Sunday, January 30, 2011

Don't Eat the Yellow Snow or What's the Frequency Kenneth

Between Zappa and R.E.M. I was torn for this title - neither tune has nothing to do with the picture. This shot is the aftermath of yet another heavy dumping we got here in MD this past week BUT it does tie nicely in with a theme I wish to share - presenting to an audience is all about being on the same frequency.

This past week I got my speaker feedback from a conference I did back in November. I scored an overall 3.9 which when I round up is actually a 4 out of 5 rating - I like the 4 better then the 3.9 part but what really got my attention was a participant comment which I take real serious.

"I felt like Mike assumed we knew what he was talking about . . . " - ouch, I thought I did a good job at translating techenese into english, maybe I'm missing something.

Recently at a day workshop where I co-presented for a room full of EPA folks who focus on the Chesapeake Bay region I was again reminded of the importance in breaking down the terminology of the tools we sometimes take for granted. Seeing the review brought it all together for me.

I recently saw the following analogy on a tweet and it seemed to fit so well in breaking down what these social networking tools do to an action. We assume everybody now knows what Twitter, Facebook, FourSquare, Quora, YouTube and LinkedIn are used for - but what I was reminded of is that these tools still remain foreign enough that many just don't get WHAT they are. They've heard of them, but if pressed to put them into action or define their purpose in the proverbial tool shed . . . well now we got problems in Rivercity.

Let me use this example and tell me if it makes sense - this is where the yellow snow part comes in - here goes:

Twitter = I need to pee.
FaceBook = I peed!
FourSquare = I'm peeing here.
Quora = Why am I peeing?
YouTube = Watch me pee!
LinkedIn = I pee well.

So now that we got that going for us it's still a good rule of thumb to NOT eat the yellow snow and I'm hoping for my next conference speaking engagement I will be more understanding and appreciative of the silent majority who don't wish to acknowledge their gap in understanding what the new tools of engagement are used for. I now have a new analogy in my tool box, as do you.

I have this sudden urge to tinkle . . . .

Michael Sola heads up the IT program at NWF. he's a blogger, invited presenter and speaker - he also rarely has to show ID to walk into a pub. Follow him at : his views and comments are his own

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Conference Technology . . . it's not just fishing and magic, notes from the front lines

The 2nd Annual Choose Clean Water Conference is over but still on my mind as we recap, document and provide feed back for what future NWF conferences could be like. This is my second conference with the NWF Mid Atlantic Regional office staff who work at bringing together 160 coalition members and the Chesapeake Bay regions movers and shakers who fight for clean water and a Saved Bay.

These events don't happen easy and a lot of planning and prep occurs prior and during to make them successful. Implementing tech in a fashion that helps promote and keep connected those who could not make the event a powerful motivator to continue the effort. Even more important those who attend but want more - more video, more pictures, more presentation material to bring back and share with their respective members.

What we were able to provide for the team was seen by others in our organization as a model for our other regional offices that are planning similar conferences. In fact the Great Lakes region is our next similar project happening in October and as we did for the Chesapeake here is just a taste of what to expect:

UStream Services - paid for service that at $99 provides an ad free service for up to 100 hours of broadcasting and video capturing - a decent cam that can focus and zoom from the back of the room is key. Also a very tall tri-pod.

YouTube - being able to have an account that exceeds the 10 min limit makes posting videos captured from FlipCams much easier, provided you edit and can easily compress your captured files. Also being able to convert captured UStream videos and converting them to YouStream keeps all your clips in one spot.

Flickr - having an account to quickly post images captured of speakers and guests. The trick is having more volunteers capturing images. Reducing those images is also critical as we learned that the free Flickr accounts has a space limit. Having card readers at your upload systems is a time saver.

SlideShare - getting the presentations posted prior to or during the speakers time slot was key to being able to link to them during tweets

Twitter - the power is always in the retweet and we had at one point 4 of the team tweeting various sessions always being sure to retweet each other or asking others in our network to share the posts.

FlipCams - spare cams is critical so you don't miss a session due to battery or space issues.

PowerPoint clickers - sounds simple but oh so important as you can't always predict where you can place the laptop to allow for advancement of slides.

Visible Tweets - awesome program that takes a Twitter Hashtag and provides a display of all the tweets from the conference. Joined with a projector makes a great display in the lobby or during down times in the main conference ball room.

What The HashTag - monitors the Twitter Traffic and captures the twitter posts for documentation purposes

Laptops, Netbooks, iPads - what ever it takes to connect to a projector, we had them, and spares as you never know. This actually saved the group tremendous rental fees by providing this equipment.

Table Top video tripods - perfect for placing FlipCams in very small unobtrusive places.

Cabled access to Internet - most conferences you can arrange for WiFi, which can be costly FYI depending on how you negotiate with the conference or hotel. But having a cabled land line to ISP service is key to broadcasting or quick uploads as your files could be large.

Video conversion / compression software - I'm hooked on XiLisoft Video Converter For $60 it's a no brainer and provides so many options my fingers would get tired from typing.

WiFi and Cell Service - being able to access the net or cell towers means mobile applications become very very useful. This makes the Droids and iPhones a powerful communications tools.

Well thought out organization is key, many meetings and prep goes into the planning but so does being able to roll with the punches and make do with what you have. We had audio issues the first day and a half with our streaming - video is nothing without good audio, alway keep that in mind if video is going to factor in to your engagement strategy. This is why paying for an audio service or good Public Address services might be worth the costs.

If you don't have WiFi service or good cell service consider an alternate location - people attending these conferences expect to get connected. Boosters may work but I've had mixed luck with these services.

I know I'm forgetting a whole bunch of details but I don't want to end up writing War and Peace. If you want to know more, comment or message me or send me a tweet. I'm game to share . . . look, nothing up my sleeve.

Michael Sola heads up the IT program at NWF. he's a blogger, invited presenter and speaker - he also rarely has to show ID to walk into a pub. Follow him at : his views and comments are his own

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Why Facebook Newsfeed is the new and improved in-box

John Haydon is without a doubt one of the most insightful and respected social media non profit guru's on the net. Hands down - great stuff comes from John.

This piece about why collecting email addresses on Facebook fan page won't work is a perfect case in point. Why would you even try?

So much of the news feed on Facebook has already replaced much of the notifications email alerts I use to subscribe to, there isn't much appeal to want a duplicate of the same content hitting my overloaded in-box. I would agree with one of John's comment contributors, the news feed is fast becoming very noisy and hard to filter what friends vs organizations you have "liked" or become a fan of. But that's on me, these are organizations or interests I've asked to be part of. Seeing those posts is part of the deal.

In a sense the Facebook Newsfeed is my very large in-box.

That's not to say there isn't a place for both tools being used with the intent to engage me but my hope would be to see different content in the two mediums. It doesn't take much effort to block emails anymore - now on the other hand the news feeds . . . I've asked for that info so unless you spam my wall too often keep the posts coming, it's not like there's an inbox limit on the wall!

Michael Sola heads up the IT program at NWF. he's a blogger, invited presenter and speaker - he also rarely has to show ID to walk into a pub. Follow him at : his views and comments are his own

Monday, January 17, 2011

Mastering the FlipCam for Conferences and Tweets

CleanWaterConf Tweets Report.pdf (81 KB)
View this on posterous

Last week I attended the 2nd Clean Water Conference that focused on the Chesapeake Bay - the coalition gathered by National Wildlife Federation MidAtlantic Regional field office successfully brought together experts and members to share how to best engage and collaborate in promoting clean water initiatives that could impact all of the countries watershed environments.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Happy New Years . . . or rather Welcome more fatigue

I was reminded that I had not indicated what my New Years Resolution would be . . . Besides living beachside, I only get to have one? That's typically my standard answer.  I can never wrap my head around this concept of resolutions as it sounds a lot like goals.  

As fictional character and Dodgeball hero Peter La Fleur once said about goals: "I found that if you have a goal, that you might not reach it. But if you don't have one, then you are never disappointed. And I gotta tell ya... it feels phenomenal"

So of course I jest on the topic, it's important we all strive for something that we feel passionate about.  This new year is no different, I see a lot of changes on the horizon - hopefully for the better but not all will be without sacrifice or hard work.  

Last week I saw posted on a DC NPTech fan page a question that made me think of what the new year has in store for the world of social media: Is social media going to die in the next two years? has social media fatigue set in making the medium not as "social" or "community" anymore? How will people force it to evolve and make it more social?

One of the responses I got from a friend who's opinion I value a great deal stated the following:

Perhaps the Peter Principle in a way... Social media has taken social media as far as it can go and beyond that it's not within Social Media's ability? I think it has become generic in a way, to the point where people will stop paying attention to it and move on to something else? What that something else is, I don't know. Oh only if I did.....

There is an experiment underway here, perhaps we could be mice in a very complex maze but a fun maze of connections, story telling and sharing to be sure.  I do feel a fatigue of sorts happening, or maybe it's burnout of trying to stay excited about the services that are out there. I see many of the early adopters of this medium are constantly looking for that NEXT BIG THING perhaps that's what I feel - or am I looking for that integration of all this noise happening, maybe another part of the fatigue is simply filtering out the noise.

Is there a solution?  Perhaps service like Rockmelt would be an example or even that formats a great many sources into something that almost looks and feels like an old fashion newspaper can help bring the fatigue factor in check.  But let's be honest, there are a LOT of people who have been given a megaphone, the noise will become even more deafening.  

Let me look into my magic eight ball and see what the new year has in store . . . . ooooo, Zombies - I'll be right back.

Michael Sola heads up the IT program at NWF. he's a blogger, invited presenter and speaker - he also rarely has to show ID to walk into a pub. Follow him at : his views and comments are his own