30 December 2011

Happy New Year!

However you choose to celebrate - on the town with a huge crowd, with just your closest loved ones, or something in between, I wish you a joyful New Year's celebration, and health, happiness, and excellent adventures in 2012!

(Back Tuesday)

Image credit: El Dorado Cocktail Lounge 

29 December 2011

Book Review: Humanize

If you're one of my regular readers - or someone who knows me IRL - you probably know of my disdain for business books. Generally, they state the obvious or the *painfully* obvious at a fifth-grade reading level, with LARGE print on pages with LOTS of white space. I firmly believe that, with very few exceptions, reading them actually makes you dumber.

So I don't say this lightly: Humanize is genius.

Authors Maddie Grant and Jamie Notter use the lens of social media to examine our "modern" business, management, and leadership practices and find them au courant...with the Industrial Revolution. At that time, perhaps a mechanical view of the world made sense, or at least more sense than it does now. But social media has spurred a revolution in the way people relate to each other on the individual, micro, and macro levels. The genie's loose, and he's not going back.

And while we shouldn't - and in many cases don't - even want to go back, our organizations are not keeping pace. Our focus on best practices (imitation) over innovation, a strategic planning process that assumes that the future is knowable and unchanging, human resources management that relies on hierarchy, org charts and knowing (and keeping to) your place, and leadership that's viewed as some sort of "secret sauce" that individuals either have (so they get to be at the top of the org chart) or don't (so they're one of of the proles) keeps us stuck in those old systems and patterns that are killing us.

Maddie and Jamie go on to identify four key qualities that can help our organizations be more human (or, more accurately, stop trying to force organizations made up of people into an assembly line mentality): being open, trustworthy, generative, and courageous. In the meat of the book, they examine how these four qualities, expressed through the mediums of organizational culture, internal process/structure, and individual behavior, have the power to create organizations that, to quote p. 247, "inspire us and bring out the best in us."

If business people read, accept and implement the ideas contained in Humanize around these qualities and how they can be fostered at the personal, process, and organizational level (hardly a given of course), I believe this book has the power to RADICALLY transform our organizations and, just possibly, save the world of associations in the process.

28 December 2011

What I'm Reading

Lots of 2011 roundups/advice for 2012 this week:
  • Top social media lessons from 2011: part 1 and part 2.
  • Acronym's take on the best association blogging of 2011.
  • Speaking of blogging, some fascinating stats on the state of the blogosphere.
  • Jay Daughtry's 5 words for 2012.
  • Is your association trying to do too much?
  • Some good advice for focus in 2012.
  • Have you checked out Talent Anarchy yet? You really should - here's a great post to start with.
  • Why do private communities fail (and what can you do to fix it)? (warning: you may have to login to the ASAE website to get this)
  • I finished A Visit from the Goon Squad and really loved it. It was an interesting way to construct a novel. It was kind of a collection of short stories. The cast of characters was the same throughout, but each person got a chapter/story in which s/he was the main character, after which s/he served as a peripheral character in the others' stories. Some were set in the past, some were set in the present, and some were set in a somewhat dystopian near future. Punk rock was an overarching theme, as were the themes of disillusionment, isolation, the breakdown of society and relationships, and anarchy contained in the music itself. In a complete change of pace, I'm now re-reading Julia Child's My Life in France.

27 December 2011

Is This Really the Best We Can Do?

I just got the latest issue of CEO Update (v. XXI, #537, December 16 and 30, 2011) in the mail. Either as a result of the slowdown in hiring or the changing needs of the market or both, CEO Update is a lot more than just job openings these days. They've expanded their coverage to do some actual reporting on the state of the association industry.

So I open it up to the centerfold, which is the Top 25 CEO Quotes of 2011.

25 people

2 women

23 men

0 people of color


For those who don't want to do the math at home, that's 8% women, 92% men, 0% non-white (that last one was pretty easy to calculate).

When I was actively supporting the CAE study program (2004 - 2010), we used to tell candidates to plan to answer questions on the exam from the perspective of a 65 year old white man. In 2009 (? possibly 2008), someone got offended, so we removed that from our advice. In retrospect, I think we did the candidates a disservice, because even though it may not be PC to point it out, it *remains* true.

Do I sound pissed? Good, because I am.

And I'm not just talking about throwing in some faux-United Colors of Benetton "diverse" stock photo here. This goes deeper. The CEO Update editors sat down and thought: "What were the best CEO insights of the year?" And they came up with insights from 25 white people.

Some worry that associations as a concept may be at risk due to social and technological changes. I think that if, after all these years, this is the best we can do, maybe we deserve to be extinct.

22 December 2011

Happy Holidays!

I wish you and your loved ones a joyful season of light!

(Back Tuesday)

21 December 2011

What I'm Reading

  • In a bit of circular blogging, I pointed out a study that Eric Lanke read and then wrote a post about and now I'm linking back to "What Battle Are You Fighting?".
  • Are your best staff members eying the door? These are probably the reasons why.
  • Bold marketing resolutions for 2012 (I particularly like the one about mobile websites).
  • 5 common strategy mistakes AND the fixes.
  • Looking to hire a community manager? Look here (the part about looking to nonprofits because we’re used to managing volunteers with no resources is both funny and a little sad).
  • I'm still working my way through Humanize and, spoiler alert, I think it's transformative. More when I finish it.

20 December 2011

TED Talks: Filter Bubbles

Automated filtering is great, right? It saves us all a huge amount of time.

Maybe not. Maybe what it does is put us in an echo chamber.

19 December 2011

Always the Last to Know: Embedding Tweets

This is information that would have been useful to me Friday, when I went back through my #Tech11 tweet stream to find my top takeaways, but did you know that you can embed tweets just like you do YouTube videos or Slideshare presentations?

Webmonkey shows you how.

16 December 2011

Friday Top 5

Today's Friday Top 5 is about #Tech11, too - my top takeaways.
  1. In the fishbowl session on social CRM led by Lindy Dreyer in which Lindy pointed out that association websites are transitioning from being places where we push information out to members into community hubs, Polly Karopwicz observed that our members ARE the hub.
  2. In order to get a full picture of member interactions, we have to track ALL data back to one place (AMS/CRM makes the most sense). Intellectually, we all know this, but how many of us are actually doing it? Bill Walker tweeted about an association with 32 separate databases and I'd be willing to bet a substantial sum of money that that's not unusual.
  3. In Maddie Grant's blogging session, Jamie Notter pointed out that bloggers can't predict what's going to get comments, so the best way to deal with that is to quit worrying about it and write with passion. Amen!
  4. In his mobile debate session with Lindy Dreyer, Jeff de Cagna advised us to "Consider the weird." He pointed out that we shouldn't necessarily DO the weird, but considering it opens up our minds to the possibility of great ideas.
  5. And I loved Luke Wroblewski's 3 key points from his opening keynote on mobile:
  • Growth in mobile presents opportunity 
  • Constraints of mobile force focus 
  • Capabilities of mobile lead to innovation 
 (What? That's totally one point!)

Jeff de Cagna also observed that associations are "pre-digital" in our approach to the world. Joe Rominiecki followed on that same point with a great post-event piece at Acronym: Associations are "in denial" about technology.

Finally an observation: there was a lot of talk about mobile and how it represents a change of mindset. I wonder if, a la Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, it actually represents a change of worldview?

15 December 2011

From the Humanize chat

Wow, the #ASAETech chat on Maddie Grant and Jamie Notter's new book, Humanize, was almost two weeks ago, and I'm just getting around to sharing my thoughts. Hey, #Tech11 had us ALL booked solid last week, right?

For those who aren't yet familiar, the book is about transforming our organizations from a mechanized paradigm to a human paradigm by being open, generative, trustworthy, and courageous. I'm reading the book now and will likely have more to write about it as I progress, but for now, a few things struck me during the December 2 chat.

Lindy Dreyer made a great observation during the chat: being open is something most of us aren't allowed to practice at lower levels, so when we move up in organizations, we've never worked that way before. I think she's right, and it applies to the other key elements of being human in the workplace as well. Why do the bad systems perpetuate themselves? Because more experienced workers train newer workers and pass down "we have always done it (or not done it) that way." This may present an opportunity, as un-mentored Gen-Xers move into leadership positions as the Boomers start retiring (some day). (That's assuming any of us resist the lure of starting our own gigs long enough to be available for those leadership positions, of course.) We haven't been as fully inculcated to being closed and opaque, so there might be a chance to break out of this pattern.

Maddie Grant observed that perhaps the reason there's so much discomfort with social media in workplace is because it lights our passions, and we're not comfortable with passion and emotion in the workplace. Of course, this immediately made me think of Joe Gerstandt's work, and his fantastic "Fly Your Freak Flag"session at the ASAE Annual Meeting in August. The upside of forcing people to keep their passions out of the workplace is, obviously, things run more smoothly if everyone's dispassionate. But there's a downside, too:  you will NEVER get people's best efforts if all your incentives point to smooth efficiency. Passion is messy, but it's also where the juice for good ideas lives.

Jamie Notter provided my new favorite saying: "Proceed until apprehended." It expresses the old "ask forgiveness, not permission" idea, but far more succinctly and elegantly. LOVE!

Finally, the closing keynoter at #Tech11 was one of the authors of the seminal 1999 work The Cluetrain Manifesto. As a result, I popped over to their website and re-read the 95 Theses (scroll down to get to them). Working my way through Humanize now, I realized: we've been saying the same damn thing for 10+ years.

Is anyone listening?

14 December 2011

What I'm Reading

  • KiKi's list of apps for busy association execs.
  • Punk Views on Social Media is now public, which means you can lurk without getting kicked out!  (not that I would know anything about that)
  • 12 things you didn't know Facebook could do. (OK, I'm guessing THIS crowd pretty much knew about many of these, but maybe not all.)
  • It's not about sales, it's about what you're selling.
  • Want to wreck your professional reputation? Tech Republic can help.
  • Why is collaboration so damn hard?
  • Great ways to show your staff some love.
  • Shelly Alcorn dares you to have a big vision.
  • Sometimes, more business and less fun can be the right approach.
  • A mobile app is not a mobile strategy.
  • Conversely, not EVERYTHING needs a big fancy strategy.
  • To fix work, add more conflict.
  • There IS no ROI to social media marketing. But that's OK, because there's no ROI of marketing period.
  • No one makes sense anymore (a funny take on some of my own use of language pet peeves).
  • Social media trends for 2012.
  • Is Facebook stealing something important from us?
  • Still reading A Visit from the Goon Squad (with HUG and Tech last week and the performance over the weekend, my leisure reading time has been a bit limited), and I've started Humanize, so watch this space for my thoughts on it as well.

13 December 2011

What the Tech?

I usually do this earlier, but we were working on the slides up until the last minute. Below you'll find the slides from my presentation with Andrew Hanelly, Polly Karpowicz, and Maggie McGary at the ASAE Technology Conference last week:
We also had some great resources listed in our handout:

12 December 2011

Always the Last to Know: 2011 Top 10

The end of year wrap ups are beginning, and ReadWriteWeb recently profiled the top 10 consumer web products of 2011. Most of these have already made it into Always the Last to Know, but it was interesting to see which RWW thought were the best 10, and why.

02 December 2011

Friday Top 5

Next week is #Tech11, aka the ASAE Technology Conference, aka the annual association geekfest. Even though I'm 4+ years removed from day-to-day IT support, OF COURSE I'm going. Top 5 Things I'm Looking Forward to:
  1. The Higher Logic Users' Group Super Forum. I can't wait to swap stories and hear all the cool things you all are doing with your member communities, so I can steal them for MINE!
  2. Presenting with Maggie McGary, Polly Karpowicz, and Andrew Hanelly on Wednesday, December 7 at 1:30 pm. Come check us out at "What the Tech?" and chat with us about what key metrics you should be tracking and why.
  3. The YAP party. You DO NOT want to miss this. For realz. Wednesday night, December 7, 9 pm, RFD. Wear your best game day gear, and come ready to dance!
  4. Hosting a bunch of cool association peeps for some NFL gridiron action on Sunday afternoon, December 4. Didn't get the invite? Want to join us? Just email me for the details.
  5. Catching up with even more cool association peeps, local and not-so-local, I don't see often enough.
(Also, I won't be posting next week, as I'll be at the HUG Super Forum and the Tech Conference. But I'll definitely do a recap post the week of December 12 to share what I learned. In the meantime, follow the hashtag to see what's going on.)

01 December 2011

"Done is the engine of more."

I love a good infographic, and Shelly Alcorn tweeted a link to a great one on the creative process yesterday.

All of the points are relevant for associations, I think, but the above one, which is listed last, seems to me to be the most important.

A few months ago, I was having a discussion with some smart association peeps, and we got talking about the fact that, in membership organizations, it's not so much that we fear failure for its own sake. What we really fear is criticism - from our colleagues and bosses, sure, but even more so from our members and boards.

Because of that, we're change-averse, decision-averse, and completion-averse. If I keep working on a project forever, and never roll it out, no one can ever find anything wrong with it, right?

The thing is, all those partially completed projects that should've been done in 6 weeks but drag on for 6 months weigh us down. If it's never finished, you never get to check that one off and move on to the next project or idea. You never even get to move on to the 1.2 version of the current project.

We get so caught up in the "everything has to be PERFECT" mindset that we shut out our members and their ideas and opinions, and make them passive consumers rather than active partners.

What if, rather than waiting until we had everything just so to roll out our new member service, we went to our members with: "This is a new service we're considering. We don't have all the kinks worked out yet, so we know some of you will want to wait to check it out until it's in a more completed form. And that's fine. But for those of you who are willing to try something that may not be 100% functioning yet, we'd love it if you could test it and give us your feedback so we can make sure that, once it is fully ready, it truly meets your needs and is easy for you to use."?

What would that world look like? How much more engaged would your members be? How would that change their perception of ownership in your association? How would that impact relationships between staff, members and board? How much faster could you move? How much more could you provide for your members?

30 November 2011

What I'm Reading

  • Banish typos forever! Well, OK, probably not, but if you follow Grammar Girl's advice, you should at least cut down on typos.
  • Top reasons your social media policies are backfiring.
  • KiKi L'Italien on Google+ and association pareidolia. Bonus? New vocab word!
  • Are you using the cognitive diversity you already have?
  • Want to lead? Get curious.
  • Just started A Visit from the Goon Squad. I'm not far enough into it to offer any kind of commentary other than that I love the writing style and use of language, and it seems like it's going to be an interesting plot.

29 November 2011

She Tells Two Friends...And They Tell Two Friends...

Remember that old Faberge shampoo commercial, where the hook was that the shampoo was SO amazing that a woman told two friends about it, and then they each told two friends, etc., until the screen was covered with little boxes containing pictures of female heads with awesomely feathered hair?

Witness word of mouth at work.

The exact number offered differs, but we've all heard the old trope that someone who has a good experience tells a small number of other people, while someone who has a bad experience tells a MUCH LARGER number of other people.

For associations, the customer service we offer our members is a huge source of word of mouth, positive and negative.

So how can you make sure your customer service is in tip-top shape?

First of all, even if you're "senior," don't take yourself out of the loop. It's easy to say: "Let the call center/junior staff handle it. I'm too busy/important/expensive." Wrong. The day-to-day treatment your members receive IS your organization to them. No matter what super-important, high-level project you're working on, if your members have a lousy experience every time they call, email, or otherwise ask for help, they aren't going to care.

Second, empower your staff. Tell all your front-line staff that they have the authority to do whatever seems fair to them to resolve a member's problem without fear of punishment. And back that up. Yeah, they're going to make mistakes. And you'll want to make sure that post-game analysis is part of your process, so you can talk through what your staff chose and whether there might be an even better way to respond the next time. But seriously, your word on "no punishment" has to be IRON CLAD. If it is, I guarantee that beautiful things will happen between your staff and members.

Third, secret shop, or better yet, ask trusted members to do so for you and report back.

Fourth, ask your members. We all survey, actually probably over-survey, our members about EVERYTHING. And we love those Likert scales, because we can make all sorts of pretty charts and graphs from them. But ranking your conference location or the quality of a webinar speaker or the ease of your renewal process on a 1-5 scale is way less important than this one question, that should be on every survey you ever send:

"If there was ONE THING we could do to make your experience with better, what would it be?"

Yep, that's an open-ended comment box type question, which means you won't be able to make a nice graph out of it that you can show to your boss or your board and compare across time. And 90+% of the time, it will be empty when your survey is submitted. But 10% of the time, you are going to get fantastic intel about what your association could be doing that would make a real difference for your members and other audiences. And isn't that why you exist in the first place?

28 November 2011

Always the Last to Know: #CyberMonday

No, I don't actually mean I didn't know about Cyber Monday until today. But this is a community participation Always the Last to Know.

Aside from Amazon.com's one click ordering, my favorite online shopping tip is to Google " coupon code" before ordering anything. Who doesn't love getting a discount?

Now you! What are YOUR favorite online shopping tools and tips?

24 November 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I was trying to find a good video or audio recording of this, but no luck. So you'll just get the words: 

Our hands will work for peace and justice
Our hands will work to heal the land
Gather 'round the harvest table
Let us feast, and bless the land

"Harvest Chant" by Libana

What did you harvest this year? Have you given thanks?

(back Monday)

23 November 2011

What I'm Reading

  • Two great posts on committees, the first from Eric Lanke and then a response from Jamie Notter.
  • Think your staff loves working at your association and would NEVER leave? Think again.
  • Turns out, Google+ doesn’t necessarily solve all the privacy issues in social networks.
  • Heinz shows us how to turn those lemons into lemonade, so quit being so afraid of something going wrong!
  • Using QR Codes - ur doin it RITE!
  • 22 people and organizations you should be paying attention to.
  • Boomers: please don't start any more nonprofits. Please.
  • How to offer feedback that the receiver can truly hear and use.
  • Set up your Google+ brand page yet? Now what? John Haydon can help.
  • I'm also reading Witches of East End. I can't remember how it ended up on my reading wish list, but I gather it's the launch of a new series from the same author who writes the Blue Bloods series (which I haven't read). It seems like it's the author's first attempt to start writing for adults. She should've stuck to young adult novels. It's poorly written but decently plotted, so I'm sticking with it, but I doubt I'll bother with anything else by Melissa de la Cruz.

22 November 2011

Do Your Incentives Make Sense?

I had the chance to have breakfast yesterday some membership professionals who are new to ASAE. Their organization has both individual and group membership, and they were looking for ideas on ways to increase both recruitment and retention.

We had a great conversation and shared lots of potential ideas they could pursue. But one thing jumped out to me immediately. Their group memberships (80% of their members) are paid by companies. Their individual memberships are almost universally paid by the individuals. And they cost more and offer fewer benefits.

Spot the problem?

Now the association has good reasons to want people to join as groups. Having the entire team as members is better for the member organizations, and the administration is easier for the association. So just flipping that equation - dropping the price for individuals and offering them more in the way of benefits - would be counter-productive.

But they will want to increase individual membership.

So what we discussed as a solution was to find what's common among the individual members that's not among the members that join as a group. Are their companies smaller? Are they from different industry segments? Are they earlier in the profession or their careers? Once the association can figure out what makes those individual members different (why are they joining as individuals rather than a group in the first place?), they can develop offerings that address those different needs. If they're able to do this carefully and well, charging more, less, or the same as the group memberships won't matter - the members will segment themselves appropriately based on their needs.

Do the incentives you offer your audiences make sense from the perspective of their needs and your own as their membership association? If not, what are you going to do about it?

21 November 2011

Always the Last to Know: CrazyEgg, Revisited

I've been looking up resources for a presentation at the upcoming ASAE Technology Conference (you will be there, right?), and I had the opportunity to take a second look at CrazyEgg. When it was in beta - and free - it just provided heat mapping for any website (or really, any graphic you provided it), to help you understand where your audience's eyes would go first.

In the interim, they've expanded it into a full visual web analytics tool to help organizations increase conversion rates specifically (like, say, membership and conference registration perhaps?). It's not going to take the place of Google Analytics, but it provides an immediate, simple, visual way to understand what's happening - or more precisely, not happening - on your call to action pages. Sweet!

18 November 2011

Friday Top 5

Lots of people have been doing the "30 days of gratitude" meme on Facebook. I'm taking a pass on that, but it is definitely the time of year to express thanks. Of course there's the standard "family, friends, job, health" etc., but I do like to think specifically about what I've harvested THIS year. So in no particular order:
  1. I'm thankful for Patuxent Baths & Kitchens and that we finally finished our basement, a project we've wanted to do for 10+ years. Best parts? No cold drafts coming up the open stairs into the kitchen, being able to go down to do the laundry in my bare feet without worrying about getting filthy or stepping on something dangerous, and having private space for overnight guests.
  2. I'm thankful for all the wonderful women I've met and the experiences we've shared at my bellydancing studio. It's brought so many positive things into my life in the past three years I don't even know where to begin.
  3. I'm thankful for the Food Lab crew. You can't beat good friends getting together to experiment with food, eat, drink, laugh, and learn.
  4. I'm thankful that my cat darling Bast was in my life for 16 years, and that when it was time for her to go, she went quickly.
  5. I'm thankful for my enduring love affair with New Orleans. If you've never known what it is to fall truly, madly, deeply and irredeemably in love with a place, get out there and find the place where your heart lives. You won't be sorry.
What are you thankful for THIS year?

17 November 2011

PR Issues for Associations

I had the opportunity to attend a workshop of that same title yesterday morning put on by the local chapter of PRSA downtown.

Our speakers included:
  • Peter Panepento of the Chronicle of Philanthropy on creating a social media footprint
  • Tracy Cooley of BIO on the future of association meetings
  • Mark Neidig of the Kanzius Cancer Research Foundation on winning the Pepsi challenge
  • Shashi Bellamkonda of Network Solutions (and general awesomeness) on Google+
The session consisted of round robin roundtables.

I have to admit, I skipped the session on the Pepsi challenge (not relevant to my organization, although it is relevant to our members) in order to spend more time with Shashi. Big geekin'!

Top takeaways included:
  • LinkedIn is likely the future of business social networking (seriously - check out the Chronicle's LI group, although you will have to wait to be approved for membership).
  • Google+ is still a niche network (40 million users, mostly social media early adopters, as opposed to FB's 800+ million), but there are good reasons to be on it as a brand: so you don't get brand-jacked (like happened to Bank of America), because it will positively influence your SEO in Google (try Googling Dell), and because it's a great platform to launch campaigns because it's easy to aggregate multimedia.
  • The association meetings market is changing quickly and radically. We have to be willing to experiment equally radically and be prepared to dump what's not working equally quickly, regardless of internal political support.
  • Association meetings professionals MUST work with marketing to generate buzz and get bodies in the door.
  • When it comes to the broadening definitions of what constitutes "news media," trust but verify. Err on the side of being generous with your free press registrations for first timers, but request clips.
  • Engage media who can't attend your conference through social media. Are you following your organization, profession, or industry's media influencers on Twitter yet?
  • For smaller events that aren't inherently newsworthy, look for the buzz and try to get it to play in the local media wherever your event takes place.
What have you learned this week?

16 November 2011

What I'm Reading

Little late, but I was out and about all day. 
  • Rebranding? Mashable has some great advice.
  • Want better open rates? Associations Now has some simple tips.
  • The social graph is neither. This piece is long, but it's also smart and totally worth it.
  • Three types of people to fire immediately - can I get an "amen"?
  • Giving a presentation? Don’t let social media scare you – let it make you better.
  • Social at work – turns out, it’s actually GenX driving it.
  • Kill your Klout profile? Maybe.
  • The most powerful social media measurement tool. You may even already have one.
  • 20 association thought leaders everyone should follow on Twitter. I found some new goodies, and I'll bet you will, too.
  • Want diversity? Sometimes, you have to make it happen.
  • Speaking of diversity, have you checked out ASAE's great new report yet?
  • How to rescue a failing online community.
  • Smart Blog on social media can’t make its mind up: Google+ is AWESOME! Google+ SUCKS! I’m going to wait until the frenzy dies down to decide.
  • I'm also reading Gabrielle Hamilton's memoir Blood, Bones & Butter. The first two sections were great - memories of her odd childhood and wild adolescence, how she came to love food and open Prune. The final section has been awful. For her kids' sake, I hope she's not the mad, passive-aggressive harridan she makes herself out to be. I'd just stop reading, but I'm not far from the end and feel committed.

15 November 2011

Clay Shirky - Long Time, No See

I've been doing an intermittent series where I select something I highlighted while reading Here Comes Everybody and then comment on why I highlighted it. Of course, the last time I posted in this series was in July, so I'll forgive you if you had NO idea it was going on. Hey, there's been a lot of thought-provoking stuff happening in association management the last several months!

Anyway, I'm picking this series back up.
Small Worlds networks mean that people don't simply connect at random. They connect in clusters, ensuring that they interact with the same people frequently, even in large networks. This in turn reduces the Prisoners' Dilemma and helps create social capital.

Shirky, chapter 9, page 222
So what is the Prisonsers' Dilemma? Aside from being the bane of the existence of anyone who ever did graduate school in the social sciences (like yours truly)? It's the basis of game theory, and it elucidates why people tend not to cooperate, even though it would be in both their best interests to do so.

In a nutshell, there are three possible outcomes: both people cooperate, both betray trust, or one cooperates while the other betrays trust. Even though the game is set up so that the optimal total outcome eventuates if both people cooperate, the incentive to betray trust and screw the other person while benefiting yourself is so strong that both people are inclined to betray trust, which leads to both being punished.

So what does this all mean? Basically, humans are not inclined to trust strangers. And with good reason - you don't know them, and they could be bad people who are out to hurt you ("I don't know Mary. Mary could be an axe murderer. No way am I trusting Mary."). However, having a mutual tie, even if it's a relatively weak tie, helps us take the first step to trusting each other, which leads to building trust, which can produce great outcomes as we cooperate and work together ("I don't know Mary. But my colleague Sue knows Mary. I know Sue wouldn't be friends with an axe murderer. Therefore, I feel confident that I can meet Mary for coffee without risking life and limb.")

Weak ties are often derided, but they are in fact the foundation of social networks. Where can your weak ties take you? Who have you taken a risk on trusting because of a network connection? What good as come about as a result of that cooperation?

14 November 2011

Always the Last to Know: Nextdoor

Nextdoor is a hyperlocal social network. What does that mean? It allows you to connect with your actual neighbors and share information about your own neighborhood. It's secure and private. Address verification is required, so it really is just your actual neighbors. And it allows people to connect around recommendations, help, advice, local organizing, etc. - only without all the shouting and name-calling of the average ANC meeting.

11 November 2011

Friday Top 5

It's Veteran's Day. Although it's a federal holiday, most of us don't have it off work anymore (myself included). But I still recommend taking a few minutes to think about and thank any veterans you know. So thanks to...
  • My (deceased) paternal grandfather, who served in the South Pacific in WWII.
  • My mom's middle brother, who served as an Army nurse in Viet Nam.
  • My best friend from grad school, who was one of the first wave of Green Berets to go into Afghanistan.
  • My swing dancing buddy, Cameron, who's been all over, including several stints in Iraq.
  • My mom's youngest brother, who, although he served during peace time, served voluntarily.
If you have the chance, hug a veteran today!

10 November 2011

"PR by Ostrich"

Two major scandals have been ALL OVER the news media recently: the Herman Cain sexual harassment allegations and the Jerry Sandusky pedophilia accusations.

What do the two have to do with each other?

Cover up.

This is not a screed against Herman Cain, even though I do happen to think he's an idiot - why do people persist in thinking that President of the United States is a good entry-level job in politics? - or against JoePa, even though I think he's morally culpable for knowing what was going on and not doing more to stop it.

What it IS a screed against is the idea that paying people hush money and/or doing the minimum that is "legally required" is EVER a good idea.

The other thing that both of these scandals have in common is that they occurred when the Internet was still relatively in its infancy and social media wasn't even a gleam in Mark Zuckerberg's eye.

So maybe the parties in question - the leadership at the National Restaurant Association and at Penn State - could at least be understood for thinking, "Well, these are, in fact, CRIMES we're talking about here, but we should be able to sweep it far enough under the rug that it will NEVER come to light."

OK, probably not, but you get my point.

How about, instead of lying and denying and spinning and trying to shut people up, both organizations chose to be open, honest, and transparent, and let the chips fall where they may?

Sure, Jerry Sandusky would likely be in jail, and the Nittany Lions would've lost a great linebackers coach. Which is probably a good thing, because the way it's falling out now, it looks like the leadership of the school decided that winning football games was more important than children's safety. Think on that for a minute. Result? The entire leadership of Penn State has completely lost everyone's respect and their own credibility and integrity. And, shortly, their jobs. And JoePa's previously sterling reputation has been irredeemably tarnished.

The National Restaurant Association might have gone through an ugly court case - although realistically, it would've been settled out of court, since that's what almost always happens in sexual harassment cases - and they would've fired Cain and moved on to their next CEO. AFTER THE FIRST GO-ROUND. And then, when all this came out as part of his presidential bid, as it inevitably would, they wouldn't be giving a black eye to the entire association community. They could've pointed back and said: "One woman made allegations. We went before a judge. The case was settled. We fired Cain. End of story." And Cain could've gone on to harass women someplace else, most likely, but the NRA would've been O-U-T.

Look, if burying your head in the sand was EVER a good idea, it's not anymore. Now this kind of behavior, besides being wrong, is just dumb.

Thanks to Shelly Alcorn for the title of this post, derived from an exchange we had on Twitter.

For another take on this, check out Deirdre Reid's post.

09 November 2011

What I'm Reading

  • Don’t *just* retweet, add something of value.
  • Smoker? Expect to pay morefor your health insurance soon (no time like the present to quit).
  • Want happy employees? Forget the raise, just unblock FB (I would argue you should ALSO give them the raise).
  • The hidden ROI of social media: not sales but savings.
  • Use improv techniques to create a fantastic customer experience for your members.
  • Want people to share your stuff? Content alone is not enough.
  • The 5 employees who are wrecking your business (and they’re probably not great for your association, either).
  • The 4 myths that are killing you at the office.
  • I've just started Gabrielle Hamilton's memoir, Blood, Bones and Butter. Hamilton is the well-regarded chef of Prune in NYC. She's also one of the few female "celebrity" chefs. It's starting slow, but I expect good things.
And two reminders:
  1. Don't forget that it's Give 2 the Max day here in DC, so go donate to some worthy organizations.
  2. The Progress U blogger summit goes down tomorrow. I'll miss it, but you should go and there's still time to sign up.

08 November 2011

Are you ready to Give to the Max?

Give to the Max day is TOMORROW. The idea is that it's a one day give-a-thon. Charities have registered to participate (you can see which ones here). People like us are supposed to give to our favorite charity/charities. And that's great by itself.

But wait! There's more!

There are a variety of prizes at stake for organizations that engage the most donors and/or raise the most dollars.

So go check out the list and plan the organization/s you'll be giving to.

07 November 2011

Always the Last to Know: Poken

I know a lot of you - KiKi L'Italien in particular - got here a LONG time before me, but I finally got my first Poken! That's him ---->

One of the exhibitors at this fall's SHSMD conference sponsored them - which was a genius move on their part, since EVERYONE wanted one and so they got EVERYONE's information - and then we all had a blast with them during the event.

Pokens, for those who aren't already in the know, are little devices that allow you to exchange business card information electronically, then download that information into your address book via USB port.

The only downside? They aren't that widely used yet. But they were fantastic as a conference giveaway, because it was a captive audience.

04 November 2011

Friday Top 5

It's Digital Capital Week (aka #DCWEEK), and, once again, I'm too booked to go to anything. But that doesn't mean YOU can't enjoy it. If I could participate, these would be my Top 5 Don't-Miss Events:
  1. Progress U Blogger Summit (can't believe I'm missing this, but I have stuff going on at the office on Thursday I just can't move)
  2. The opening party (TONIGHT and, at last check, there were still some tickets available)
  3. "Miss Representation" screening on Sunday afternoon
  4. Advanced Social Media for Nonprofits on Monday morning
  5. The closing party next Friday
And look for a post on Give To The Max day next week...

For more, see http://digitalcapitalweek.org/

03 November 2011

A Little Mid-Week Inspiration

Get inspired by Steve Jobs' famous Stanford University commencement speech:

02 November 2011

What I'm Reading

I'm off to ASAE's In Honor of Women today to celebrate with "Rising Star" honoree Lauren Wolfe, but I wanted to get this out first.
  • 13 punctuation marks you never knew existed. I actually did know a few of these, because I'm a huge nerd, and thanks to Maddie Grant for the link!
  • Talent is irrelevant.
  • Think everything is fine and dandy from an employment perspective in the non-profit world? Think again.
  • How everything you learned in school screwed up your ability to write for business.
  • More great stuff on diversity, from Acronym and Dylan Tweney.
  • It's OK to be ordinary - you can still change the world.
  • Seeing as I aspire to the top spot some day, dear God, I hope this guy is trying (and failing) to be funny.
  • I'm also re-reading the Hunger Games trilogy. So much fun! I think the movie version is going to be terrific.

01 November 2011

Better Late Than Never

Did you know Blog Action Day 2011 came and went?

Where was I?

Oh right - topping off my organization's annual meeting with a visit with my in-laws.

Anyway, I know I'm about two weeks late, but this year's topic, food, is very important to me, so I'm going to write a brief post anyway.

If you know me at all, you know that I LOVE food. I love to read about food, I love to write about food, I love eating out, eating in, cooking for people I care about or enjoying them cooking for me. Food's great!

You know what I don't love?
  • 1 in 8 households in Washington, DC, our nation's capital, struggles with hunger.
  • 13% of all households in DC dealt with "food insecurity" in 2010.
  • In 2009-2010, 37.4% of households with children in DC reported that they were unable to afford enough food.
  • Wards 7 and 8, which have the District's highest poverty rates, also have the city's highest obesity rates and are home to large "food deserts."
  • Of the city's 43 full-service grocery stores, only two are located in Ward 4, four in Ward 7, and three in Ward 8. By contrast, Ward 3 - the highest-income Ward - has eleven full-service stores.
  • Only one of the city's 30 farmers' markets is located east of the Anacostia River.
All facts from DC Hunger Solutions.

That's a lot of our neighbors who aren't sure they can afford to feed themselves and their kids or who, even if they can afford the food, can't find good, healthy food to buy.

And that stinks.

So what can you do about it?

As always, educating yourself is a great place to start. Go to Google and type in "hunger in [your location]." You might be surprised what you find.

The next step? Feeding America can help you find the hunger relief charities in your area that can be supported with donations of food, your money, your time, or all of the above.

Are you in DC? Some great places to donate goods, time, or money include:
  • Capital Area Food Bank - maybe you could run a holiday food drive at your office?
  • DC Central Kitchen - FYI, founder Robert Egger is a complete bad-ass.
  • Miriam's Kitchen - hey - they have a walkathon coming up in 2 1/2 weeks where, if they can recruit 1500 walkers, they'll earn a $25,000 grant. And they don't even expect you to start until 9 am.
  • So Others Might Eat - they are always looking for volunteer servers, particularly around the holidays, which can be a really cool thing to do with your family or a group of friends.
What are you waiting for? Don't just sit there - go do something!

31 October 2011

Always the Last to Know: Tout

Fact 1:  Attention spans are getting shorter and shorter.
Fact 2:  We're rapidly approaching majority penetration of smart phones.
Fact 3:  Smart phones all include video cameras.

Enter Tout, which is basically Twitter for video. Tout lets you create short video status updates. Shaq is apparently a big fan.

28 October 2011

Friday Top 5

Snow this weekend? In DC? REALLY?

Ok, well, maybe.

But we all still need to panic, right? Top 5 Things I'm Doing to Prepare for Octsnowberfest:
  1. Bringing in the houseplants before they all freeze to death.
  2. Ensuring I have enough milk, eggs, and bourbon to make bourbon milk punch, our traditional snow storm cocktail.
  3. Harvesting the rest of the mint before it freezes, too.
  4. Closing the storm windows.
  5. Bringing in wood for the first fire of the season (glad I got the chimney cleaned two weeks ago!).

27 October 2011

Idea Swappin'

This week's Super Idea Swap at ASAE was great, as usual! We had lots of new faces - and plenty of familiar ones - and sessions with different topics than we often see.

I chose to participate in the session on diversity in the morning, led by Constance Thompson from the American Society of Civil Engineers, and Clinton Anderson, from the American Psychological Association. In the afternoon, I participated in the session on generations in the workplace, led by David Miles from the Miles LeHane Companies.

My top takeaways included:
  • When pairing up mentors and padawans, stop putting like with like (Asian man with Asian man, Latina with Latina, etc.), and look at people's professional goals and who can best help them meet those goals.
  • Diversity is about how we're the same and different. Inclusion is about using diversity to make us and our organizations better.
  • DJ Johnson shared two great tools: the diversity wheel and the concept of the diversity paradigm by Roosevelt Thomas.
  • If you don't measure it, you can't change it - getting data from our audiences is key to becoming more diverse as organizations, but we have to be transparent about why we want the information to allay people's fears about sharing it.
  • We have to let people express the "who cares?" thoughts, since stifling those uncomfortable conversations helps no one.
  • Conflict is a sign of diverse voices, which, to a group that has been historically homogenous, feels threatening. 
  • The decisions of a heterogeneous group take longer, but tend to produce better outcomes.
  • "Do you know next?"
Edited 11/1/2011 to add: I forgot one great takeaway! ASAE is shifting focus from a laundry list of protected categories to talking about diversity and inclusion in terms of the way we think (culture, work style, learning style), the way we do things (process, teamwork, innovation), and the way we are (human factors, demographics, identity). LOVE!

26 October 2011

What I'm Reading

  • If innovation was easy, everyone would do it.
  • Having a hard time finding good staff? Maybe it's you.
  • Put those FB fans to work!
  • And then show them you care.
  • Offtopic post? So what?
  • Radical idea: just tell the truth.
  • Universal volunteering - an idea whose time has come?
  • I'm re-reading Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, which I last read as a teenager. It's a creepy dystopian novel that prefigures turning "citizens" into "consumers" and regulating all strong moods and emotions with drugs. If you've never read it, you really should.

25 October 2011

Always the Last to Know: PatientsLikeMe

I found this site because its creator won the TR 35 Humanitarian of the Year award.

Every year, MIT's Technology Review identifies 35 innovators under 35 whose ideas are transforming our world.

PatientsLikeMe brings together people who suffer from serious and chronic diseases to share information that improves treatment and their lives.

Each day, community members answer a simple question: how do you feel now? The combined answers are changing the way medical research into their diseases is conducted.

24 October 2011

Get Your Ideas Here!

A little out of order this week, but there's still time to register for the ASAE Super Swap idea swap, which goes down tomorrow, Tuesday, October 25, at ASAE.

For those who haven't been before, a Super Swap combines SIX idea swaps in one day. That's a lot of ideas!

Tomorrow's topics will include:
  • Direct mail
  • Communities of Practice
  • Diversity
  • Marketing 
  • Generational differences
  • Recruitment and retention
The program runs 9:30 am - 2 pm. Lunch is provided. And I'll be there as an ambassador for the Membership Development Committee, so if you have any questions or need any help with anything, look for the energetic redhead (I can say that because Cynthia D'Amour will NOT be there).

21 October 2011

Friday Top 5

Man, I have been running around like a maniac recently! Some travel has been for fun, some has been for work, but it feels like I've hardly been home since before #ASAE11!

Well, no more. I think - I think - I get to stay home for a while now. And much as I enjoy travel and spending time with members and my organization's corporate supporters and my friends and family, well...  --> --> -->

Top 5 Things That Are Great About Staying Put For A While:
  1. Getting reacquainted with my cat, who's been looking a little lonely recently
  2. Not only getting caught up on my house To Do list, but having time to putter as a result
  3. Baking bread and croissants and baguettes and muffins and cookies and pies...
  4. Visiting the farmer's market (thank heavens I had a CSA this year!)
  5. NOT having to pack. Again. I'm a lousy packer.
Image credit: erikazen

20 October 2011

More IGNITE Goodness

John Chen on How Twitter Saved His Life, for #ASAE11

Did you get the message that the IGNITE videos are all up? Go watch them!

19 October 2011

What I'm Reading