30 November 2010

YAP @ Tech 10.1

When: December 14, 2010, 9 pm
Where: RFD

You know you want it.

29 November 2010

Always the Last to Know: Flowtown

Another social media mining tool enters the race: Flowtown. Flowtown offers a free trial, shows you the platforms where your members already are (by email address), and allows you to run email marketing campaigns from within the platform.

22 November 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

T4P is on hiatus for a few days while I go spend some time with the fam giving thanks for the many blessings in my life. I'll return to my normal posting schedule Monday, November 30.

Image of the Carrboro Farmer's Market from triangle.com .

19 November 2010

Friday Top 5

My family has a Thanksgiving tradition that I love. Once the food's all ready and on the table, we sit down and, before eating, go around the table taking turns saying what we're thankful for in the past year. I'm getting started a little early today ,with the Top 5 things I'm thankful for:
  1. My wonderful spouse, Jim.
  2. My awesome, crazy friends in and outside the association community, who make me laugh and think, bring joy to my life, and keep me from having to drink alone.
  3. After a few years of career turmoil, finding a job that, a year and a half in, is still a good fit and that I still enjoy going to just about every day.
  4. My terrific, supportive family, all of whom live in easy weekend visiting distance but not in drop-in distance (which is the perfect distance to be in my book).
  5. The fact that the Philadelphia Eagles are, at 6-3, tied for first place in the NFC East and could potentially take sole possession of the lead in the division if all goes well this weekend.
What are you thankful for this harvest season?

18 November 2010

Here Comes Clay Shirky

Another entry in my irregular "What I highlighted and why while reading Here Comes Everybody" series.
Communications tools don't get socially interesting until they get technologically boring.

Clay Shirky, chapter 4, pg. 105
I love this observation. It SO clearly reflects what's happened with every means of communicating, probably going back to the telegraph and the telephone.

I think the ASAE conferences are really illustrative of this. It was probably about 3-4 years ago that social media first started being something for associations to pay attention to. If you think back at the types of conference sessions that have come up in the intervening years, you'll probably remember that the early ones were almost exclusively focused on the technology qua technology: what is FB, how do you set up a blog, how do you get on Twitter, what are wikis, etc. Early and even mid-bell-curve adopters like myself fretted constantly about the over-focus on the platforms and the under-focus on what you could do with them and why you'd want to.

That picture has changed dramatically in the past year. Sessions are no longer all about "I don't understand how to set up an account" - now they're about things like member engagement, creating a true sense of community, reaching out to your audiences where they are, turning data and metrics into information that can drive decisions, creating strategy, and board and committee development and management, just for example, from the upcoming ASAE Technology Conference that I'm fondly referring to as Tech 10.1.

We can't start making sense of why new technologies matter until the technology itself disappears and it's no longer, "Oh, that's only for geeks, not for me. I don't understand it and I could NEVER figure out how to use it."

17 November 2010

What I'm Reading

  • Looking for more FB fans? Jay Baer says to make sure to create a custom landing page and learn to love the "like."
  • Confused about what to measure in social media? Social Media Examiner has some advice.
  • The 2011 predictions have already started - check out these from PRSA.
  • There's a new front in the ongoing Facebook/Google war: email.
  • I was quoted in an article in PR News (although you need a subscription to actually read it).
    Short cuts to stronger writing from a sci-fi writer. Not all of them apply to blogging (when was the last time you blogged about a "swelling bosom"?), but good advice nonetheless.
  • Still working on Bitch is the New Black. It's taking a while because I've been pretty busy and, frankly, it's not that engaging. I think I'm in need of a good serious novel next. Any recommendations?

16 November 2010

Why You Don't Want to be a Lifer

You start telling yourself the story of your organization the day you're hired. Over time, the story becomes more complete, but also more constrained. As you start to "know" more, the range of possibilities narrows.

But what do you really know?

We don't recall everything that happens. We can only store what fits into our mental categories. As soon as you start forming those categories, you start reifying them, choosing what to keep and what to dump out of your mental file cabinets based on what meshes with the story you've already started telling yourself.

You see this most frequently with a long-time employee shooting down a new idea without even considering or discussing it: "We tried that and it didn't work."

And maybe that person is right - the organization DID try it and it DIDN'T work.

But maybe "it" wasn't done right or by the right person or at the right time. Maybe the audience or the environment has changed in the interim, but because different people and different circumstances don't fit into the long-timer's story, s/he hasn't noticed.

This is why people get so excited about the concept of beginners' mind and why so many new hires try to retain their outsider perspective as long as possible.

I'm not arguing that you need to change jobs every two years - there's value in institutional memory as well.

What I am saying is that, if your story is stale or you feel it's completely filled in and can't accommodate so much as a change in punctuation, maybe it's time to move on and recapture that blank slate.

15 November 2010

Monday Top 5: Open Community

 I'm excited to be a part of the Open Community (a little book of big ideas for associations navigating the social web) virtual book tour. When authors Maddie Grant and Lindy Dreyer and I started talking about what to do here, we thought it might be fun to break out of the interview format for a minute and play with one of this blog's tropes: the Top 5 List.

So for your MONDAY reading pleasure, I'm happy to present:  Top 5 Takeaways from Open Community, a conversation with the Lindy Dreyer, one of the babes from SocialFish.

First of all, thank you, Elizabeth, for having us on Thanks for Playing. And thanks for the great idea of doing a “top 5 takeaways” post. I think the top five list will be different for everyone who reads the book. But here are the ones I try to remember on a daily basis in my own work (in David Letterman order.)

Number 5: Fail smart and forget perfect

OK, so that’s kind of cheating, since those are two takeaways in one. Failure is a big part of the process of community building. On a micro level, for every post that gets tons of discussion, you might have dozens that don’t get much attention at all. On a macro level, knowing when a project or tool just isn’t doing the job, especially when you’ve made a big investment of time or money in it, takes a lot of bravery and soul searching. And it’s really important to separate the failure from the staff or volunteers who poured their hearts into a project.

The perfectionist in me cringes at failure, which is why I added “forget perfect” to this takeaway. Everything’s moving so fast, if you wait for it to be perfect, you’ll miss the boat. You have to know when it’s worth sacrificing perfection for speed, and when it isn’t.

Number 4: Remove the hurdles
My analytical side loves this takeaway. In the book we identify the hurdles as:

  1. Finding your organization
  2. Knowing how to participate
  3. Feeling connected
  4. Feeling invested

You can lose someone at any one of these points. So the question to ask is this: if you look at everything you’re doing to build your open community online, where are the hurdles, and how can you remove them?

Number 3: Social objects need social actions
This is so simple, and yet so easy to forget. A social object is a piece of content that draws people into social interactions. But an object can’t be social unless there is some clear social action to take: commenting, rating, re-posting to Facebook, retweeting, joining, etc. Sometimes I see web pages where there’s no obvious action I can take. Other times, I see web pages so full of actions I’m paralyzed because I don’t know which action to take. It all goes back to those hurdles, especially “knowing how to participate.” The clearer you can be about what you actually want people to DO, the better.

Number 2: Simplify, simplify, simplify

We see this one all the time. An organization might have a very complex process they are trying to move online. Many times, the reason the process is so complex, has so many steps, or needs so much oversight is because there was no better way to do it before - there was no social web to serve as the foundation for the work. So what happens when the association tries to move the process online? They recreate the complex, multi-step business logic they’re used to. They miss the opportunity to open up and engage people using the strengths of the social web, and instead build these convoluted systems that require lots of moderation, instruction and training.

So really, this takeaway is a call for people to use the social web to find ways to work differently at a fundamental level. It’s kind of a big deal.

And my Number 1 favorite takeaway:

There’s something to be said for the mess.

Your open community is a living, growing, dynamic online ecosystem. It’s messy! There are so many different people, so many different websites, so many different systems that all affect the bigger picture. It’s not realistic to try to choose a single website or platform and expect your entire open community to meet you there. That might work with your most engaged champions, but the whole point of open community is to take a more holistic view of the people who influence and are influenced by your organization. Building community online is about connecting with people. And since passionate people have an irrepressible tendency to self-organize, and no shortage of social tools to use to connect amongst themselves, organizations need to learn to love the messiness of it all.

So there you have it. I feel like I may be too close to it at this point to draw out the most useful stuff, so I really look forward to hearing favorite takeaways from people who read Open Community

So, Thanks for Playing readers: what was YOUR favorite takeaway? 

12 November 2010

Friday Top 5

I only WISH my mixer had a cool flame job like Alton's
We're gearing up for another Food Lab, so I thought I'd give a shout-out to my top 5 favorite kitchen tools:
  1. Kitchen Aid stand mixer. I don't think you can claim to be a serious baker without one of these.
  2. Good knives. And keep 'em sharp. Most important tool you can have.
  3. My beechwood French-style rolling pin. I searched for the perfect pin for years. LOVE.
  4. My perfectly seasoned cast iron skillet. Also useful for warding off intruders.
  5. My cheap-ass aluminum cookie sheets. They give me a perfect bottom of the cookie texture EVERY time.

11 November 2010

In Memory of All Who Served

Including my paternal grandfather (WWII Pacific Theater), my mom's middle brother (nurse in Vietnam), my mom's youngest brother (peacetime in Germany), my dear friend Alan (Afghanistan and, as a Green Beret, other places he can't talk about), and all the other brave men and women of our armed forces, thank you for your service.

10 November 2010

What I'm Reading

  • Heard about 501 Mission Place? It's a new online community for non-profit Executive Directors (and it's got the backing of some heavy hitters).  Deirdre Reid asks: is this an opportunity...or a threat?
  • Sometimes, the most important thing is "don't screw up the whisky."
  • Bruce Hammond wonders: is it OK to draw the line on saying "yes" to things?
  • Ever wish you could make those college kegstand pictures vanish? In the EU, you soon might be able to.
  • How do you get people to talk? Try asking them questions.
  • I'm also reading Bitch is the New Black. It's cute-ish. I think I'm outside the age and relationship demographic. Love the fact that some of it's set in DC, though!

09 November 2010

Social Media and the Elections

I was hoping to have something profound to say about social networking and last week's mid-term elections, like people using Twitter to report voter intimidation and election fraud.

And there was a hashtag - #EP2010 (did you know about it? I didn't) - and a Twitter account for Election Protection, a non-partisan nonprofit dedicated to protecting the right to vote (unlike this totally sketchy Republican front organization).

But so far I haven't seen anything major come out.

Obviously, #election and #IVoted were both hot topics on Twitter on Nov 2, and many of us woke up (or at least woke up our computers) to discover the Facebook Elections app running the self-reported tally of how many people on FB had voted. Of course, if you closed it, you couldn't get it back, but it was still very cool.

And Foursquare offered an election badge that its founder believes will increase real-world participation. 

As a political scientist by training, civic participation is a huge issue for me.  I missed the 1988 elections by 4 months and was very disappointed, and I've voted in every election since, even when it required old school send-your-request-through-the-US-mail-months-before-the-election style absentee ballots. So anything that increases turnout is aces in my book.

What about you? Did social media in any way affect your propensity to vote last week? Change who you voted for? Increase (or decrease) your level of knowledge about the candidates and ballot issues? Change the way you followed the returns?

08 November 2010

Always the Last to Know: Unsocial

Unsocial is a social network for business that's designed to include location services (like Foursquare) and the networking aspects of LinkedIn without all the Mafia Wars silliness.

What I wonder is if there is room for another platform. I get invitations to other "for business" platforms periodically, and I tend to ignore them. How many online channels can one reasonably manage? On the other hand, neither FB or LI is the killer app, so who knows - this just might work.

05 November 2010

Friday Top 5

This was a boneheaded move, too.
We're at the midpoint of the 2010 NFL season, and I just realized I haven't done a SINGLE football themed post yet! Shame! My Top 5 Tips for Professional Football Players:
  1. CATCH first, THEN run.
  2. When tackling, remember to use your arms.
  3. Stop juking - just secure the ball and run. This ain't college honey - the other players are fast, too.
  4. When the QB puts the ball on your numbers, catch it donkey.
  5. Pull off a GREAT play? Down by 20+ points? Don't celebrate - just don't. You look like a moron.
    Image credit: MisterIrrelevant.com

    04 November 2010

    More Flashmob Goodness

    On April 24, 2010, members of the Philadelphia Opera Company descended on the historic Reading Terminal Market and performed the famous drinking song "Brindisi" from Verdi's La Traviata.

    What unexpected thing can you do today to spread a little joy?

    03 November 2010

    What I'm Reading

    Shortish list today while I'm at the annual NACHRI communications team retreat.
    • Want to post to FB as an organization rather than a person? The always spot-on John Haydon shows you how.
    • Jeff Hurt's tips for more effective Google searches. I'm a pretty dexterous searcher, and even I learned some stuff here.
    • Wow. Just wow. Also an important reminder from Joe Gerstandt that actions speak louder than words.
    • Fascinating article on why we procrastinate and why some are able to overcome that universal human tendency.
    • 10 numbers every email marketer should commit to memory.
    • Still working on American Psycho. Skipping over the gory parts is working just fine, and I'm in the midst of a really interesting conversation Patrick Bateman has with his secretary Jean towards the end of the book about how everything is surface and nothing has any real meaning. Before you judge, remember that these sort of late-80s sentiments and experiences gave rise to a lot of great music in the 90s.

    02 November 2010

    TED Talks: The Case for Anonymity

    An article in the latest issue of MIT's Technology Review led me to this fascinating (and short) TED talk by Christopher "moot" Poole, the founder of 4chan.

    Since you need to be a subscriber to get the full article, let me summarize the key point: amid all the outright crap that makes up the majority of 4chan, the site accomplishes one important goal: reducing the cost of failure to nothing or virtually nothing.

    If you've read Here Comes Everybody, you'll recall that chapter 10 is entitled "Failure for Free." Shirky focuses on the open source movement, but the point is that the cheaper it is to fail, the greater your chances of getting to success and getting there quickly, since failing for free means you're pretty much willing to try anything.

    moot's point is that the loss of privacy that results when everything we ever do or say is tied back to our "permanent records" will necessarily result in loss of innovation and creativity.

    01 November 2010

    Always the Last to Know: YouTube Insight

    Yes, views are important, but they're not the ONLY thing that's important.

    YouTube has launched YouTube Insight, an analytics service that anyone with an account can use to look at things like the demographics of the people who've viewed your video, how they found it, what section(s) are the most popular, and what they've done to promote it, all in a simple dashboard.