Tag Archives: tech

fear of a red hat

So Beth Kanter does a lot of work with nonprofits, helping them answer pressing and far-reaching questions about their use of technology, and how it can advance their missions without leading them down some nightmarish rabbit-hole of Bad Tech Decisions.

She has been doing this for a long time, with a lot of different types of organizations – arts groups, advocacy groups, etc.

I love this image, and the accompanying quote, taken from an attendee at a workshop ten years ago on technology for artists and arts organizations:

Image courtesy Beth Kanter

“I feel like a stranger in a foreign country and I don’t understand the language and I’m not wearing the right hat.”

This is a great image – and a great metaphor for fear.

Whatever the New Thing is – whether it’s a social network like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, or Second Life; a new Constituent Management System, donor software, or phone system; or even just a new job or an unfamiliar transit system (my own personal bête noir), we can always use a trusty guide.

I’m now doing what Beth was doing ten years ago – helping artists and arts organizations overcome their fears and use the technology that can help them. And it is not easy, for reasons that go beyond just labeling people (or a community) tech-resistant.

That’s why I love the quote above – it isn’t JUST that we don’t speak the language. If it were just that, we could keep to ourselves and just pray that we get off the Mètro at the right freaking arrondisement. No, it’s much worse. We’re wearing the wrong hat (and last year’s dress, no doubt) and PEOPLE ARE LAUGHING AT US.

It’s the old naked-in-front-of-school-assembly fear. Which is why it’s so important to respect it, and to work with it.

1. A Technology Translator needs to respect people’s fear.

Put a name to it. Put a face on it. What are you afraid is going to happen if you go on Facebook, if you switch software systems? Put that on paper, and talk about it. How can that risk be minimized – not trivialized, but addressed?

2. A Technology Translator needs to listen.

This should really go without saying, but even those of us who think we are good listeners can clam up a little more. The less you talk, the more they say. How many times have you noticed that it’s the last thing that people say, or put on a list, or finally raise their hand to add to the brainstorming session, that really gets to the heart of the matter?

Once you’ve got the fears out on paper, have listened to them all, and have assured everybody that their fears are being taken seriously, you can start to move forward.

3. A Technology Translator needs to respond individually to each case.

It would be a shame to follow up all this trust-building and listening with a one-size-fits-all solution, right? So it’s important to be truly flexible in your thinking, hear what some of the unique challenges are in each case, counter-balance those with the assets, and craft a middle road that navigates the minefield safely.

This is all terribly abstract. I’d love to talk case studies at some point. In the meantime, what are your thoughts? How do you translate technology effectively to newcomers and immigrants?

What would a guidebook to social media look like?


peas across the twitterverse

Thanks to all who helped me cement my ideas for my upcoming course for artists. It’s really starting to take shape – but I don’t want to write about the specifics until I have a conversation or two with the specialists I’m trying to recruit to help me pull it all together. I am really excited about the rather nifty idea I have for branding and marketing the branding and marketing course, though! I can see it so clearly in my mind…

Soon. All will come to fruition.

In the meantime, there’s been a lot of discussion in Twitterland about how Twitter has changed people’s lives, can change people’s lives, can change how we work, and has changed how at least one woman (and her friends) help her heal.

And I just had to pipe up.

Here’s the thing. Twitter has had a huge impact on me. Part of it is because I live in a somewhat geographically remote area (on the other side of the Cape Cod Canal, which is much more than a physical barrier, my friends), and Twitter has managed to expand my horizons, connect me to like-minded people, and expose me to the greater world in ways that blogging never did. Even though those are all PRECISELY the reasons I started blogging in the first place, back in 2002. (This is not my first blog.)

Twitter made me buy an iPhone. What I mean is, once I started using Twitter, and started following a few very prolific people like Beth Kanter, Jeremiah Owyang, and Chris Brogan, I almost immediately outgrew both my cell phone plan AND my cell phone. Never before in my long career with rapidly changing technology have I outgrown a piece of technology so rapidly. One minute, my old phone suited my needs. The next, it was laughably inadequate.

So I bought an iPhone. And then the positive feedback loop really started kicking in.

I heard Beth when she called for feedback on a post that was of interest to me, and about which I thought I had something interesting to say. So I commented.

I knew when my friend Len was suddenly enthralled by the play of light on some leaves near the Charles River in Cambridge. I paused, and looked at the trees outside my own window.

I saw when Chris was caught in traffic during the snowstorm, and I called him to sympathise.

When someone I didn’t know was diagnosed with cancer, I felt it, deep in my totally uninsured, at-high-risk-for-cancer bones. And I showed my support in whatever way I could. (Peas were involved.) In so doing, I felt that maybe others would have done the same for me. And I was comforted.

Twitter has done what no other technology had done for me to date. It has really, truly, meaningfully personalized the internet for me.

Does Twitter have implications for those in the nonprofit sector like me? People who struggle every day to build community, work with people who like to take action, and personalize the political to effect meaningful change?

What do YOU think?