Following the Nonprofit Technology Network Conference ( #09NTC )

April 26, 2009 § Leave a comment

At the very moment I am writing these words, the 2009 NTEN conference is getting underway in San Francisco. While I am very jealous of all of my friends who are there, I will be attending virtually from Chicago.

NTEN is a wonderful resource for nonprofit professionals, and the conference (though I have never been) is a great networking and learning opportunity. Luckily for those of us who can’t be there, we can network from here, connecting to people via Twitter and others who are liveblogging.

There are a number of ways to follow the conference sessions, which can be found here. Even if you can’t tune in live for the podcasts and vidcasts, some of the sessions will be available after the conference.

I heard recently that when you are seeking professional development opportunities that you should connect with people who are not like you, who have different strengths, perspectives and skill sets. This seems like good advice whether it’s personal or professional growth that you seek. I’m grateful to NTEN for helping to make this possible through technology tools. It’s an incredible resource and opportunity for cross pollination of ideas.

Slow Adoption

April 19, 2009 § Leave a comment

On being an early (albeit slow) adopter

Along the spectrum of the Diffusion of Innovations, one can be an Innovator, Early Adopter, a member of the Early Majority, the Late Majority, or a Laggard. Since my early childhood, I have identified as an early adapter of technology tools. My decision to try new technology starts with learning about the concept of the tool in question, not just jumping in to be one of the first end users. If I’m not persuaded that the tool will be useful to my productivity, or if I don’t think it sounds fun, I won’t even consider trying it because it’s not a good use of my time or resources.

I have been using computers since I was six years old, which is a pretty early age for someone of my generation. My father worked for a Control Data Corporation in Minnesota, who owned the Plato computer system. I grew up using one of the earliest versions of the Internet, which involved chat rooms, instant messaging, and multi-player games. We had a huge monstrosity of a computer in our basement boiler room, and you had to dial into the Plato system with a rotary telephone. I would dial the number, and the system on the other end would make noises like a fax machine, followed by a staticky hiss, and I would then set the phone receiver to rest off the hook for the rest of my online session.

My dad used to take me to conventions where I would demonstrate how simple it was to operate a computer (“So easy, a child can do it!”). It’s surprising to me that I’m not more of a gamer since I spent so much of my early childhood playing role-playing games that involved building Dungeons and Dragons style characters, accumulating weapons and money and fighting scary creatures. However, since the popular advent of the Internet, I immediately took to communication tools, from email to blogging to online chat. When I stop to think about it, I realize that I have been using social networking technology for about thirty-five years, so it’s no wonder I am fascinated with Twitter, and that I’m so delighted to get in touch with old friends from high school on Facebook.

While I did not grow up to be a programmer (or a gamer), my expertise is in how technology tools can help people manage the daily onslaught of information.  In this age of innovation and information, the onslaught of new tools is almost as overwhelming as the avalanche of data that we have coming at us at any moment. As an information professional, I need to know about the most efficient tools that help to filter data in such a way that what is most useful is pushed directly to the end user.

I have not waited in line to purchase the first iPhone or Wii, but I have had a Twitter account since 2007, and my original yahoo address was simply sconner (I can’t use that account any more, with the incredible amount of spam I recieve there). It is my business to know about trends in information management tools, but I don’t want to spend a lot of time beta-testing something unless I’m confident it’s going to be a good investment of my time.

I like to wait for new products to have at least a couple of generations in production before I will spend my money on it. When I first started using Twitter, I didn’t get. I signed up for my account in November of 2007, but I didn’t start using it in earnest until almost a year later. Now it is something that I use daily to build social networks and share information.

Embracing the concept of the Slow Movement, I posit that slow adoption of technology is a prudent and wise investment of our resources.  I will always be eager to learn to new developments as they happen, but I will not actually adopt the tools until they have proven their usefulness to me.

Inspiring Career Building Resources

April 12, 2009 § Leave a comment

Finding Wisdom and Opportunity Trough Information Tools and Social Networks

Inspired by people I have encountered who are using technology tools to do good works and create positive social change, I created this blog. As is usually the case with my creative process, I wasn’t entirely sure where this would lead me.

Out of an interest in gathering and sharing information and adopting new tools and methods of gathering and sharing information, I have slowly built an online identity and network. People that I connect with via online tools are in a variety of professions supporting all kinds of organizations. Many are fundraisers, like me. Some are librarians, civil rights activists, volunteers, journalists, bloggers, programmers, environmentalists, or some cross section of all of those.

I explore these tools and meet people who share my interest in using technology tools to build community and create opportunities for social action. All of this has had and indirect connection to my daily work as director of a prospect research shop for a major university, though occasionally I encounter tools and resources that I can bring to the office. For the most part, however, I have regarded this as a personal interest.

In the last two weeks, the professional functionality of my online exploration has come to fruition. Since finding myself unexpectedly in a job search, I have the opportunity to integrate the personal with the professional as I am wont to do. I am glad that I invested the time in creating my online presence, and I am grateful to my friends and colleagues who have encouraged me to do so.

For the first time, I included my blog on my resume. In getting the word out about my job search I have received communications of encouragement and opportunity through Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and this blog, and I am actively networking through these tools to meet people and to connect others whom I know are like me seeking opportunities. I have found even more resources for professional development and career exploration:

I know the potential of information technology and social networks, and the intersection of the two is where creativity and inspiration generate knowledge, wisdom, and action. I find myself with the unique opportunity to learn new applications for the technology tools I have been exploring and for the skill set that I have acquired over my career as an information manager in the fundraising world. While unemployment is not a situation that I wished for, I am excited about the new road that I am on.

Balance v. Integration

April 3, 2009 § Leave a comment

Someone recently told me that her boss was encouraging people at her company to consider trying to achieve work/life integration as opposed to work/life balance. Her interpretation of what he meant by work/life integration would be more of an intrusion on the boundaries of her private life. She felt strongly that the company was trying to take advantage of its employees and encroach upon personal time. While this may be true of her experience, I think of work life integration in a different way.

As an employee, I want my workplace to embrace and uphold the values that I hold near and dear: Ethics, integrity, diversity, community, respect, creativity. I know that I’m going to do my best work with an organization whose values I integrate in my personal life, and that I will be more successful if I can bring my whole self and unique personality to the job.

As a manager, I recognize that an employee’s personal life is their priority, and while I expect the very best from my team, they are not going to achieve top performance if they are not in a supportive workplace. If employees feel free to bring their whole selves, their individual personalities to the office, they will be more likely to do their most inspired and creative work.

It is important to uphold the boundaries between work life and personal life. However, there is no doubt that both influence and give shape to our whole identity, and it is impossible to make that clean separation. In my experience, the places where I have done my best work are where I have had the most fun and felt the most supported by my employer to take care of my family. I was encouraged to bring my personality to the workplace, and yet the boundaries of my personal life and needs was clear and respected. As an employee, I this is where I do my best work, and as a manger, this is where I observe my direct reports flourishing.

This personal philosophy is one of the reasons why I haven’t made the personal/professional separation between my social networking tools. I am connected to colleagues on Facebook, and friends and family on LinkedIn. They serve different purposes, and the content that I share in each place varies accordingly. On Facebook, I’ll share things of a more personal nature, being mindful that people I work will see it. On Linked in, I’m only going to post things that are directly related to my work.

I have one Twitter account where I tweet about things that are interesting to me both personally and professionally. I considered getting two accounts on Twitter, but so far have decided against it, mostly for reasons of practicality. I’m already on so many different social networks, another account would be more of a hassle. Also, there is so much overlap between what interests me at work and at play, I find applicability for what I find and share on Twitter personally and professionally.

However, I maintain two blogs, this one being of a more professional nature. Paradoxologies is where I express my opinions about current events, talk about my latest knitting projects, and post my favorite recipes. The boundary between the content in those places is more clear to me, but even here in my more “professional” blog, my personality is evident, especially as I write about things like how my yoga practice helps me achieve work/life balance and integration, or what music podcast will help me be more productive.

The balance that we all seek between work and personal life is more achievable if employers support healthy work/life integration. Not everyone is lucky enough to have employers who are respectful of the boundaries and can still make a place for personal expression. As a manager and as an employee, I do what I can in the workplace to influence a positive office culture where this is possible.

Working the Network

March 29, 2009 § Leave a comment

Over my career, I have established quite a professional network. During the past two years or so, I have been able to apply online tools to stay in touch and manage my connections. This was fun a fun way to get in touch, but I always thought in the back of my mind that some day I will really need these tools for professional advancement.

Lo and behold, my department is being restructured, and today I find myself unexpectedly in search of employment. There’s no time like the present to see what LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter can do for me. So far, by day five since learning the news, the networks have mostly been useful for getting the word out and for friends and colleagues to offer encouragement and advice, for which I am exceedingly grateful.

The HR manager in my department encouraged me to get on LinkedIn and connect with people there. That is where recruitment is happening, she told me. Indeed, I have been reaching out to people there, finding professional groups to join, and searching for jobs.

Through my exploration of LinkedIn, I stumbled upon the Ning group for nonprofit professionals, the NP Forum. They are on Twitter and have a group within LinkedIn. There’s also Nonprofit Orgs, who is on Twitter, too.

Who knows? Maybe this blog will lead me to my next great opportunity. Hopefully there is a fundraising organization out there in Chicagoland that is looking for the perfect person to help build institutional memory and help track relationships with information technology. But I digress.

I hope to have a happy story here soon about social networking tools that will give courage to other job seekers out there. In the meanwhile, I take heart in hearing about other success stories.

Appreciation and Hope for Ma.gnolia

February 8, 2009 § 2 Comments

As all Ma.gnolia users know, the wonderful social bookmarking site suffered a “catastrophic data loss” on January 30th. The first thing I thought of when I first learned this was “poor Larry!” Larry Halff, the founder of Ma.gnolia is a friend of mine from college, and Ma.gnolia is his life’s work, a real labor of love. I’m sure that his heart was breaking.

At first I assumed that like so many others, I had lost most of my bookmarks. Fortunately, between FriendFeed and my experiment with Delicious last summer, I have all of my bookmarks, and I have only lost tags and notes from everything I have saved since July of 2008.

Lesson learned here: Keep your own data backups. I’m going to continue to use Delicious even after Ma.gnolia relaunches (I’m optimistic that it will), just so that I know my bookmarks are saved somewhere else, and I will also do a periodic download for my own files.

I know that there are many users out there who are going to have trust issues when it is relaunched. I am confident that Larry is learning some hard lessons that he will carry forward into the Ma.gnolia 2.0, and he will take all precautions to ensure that this will never happen again. I am optimistic and hopeful for the return of Ma.gnolia.

Even at the moment I believed that my bookmarks were lost for ever, I was hoping for the rebirth of Ma.gnolia. While I am grateful that I have an alternative in Delicious to track my bookmarks, right now I am really missing the lovely design of the social networking features that are Ma.gnolia’s greatest strength. I was following and corresponding with some very interesting people with eclectic interests that were reflected in their saved bookmarks. The groups that I was following introduced me to even more people, resources, and ideas.

In addition to discovering interesting new websites and people, I learned many new things there, including Getting Things Done, which is an organizational and productivity method that I now employ, and the concept of tagging as an emerging method of information management, and the inspiring community of activists and professionals that are using social networking tools to foment positive social change, which is the theme of this blog.  Ma.gnolia opened a door for me to a world of resources and people who are promoting sustainable living, citizen journalism, civil rights, and getting people together for actions and projects, or just to have fun. I know that I likely would have encountered much of this without social networking tools, but it was facilitated with greater efficiency and speed.

I credit Larry and Ma.gnolia with my introduction to this world. I already had a penchant for it, but for me, it was Ma.gnolia that really clicked and made me appreciate how valuable these tools are for gathering and sharing information. Through Ma.gnolia, I was emboldened to try Facebook and Twitter among others, which have since become invaluable to me.

I have been using social networking tools since 2006. In 2007 I moved from the Bay Area to Chicago, and it immediately became apparent to me how useful these tools would be for me to keep in touch with old friends, make new ones, and even find long-lost friends I never thought I would hear from again. It has been a real gift, and it is only getting better as more and more friends and colleagues are starting to use them.

I wish Larry and his colleagues the very best, and I am anxiously awaiting the rebirth of Ma.gnolia!

Twitter Love and Potential

December 21, 2008 § Leave a comment

Some new (or relatively new) people and organizations have recently joined Twitter, and I’m glad to see them here. I look forward to seeing their tweets, and possibly nominating them for a Shorty Award next year:

  • Bitch Magazine — they’ve been on Twitter for a while, but just recently started tweeting in earnest (BTW, great you guys are here and are more active — I am a long-time fan. But I sincerely hope that you will soon start tweeting more content than just about your new Bee Hive giving circle. And this is coming from a fundraising professional.)
  • National Center for Lesbian Rights — the leaders of the Marriage Equality movement.
  • Walker Art Center — one of the best art museums in the world that happens to be in my home town.
  • Plenty Magazine — a green lifestyle magazine.
  • Calpernia Addams — America’s Transexual Sweetheart.
  • Sister Helen Prejean — Anti death-penalty activist and all around inspiration. She’s been on Twitter for a while, too, and has recently become a little more active.

There are some folks already on Twitter who I wish would be a little more active (including some friends of mine, @ecat, @squirrelguurl, @ggumlock, @calimex, and there are a few others I could name):

  • Jenny Holzer — while I understand this isn’t the real Jenny Holzer, Twitter is still a great medium for her truisms. Whoever is behind it, I hope to see more of it.
  • Peter Sagal — host of Wait, Wait — Don’t Tell Me. Would love to follow, but he’s so sporadic. Sagal seems to have a little more activity of late, so he may be worth following again.
  • United Church of Christ — my denomination. They tweet regularly, but I’d like to see a little more activity.

Here are some people I wish I could follow on Twitter:

  • Cornell West — it would just be so awesome if here were tweeting his spiritual genius and love.
  • Anne Lamott — writer and social commentator.
  • Ted Kooser — former US Poet Laureate.
  • Bill Moyers — journalist and public commentator.
  • Anne Matthewson — someone I follow over on Ma.gnolia who I think has a brilliant blog. She likes quotations, and I think Twitter would be a great medium for her.

There are others I’m sure I’ll think of that I’d like to see on Twitter. I’ll keep my eye out!

Oversharing with Twitter and RSS

November 28, 2008 § 2 Comments

Last night I stayed up way too late playing with RSS feeds. Perhaps I’m a little slow on the uptake (not unusual for me), but I discovered a couple of new tools that allow me to use RSS technology to push out information to my Twitter followers and blog readers. And here I thought all the time that RSS feeds are a way for me only to collect information. Now I know RSS can be used as a way to share. This is a very exciting realization for me.

Yesterday, I discovered Twitterfeed, which allows you to set up RSS activity to feed into your Twitter feed. You can set up feeds from your blogs, your link sharing sites, including Facebook posts and tools like Ma.gnolia or Delicious, and probably some other sources that I haven’t thought of.

As a chronic oversharer (in more of a reference librarian kind of way, not in a TMI way), I immediately saw the usefulness. So I have set up four feeds; one from each of my blogs so that each time I make a new post it will automatically send out a tweet; one from my Facebook Posted Items feed; and another from my Ma.gnolia feed with all of the links that I tag with “reference”. I’m thinking about setting up a special feed there especially for Twitter link sharing. Possibly more on that later.

Hopefully, my followers will find this interesting and not annoying. These tools will no doubt increase my follow cost. This is a concept I find a little paradoxical. I mean, you follow people on Twitter because you’re interested in what they’re tweeting, right? I’m not saying more is better, but Twitter is an information sharing tool. Anyway, I hope that these feeds don’t become obnoxious.

I also figured out how to use some RSS widgets through my WordPress blogs. I set up my Twitter feed to update in the sidebars (that was kind of a “duh” moment for me), and I also set up some Ma.gnolia link feeds to update there. If you look to the right below the Meebo box, you will see my latest Ma.gnolia links tagged with “Social Change” and from my “Fundraising and Philanthropy” and “Development Research” groups.

These tools for me are just like Christmas; I find joy in receiving and sharing the gifts of information technology.

Following Proposition 8 Protests Today

November 15, 2008 § Leave a comment

While I haven’t been able to give as much time and attention to these protests as I would have liked, it is clear that the Internet has changed activism and grassroots organzing.

The nation-wide action was organized by grassroots movements in communities everywhere using Internet tools. I found the protest here through the Join the Impact website, which had resources and links to local websites, blogs, and Facebook pages. Word has been spread by Facebook, Twitter, and FriendFeed. I found many resources here in Chicago, including Chicago Against Prop 8, and the Great Lakes Against Prop 8 (GLAP8 – gotta work on that acronym).

Almost overnight I connected with old friends and made new ones, all of us in far flung locations acting in solidarity for marriage equality.

Today, I will be one of the featured livebloggers at the many rallies around the country.

All of the action and planning has inspired and reinvigorated me! I am eager to see the results of our efforts, and I will be sure to report on it here.

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