Tag Archives: award

NTC Wrap-up


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!

NTC08 Part 2: In Honor of Marnie Webb

At the NTEN awards on Friday, Marnie Webb took the Person of the Year award, and rightly so! In honor of Marnie, a key originator of the nptech community, I want to share the story of how I met her. And try to make her blush a bit more. 🙂

In 2004, I was reading Jon Udell‘s Infoworld columns about a new technology called “Really Simple Syndication”, RSS. The technology interested and thrilled me a bit, because it looked like it might provide a much needed management tool for web-based information (which it did). In early 2005, I was browsing through popular bookmarked web sites at Del.icio.us, a web site that made innovative use of RSS, and saw a link entitled “The Top 10 Reasons that Nonprofits Should Use RSS“. I noted that the author, one Marnie Webb, of course, worked near me in SF at Compumentor/Techsoup. The next week, I ran across a post by the same Ms. Webb to the del.icio.us mailing list. Armed with the knowledge that there was someone else obsessed with the same technology trends and potential that I was, I emailed her and said “You don’t know me, but we have to have lunch”.

The rest is this story — this blog, Techcafeteria, my happiness in finding/joining NTEN, which Marnie introduced me to. We started up the nptech aggregator web site, as the next logical progression in Marnie’s campaign to get people around the world referring useful information to each other via that ubiquitious tag. But I am positive that my story is far from unique — Marnie is one of those people who, in her unassuming way, promotes ideas and community. So, good work NTEN, and great work Marnie! A well-deserved award.

Why I won an Anonymous Blogger award at NTC

I’m just back from NTEN‘s wonderful annual conference, which was in DC this year. This is my third year attending, and my first in my brand new career as a technology consultant. You can check out that gig at my new domain, Techcafeteria.com. Right off the bat, at the Member’s reception, I was the proud recipient of an “NTENNIE”, which is awarded to those of us who are big NTEN supporters. It’s a pretty congenial and humorous honor – recipients receive a headset of antennae to wear, and my seven-year old boy was thrilled to appropriate that on my return.

I was somewhat surprized by the category I won in – “people most likely to be blogging anonymously”. I asked Holly which anonymous blog they suspected I was the author of, and she didn’t have one – they just thought that it roundly described me. So, what I take away from that is that people recognize that I have a lot of opinions and I’m not shy about jotting them down on public forums. But, clearly, my lack of attention to this blog has made it completely invisible.

Now, my last day, after six and a half years, as the lead technologist at SF Goodwill was Friday, March 30th. And the conference ran April 4th through 6th. The timing was great – I made a lot of good connections, and walked away with some serious referrals and opportunities to ply my new trade. It was really different attending the sessions, though, not as a representative of a large non-profit, but as an independent consultant, more interested in selling my services than buying others. I think I have a lot of chops that I can offer quality consulting with, and I’ve been picturing the work and looking forward to that. But the actual consulting is only half the job. The other half is business development, and that’s a bit of a stretch for me. At the conference, I conferred with a lot of other IT consultants and really started to work through what this career change means. It’s clear that I have to do what I pretty much did at the conference, and become a salesman. When all is said and done, it’s about paying off the mortgage and feeding the kid. But it’s also clear to me that the best way to sell my services is to be an active member and healthy contributor to the non-profit tech community, something which I’ve been unable to do successfully while working those 80 hour weeks at Goodwill. So I can’t afford to be an anonymous blogger. Heppy lend is going to pick up steam, and it will be republished at Techcafeteria, which I plan to build into a large resource and home for advocacy of sound technology practices at non-profits. The big issues, today?

  • Data standards, data management, data planning. This was my theme at NTC, where I led a session on “Managing Technology 2.0” and participated in the live version of the Open API Debate.
  • Breaking the myth that technology funding is overhead that drains mission-effectiveness. This is a battle-cry that needs to be brought to the technology-averse funders and CEOs who don’t understand that not investing in a technology strategy is equivalent to organizational suicide.
  • Deployment planning and strategies. Orgs need to have a sustainable approach to technology purchasing, development and implementation that factors in how they will keep it running, not just how much it will cost to get it installed. My second bullet is meaningless if there aren’t effective strategies for using the technology that’s deployed.

Overall, I’ve just stepped out of a 21 year career as a technology startegist and implementer, and I’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way (I’d say “hard lessons”, but, the truth is, I’ve managed to avoid a lot of fiascos in my career!). There’s a lot more to technology deployment than just buying the server and training the staff. If technology isn’t tightly aligned to organizational strategy, objectives, and business processes, it’s a sinkhole – you might as well stick with the typewriters. So look for this to be the meat of this blog and the message of Techcafeteria.com for the near future.