Tag Archives: blogging

unforeseen consequences of OpenSocial

I was slightly stunned this morning to have coffee with a friend who, when I mentioned the Google announcement about OpenSocial, hadn’t heard about it. Sometimes I forget that not everyone has the same feed reader as I do – I still sometimes think it’s like the New York Times, a shared experience.

So I had the opportunity to take a first pass at trying to explain OpenSocial to someone, which is really good practice for me, since I will be presenting on Web 2.0 for nonprofits at Philanthropy Day on Tuesday, and this announcement does change things somewhat.

Thank god for the rapid-fire response to OpenSocial in the blogosphere!  Over the last couple of days, most if not all of the blogs I regularly read have offered either their take on OpenSocial, or a digest on the posts they found interesting or helpful.  I was able to draw on a few of these when improvising an explanation to my friend this morning.

So I get how OpenSocial will help streamline Social Network strategies, both personal and professional.  It will allow you to seamlessly integrate your personae and networks from a multitude of Social Networks into one coherent profile.  My question is: Is this entirely a good thing? 

What if I’m not fully integrated yet?

I maintain a personal and a professional blog.  Two.  They are entirely separate.  I also maintain a presence on some social networks that is more geared toward my personal persona than my professional persona, and vice versa.  There’s nothing remotely shady about my personal blog or SoNet personae, but I have enjoyed having two different spheres in which to express myself.

I know I’m not alone.

My question is, will OpenSocial eventually break down these protective walls between personae? 

I realize that I will still be able to choose which widgets come from where to live on my “container”  – my personal website where I can draw in my LinkedIn profile, my Twitters, my whatnot.  I realize that the power is still mine to determine what I say and how I say it online.  But my question is more of an observation of a trend – of which OpenSocial is only the most recent signpost.

There’s been a deepening trend toward personal transparency in the blogosphere over the last few years.  And I don’t mean the TMI kind of transparency that leads bloggers to disclose details about their dietary foibles, bedroom habits, and scatological histories.  These are all details that suddenly saw the light of day because of the supposed “anonymity” of the internet. 

I mean the kind of transparency that looks the reader in the eye, states my full name, rank, and serial number, and claims my thoughts and ideas as my own.  No pseudonyms, no fey anonymity.

I remember how shocked and impressed I was, years ago, when I first read Dooce and saw that she had emblazoned on her masthead “I’m Heather B. Armstrong.  This is my website.” 

Of course Dooce is famous for being one of the first well-publicized people to lose her job because of her blog.  She counsels people not to make the same mistake she did, even though it sort of brought her everlasting fame.  For years I heeded that advice.

But things have changed.  Bloggers no longer have to remain anonymous.  Employers encourage blogging, or at least tolerate it.  Yes, the same rules still hold that have always held for public discourse – don’t say something you wouldn’t want your mother – or your boss - to hear.  But blogging – and online presences – are more accepted now in the mainstream.  You’re less likely to get fired just because you blog.

In addition to the changing paradigm in the outside world, I am finding that my interior landscape has changed.  It is becoming more and more difficult to decide where I should post something – personal or professional?  What’s the difference?

For some this may not be news.  For many of us, it is earth-shattering.

I am extremely fortunate in that my professional life has naturally and organically come to reflect more and more my pre-existing, personal passions and preferences.  I – finally! – get to do what I love.

So why maintain a wall that no longer serves any purpose?

When I was in college, I lived in the most distant dorm to campus available.  I went to classes, then I came home.  I felt sorry for the students who could see the classroom buildings from their bedroom windows.  I dressed in certain clothes for work/classes and changed into “play clothes” when I came home.

Now I can feel the two wardrobes, the two spheres, becoming one.  I heard the first, faint strains of this approaching tune when I started reading about the OpenID movement – and I thought h’m.  Now that OpenSocial is on its way, I am h’mming even louder.

couldn’t DonorsChoose artists?

Beth Kanter’s recent post about the power and recent success of DonorsChoose caught my eye.  This recent success story of a blogger garnering a very impressive response in the form of big contributions to DonorsChoose doesn’t surprise me at all.  It’s an awesome idea.

When I first heard about DonorsChoose, a site where educators can post specific requests for charitable donations for their classes and projects, while donors can choose which projects to give (often small, manageable) contributions to, it struck me as absolute genius, and as as a potential model for other fields of philanthropy.

Why not fund individual artists in the same way?  Artists always need microgrants to fund various projects, forays, explorations, and experimentations, and giving them a place to post these needs where sympathetic donors could find them.

The potential for this is huge, I think.  This type of microgranting directly from one individual to another can be very powerful, and can give the donor a vested interest in the future and success of the project, while the recipient has an interest in maintaining the and nurturing the relationship with the donor.  I can see a relationship being sustained over time, where the donor — who was possibly attracted to the artist through an attraction to their art — becomes a collector, a supporter, an arts patron in the traditional sense of the word.

I will be interested to see how this model grows and expands – and how bloggers drive this evolution.

room for improvement

Another busy day at the Technology in the Arts conference, one which finally required me to stop in my tracks and take an unscheduled break in the form of a much-needed nap this afternoon.  When I emerged back into the fray just before dinner, I noticed that I wasn’t alone in having noticed a few elements that have been mysteriously absent from this otherwise highly enjoyable gathering.

1.  If there is an online, real-time gathering place for this conference, then we just don’t know about it.  It seems very odd that an arts & technology conference wouldn’t have a live blog, a group blog, a wiki, or some form of online community space.  I’ve noticed several if not many attendees live-blogging and live-twittering the workshops, and it’s weird not to have a central place for all that thought, feedback, and commentary.

2.  Although it’s clear that at least one ulterior motive for hosting this conference is to show off the Center for Arts Management and Technology, there has been a surprising lack of actual information given to attendees about the program, any research projects that may be going on, the mission, goals, and plans of the organization, or even a pitch for applicants in the graduate program that certainly seems like it would be of interest to this self-selected group.  It just seems like a lost opportunity.  God knows that if it were my conference, you would walk out of here knowing who we were and what we did and why that was important to the field as a whole — and how you could get involved in our work.  Right now all I can say I know about CAMT is that they are based at Carnegie Mellon University, and they put on this swell conference every year.

3.  Speaking of if this were my conference, I’ve noticed that they seem to struggle with a challenge that my organization has recently faced as well at our annual regional conference — addressing the different levels of experience and proficiency of their attendees.  I sat in one workshop today where I was told at the beginning that if I were live-blogging or live-twittering the workshop, I didn’t really belong there — that I was already too advanced.  Not that there shouldn’t be a basic survey of Web 2.0 tools for beginners (as this was), but how about a simultaneous workshop for those of us who are already on every social networking site we’ve heard of — perhaps one dealing with managing mutliple SoNets, crafting a master SoNet plan for your organization, or even (my favorite) pitching the value of SoNets to your board or senior staff.  It’s important to realize, as the conference grows and evolves, that if you only offer beginner-level material, you are robbing yourself of return customers, as they head elsewhere to seek intermediate and advanced material.  And they’re doing a great job here — there’s no reason they can’t work in parallel tracks for different levels of expertise, and do it well.

4.  It would have been really nice to have received a list of attendees and their affiliations prior to arrival on site, as it were, so that we could make the most out of our networking opportunities.  Better still would have been a list that included email contacts for all attendants.  Of course, this sort of communication could have also been handled very easily if there was a group blog or wiki for the conference.  I could have posted on the group site that I wanted to have coffee during the break with other folks interested in open source CMS, for instance, or asked if anyone wanted to go for Indian food for lunch and talk about building artist exchange programs, or share a cab back to the airport in the morning and talk about how much we’d like to work with/for Jake Barton.  (Just for example.)  It really would have been helpful, of actual practical use, and it just makes sense for a technology conference to be a bit more “hooked up.”

These were the things I heard several people gab about at the VIP reception and the close-out bash tonight, and I had to admit that I had these thoughts as well.  Again, I empathise with the coordinators — it’s impossible to do everything, and I can tell that they are a small and dedicated army pulling off a pretty impressive feat (and the quality of the hotel and dedicated shuttle are VERY nice touches that I do not want to minimize!), but they could certainly harvest some of the energy and talent of their attendees next year by asking if anyone is interested in, say, setting up, talking up, and even gardening an online presence for the conference.  And yeah, sure, I guess maybe I am volunteering.

 Got to put one’s money where one’s mouth is and all that rot, you know.

athena, the powerpoint

I’ll be off for the next little while, conferencing in Pittsburgh at the Technology in the Arts conference at CMU over the weekend, then on a much-delayed vacation in NYC. 

I finally polished my Powerpoint presentation (on using blogs, photosharing and social networking sites in nonprofit communications) to a fine sheen last night in a sudden surge of inspiration and creativity, and am satisfied enough with the result that I can enjoy myself away in the world without any work-related sleepless nights.

I will admit that I was, tragically, well on my way to creating a rather drab and sad little series of slides until I got some more inspiration from Slideshare, and then sat through the entire hour of the microsoft webinar on the first five slides, by the author of Beyond Bullet Points, Cliff Atkinson. 

I ended up not taking the author’s advice quite to the letter, but watching that did have a profound effect on the way I visualized the graphics and the tone of the thing.

And, as always happens, it just needed to rattle around in my brain long enough until it was ready to emerge, fully formed, right out of my forehead. 

As it happened, I ended poking fun at the “cheerleader for technology” that I sometimes feel like by using a few images like this:

cheer out loud!

 And all right, I might as well come clean, this:

I cheer because I care

Let’s just say that the humor lies not in our shared physical appearance.

And of course I present all the necessary caveats and conditions, so I hold to my promise of not playing cheerleader, and provide instead just a basic introduction to some simple technology. 

Now all that’s left to do is compile a resources handout, as requested by the conference organizers.  Happy to oblige, but I’m thinking about augmenting this with a workshop-specific wiki, just to see what the response is.  See if anybody goes and contributes to it. I realize this is hardly groundbreaking, but would certainly be worth the exercise for me alone, at the very least.

And if folks from the workshop don’t use it, then at least I’ll have another place to play around with nonprofit technology links and news.   And post pictures of people who are not me.

fresh start

As my professional life heads further down the path toward Advocate for Technology in the Arts, I thought it would be useful for me to start a blog on that topic.  At the very least, it will serve as a place for me to store some of my ever-growing links and feeds related to the topic, as well as provide a place to think through some of the increasingly overwhelming thoughts I am having about the new technology, Web 2.0, and its impact on arts organizations, artists, and nonprofits.

It occurred to me that I should start my own blog on this topic earlier this afternoon while I was listening to an interview with Beth Kanter, an independent consultant whose professional focus encompasses all the topics listed above, while folding in a fascinating angle on how to orient “digital immigrants” to the landscape of Web 2.0.

I am not a digital immigrant, but I am struggling with some of the issues Beth mentions, especially how best to serve as a translator between the tech world and the arts world.   More and more, this is becoming my primary role, so I thought I’d join the conversation.

She also mentioned how she sometimes entices professionals in the nonprofit sector to make the leap to blogging for work by emphasizing how much it helps us solidify our thinking, learn, and even train ourselves, when we write things out.  Since most professionals write out thoughtful emails to each other, it is actually a small leap to make. 

And there is a big difference between writing discrete emails to one or several people and posting it to the web, of course.  What people tend to focus on is the fact that you are now “going public” but the benefits of that can far outweigh any perceived negatives. 

Not least of all, you can find your own thoughts again on various subjects, without having to undergo some tedious search through the contents of your email files and folders.  And as we know, posting your thoughts to the web creates the potential for a conversation.  It allows people to comment, link, and build on your original post.

Heck, it allows them to find you in the first place.

So, although I have been a blogger for several years now in a very comfortable sort of slice-of-life, personal stories sort of way, I think it’s time to extend the exercise to encompass my professional life. 

This fall I will be going to several conferences on technology, including the Technology in the Arts conference in Pittsburgh, Podcamp Boston 2, and potentially one or two more if I can find the time and resources.  I am also planning on giving a talk of my own on the topic at a conference in November.

In preparation for all this I have been doing a tremendous amount of research to try to get up-to-speed on the latest thinking, startups, and technology in the field, with an emphasis on the intersection of technology and the arts world.

One major issue that I hear a lot about is how to engage artists in online collaborations and social networking, when the first hurdle is a pronounced discomfort with and even distrust of technology.  This was one of the reasons I enjoyed Beth Kenter’s interview so much — she mentioned some ways to get people started, just by dipping their toes in.

  1. Find a small, manageable, low-risk project.  Think about using a wiki for a project that might benefit from peering and collaboration.  Not only are wikis easy and manageable, but they are comfortingly familiar.  They look pretty much like a plain old website, just one with a big “edit” button somewhere around the edges.   So that might be one way to open a channel with somewhat tech-resistant users who nonetheless have a discrete project that needs attention and collaboration.
  2. Start with something addictive.  This is what Beth Kanter jokingly refers to as the crack dealer method, and she suggests RSS as a possible point of entry.  Set your user up with a reader (I use Google reader, and I think a lot of casual users have a certain comfort level with the Google brand) and start them off with a news feed on a topic of potent interest to them.  In the case of an organization, get them started with a news feed tagged to their organization name.  We all want to know when we’re in the press!
  3. Use the web for information gathering.  Then move on to content creation.  Get your user searching for items of interest with tags on blogs, myspace, flickr, and other social networking sites, and when they find a blog or photoset or what-have-you that they like, use that as a teachable moment to move on to social bookmarking and feeds.
  4. Start a professional blog.  Read what some other blogs in your field, choose a few that you like, and model yourself on them to start.  That is, after all, how most bloggers get started.  I mentioned above some of the benefits to starting a professional blog, including networking and storage/retrieval of ideas, links, and networks.

This blogging thing is pretty fun. I think I’ll do it again.