) for our roughly biennial gathering of the college tribe this weekend.  My Top 5 Favorite Things About Getting Together With Long-time Friends:
  1. Private jokes
  2. Catching up on each other's lives
  3. Getting to talk about Big Ideas (we were all philosophy nerds)
  4. Seeing the changes (case in point:  Steve has two kids now!)
  5. Reconnecting with people who really know me and were with me through some of the most significant transformations of my life (so far)
Fall is a good time for wrapping things up before year-end.  What person who's really important to you have you not talked to in too long?  Could you call her or him this holiday weekend?

02 September 2010

Women Who Tech

If I were not already going to be in Chicago at SHSMD, I would definitely be checking out this event: Women Who Tech. It's the third version of this annual telesummit and will take place on Wednesday, September 15.  As a telesummit, it's a specifically virtual event (but there will be an afterparty F2F component in DC, NYC, and San Francisco). 

The event features a solid lineup of presenters, including:
  • Mary Hodder, Technologist and Founder of of Dabble.com
  • Beth Kanter of Zoetica Media
  • Clay Shirky
  • Elisa Camahort Page, Co-Founder of BlogHer
  • Rashmi Sinha, Co-Founder of SlideShare
  • Connie Reece, Co-Founder of Social Media Club
  • Kaliya Hamlin, Founder of Shes Geeky
  • Genevieve Bell of Intel
  • Heather Harde, CEO of TechCrunch
  • Irene Au of Google
  • Lynne D. Johnson of the Advertising Research Foundation 
  • Tara Hunt
Topics will include items of both personal and professional interest.

01 September 2010

What I'm Reading

  • Jamie Notter clues us in to what's killing our organizations - FEAR.
  • Have you thought about your elevator speech lately?  What will you do if the one person who can get you your dream sponsorship, job, conference speaker, or membership prospect suddenly ends up in there with you? 
  • Looking for social media help?  You might want to think twice about picking a PR firm to be your guru.
  • If, like me, you missed the third installment of Buzz 2010 (Oliver Blanchard on social media ROI), here's a solid recap of what he talked about.
  • Awesome presentation tips for before, during and after the event and including all different types of presentations.  Vow to try at least a few the next time you're presenting.
  • I finished Shirky on the plane to LA and will likely be doing a post or series of posts based on the items I highlighted while reading.
  • I also finished The World That Made New Orleans and have moved onto Ned Sublette's most recent book, The Year Before the Flood.  It's a personal memoir of both his childhood and 10 months he lived in New Orleans in 2004-2005, decamping several months before Hurricane Katrina, sprinkled with more of his excellent history of and reporting on the New Orleans music scene, but he remains a passionate and engaging (if somewhat polemical) writer.