Monthly Archives: March 2013

Google Made Me Cry

Well, not real tears. But the announcement that Google Reader will no longer be available as of July 1st was personally updating news.  Like many people,  over the last eight years, this application has become as central a part of my online life as email. It is easily the web site that I spend the most time on, likely more than all of the other sites I frequent combined, including Facebook.

What do I do there? Learn. Laugh. Research. Spy. Reminisce. Observe. Ogle. Be outraged. Get motivated. Get inspired. Pinpoint trends. Predict the future.

With a diverse feed of nptech blogs,  traditional news,  entertainment, tech, LinkedIn updates, comic strips and anything else that I could figure out how to subscribe to,  this is the center of my information flow. I read the Washington Post every day,  but I skim the articles because they’re often old news. I don’t have a TV (well, I do have Amazon Prime and Hulu).

And I share the really good stuff.  You might say, “what’s the big deal? You can get news from Twitter and Facebook”  or “There are other feed readers.”

The big deal is that the other feed readers fall in three categories:

  1. Too smart: Fever
  2. Too pretty: Feedly, Pulse
  3. Too beta: Newsblur, TheOldReader
“Smart” readers hide posts that aren’t popular, assuming that I want to know what everyone likes, instead of research topics or discover information on my own. There’s a great value to knowing what others are reading; I use Twitter and Facebook to both share what I find and read what my friends and nptech peers recommend.  I use my feed reader to discover things.
Pretty readers present feed items in a glossy magazine format that’s hard to navigate through quickly and hell on my data plan.
The beta readers are the ones that look pretty good to me, until I have to wait 45 seconds for a small feed to refresh or note that their mobile client is the desktop website, not even an HTML5 variant.

What made Google Reader the reader for most of us was the sheer utility.  My 143 feeds generate about 1000 posts a day.  On breaks or commutes, I scan through them, starring anything that looks interesting as I go.  When I get home from work, and again in the morning, I go through the starred items, finding the gems.

Key functionality for me is the mobile support. Just like the web site, the Google Reader Android app wins no beauty contests, but it’s fast and simple and supports my workflow.

At this point, I’m putting my hopes on Feedly, listed above as a “too pretty” candidate.  It does have a list view that works more like reader does.  The mobile client has a list view that is still too graphical, but I’m optimistic that they’ll offer a fix for that before July.  Currently, they are a front-end to Google’s servers, which means that there is no need to export/import your feeds to join, and your actions stay synced with Google Reader (Feedly’s Saved Items are Google’s Starred, wherever you mark them).  Sometime before July, Feedly plans to move to their own back-end and the change should be seamless.

July is three months away. I’m keeping my eyes open.  Assuming that anyone who’s read this far is wrestling with the same challenge, please share your thoughts and solutions in the comments.

 

 

Where I’ll Be At The NTC – 2013 Edition

It’s time again for the Nonprofit Technology Conference, NTEN’s annual big deal event for those of us who use technology and the web to advance meaningful work.  This will be my eighth NTC (out of the last nine).  Here’s my NTEN history:

2005: Emily Zukerberg and Marnie Webb tell me about NTEN and I join in SF, attending my first NTC in Chicago, where I somehow got roped into presenting at three sessions.

2006: Seattle

2007: DC

2008: New Orleans

2009: San Francisco, and the first #ntcbeer event, where we had about 45 people brave their way to Berkeley.

2010: Atlanta. Here I introduced the Tech Track; five sessions on geeky topics that helped balance things after a headlong dive into social media madness that almost obscured NTEN’s mission, from where I sat.  We had three of the top ten rated sessions that year. The second #ntcbeer got about 40 people at a great bar that was way too far from the hotel.

I missed 2011 in DC.  But my good work went on with out me. Tracy Kronzak led up the second tech track to further success, and #ntcbeer boasted about 100 people at my favorite DC bar, Churchkey. Oh,  and I won a little award.

2012: San Francisco. No tech track this year, because we incorporated it more solidly into the IT Staff track, which the tech track crew curated.  #ntcbeer probably broke a few zoning laws, with about 150 people packed into a small bar.

Now I’m off to Minneapolis for #13NTC, and it’s shaping up to be another good one.  Here’s where you can find me:

April 10th, 7:00 pm, Brit’s Pub a few doors from the hotel for the 5th Annual #ntcbeer event.  As of this writing, we have a dead heat for signups on the official Facebook page (90) and the MyNTC event page (89) for a grand total of, well, somewhere between 160 and 170, I think.  There are duplicate signups and there’s no easy way to do the math.  This is definitely shaping up to be the largest one yet, as many more people will sign up in the days just before NTC and quite a few won’t bother signing up at all.  Join me there with the understanding that it’s about the company first, beer second; we have a history of being a welcoming, casual crowd.  And we have some surprises in store.

If you aren’t going to NTC, but you can get to Austin, Texas, be sure to attend our sister #ntcbeer event! Rumor has it that they know how to have a good time in Austin.

On Thursday. the 11th, I hope to participate in NTEN’s Day of Service.  I’m signed up, but concerned that I’ve heard nothing about this event to date.  Then I’m off to the IT Director’s meetup at 10:30, followed by the Science Fair, NTEN’s always impressive vendor show.  What’s great here is that NTEN draws nobody that is even capable of a hard sell — the vendor show is a great way to acquaint yourself with the nonprofit technology out there and the people who know how to make great use of it.  It’s a conversation-rich event.

My evening plans aren’t 100% booked, but if you work, as I do, in Legal Aid, please let me know so I can add you to the dinner reservation for the Legal Aid get-together.  I’ll be joined by fellow LSCer David Bonebrake and friends with ProBono.Net, LSNTAP, The Shriver Center on Poverty Law, Montana Legal Services, and hopefully more.

On Friday, Dan Pallotta follows up his groundbreaking TED talk that challenges all of us to shake up the damaging preconceptions we have about charity and donating. Then I’m off to sessions on IT Governance (by frequent co-collaborator Matt Eshleman of Community IT) and Bridging the tech funding gap, with Lindsay Bealko.

At 3:30, I’m presenting on Project Management: Choosing the Right Tools and Approaches for Disparate Projects.  I’m only somewhat ambitious here, but my goal is that everyone attending will walk away with a solid understanding about traditional (“Waterfall”) and modern “Agile” project management; how and when to apply one, the other, or some combination of the two; and what awesome tools and applications are available to support them.  As always, I’ll keep the PowerPointing to a reasonable time limit and mine the wisdom of the crowd attending.  I think there will be a healthy showing  and there are already some gurus signed up.

Friday night is the progressive party — not sure where I’ll be, but I”ll hit as many of them as I can. This might be the best chance to catch up with me, so let me know if you want to hang out.

On Saturday, after the Allyson Burn’s plenary, I’ll be leading a “Big Idea” panel on the Role of IT in Nonprofits.  Joining me will be Donny Shimamoto of Intraprise Techknowlogies and Michael Enos, CTO of Second Harvest Food Bank in my old stomping grounds, San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, CA. We’ll be sure to hit the big topics about where IT works in the org chart (and where it’s set up to fail, browse this blog for lots of my thoughts on this); what nonprofits should pay, and what good can an IT strategic plan do for you.

Finally, after lunch, I’ll be crashing Tracy Kronzak and Robert Weiner’s “Data is from Mars, Nonprofits are from Venus” session before getting way too early a plane back to DC and missing out on the Geek Games.  But, no rest — LSC’s board meeting starts on Sunday.

I do hope to see you there — let me know where you’ll be in the comments!