Tag Archives: rant

The Nonprofit Management Gap

I owe someone an apology. Last night, a nice woman that I’ve never met sent me an email relaying (not proposing) an idea that others had pitched. Colleagues of mine who serve in communications roles in the nonprofit sector were suggesting a talk on “Why CIOs/CTOs should be transitioned into Chief Digital and Data Officers”.  And, man, did that line get me going.

Now, I’m with them on a few points: Organizations that rely on public opinion and support to accomplish their mission, which includes the majority of nonprofits, need to hire marketers that get technology, particularly the web.  And those people need to be integrated into upper management, not reporting to the Development VP or COO.  It’s the exact same case I make for the lead technologist role.

Let’s look at a few of these acronyms and titles:

COO – Chief Operating Officer.  In most NPOs that have one, this role oversees operations while the CEO oversees strategy and advances the mission with the public.

CIO – Chief Information Officer.  CIOs are highly placed technologists whose core job is to align technology to mission-effectiveness.  In most cases, because we can’t afford large staffs, CIOs also manage the IT Department, but their main value lies in the business planning and collaboration that they foster in order to integrate technology.

Some companies hire CTOs: Chief Technology Officers.  This is in product-focused environments where, again, you need a highly placed technologist who can manage the communication and expectations between the product experts and the technical staff designing and developing the products for them.

IT Director – An IT Director is a middle manager who oversees technology planning, budgeting, staff and projects. In (rare) cases, they report to a CIO or CTO.  In the nonprofit world, they are often the lead technologists, but they report up to a COO or VP Admin, not the CEO.

CMO – Chief Marketing Officer.  This is a new role which, similar to CIO, elevates the person charged with constituent engagement to the executive level.

This is how many nonprofit CEOs think about technology:

Public Domain Image

Say you, at home, have a leaky faucet.  It’s wasting water and the drip is driving you crazy.  You can’t just tear out the sink — you need that.  So you hire a plumber.  Or, if you have the opportunity, you get your accidental te– I mean, acne-dented teenager to read up on it and fix the leak for you.  So now you have a plumber, and your sink is no longer dripping. Great!
Now you want to remodel your house.  You want to move the master bath downstairs and the kitchen to the east side.  That’s going to require planning. Risk assessment. Structural engineering. You could hire a contractor — someone with the knowledge and the skill to not only oversee plumbing changes, but project management, vendor coordination, and, most important, needs assessment. Someone who knows how to ask you what you want and then coordinate the effort so that that’s what you get.  So, what should you do?
Have the plumber do it.  He did a good job on the leak, right?
Every job that I’ve had since 1990 has, at the onset, been to fix the damage that a plumber did while they were charged with building a house.  Sometimes I’ve worked for people who got it, saw that they needed my communication skills as much or more than they needed my technical expertise.  At those jobs, I was on a peer level with the other department heads, not one lower.  Other times, they expected me to be just like the plumber that I replaced. They were surprised and annoyed when I tried to tell them that what they really needed was to work with me, not delegate to me.  At those jobs, I was mostly a highly-functional pain in the ass.

Some of those jobs got bad, but here’s how bad it can get when management just doesn’t get technology.

So, back to my rant, here’s my question: why would we increase the strategic role of marketing at the expense of strategic technology integration?  Is that a conscious desire to move just as far backward as we’re moving forward?  Is this suggestion out of a frustration that people who manage technology aren’t exclusively supporting communications in our resource-strapped environments? In any case, it’s a sad day for the sector if we’re going to pitch turf wars instead of overall competence.  There is no question: we need high level technologists looking after our infrastructure, data strategy, and constituent engagement. But we can’t address critical needs by crippling other areas.

One Size Fits

Here’s a rant aimed at Apple and Microsoft.

Mac OSX Lion came out today, and it sports a lot of new features cribbed from IOS, the iPhone/iPad operating system. Steve Jobs has pretty much decided that the days of the PC are waning, and we want a mobile OS everywhere we go. He said that a year ago, and Microsoft was listening. Reports are that Windows 8 will be one operating system (that looks a lot like the boxy new Windows Mobile 7) for all platforms. I imagine that I’ll be running to Linux soon…

Don’t get me wrong: I’m a fan of convergence. I like watching TV on my laptop and I appreciate the ability to do email on my phone. I anticipate that, within a year, I’ll be commuting with a tablet (I’m waiting for the Android technology to mature a bit). But what’s wrong with letting the tools go with their strengths?

This is almost the reverse error that Microsoft made with the first Windows mobile, an OS for phones that had a start button, Programs folder and dropdown task list. And zero usability. Microsoft thought the same thing they’re thinking today: one size fits all; our users want standardization, and are willing to sacrifice usability in order to get the same interface on every device. WRONG. Users want tools that are good at getting jobs done. Neutering the PC, or making the phone too obtuse to navigate, in order to standardize the interface is more like servicing your branding needs at your customers expense.

Of course, what concerns me more about these moves are the fundamental differences between the sophisticated computer OSes (Windows 7, Snow Leopard) and the mobile OSes. Mobile OSes are, somewhat justifiably, rigid. You can’t offer the same level of customization on a low-powered, small screen device that you can on a powerful PC or laptop. Apple, of course, has taken this a step further by tightly controlling the flow of content via iTunes. And taking the additional, controversial step of censoring the content available via iTunes and the app store. While most of us (I think) aren’t upset by a vendor-imposed restriction on pornography, Apple has also censored Pulitzer-prize winning political cartoonists, adaptations of classic literature, and magazines about competing products. We now have an app store for MacOS and one for Windows under development, and Microsoft has looked, once again, like an Apple-wannabee with their recent product moves.

So are we moving into an era where our major computing tools providers have graduated to content managers and censors? It sure looks that way. There’s a lot of easy money to be made — as Apple’s string of record-breaking profit quarters will attest — in taking the computing out of computing, and turning convergence into simply entertainment-delivery, while user content creation tools and environments get the back seat at the drive-in. I’m not happy with the trend.

Sleazy Sales Tactics and Social Networks

usedcar
Image courtesy bonkedproducer

This is a public service announcement (aka rant) intended for IT product and service reps. In a nutshell:

If your spam and cold calls haven’t resulted in a business relationship, tracking me down personally on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook won’t work either.

Let’s be clear: it’s not a secret that I have purchasing responsibility for IT at my company, and my business contact info is easy to find (or purchase). Mind you, I don’t hire companies based on their ability to locate that information and email or call me. I hire consultants and purchase products based on the recommendations in my communities. So cold contacting me might be inexpensive and easy for you to do, but all it tells me is that you don’t respect my time or privacy and you can’t sustain your business based on quality and word of mouth. Two strikes against you, whereas, before you cold-contacted me, you had none.

But, in failing to spam me into a relationship, taking it to LinkedIn or the contact form here is taking your pathetic and unprofessional approach to marketing into a whole new realm of sleaziness and creepitude. Cold-contacting me at my business email or on my business phone is annoying and pathetic, but far more appropriate that tracking down my personal, non-business addresses and contacting me at those. It’s called stalking.

I’m looking at you, Server Technologies. The fact that you’ve spammed me in the past does not mean that we have an established business relationship, as your LinkedIn invite falsely indicates.

And local IT Recruiters 58 and Foggy — you take the cake. Within two minutes, out of the blue, you cold-called my work number, emailed me personally via this blog, and sent me a LinkedIn invite. That was so over the top annoying that I not only will never do business with you, I’ll make sure that all of my professional acquaintances are warned away.

Because I seriously question what a company that violates my privacy as a means of introduction would do if I actually relied on them and dealt with them financially. Ethical behavior? Not a safe thing to assume. Professionalism? Already in the toilet.

Social networks offer a great avenue for the type of business promotion that works for me — word of mouth. Sincere recommendations from people who think you’re good at what you do because they’ve used your products or services. You can foster my business by doing well enough with your current customers that they will speak well of you online. You can also demonstrate your expertise by publishing materials and distributing them on Slideshare and other public repositories (including your web site, of course). If you put your energy into establishing your credentials, instead of shoving your uncertified opinion that you’re great into every channel that you can reach me through, you’ll get a shot at my business. But using these networks to harass and annoy potential customers is incredibly stupid and short-sighted.

Facebonked

This week has brought some pretty blizzardy weather on the Facebook front, so thick that I’m in a real quandary as to how I should navigate through it. Understand that, when it comes to Facebook, I try and keep my visits to the neighborhood to a minimum. Short story: I like the ability to keep up with people, but hate the annoying, incessant and spammy applications. I would have no use for Facebook if everyone would simply accommodate me and use LinkedIn and Twitter instead. But, as you might have noticed as well, the whole world apparently got Facebook for Christmas. I now have triple the old grade school/high school friends to connect to, and people from every social group I’ve been associated with for the last 40 years are popping out of the virtual woodwork. It creates a few challenges.

1. Should my Facebook community include everyone I know from work, professional circles, friends and childhood acquaintances? That’s a lot of communities slammed into one. I already wrestle a bit with the fact that most of what I talk about on Twitter is probably not interesting to some of the family and non-nptech friends who follow me. My online persona is my professional one. I’m not pretending to be someone else — the personal things that come through are authentic — but I really don’t want to bring every aspect of my life and interests online.

2. One of the main things that I dislike about Facebook is the applications. I keep pretty busy, with a demanding job; my family; active blogging/writing/presenting and volunteering duties; friends and relatives; an appreciation for movies, music and television; an unhealthy addiction to news, culture and technical info; and a love of crosswords. I’m not sure how I do all of this — and sleep — in the first place. So filling out Facebook movie comparison quizzes (and the like) does not qualify for a spot on my schedule. If you are connected to me on Facebook, and you’re hurt that I haven’t responded to the numerous gifts, games and trivial pursuits that you’ve invited me to, please don’t be. If you message or email me directly you’ll get a reply!

3. I think the people who run Facebook are unabashedly doing it in order to mine marketing info from the membership. And, since the main thing that you do on Facebook is connect with old friends and family, they’re using some fairly extensive personal history and interaction as fodder for their advertising streams. This is the nature of the net, of course, as I have Google ads in my email and a slew of ad tracking cookies no matter how often I clear them. But Facebook manages to be ten times creepier than any other web site I visit when it comes to this stuff. I just don’t trust them.

I’ve seriously considered doing whatever it takes to delete my account. I even emailed everyone and warned them of that intention at one point. But it’s getting to the point where deleting Facebook is kind of like boycotting food — you might have good reasons, but you’ll probably hurt yourself more than help, particularly since there is real value in having the place to connect, and, sadly, it isn’t LinkedIn that’s grabbed the zeitgeist.

Message to the Krazy.com Spammer

Okay, so I understand that you have a lot of time on your hands, and that you choose to, apparently, spend a significant amount of that time trying desperately to post spam advertising gambling and prescription drug websites to the guest book on my Krazy Kat web site. Let’s review:

First, you started posting very large HTML spams to the guest book. Since the guest book is moderated, those came to me for approval by email. My guestbook is set up to email me the post, followed by a link I can click on to automatically publish it. I approve anything that’s remotely on topic, the exceptions falling into three categories:

  • People posting obscenities or other childish, inane comments;
  • Messages that seem to be of a commercial nature – krazy.com is only interested in advocating for the works of George Herriman and entities that directly support Herriman’s memory, such as Fantagraphics publishing, and
  • People doing obvious test posts that have little or no content.

I’m certain that you didn’t intend for this, but the giant, heavily-coded spams that you initially posted had a nasty habit of hanging not only my web-based email client, but also the web server that hosts it (which is not the same server that the site is on). So, after verifying that you are crafty enough to come in from a variety of IP addresses, which rules out simply blocking you, I added a little code to make the maximum post size far smaller than your average post (which is still four times the size of anything that has ever been legitimately posted).

Here’s the thing: At this point, I had no idea that you were so personally committed to poisoning my guest book. I assumed that this was an automated effort going after numerous guest books on the web, and that my size block would simply automate the process of rejecting your spam; you might not even notice. Boy, was I wrong! You actually think the ten Herriman fans or so a day who read my guestbook are the prime demographic for your online gambling and Cialis marketing. Amazing! What do you base this on? Did you pay for this market research?

So you noted the size limit, and then spent, what, about 90 minutes figuring out how to edit your spam enough to fit my restriction? Then you posted two spams, which came to me for approval, and guess what? I didn’t approve them. What a shock to the system that must have been!

So, an hour later, I get a guest book submission with one word: sex. I don’t approve it. Was that you, using the full breadth of your imaginative powers, doing a test? A few hours later, a benign post: “I love Ignatz; I must be Krazy”. Well, that’s on topic! If that one was you testing, congratulations! You passed. I published it.

And today I get yet another gambling spam post, this one cut down to just a few lines. I can only imagine the anxiety you must have felt, waiting for me to review it, waiting to see if maybe… maybe… perhaps, this attempt to use my guestbook as a further voicepiece for offensive spam will work! And now I’m imagining the dejection, the despair, as it becomes increasingly clear that I have used my god-like editorial powers to censor you once again.

So, at this point, I don’t know how resourceful you are. I don’t know how obsessed you are. All I really know is that you don’t make good choices on how to enjoy life – that I’m sure of. If you want to continue, and you come up with some way of making this really annoying for me, then, yes, I’ll shut down the guestbook. You will have succeeded in single-handedly removing the ability for people who appreciate Krazy Kat and want to discuss the strip at the Krazy Kat website from doing so.

You do understand — this is not a business. I make zero money for running krazy.com. I am not going to let it become someone else’s commercial venture, and I’m really perplexed as to why you are pursuing this as vigorously as you are. There are a lot of web sites out there, that get far more traffic than my site. My recommendation, and request, is that you move on. And consider that there are ways of making a living that don’t involve being a blight on the Internet. I mean, what do you do now if you’re out on a date, or at a family gathering, and someone asks you what you do for a living? Do you say, “Well, you know all of those offensive ads for rip-off online gambling and penile erection drugs that you get in your inbox; that your children get in their inboxes? I’m the guy who sends them!”

Self-esteem issues, perhaps? Sheesh!

Who owns my content?

There are reasons that I use WordPress on my own server to publish this blog. I keep running into interesting web sites that I would like to sign up with, but two items in the privacy policies chase me right away:

“This privacy policy can be changed at any time without prior notice” is the equivalent of shrink-wrap software that reads, on the box:

“By opening this package you agree to the terms explained inside”.

What kind of world do we live in that allows this type of thing? Why is it so widespread? I’ve found that I have to accept this rider fairly often, or avoid web sites that are key pieces of my online toolset, like Yahoo! and Google.

But the one I’ll reject every time is the one that says, basically:

“Any content that you put on this site becomes the property of the web site, to use in any manner that we see fit.”

Two web sites that really intrigued me, but asked me to accept this ridiculous term, were rojo and rsscontacts. The privacy policy for the latter is here:

http://www.rsscontact.com/rss2/public/terms_of_use2.asp

Now, I might be nit-picking here (It’s happened before). Rojo is primarily a news aggregator. Rsscontacts is a contact manager. They aren’t places where I’d be submitting copyrightable work, most likely. They probably borrowed the language for their policies from standard sources. But the disclaimer really concerns me because it opens the door to abuse. The mix of blogs and news sources that I aggregate reveal alot about me and my interests — great information for marketers. And the contacts I keep not only speak to my interests, they allow marketers to identify communities with similar interests.

Since my view of the web is, very simply, that the things that make it great are also the things that are tearing it apart — networking creates the environment that worms and viruses spread in. We have to pick and choose how much abuse we’re going to open the door to.