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.

Twitter: My New Obsession

May 28, 2008 § Leave a comment

So, I’m finally figuring out what to do with Twitter and why it is so cool. I got into it because I’m writing an article about how people are using technology to create and promote social change movements, and I wanted to see for myself how people were using it.

I started following some of the contacts that I have made through Ma.gnolia, I’ve stumbled upon some friends and random acquaintances, and there are several business, nonprofits, and news agencies who are also Twittering.

The greatest example for me of Twitter’s usefulness, I think is NetSquared. This is an organization that helps nonprofits use technology, and they are hosting a conference in San Jose now. I have been able to keep up with what’s happening there with their tweets. They also have a FaceBook page and a website with conference updates, but the tweets are like a play-by-play, informing its followers of the most recent updates to the website of the flickr page.

People talk to each other, too, asking for or offering help and advice, sharing links and information, just putting themselves out there to see what comes back. Or sometimes just to share a little pearl of wisdom or a moment of inspiration, or a good joke.

So, Twitter has been around for a while now, and I’m not the first to review this tool. I have nothing to say here that is revolutionary to anyone who is already using it, but for me it is a revelation! I have a new way to communicate with people doing interesting things. In the couple of days that I’ve been using it, I’ve found some new blogs to read and come across some great resources. I may even have made a couple of friends. Who knows?

One thing that occurs to me as I write (and I’ve been thinking about this a lot regarding all social networking tools) is that the tools are only useful if lots of people use them. There are exceptions, of course, but isn’t the point of social networking to be social, to network? The tools that I use regularly are the ones that lots of other people use, like FaceBook and Ma.gnolia. I’m not saying that functionality isn’t important (and believe me, I’ve already learned the Twitter doesn’t always function), but Twitter just wasn’t interesting to me at all when I wasn’t connecting with anyone. Now that I am networking, it is my new obsession.

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