Thursday, April 30, 2009


What I like about being someplace new . . . exploring!
Last week had a fun little nature walk during lunch.  There are some trails on the grounds behind National Wildlife Federations headquarters in Reston and was introduced to quite a few oddities including Skunk Cabbage!  don't let the name fool you, it's named that way for a reason.
Then this week did a few off site lunch's at two new locations, Champs and Cafesano.  Exploring places to eat I think is more fun, less exercise of course!  But it has helped in learning the streets of Reston which can be a challenge even without the GPS!

Posted via email from Michael's posterous

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Social Networking . . . is it like my phone?

It was a year ago I was fortunate to attend an Non Profit CIO Summit held at The Nature Conservancy in Arlington Va. which meets annually for 3 days and holds a series of workshops that focuses on the sharing of ideas, issues we face as a group, common ground solutions and act as a resource.  I love this group, the focus the camaraderie - it's all there.

Chuck Longfield, the founder of Target and now Chief Scientist at Blackbaud has been organizing this group for over 10 years.  He plays a very neutral role and the group really polices itself closely to keep it totally vendor neutral and that's key in all the discussions and sharing of information. 

One of the topics we had discussed last year and still rears it's head every so often as it did this week during a budget discussion was the risk of letting ALL staff have access to Social Network sites and tools. 

The risks:  Staff who don't understand the consequences of clicking on untrusted links or advertisements and the time they could potentially waste doing non productive "networking".

The discussion we had at the last years session summed up nicely the role of IT in how it should address this concern and the level of protection to the infrastructure we should be tasked with while balancing the access of such time intensive tools.

So here goes the summary of the discussion:

Back in the day when we first got a phone on our desk we were told, ". . . the phone is only for business - no personal calls."  Remember those days?  Well maybe you don't - I do.  How long did that last? 

Then along came e-mail and Internet access, almost an exact repeat of expectations - " . . . don't be using email for personal stuff and don't be surfing for anything non business related."  Was the mantra and shouldn't we be monitoring this?  See where this is going?

"Social Networking is that original phone on your desk" - as one my colleagues so eloquently stated.  It's simply another tool to reach out with. 

It's not up to IT to be setting the expectations or monitoring or limiting access, it's the role of management or supervisors to insure their staff are using their time efficiently and productively.  The same person who goofs off and spends all day Social Networking with friends is most likely going to find some other way to goof off or waste their time if that's their nature or what they are allowed to get away with.

As more and more business applications are optimizing API calls to feed information between front end and back of house apps it's important to be diligent and have a united front on the strategies.  But let's not forget, the phone is still the phone.

Besides, I don't want to be the traffic cop, those uniforms and the tight collars?  - I like the night stick and the badge, maybe I can replace the .45 with a water pistol?

Posted via email from Michael's posterous

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Is age a factor?

I sat here staring at the blank page far too long, stuck on the title - not a good way to start writing anything.  I wanted to re post something I had written a few months back that reminds me of how the demographics impact how we connect in today's new fast paced mediums.  Something as simple as ordering a pizza may prove my point.

I am going to use my kids as an example, they are part of the Echo's generation where I am at the tale end of the baby boomers almost an X so how we approach this complex process of pizza ordering correlates to the challenges for us who are trying to engage our "tribes".

Many of us struggle to connect with existing members who won't engage in the new mediums that are out there and so we seek new markets.  Sometimes we question if the approach and connection process we use works the same across the board and I think based on this experience the process constantly needs to be questioned.  Traditional channels are being evaluated all the time and rightfully so as the comfort zones of the audience is constantly changing.  I for instance no longer get my news via RSS feeds, I use Twitter.

I think its amusing to see peoples comfort zone and how they function or respond based on the medium available to them.  Take my kids for instance, now bear with me . . . a few weeks back we lost our cable for the day while I was at work

- the world had come to a grinding halt at Casa Sola, at least as far as my kids were concerned, no cable TV, no phone, but worst, NO INTERNET.  It's OK, don't call social services - they did manage to find alternate forms of entertainment, these are after all teenagers we're talking about.

As the day progressed and I became aware of this horrifying condition I called their cell phones as the main phone was not working.  The purpose of my call was to let them know I was working late and give them the green light to eat their number one nutritional food group - Pizza.  Yes, Pizza is it's own food group at Casa Sola.

So here goes the chain of events . . .

  • "Go ahead and order a pizza for delivery and I'll be home by nine." 
  • Hang up
  • A few minutes later my phone rings, "we can't order the pizza" - "why not? " I ask . . .
  • "Dad, the Internet is down" . . . long pause, VERY long pause
  • "use the phone" I say
  • "the phone's not working" - hello????  "use your cell phone" - I respond, I was starting to feel my head pound
  • "but the number is programmed in the phone and we typically order and pay over the Internet" - the world may actual stop spinning I thought to myself
  • "it's called Information or a phone book" I say "and use your credit card" ( this is my college bound computer wiz son I'm having this conversation with, he has a credit card ) -
  • long sigh ( God forbid he actually pays for anything ) - "ok" - he finally says and I can hear it in his voice, not a happy camper. 
  • Hang up. 
  • A few minutes later - my phone rings, it's my other son, Img_2658 the freakishly tall but younger one who has now been delegated the task of ordering the pizza, I actually admired that move, my oldest son delegated . . . very nice -
  • "which Papa Johns do we use" he asks . . . longer pause on my part - "where do we live?" - I ask -
  • "oh, right and how do I pay for this because we usually use the Internet and I have no money."
  • I'm now banging my head on the desk - "there's cash in an envelope by the phone with a twenty dollar bill in it, use that" I say . . .
  • "Oh, ok - but the pizza only costs twelve what about the difference? and how do I tip him - we usually use the Internet you know."
  • . . . more banging of my head. 

How did this happen?  I wondered. Two grown boys, don't know how to call information, can't order a pizza without the use of a web site and have no clue how to ask for change or initiate a tip using cash?  What has technology done?

On one hand we have tribe members who can't or perhaps won't use the technology to engage with us and on the other hand we have those who can't function without it.   My two children who represent our future members don't know how to function without technology - interesting dynamics, ehh?

I'm thinking my title isn't half bad now . . .

Posted via email from Michael's posterous

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Religion time . . .

Listening to Santana's Supernatural tune "Put your lights on" and the opening line :  "Hey now, all you sinners put your lights on, put your lights on . . ." got me thinking about a few passages I recently read in Seth Godin "Tribes" where Seth spoke about leaders spreading the faith.  In one sense I am about to do just that, but not via religion as much as via my change in a professional affiliation.

I am now less then 24 hours away from starting a new chapter in my life as I take on an exciting tech role with the National Wildlife Federation.  I see this opportunity as almost a religious experience, I'm serious.  

Those who know me know I tend to keep my emotions and passions close to the sleeve, I am the poster child for WYSIWYG.  Seeing the correlation was an easy leap for me.

In recent study by the Pew Research Center it was noted a third of Americans left their religion they grew up with, but what the piece failed to differentiate was the difference between religion and faith.  These people didn't loose their faith, they shopped around for something new.

Well I haven't lost my faith in wanting to be a leader for the environmental cause or to help those with a passion to connect to something which invokes emotion, I've simply found a new house to preach in! 

I know I'm far from perfect and I have a lot to learn.  However, I'm also all about putting on the lights, in fact shine them bright if you want to be heretic for positive change is how I feel about the tech industry.  Change is good, change is powerful, change is the natural order of life.  

"Faith is what you do . . . Faith is demonstrated by the actions you take."  And that is my religion!

Posted via web from Michael's posterous

Friday, April 17, 2009

Know thy audience . . .

Seth Godin who's latest book Tribes focused on the concepts of Leadership and who is leading, included a rather interesting section when talking about participation in the leadership process - this is a little out of context but it fits in nice with the concept of "knowing your audience".  Here goes: 

"Friending ten or twenty or a thousand people in Facebook might be good for your ego but it has zero to do with any useful measure of success."

We've all been caught up in the concepts of trying to put a return on the numbers as we work towards finding the right tools to fit into the strategies that organization are trying to utilize on the social networking front.  And it occurred to me as I was putting together some research for my P2P book chapter ( don't ask, the fight does not go well ) that sometimes numbers for numbers sake isn't the be all / end all for business to look at especially on the tech front.  We are always looking for the right tools to track, slice, dice, segment and then take the next step with - or rather engage our "tribe" to take on a leadership role. 

But are we asking the right questions to get there?  and then what are we doing with the answers?

There was a session called Navigating the Multi-Channel Challenge at the Blackbaud / Target User Forum last week in Boston headed up by Beth Isikoff, Senior Director, Business Development, Merkle, Inc.  Beth contributed not only some great personal experience as a donor to six different large nonprofit organizations but she did something very clever.  She challenged the group to think about the following: at what point in the relationship did marketers cross channels and begin to communicate with our "tribes" in a different fashion? Because, and this was very telling, becoming aware of how you are perceived by others is invaluable as you plan how you hope to engage and cultivate your followers into leaders.

So here was the exercise, ( disclaimer time, I am hoping I don't paraphrase this too much but I am looking at my notes which if you saw my penmanship, is a challenge for some cryptographer - I should have been a doctor )

The room had a bout 85 folks in the room, it was one of the last sessions of the last day so not surprisingly the numbers weren't up, their loss as Beth absolutely ROCKED!  So half way into the presentation she started talking about how one of the non profits she had joined over the phone started asking her what was a series of questions designed to be part of a poll.  Half way into it Beth started asking questions back like "Why are you asking me that?"  The questions didn't seem to resonate or connect her with the mission of the organization.  Which made Beth start to realize we don't always ask the right questions.  She used this little exercise as an example of asking not just the right questions but get at what what matters, who should you really be focusing on to find your movers and shakers?

The room was asked:
  • how many of you are pet owners:  3/4 of the room stood
  • remain standing, how many of you standing have gotten your pet a treat, something other then just food:  about a third sat down
  • of those standing how many got your pet a present either for Christmas or some holiday / event:  another half sat down
  • final question - of those still standing, how many of you gift wrapped your pets present:  2/3 of those still standing sat down
That handful of folks remaining were the hard core pet lovers, the movers, the shakers, the ones who if you asked would carry your flag or banner into battle.  Those are the folks we want to be our leaders, those are the folks we are going to get the most out of and cultivate to that next level.  This is harsh to say but I'll say it, it's this group we want to spend the majority of our time on.

It was an interesting exercise as we we went from 60 pet owners who stood up to about 10 real pet enthusists left standing all because we enganged and found out more, we asked the right questions.  Knowing who you want to engage with is key to leadership and as Seth Godin pointed out:

"Followers who do nothing but mindlessly follow instructions, let you down . . ."  
Social networking gives you an opportunity to cultivate and engage at a much larger and quicker level but it has to be more then just "showing up".  Meaning that many of us who join Facebook feel like we have to join a group in order to be part of the "social" aspects that make up this medium.  Godin rightfully claims that:

". . . users have the false impression that joining a group somehow matters.  It doesn't."

I agree, the act of joining is meaningless, I want to know who's wrapping the raw hide bone.

Posted via email from Michael's posterous

Thursday, April 09, 2009

It's a wrap . . . talking about Boston

This can be applied to a couple of events but the one I wish to wrap on, while it's still fresh in my head, was the Target User Forum held in Boston this past week.

I had the opportunity to co-present a session with CBF's long time Director of Membership Amelia Koch - great traveling bud and much better at directions then I am.  We navigated the train system of Boston like we'd been doing it for years!  The session went well, started with a brief history of CBF which was therapeutic for me in recounting the past and then moved into the Direct Marketing project (BBDM) which is slightly ironic as that was what started me down this path of blogging and tracking various projects.

Ours was the last session of the day so while it was a small group we did have quite a few of Blackbaud staff attend and it was good they got to see the fruits of their labor pay off in how we were implementing the project.  My only regret was that my long time colleague and friend Kristin Urban wasn't there as this was her baby as much if not more then mine.

The session opening remarks were well documented by Blackbauds intrepid voice for all things good about the web, Steve MacLaughlin who's notes were much more detailed then my twitter observations.  I liked the fact we both picked the same few quotes, unless of course Steve had snagged my comments from the conference hash mark feed?  If it's on Twitter is that plagiarizing?

The memorable sessions for me was learning about LiveStrong - Lance Armstrong is pulling 90% of their revenue from just web sources and Save the Children who really taken multi-channel marketing to new levels, are setting the mark high.  The bonus for me at the reception was meeting Ettore Rossetti Director of Digital Marketing for Save the Children who along with his twin brother established the Guinness Book of records for the longest tennis rally - over 15 hours!  Merkle research was the last session I saw and I want to devote some time later for more on that.

Below are some of my Tweets via Friend Feed that captured for me the opening points of the forum - all in all a lot was learned, met some amazing folks and got to tell and share some fun stories.  Thanks!

“Shaun living the life of a 21st century connected Dev Officer - mobilze app is a wild app #targetuserforum to the iPhone”
Lock Monday at 9:54 am - 

“now seeing driving directions via GPS while forwarding to other processors inside the org - did i get that right? he's talking fast #targetuserforum
Lock Monday at 9:51 am - 

“Shaun showing from one page a map of donors, drilled down to the member bio further his web traffic & now have details #targetuserforum
Lock Monday at 9:49 am - 

“seing live demo of BBEC home page defaults can be pushed outside of BBEC - like to mobile or SharePoint #targetuserforum
Lock Monday at 9:45 am -

“Shaun has no slides, he doesnt need them, he IS a presentation #targetuserforum
Lock Monday at 9:42 am - 

“Shaun CTO of BB is up - he looks relaxed, t shirt & jeans, i may take off my O's tie now #targetuserforum
Lock Monday at 9:41 am - 

“infinity platform rocks - BBEC combines the best of platforms #targetuserforum
Lock Monday at 9:33 am - 

“glad to see 3 out of the 4 changing conditions Marc discussed i helped spearhead #targetuserforum
Lock Monday at 9:29 am - 

“it's about the mind set to build relationships w/donors - forward thinking #targetuserforum
Lock Monday at 9:21 am - 

“show off @smaclaughlin is posting pics at #targetuserforum - i need a lesson Steve!”
Lock Monday at 9:19 am - 

“Marc Chardon is such a great story teller, knows how to connect @targetuserforum
Lock Monday at 9:18 am - 

“Lee quoting Pastore "chance favors the prepared mind" right on! @targetuserforum
Lock Monday at 9:15 am - 

“Lee Gartley VP Target looks a lot like Paul Neuman @targetuserforum
Lock Monday at 9:03 am -

“looking forward to @targetuserforum - bfast and coffee, good start”
Lock Monday at 8:58 am -

Posted via email from Michael's posterous

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

It's 5am in the neighborhood . . .

too early for Mr. Rogers sing-a-long?  

Technically, it's not 5am, right now but when I got up at 5am intending to write something meaningful, well it really was.  I am not surprised that once again I got caught up in the happenings of the world and how all my news and updates is coming from Twitter feeds.  

But and that's with a capital B, But there is so much information to sort, digest and then act upon it hurts my brain, and that was before I got my coffee fix.   

It's a wonder we get anything done!

Posted via email from Michael's posterous