National Coming Out Day

October 12, 2009 § Leave a comment

Musings on being a “professional homosexual”

Since delving into the world of social networking, I have observed people separate their accounts into personal, professional, or political. I have been a little self conscious about my choice of keeping my accounts somewhat integrated. I worry that I’m posting things that my online community won’t be interested in, won’t agree with, or will find inappropriate. Personally, I like to see people in three dimensions, and I prefer to represent myself in that light too.

This weekend, as I was watching the coverage of the National Equality March in Washington DC, I was inspired by the speeches and tweeting my favorite quotes as I watched. For those who follow me because of our professional connection, I wonder if I am perceived as crossing a boundary that they might think is at best a little annoying, and at worst offensive.

My wife and I were were the second couple to be married in 2004 in the Winter of Love. For a while we were quite literally poster children for marriage equality. A very romantic photo of us by the Golden Gate Bridge was blown up and plastered on bus stop billboards across San Francisco that year. We often joked that year that we were “professional homosexuals,” representing the movement for marriage equality.

While we were caught up in an extraordinary historical moment five years ago, my wife and I are  very ordinary people. We struggle to make ends meet and face life’s challenges like any other couple. We love each other and we are privileged to have what many other couples take for granted; a family who loves and embraces us, an employer who respects my relationship with my wife, and a life of relative safety and stability.

There are many same-sex couples who do not have such privilege, so I see it as a personal responsibility to be as out as I possibly can in order to help foster the social change to make the world a safe, nurturing, respectful place for everyone. I may push the boundaries of my professional relationships a bit by putting my whole self out there, but that is the purpose of Coming Out Day.

Moments like this are opportunities for those of us working for equality and civil rights to challenge people in every facet of our lives to recognize the very real ways that we are impacted by discrimination. While I respect some people’s need to draw boundaries between the personal and the professional, I hope that others respect my choice to integrate all of my selves and be entirely me.

Ma.gnolia Is Back!

September 26, 2009 § Leave a comment

I’m thrilled, I tell you, thrilled! My favorite social bookmarking site is back! After a catastrophic data corruption last year, like a phoenix rising from the flames, Ma.gnolia has relaunched to much fan fare. At least by me.

Okay, perhaps that is a little melodramatic, however, I don’t feel that I can understate just how cool this site is. Ma.gnolia was the equivalent of my gateway drug, if you will, into the world of social networking. I made my earliest connections with, at the time, complete strangers, people who I have kept up with on Twitter and Facebook in places like Florida, Texas, New York, Vancouver and Australia. It all started for me on Ma.gnolia.

Oversharer that I am, life just hasn’t been the same since Ma.gnolia died. I missed the efficient information sharing, the groups where people with shared interests could jointly create a useful reference point. I have already uploaded all of my old bookmarks that I have been tracking in Delicious, connected with a few of my old followers there, and joined some groups that are underway there. I was pleased to see that someone already had created a group for Chicago links.

Interesting thing now is that there is an opportunity to keep the spammers out more efficiently. In order to join, you must jump through a few more hoops to prove that you’re human. Hopefully, this will keep the quality and caliber of the users high. It bodes well.

Ma.gnolia is useful, facilitates new relationships, and is pleasing to the eye. I have high hopes that the vibrant community will rebuild again.

Well done, Larry!

Crisis and Opportunity: Making Media Connections Conference

June 12, 2009 § Leave a comment

#mmc2009

I had a fantastic day volunteering at the Making Media Connections conference.  Chicago is the epicenter of civically engaged journalists, techies, and media activists. The world of journalism is experiencing tectonic shifts, being impacted by the recession and trends in technology and social media, and the presentations at the conference was all about how this professional community is responding to those shifts. It is truly at a crisis moment. I have heard that the Japanese word for crisis also means opportunity, which in this case is a very apt translation.

One of the exciting things that came out of this conference was the intersection of different professional worlds coming together that had never had the occasion to do so before. Particularly, I am excited about the non-profit and media community coming together. It makes sense that in this time of crisis and opportunity the worlds of philanthropy, advocacy, and media would connect. Out of this intersection, a creative response is growing in terms of the creation of new tools and innovative ways to use them to create social change.

There is no doubt that social media tools have the potential of being co-opted by corporate conglomerates, and to a certain degree we can only expect that to happen. The panel on media policy that I attended emphasized that we still need to focus on accessibility issues for existing and established technologies (public TV, radio, and print media), and make sure that the public maintains the ability to produce their own content and keep access to a variety of information resources.

However, there was so much optimism about the potential to use social media tools to do good and not evil, it is easy to believe that out of this convergence of activists, community organizers, policy wonks, non-profit leaders, journalists, bloggers, and many others that something really exciting and good is being born. People were able to share their challenges and successes, building collaborative solutions to complex problems.

Community activists of all persuasions need to be vigilant in participating in the process of developing media policy. The issues of net neutrality, low power FM radio, and public access TV should be in sharp focus for all of us.

These are indeed exciting times. Darkness certainly looms as people are being laid off and companies are going into bankruptcy. But hope and inspiration abound as people build their own companies, become consultants, or create innovative jobs in response to the shifting economy. I was thrilled to meet so many optimistic activists and learn about the incredible work they are all doing.

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.

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