Tag Archives: conference

geeks gone wild

Geek Girl Camp Cape Cod is a new mini-conference for the technologically-inclined of the female persuasion, and it is debuting next month right here on Cape Cod, in lovely downtown Hyannis.

Set for Thursday, April 17 and running from 5:30 pm until… some intriguingly unspecified time later in the evening… this one-evening shebang will feature speakers on blogging, website design, online marketing, and social networking.

Now open for registration!

Me? I’ll be there, presenting a session on blogging for beginners.

(Hint: I’m in favor of it.)

rubber, meet road

So I gave my much-anticipated (by me, at least) presentation this morning on Web 2.0 for Nonprofit Communications, and I’m really pleased with the feedback I’ve gotten.   I only covered blogging, photosharing, and social networking, and only in the briefest of brief surveys, because I only had about 15 minutes to speak.

But it sparked some great conversations afterwards, and I got to meet some terrific people who were perhaps already interested in using some of these tools for their nonprofit’s communication goals, but maybe just needed an extra push.  Or perhaps just some affirmation that this is a good and responsible direction to explore.

In any case, I reconfirmed for myself how much I love public speaking, especially on topics as dear to my heart as this.

And best of all, some folks from my own organization are intrigued enough to have asked me to make some concrete proposals about how we should expand our own use of Web 2.0 tools. 

Once again, I am so glad that this is my job, and that this is such an interesting and fast-moving time to be involved in the field.  There is just nothing else I would rather be doing.

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.

great conference, unfortunate acronym

The Technology in the Arts conference is a hit — at least with me.  It is indescribably refreshing to be among other technologically-inclined folks who work in the arts, just like me.  I realize that this is the real, secret reason to go to these conferences, to maintain your tribal membership and get your annual secret decoder ring (talk about useful technology), but it’s one thing to know it and quite another thing to experience it.

Enjoyed a very chatty lunch with Dee Schneidman of the New England Foundation for the Arts, whom I had met once before a year or so ago.  Our organizations are similar in many ways, and so the bulk of the (highly enjoyable) conversation consisted of one of us verbalizing a challenge we are facing, to which the other would respond I know!

So satisfying!

Speaking of satisfying, my first workshop of the day was a nice, juicy, hands-on crash course in podcasting that resulted in my walking out of there thinking I can totally do THAT!  We played around with a short MP3 file in Audacity, created a musical intro with podsafe music, even bleeped out an (actual) expletive.  Very fun, very demystifying, lots of information in a short, entertaining format.

Then, after lunch, we were treated to a keynote talk by Jake Barton of Local Projects, the design studio responsible for Story Corps, the National September 11 Memorial Museum, and more unspeakably interesting projects.  The thought that kept running through my mind during his presentation was this is making me feel like this is the best and most exciting possible field to be in right now.

And what more could you want from a keynote?  Free chocolate?

This was followed by a delightful dinner with Len Edgerly, coincidentally also affiliated with NEFA, with whom I shared still more commiseration, brainstorming, and twitter accounts.  Both this conversation and a few earlier in the day stirred up some interesting new thoughts on scaling some of the bigger, broader-brush-stroke technologies like Digg and Twitter into a more locally-focussed application that I plan to develop my thinking on a little and post about later.  Right now, more ruminating and tossing around of wild ideas is called for.

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.

snagIt, tagIt, sell it to the butcher in the store

So in the interest of finally assembling the presentation I am doing on Web 2.0 for a conference in November, I bought a copy of SnagIt so that I can make the niftiest possible slides for the powerpoint.  I just watched as many of the short tutorial videos as I could assimilate in one sitting (i.e., most of them), and I can hardly wait to get started.  Of course I only saved one copy to my desktop at work, so wait I must.

I’ve been ruminating and cogitating on this presentation for weeks now, writing outline after outline, brushing up my photoshop skills, and practicing witty one-liners in the car.  My main difficulty has been striking the right balance of enthusiasm and moderate skepticism about how web 2.0 tools can be applied to nonprofits. 

The key, I think, is to present the material not as a cheerleader (“isn’t that neat?!”) but as a source of information on items that might or might not be a good fit for their organization, with some basic introductory material that they can then investigate and assess on their own. 

I plan to present just a few tools that nonprofits might use in furthering their communications goals (the workshop that I am asked to be a part of is supposed to cover Developing and Implementing Your Communication Plan), so I will be focusing on that aspect of things, rather than, say, fundraising with web 2.0.

So I’ve pared it down to the things I know best, keeping in mind the level of familiarity and comfort that I expect my audience to have:  blogs (personal and organizational), photosharing (flickr), RSS, and wikis.  I only have 20 minutes, so that is more than enough.

The conference isn’t until early November, but I’ve got so much travel scheduled between now and then that I will only feel comfortable if I get this “in the can” by late next week, so this will be my main after-hours project for about the next ten days.  What’s going to be really exciting is that almost all of the travel I will be doing is related to this work — conferences and podcamps, and the like — so I imagine I will just keep wanting to add more as I go along.  If the presentation is already “finished” (like anything is ever really finished), then I will be less likely to succumb to the temptation to add extraneous nonsense and louse it all up.

It’s been a very steep learning curve these last couple of weeks, and I am so glad to have found the resources I needed, exactly when I needed them.  SnagIt was just one – I have also gotten lots of great ideas and help from some of the sideshows on Slideshare, espeially everything tagged nptech.

OK, maybe not everything on that page.  But the way my eyeballs felt after a solid 12 hours of doing research on Saturday, you would think that I had watched them all.   I am nothing if not a completist.

I also heard today that a consultant I had been hoping to lure over to a project of mine is interested and is putting together a proposal, so hooray! for progress and getting the right people to play on your kickball team!