Techneophyte

May 31, 2008 § Leave a comment

Before this week, I wouldn’t have used this term to describe myself. Nor would most who know me. I know I don’t know every tech tool that is out there. Every day I work with online reference tools to do my job, and I’m pretty well up to speed with what I think are the best available.

This week, however, I’ve been put in my place. And I’m good with that.

I’ve been at home this week, which has afforded me the time to work on an article I am writing about the use of information technology by nonprofits and movements for social change. I pitched this article to an industry rag thinking that I have some expertise to bring to the subject. And don’t get me wrong, I do. My experiences this week have just put that into a little perspective.

It just so happens that this week was the big launch of the Nonprofit Commons, NetSquared‘s presence in Second Life. I figured this was an absolute coup for me! I have just started dabbling in Second Life (I think I’m outing myself here), so this was really a perfect event for me to meet people and find out what they are doing with tech tools.

Unfortunately, family business prevented me from being able to see much of the mixed media panel discussion, which was taking place simultaneously in RL (real life) and SL (Second Life). I arrived pretty much about half way through the panel, and it took me most of the rest of the time to fix my preferences so that I could hear the speakers. I was indeed able to meet some folks who were all very interesting and eager to talk to me. At that point, however, there was so much going on around us that I was a little overwhelmed. There were so many people around us, I couldn’t keep track of the local chat. Following the thread of a conversation was almost impossible. I could instant mail to individual people, but I wound up having about five simultaneous conversations that didn’t amount to much substance. In the end, I made contacts and will set up interviews with these folks later.

I stuck around there as long as I could. There were live musicians performing remotely via their avatars. Much to my surprise, they were really good! But there were tons of people around, which caused a lot of “lag,” meaning that I couldn’t really move. It was like one of those bad dreams where you’re stuck in slow motion trying to cross the street as a car fast approaches, only without the car. I was stuck and frustrated. I couldn’t move around to find other people to talk to, which was why I was there.

All of that wasn’t what made me feel like a neophyte, though it didn’t help. I understand that these problems are common in SL, and I’m not experiencing them just because I’m a newbie.

What really made me feel behind the times were all of the conversations around me that I couldn’t possibly take part in. They were all about scripting and building things, and then people were surprised that I hadn’t heard of Sloodle (which is, duh, the SL version of Moodle — which I, ahem, hadn’t heard of, either — Sarah Conner blushes).

Anyhoo, I have a lot to learn, which I think is actually a good thing. One of my new contacts pointed out that that will probably work in my favor for this article. And I thought about that later in the context of this blog. I’m really not a techie, but a tech user. If I can help to translate what’s useful about these new technology tools and ultimately help other neophytes be more productive and more connected to the nonprofit community, then I guess that is what I have to contribute to the NPO technology conversation.

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