Thursday, August 20, 2009

Getting back in the groove

Okay, it's time to get serious about figuring out just what the heck is going on among my colleagues, in my field. I've taken enough of a break (and summer is coming to an end...).

I just spent a couple of hours powering through my collection of e-newsletters, tweets and friend-feeds, picking out the things that most interested me, and organizing them (because that is what I like to do...). I won't throw the entire list at you in one fell swoop, but in chunks, starting with (appropriately enough):

    Keeping up (or not)
  1. If You Abandon Your Online Presence Can you Get it Back? This seems particularly relevant to me. In some ways, I've been "offline" since taking a full time job at GEO back in early 2006. Then after my layoff last April, I've been pretty internally focused and not at all tracking anything of a professional nature. So it was with some relief that I read a similar story from Shannon Paul, who had her own set of life changes this year:

    I discovered fear can be paralyzing — not just with real life connections, but also with those made online. I’m not sure why exactly, but negative feelings have a very insulating affect. Perhaps this is how I instinctively protect myself although I’m sure I’m not unique in this way.


    She's not alone. The comments left for her are as great (if not better) than her article.

  2. In Don't Keep Up With Social Technology, Alex Samuels reminds us (I can't believe we STILL need to be reminded):

    Today, I place as much fruitless faith in software as I once placed in Ikea storage. Just as there is no box that can magically transform me into Little Miss Tidy, there is no technology that holds the key to achieving our company's mission, our quarterly targets, or even my personal development goals.


    I.e., it's not about the technology AT ALL. DUH.
    Banging head against wall


  3. How you Gather and Process Info Online. Okay, all that said above, when you DO get clear about what's of greatest value to your end-game, how might you organize yourself? Debra Askanase share how she spends her time and organizes the fire hose of information.

  4. Setting up your Social Media Listening Dashboard in 30 Minutes or Less is something I'm going to follow (I'll let you know later how it goes) because it organizes what Debra and Alex say above into a clear set of steps. I like that.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A New Intersection

A couple of weeks ago, I started a new blog, exploring what's next in my life post 50, post lay-off, post two decades of a career helping nonprofits be more effective.

This last weekend, that exploration brought me to the intersection of two long-held interests of mine-- visual arts (specifically drawing and painting) and online communications-- two paths in my life that I always believed would remain separate and distinct-- as far away from each other as conceivably possible.

My passion for drawing and painting has recently been re-ignited through a return to art classes while I'm figuring out what direction my career will now take.

One of those art classes took place online this last weekend. A total of 12 hours (more really) over two days, offered by David R. Darrow, professional artist and instructor. I've been watching him paint through his free online broadcast, Dave the Painting Guy-- itself an interesting intersection of online communications and art and instruction.

The guy loves to paint. And he loves to do so in the "company" of viewers with whom -- through an online chat side-by-side with streaming video of him painting in his studio-- he provides downright excellent suggestions for painting in oils, going between detailed explanations of what he's doing and why and then periods of silence while we watch him focus on the details of a hand, a mouth, an ear, a beard. He's also a ham, opinionated and sometimes picks up the guitar and plays music during the breaks.

This last weekend, using the same technology in a password protected space for paying customers, he offered his first online course. A group of 16 of us, logging in from as far away as Belgium, worked from the same photograph along with him. From his southern California art studio, he uses a free streaming-video service that enables him not only to provide a live streaming broadcast in acceptable quality (I wish the resolution was better for my large monitor), but to record these broadcasts for later viewing.

While David spoke to us through streaming audio and video, we could "speak" back to him (and to each other) through the chat window. This setup allowed each of us to work in the comfort of our own home (eliminating travel time and costs), undistracted by the person painting immediately to the left or right of us as would be the case in a physical classroom.

Periodically, each of us would take a digital photograph of our painting's progress, email it to him, and he would conduct an online critique so that we could see each other's work and learn from the suggestions he had for us. (This part was optional but only 2 of the 16 students deferred from sharing their work-in-progress.)

My primary reason for taking this course was to benefit from David's instruction and to dedicate twelve solid hours to painting. Except for the fact that I was missing some of the region's most BEAUTIFUL weather outside, I thoroughly enjoyed this method for participating in a course.

This surprised me. I've long believed (and still do to some extent) that online instruction is a very poor substitute for "the real thing." So I was just as curious about the process of providing instruction in this way as I was about what painting outcome I would achieve.

While the process was not without its glitches-- this was, after all, the first time he'd provided such a course-- these glitches are fixable and avoidable in the future. What I learned is that a high quality instructor, comfortable with the technology (or who has access to someone who is), and a group of motivated students CAN benefit from this method of delivering instruction.

Oh and my painting outcome? A not-quite-finished portrait of someone who bears a strong resemblance to Rasputin:


Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Midwives of Nonprofit Technology

I've been mulling this one over for several days, not sure what to do with it. But I need to do SOMETHING.

It was the morning of New Year's Eve. Philip and I were reading in bed. NPR was on in the background. We were only half listening. It was "Talk of the Nation."

Then Philip recognized it was Andy Carvin speaking (about 12 minutes in). Ah, what's he up to these days? (We'd worked together at Benton and traveled in nonprofit/community technology circles back in the '90s.)

So I put down my book (or my laptop, most likely) and listened. Ah, he's talking about another "old timer" of nonprofit/community technology-- Steve Snow! I wonder how Steve's doing? Haven't seen him in years. Then I hear Andy use the "was" verb. Huh? And to make matters worse, he mentions another Steve in the past tense-- Steve Cisler, librarian and very active in Apple's early forays into putting computers into libraries. All this long before the Web came along in the mid-late 90s.





These two men were major contributors to birthing the "nonprofit technology" movement. And we lost them both in 2008. Cisler lost a battle with cancer back in May; Snow gone from a heart attack right after Christmas. I found myself weeping, but in anger.

What makes me mad? So few people bouncing around the current online aether even know about these and other fine folks out there who laid the groundwork of what has become a very vibrant online environment, rich with advocacy and social change and human services and culture-- back in the day when it was NOT ALLOWED TO SELL THINGS ON THE INTERNET! (People under a certain age, but not much younger than me, look at me like I'm out of my mind when I tell them that such a time existed.)

I was but one of the many "midwives" of nonprofit technology, many of whom have faded away or moved on to other ventures (as I did), some (I refrain from using the phrase "die-hards" given the recent deaths) who continue the NP tech work like the Energizer bunny. (Beth Kanter comes to mind.)

So I find myself on something of a desperate journey to track down the "midwives of nonprofit technology" (of whatever gender) -- to make sure they know how important they are, what a critical role they played, no matter what they may be doing or not doing now. (I just learned that one such midwife is recovering from her second bout of breast cancer!)

Maybe it's because I'm about to turn 50, an age I can't quite fathom. Just like I can't quite fathom that Steve and Steve are gone from this plain.

Who was your midwife? Or your organization's? Have you seen or talked to them lately? Have you told them the impact they had on your life? on your community? Do they know? Go find them. Tell them. Before they're gone.




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