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NTC Wrap-up

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NTEN hosted a record breaking 2000 people looking to be more effective in their use of technology to support good causes in D.C. last week. I wasn’t one of them.So, why the wrap-up? Because the NTC (Nonprofit Technology Conference) is such a big event in my life that, even if I skip it, it doesn’t necessarily skip me.

Let’s get this out of the way first: Thank you so much, NTEN, for the award. And great thanks to all of my nptech peers for the kind words and overdone Star Wars references here — I think my 11 year old enjoyed the video as much as I did (although he dozed off during the part where I was talking). And a whole level of thanks to my dear friend Deborah Finn, who made sure that anyone within a ten mile radius of someone who knows what “NPTech” means heard about my award (and Deborah hates awards!).

Winning an award is great. Even better is knowing that personal efforts of mine to increase NPTech awareness of good technology and beer carried on undaunted in my absence. Carie Lewis, David Krumlauf and Jenn Howard possibly doubled attendance at the Pre-NTEN Beer Bash. Track Kronzak and a host of smart people pulled off the second Tech Track to good crowds and reviews. Look forward to an even bigger bash on April 2nd, 2012, on my home turf in San Francisco (official conference dates are 4/3-5), and Judi Sohn has stepped up to the plate as organizer for the 2012 Tech Track (now you’re officially on the hook, Judi).

Feedback on this year’s conference has only served to reinforce my opinion that we need to do more outreach to the technical staff at nonprofits and bring them more into the mix of fundraisers, web developers and social media strategists that make up the NTEN community. The tech staff attending are looking for deeper conversations, and it’s a challenge to offer beginning and advanced topics when the techie attendance (or perception of same) is still moderate to low. It’s a chicken and egg problem: it’s hard for a Sysadmin or IT Support person to look at session after session on using Twitter and 4Square and then explain to their boss why they need to go to NTEN. But the crowd-sourced session input is dominated by people who find subjects like virtualization and network security kind of dull. I might find myself challenging NTEN’s session selection methods this year, not in an attempt to hijack the content, only to make it more democratic. Nonprofit technical staff need a technology network, too.

See you in 2012. I won’t miss it!

Why I Won’t Be At NTC (And Why You Should Be)

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As a happy, active member of the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN), I’ve made a difficult decision: family and work commitments are too high this year to afford a trip to DC and NTEN’s annual Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC). Since most of my family and pretty much all of my wife’s family live 1,000 to 3,000 miles away from us, visiting takes up a lot of the vacation time I get. NTC is, to my mind, a marginally work-related activity, in it that I do bring resources and knowledge back to my employer every year, but the bulk of what I get out of and go to NTC for isn’t all that work-related. Because, let’s face it: NTC is the best party of the year, hands down. And I’m far more likely to be imparting info there, and engaging in what I call my “extra-curricular activities” than focusing on Earthjustice-related topics.

What am I going to miss? Oh my word.

      For me, the fun begins about a day before the conference does, with the annual

NTC Beer Bash

      (that Carie Lewis will be organizing in my absence) kicking the conference off. Established two years ago, we get 30 to 50 of the early arrivers together at the brewpub with the best selection of craft beers we can find together and kick off the socializing early.

Day of Service. Another pre-conference tradition, the Day of Service links nptech professionals with local charities for four hours of expertise sharing and volunteer activities. There’s usually some big project, like installing wireless at a community center, and many opportunities for smal consulting sessions.

The Tech Track. Started last year, the Tech Track is a selection of breakout sessions designed for the people that do what i do for a living — install and support the technology that, in turn, supports the mission. NTC is a great place to develop a social media strategy or learn the latest online fundraising techniques, and it’s now also a reliable source for solid advice on how to virtualize your server room or move the whole thing to the cloud.

Holly Ross and the NTEN Staff. Simply put, Holly + Co are to nonprofit technology conference planning as Buffy and the Scoopy Gang are to vampire slaying. They not only nail it, but they do it all with wit, humanity and style. NTC is the best tech conference. Period. And that’s completely attributable to the brilliant work NTEN does combining awesome people, great knowledge, and a wealth of activities into three days of absolute fun. As I always say. you can’t go to NTC and not meet people. I make new friends every time.

Sadly, my ambitious agenda at work and some family matters have left no room for my favorite annual event this year. I’ve made the last six and I intend to be at the next six. So go and have a great time for me!