Monday, November 10, 2008

Another way to Football/Engage

I stumbled upon this Washington Post article through about a project called The basic premise is as follows, 31,000 members pay a minor monthly fee to a nonprofit which owns a soccer team in England. Here's the catch, each of the 31,000 members are part owners of the club. They vote on major and minor decisions, but most importantly, they are engaged in the business.

Why does this matter? We hear a lot about using social networking and Web 2.0 tools to advertise businesses or products. Seth Godin, for example, talks about creating a tribe. The concepts are all fine and well, but how can one apply these strategies to their business? Can anything be wikified? Are all products created equal? What are the repercussions if done incorrectly?

As a consultant I've seen plenty of organizations get very excited about new technologies and strategies but overwhelmed with the implementation. This reminds me of some comments about the TV show We Mean Business on A&E:

"When I watched the episodes,  it was my turn to be surprised.  I was surprised by how resistant to new ideas several business owners were. Some argued openly with the team about their ideas. There was a follow-up video done a few months after each makeover, and in several cases the owner had un-done parts of the makeover. (Usually in those cases the business was not doing any better, either.  Remind me the next time someone gives me advice, to take it.)"
- Anita Campbell @ Small Business Trends

In light of the pitfalls of 2.0 marketing and the challenges associated with change, MyFootballClub and other examples of consumer engagement are exciting and demystify social networking for small business owners.  These strategies are particularly important to nonprofits who rely heavily on customer (donor) engagement.

So, to step back a moment. I want to be an owner of a sports team, too. If I were business owner, I would want people to be so excited about my product that they create new niches for it. But the steps for getting to that point can seem overwhelming. Let me know if the tone of this post is TOO cautious.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

It starts...

Whatever youir political views, you have to admit that the use of web 2.0 tools to engage the electorate is exciting. The engaging has begun. This from the website:

"The story of this campaign is your story. It is about the great things we can do when we come together around a common purpose. We want to hear your inspiring stories from the campaign and election day."


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Politics and the Internet

What I like about online marketing is that it is targeted. It makes the consumer feel like the center of attention. *Barack Obama ran a campaign that uses one important marketing mantra, this is about you, your experiences and how your life can be better with the product/solution I offer.

Obama has created a huge contact database. Access to the attention of the people on this system is priceless. The all important question... How will Obama further engage these relationships in the political process? I can see the whole 'Google for Government' and CapWiz like tools become really really important. Will Facebook and MySpace pick up a 'contact your representative' tool now that political action is so important to so many people?

Strictly in terms of these great web 2.0 tools, it would be a shame for these relationships to be wasted.

Tell me how you would like these relationships/web 2.0 to be used in the next 4 years.

*My spell check marked Barack Obama as misspelled. Will his name be added to word processor dictionaries so that the name Barack Obama no longer shows up as incorrectly spelled?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Polling and Data

Everyone's all a buzz with the general election coming up. We see cool touch screen maps on CNN and tons of polling data all around us. I just heard that one candidate took a stance on the whole Georgia/Florida water feud to pick up some votes from Floridian oyster farmers. What?! This is really crazy to me. How does the campaign even know these people exist?

My issue isn't with oyster farmers. I question these polls. As a matter of fact, I am a huge huge suporter of informed decsion making, and guess what, data is information. Let me contextualize my point of view.

For years I worked with non-profits. Non-profits are notorious for being disorganized and mismanaged*. But the misuse of data and innacurate conclusions from poor quality information collection struck me from the begining. I happened to be working for an awesome small organization which has now gone national. Fortunately they were cutting edge: 1) They had a database to track all of their "clients" 2) The database tracked a lot of different types of data 3) They understood the value of using this data for making decisions for and about their "clients" 4) They were willing to learn. I was fortunate enough to be put in charge of the database and I was the lead number cruncher. Interestingly enough I spent most of my time educating my co-workers in how to accurately communicating our results. It was easy to say that 80% of our clients improved when in reality 80% of clients received the instruction and tools which we believed led to improvement. Big difference.

But I digress. As I got deeper into the data analysis and our number crunching became more complex I stumbled upon an anecdote from a college prof. She warned of the dangers of using statistical software to do data anlysis. In her day she had to write the code for the stats software and then crunch the numbers. It took her years to get the training to do this and guess what, she knew her stuff. Today data analysis software easy to come across and large data sets are often offered for free. This means that more people are crunching numbers and coming to conclusions. Today's statistical conclusions, in essence, are cheaper and this has effected the quality of the conclusions. Understand this, the people crunching the numbers today don't necessarily have the same training as the people crunching numbers years ago.

So, I pose this question. Do you trust poll results? Everyone has their unique methodology. Everyone has their biases. Is it possible for polls to be used as a political tool to sway the public? I have seen organizations want a good result so much that they unknowlingly distort conclusions. What is your opinion? 

* This isn't a statement about all nonprofits. There are many organizations that are awesome businesses and I think some publically traded companies should take a hint from some of these smaller organizations.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Back on the ball

Its been a while since I've added anything to the blog. As you know I was traveling a good bit in Ecuador and now I'm back stateside and I've settled in the SW. Now this is a big deal for a few reason's:

1) The desert - I spent a portion of my upbringing in FL and I don't mind the heat. As a matter of fact, I like heat and humidity. The heat without humidity worries me.
2) The wife begins a PhD program and this means a lot of hard work for a long time.
3) This is a "small town" and this worries me the most.

Not that there is anything wrong with small towns, coming from DC, I think it will be a challenge to get used to "the volume" of interactions. If you take the law of large numbers into consideration, it will take longer to make contact with that one meaningful person if there are fewer interaction (because there are fewer people). This particularly of concern because I gave up a job in DC and now I must find work in Tucson.

So, I hand it over to you all, how do you find that one meaningful interaction when there are fewer interactions taking place? What is the best starting point in a close nit community?

PS: The posting will happen more frequently now that I'm back on the ball. Thanks for the patience.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A Personal Entry

As I mentioned in my last post, I am not in the United States and this has posed a few challenges these last few weeks - internet access being one of them. Its taken me a while to figure it out, but internet access is only part of the problem. I am worried about loosing people's interest by getting too personal. Thus, I am hesitant to blog about myself and my personal life.

Now, you must understand that I am usually motivated to write a post by what happens around me daily - pretty personal if you ask me. But, I still don't know how much of myself to leave on this blog. Since I'm not in an office surrounded by the daily conversations about managing a business, nonprofit, or IT infrastructure, my only source of inspiration is my family and my vacation. And, it just happens that the recurring issues that we addressed at NPower DC aren't necessarily relevant in Cuenca, Ecuador.

So, I turn to you all for advice, how much of your personal life do you leave on your blog? Since this isn't a blog about the latest and greatest in video cards (or anything of the sort), I have the freedom to diverge from the tone of the standard business blog. Right? Either way, I am attaching a photo of our challenging hike in Cajas National Park (Ecuador). You'd be surprised at how little oxygen there is at 14,900 ft. Thanks for reading!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Far Far Away

I find myself outside of the United States and I am suffering due to the lack of access to information - internet is hard to come by. Needless to say, its been hard to post. Fear not, I have not gone away.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

The slowing economy has a greater effect on the little guy: How charities and Foundations cope with fewer donations

The free Washington Post newspaper, Express, is the highlight of my morning commute. Usually I stick to the hilarious stories of incompetent burglars or misbehaving pets, but on Tuesday a particular article caught my eye, "Charities Detect ‘Disaster Fatigue’: Catastrophes in China and Myanmar prompt little giving in U.S."* I was a bit shocked, to say the least. I know these kinds of dramatic headlines are important to grab a reader’s attention, but this one hit a nerve.

I work for a Nonprofit IT consulting firm and I KNOW charitable organizations. I hear a lot from food banks that report a decrease in food donations because of the slowing economy and foundations are experiencing decreased numbers of grant requests because taking on new programmatic initiatives is hard to pull off when you don't know where the money is coming from. We are all tightening our belts and preparing for harder times.

There may be some disaster fatigue going on but the slowing economy is effecting charitable giving all across the nonprofit sector. It’s short sighted and premature to imply (by the headline at least) that multiple natural disasters are the only effect on charitable giving. The slowing economy is effecting us all but the under resourced, underprivileged, and undeserved are always hit the hardest.

For all nonprofits out there my headline would be; ‘The slowing economy has a greater effect on the little guy: How charities and Foundations cope with fewer donations’

* The exact story can be found in the May 20th edition of the Express. The following link is exactly what was found in the Express (by Lisa Tolin) but with a different headline: "Disaster fatigue' leads to drop in giving"

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Open Source Cooperation - HA! I told you so!

There is too much incentive to "not cooperate." See this article: Why Linux isn't yet ready for synchronized release cycles. As much as it makes sense to cooperate, its too hard to pull off, even amongst Linux hippies. This IS prisoner's dilemma.

Tell me if its time to get over open source cooperation and move on.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Can open source survive?

I have this friend from high school who is probably a genius. Both his parents have advanced degrees in economics and this kid used to take derivatives of functions while his dad walked him home from the fourth grade. He really is brilliant.

Back in High School when we were all taking our International Baccalaureate exams he presented this paper to the accreditation board which analyzed the behavior of a community of "genes." These "genes" were instructed to cooperate or cheat in order to maximize individual benefit. Ultimately the goal was to see if these would "genes" create a community or if they would take on the world alone. After creating this complex algorithm to model their behavior, he found that these millions and millions of "genes" all tended toward cooperation.

This was an amazing revelation and we were all really excited for him. At first it was the wild wild west until the "genes" understood that they all could benefit more from working together. But, after millions of "turns" one "gene" would always cheat and it would throw everyone off and the whole group would loose big except the cheater. Essentially the "genes" would end up in a prisoner's dilemma like scenario were no "gene" could trust another "gene." In essence, this cycle would repeat over and over. Chaos, cooperation, cheating, etc.

Now let's replace the word "gene" with "open source developer". We have come to this point where more and more people finally appreciate the benefits of "open" development and everybody cooperates. But, we may be at the beginning a stage where "cheating" or changing the rules yields HUGE benefits. I think open source is going the route of these little "genes" from my friend's high school experiment. Don't believe me? Check out this article from GIGAOM.

The good news is that at some point we will circle back to cooperation. We also tend to remember being cheated better than these "genes" did and hopefully we can avoid the same pitfalls in the future.

Absent some sort of regulation or governing body, open source initiatives are very susceptible to the ebbs and flows of the "gene paradox." There may be nothing we can do to prevent it because we are all part of the problem. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Who owns your relationships?

I return from a crashed hard drive and what Dr's thought was Strep (WHEW... I just had a common sinus infection).

While I was away with no computer and feeling miserable I had some time to think. I've been hunting through the deepest darkest depths of facebook, myspace, linkedin, etc. in search of old friends when it hit me, each one of these social networking site is a different contact list. Sure there is some overlap, but really most of us manage three or four contact lists. The sad thing about this whole deal is that, for the most part, we don't even have email addresses for most of my friends, facebook does.

All the information that I want about my relationships his held by someone else. In other words, I don't OWN them. I stop by facebook and I tap into free software to "see" who's on my friend list and all this information stays on Facebook's server.

So, at the end of the day I need facebook to keep in touch with my people. Do you understand how powerful that is? Political fundraisers live and breathe by their contact lists. This is why political endorsements are sooo important. You get access to the endorser's contact list.

What's the moral of the story? Treat your contact list as it should be treated. Be nice to it, don't abuse it (don't let others abuse it either), and feed it, just don't be too promiscuous. Do all these things right, keep a safe backup with real email addresses and your contact list will do wonders for you. You may not be as high falutin' as a presidential canditate but your contacts are still priceless.

Photo by: destinlee

Saturday, May 3, 2008

5 Steps to making it happen

Its been about a week since my last post and so much has happened. I'm trying to nail down exactly what this blog is about and, to be completely honest, I don't know. My pal Jocelyn over at the nonproft technology blog makes a great point about discipline as a tool for finding your niche/voice. Writers are always told to write, musicians are told to practice, even Monster Careers puts you through a battery of worksheets to help you find the best professional you. Either way, this intentional approach makes a lot of sense to me. So, here is my modus operandi.

  1. Think BIG or go home - Why do something the same way its been done before? If you're not out there to make a difference, then don't do it. You won't be passionate about your endeavor and when the times get tough, you'll abort.
  2. Discipline, Plan, Discipline, Plan, etc. But at some point you gotta DO. - Religiously working over an idea in a structured organized way (i.e. disciplined) will get you to the core of why your idea is so great. This will help you prove your point. At some a certain stage, however, you have to drop all the planning and step out on a limb and just do it. You'll probably have to make adjustments as you go.
  3. The proof is in the pudding - No one will take you seriously if you can't SHOW that you are good at something. I used to work as a program evaluator and if there is anything that truly drives me crazy its when intelligent competent people make decisions without proof of the DO. "Let's give out ribbons because it will make our clients feel special." True, or they feel stupid. Show me proof that clients prefer ribbons over discounts and I'm all for it.
  4. Pick the low hanging fruit - This is pretty self explanatory. I love small changes that create big impact. Your clients, staff, family, whomever, will be more likely to adapt to small changes than huge overhauls. Put it this way, at least you save on training if the change is obvious.
  5. Be happy - No matter how good the pay or how good the idea, its not worth it if you or the people around you are unhappy.
These 5 points may seem really obvious to you, but you would be surprised to see how many people don't do these things. I know I'm not perfect.

So what is your approach? What makes your life easier and what do you stay away from?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Energy of the Future

Last year I had a pretty amazing opportunity to visit Greece. Besides the "amazingness" of the whole trip, I noticed that CNN International had an awful lot to report on environmental problems all over the world. Now, I'm not talking about stories like Anderson Cooper's Planet in Peril, I'm talking about the small day to day stories about water shortage problems in northern Africa, erosion problems in parts of Asia, and smog in central Europe. It struck me that, in this country at least, we don't see this type of small consistent reporting on issues of the world's environment.

Now here's what really hit it home for me. I was in Arizona last week, the desert for all intents and purposes, and there were very few homes with solar panels, water recapturing systems, or even energy efficient architecture.

How did we come to this place where computer chips get smaller and smaller but cars and homes get larger and larger? We have the ability to begin making our day to day tools more energy efficient but the investment in these technologies doesn't match the potential for improvements.

As energy becomes more expensive, as resources become more scarce, as investment in green technologies increases, and political and social will spreads, we will be better able to adapt to our planet and live more harmoniously with our surroundings.

Take a look at my post on "What our Future Looks Like" and check out the Orquideorama. This stuff isn't going away.

Photo by: Marcin Wichary

Sunday, April 20, 2008


It was recently brought to my attention that it is difficult to get in contact with me through this blog. Well, guess what. Not anymore. You can send me an email by selecting the link to the right or at the bottom of the page.

I have limited invites to Xobni, so, if you want one I will need a 500 word explanation of why you deserve one more than the next person.

Just kidding. I'll send you one if I have any left, just ask.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Online Learning

So I had this meeting today where we talked about teaching a class on the internet. As the conversation went on my mind wandered...

Remember the Matt Damon movie with Robin Williams, Good Will Hunting? At one point in the movie Will was in a Harvard bar and he told this grad student that he pays all this money for an education which he could have gotten for $3.95 in late fees at the public library. This got me thinking, why offer an online class?

Anything worth teaching is already online. As a matter of fact, the specific content we discussed in our meeting already exists and is probably better than what our small group could put together. So,why would I take a class from an online institution? For the accountability, the problem sets? The content is already online.

You could say that in an online course you have a professor to answer questions. But why pay all that money for an answer, its already free online?

The professor's answer will save you the time of having to sift through all the BS answers online. So what, that's what learning is about, right?

I am going to predict that the online university will go away but institutions with classroom based instruction will continue to deliver content online. Actually, it may be more accurate to ask, will an online university ever gain the same prestige of a traditional university?

As always ladies and gents, your thoughts?

Photo by: extra ketchup

Monday, April 7, 2008

Gender Roles Reversed

Now this is really interesting. Geisha guys. Its not a surprise that both men and women begin to behave differently once income is more equally distributed between both groups. We've seen examples of this for years. Women are a group in society increasingly targeted by political add makers and marketing execs. When will there be a Bunny Ranch for - er, Dude Ranch... When will there be a Dude Ranch, Stud Farm, Man Palace, you get the point?

It is interesting that this article talks about a woman's interest in Geisha guys, what about men interested in Geisha guys? They must exist.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Power of the Masses

Remember the post I did not to long ago called "Similarities?" Well it looks like there's a new project at the Social Science Research Council that follows the same model. In this case, Social Scientists decide which projects are worth funding.

As much as I like the democratization of information on the internet and I LOVE the idea of many people providing input to help make the best choice, I am worried about another effect that has potential of derailing this concept.

I read a study recently - I have no clue where I read it or who wrote it - but it talked about how liberals tend to read books that lean to the left and conservatives tend to read books that lean to the right. How can we expect to learn from each other if we never venture into the world of people who think differently from us? What are the dangers if this effect happens as niches grow smaller and smaller?

See Death by a Thousand Fragments or point #4 in this post at GigaOM.

Thanks to and GigaOM for keeping us smart. Photo courtesy of Jurvetson

As rediculous as this seems...

we'll be seeing more of this. It all started with the Segway and the military is exploring tools that will help a soldier's mobility and safety on the battle field. Eventually, as these inventions become more relevant to our daily lives the everyday consumer will partake.

How long will it take for technology to be the shell that holds our brains?

Friday, April 4, 2008

Information wants to be FREE, dude

... as once said by a big Linux hippy.
I came across this story just a moment ago and it really makes me think.

It goes something like this:
Kid takes notes in class and sells notes to website so other kids can ready the notes and presumably skip class and not fail.

This scenario brings up some interesting questions.
Who owns this information? I can say with 100% certainty that the words on that piece of paper belonged to the student. There may be portions of the notes that are direct quotes, but the rest is the student's interpretations of the professor's words. Therefore, the words belong to the student.

What if the student applied the professor's ideas and built a really awesome rocket or even wrote a book? Is the professor entitled to royalties? We all stand on the shoulders of giants...

International Mixtape Project

photo by: penningtron
I met this guy a about a year ago at a friend's "nonprofit" bar. (I can talk more about that brilliant idea later) But this guy was going on and on about how he's created this network of people, called the International Mixtape Project, who circulate their love of music by sharing mixtapes. The project is not about making money and this friend of a friend actually looses money keeping the site running. Anyhow, this is tone of the most noble artistic projects I've seen in a long time and you all should really take a look. I haven't joined the community because I don't want to flake on them but I really would if I could.

Saturday, March 29, 2008


These two sites seem strangely alike. I really appreciate information like this. They aim to give us, consumers, more information by showing us if others "like" what they see.

As consumers we have power. Perhaps as individuals, not so much, but as a whole we can move mountains, however, we must be united. The power of the masses.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Why do employers fail to reckognize talent? pt.1

There's been a lot of talk about the democratizing effects of the internet and the 21st century employee. Older generations tend to quiver at youngsters changing jobs every year or two. I know people who don't understand folks who can be on the internet 24hrs a day. The reality is that this generations work IS the internet - not that we created the internet but our work happens online. (My opinions on SaaS and the future of office productivity will have to come later.)

Now, I may be over generalizing, but we don't really turn to a card catalog anymore to figure out where to learn something. It takes too long and our time is priceless. (I shamelessly wear my bias on my sleeve.) Information comes at us all day long and our alone time is a luxury.

Our only true commodity is time. A person can choose to farm or to go to the library. Both have some return and both decisions can be quantified in [currency of your choice]. So if time is the only true commodity then the person who can do things faster and more efficiently has more "powerful" or valuable time. I think this points to the importance of experience; assuming that, generally, people with experience (in whatever field) can do things more efficiently and effectively. So, if I have to choose between a couple of people to hire, I choose the candidate with the most experience because they are a more efficient worker. No brainer there.

Another important ingredient to this whole mess is that experience isn't valuable in a vacuum. An employer must perceive a particular job candidate's experience to be the "right" experience. This is why your network, professional or otherwise, is incredibly important.

Now, years ago, people would be given opportunities based on socioeconomic class. The offspring of a wealthy family would have a much better chance of getting into [insert prestigious school/job] because of who the family was. Now a days, it is cheaper to come across information than it was back when the printing press was invented. Wait a minute! The book was a luxury and that may be a reason that wealthy people had more education. They could afford the books.

Either way, we find ourselves in an environment where good information is cheap. People can build competency quickly and easily. And socioeconomic class no longer determines your ability to land that awesome job. This is over simplifying the whole ball of wax, but you get the point.

So if we are all equal in our ability to get information and put it to use, then why pick on person over the other for a particular job? Its all about final product, see. Does one candidate produce a better final product than another? and how do we know?

Seth Godin talks about scrapping the resume in favor of a portfolio and letters of recommendation. Fastcompany says that if we want to get somewhere in this world we have to dot the I's and cross the T's. We are now the product.

So I end, or should I say start, with a potentially alienating and verbose post to say that the next segment will be about the challenges of attracting and recognizing talent. Why are so many people not good at it?

Information rights.

Who has them? Does age matter?
Do you have to be over 18 to benefit from the freedom of speech?
The folks at blogscoped bring up a good point.
How old do you have to be to benefit from the freedom of information? Information wants to be free, Dude!

If I may recklessly predict, this issue will come up in the courts if it hasn't already. Can we/should we limit what young people can search for?

As one who begrudgingly moves into adulthood, hell yeah kids should be able to learn about what's out there. Should a ten year old be able to search adult websites, no. Should a ten year old be able to search for information on sexual health? Well, if they are ready to learn about the health risks, hell yeah! Who determines when a ten year old is ready to learn these things? I know plenty of ten year olds who are smarter than the adults who teach them.

What does our future look like?

So we have a perfect example of mid century views of the future.
I see no people of color, tight metallic body suits, funny looking creatures (did evolution speed up?), lots of shiny metal, and a building in the Grand Canyon.

Times have changed. We clearly have a different view of the future. What is it?
I'd like to think that we aim to limit our environmental footprint. Long lasting lights bulbs and hybrid cars are increasing in popularity. On the other hand, we are debating drilling in Alaska.

What gives? Here is what I'd like to see, the Orquideorama in Bogota

photo by: kleper

Your thoughts? Any good examples of us in the future?