Tag Archives: tech track

My Tips For Planning Successful NTEN Tech Sessions

NTEN needs good tech sessions at the 2014 conference. Submissions are open.  Here’s a pitch for any tech-savvy NTENdees to dive in and present, followed by my lessons learned (from 20+ sessions at eight NTCs) for successfully presenting technical topics to the diverse audience that shows up at NTC.  Simply put, there are ways to do great sessions that meet the needs of staff from large and small, advanced and tech-challenged nonprofits in attendance. I’ll outline the ones that have worked for me below.

The IT Staff track is the place to submit the infrastructure-related sessions. The other tracks receive a lot more submissions than the IT Staff track (as much as five times the number!), even though 53% of the 13NTC attendees surveyed say they want more technical content.  My take on that the problem is that techies aren’t generally all that interested in standing up in front of crowds and presenting. That’s less of a problem for the Communications and Leadership tracks. All I can say to those of you who have the subject expertise but lack the desire and or confidence to present is that we all stand to gain if you will step outside of that comfort zone. NTEN will have the range of sessions that NPOs struggling with cloud, wireless, business intelligence and unified communications projects need to move forward.  You’ll add public speaking to your resume, which is a great thing to have there.  And I’ll help.

Over the last few years, I’ve presented on topics like server virtualization, VOIP, and project management.  These sessions have averaged 50-60 attendees, and every audience has ranged from complete novices to old hands at the subject matter. To my mind, the biggest (and most common) mistake that presenters make is to choose a target audience (e.g. they’re all newbies, or they’re all intermediate) and stick with that assumption. Simply put, the attendees will be forgiving if you spend some time addressing the needs of the others in the room, as long as you also address theirs.  They’ll be pissed if they spend the whole session either out of their depth or bored out of their minds.

There are two key ways that you can address a range of audiences: structure the session in beginner, intermediate and advanced topics, or break the attendees into groups by org size.  The latter will require co-presenters; the former keeps that as an option.

In 2010, Matt Eshleman and I did a session on Server Virtualization, an incredibly geeky topic, and it was the third highest rated session that year. We didn’t break up the audience into groups.  Instead, I gave about a 15 minute powerpoint that introduced the concepts, doing my best to bring anyone who didn’t know what it was up to speed.  Matt then outlined three virtualization scenarios: one for a small org; one for medium; and one for a large. We left about 30 minutes for questions, and some of those hit on the really advanced questions that the experts had.  By that point, the novices were grounded enough to not be thrown by the advanced conversation.

In 2012, I designed a session on VOIP and Videoconferencing.  Knowing that small orgs and large orgs have dramatically different needs in this area, I drafted Matt again, as well as Judi Sohn.  This time, we split the room into two groups, and had two very different conversations, both of which were quite valuable for the attendees.  I never heard how this session was rated, but I think it’s the best of the 20 or so I’ve done. My measure is: did the attendees walk out of the session with substantial, practical knowledge that they didn’t have when they walked in, that they can use to support their NPO(s)?

Two big tips:

  1. Don’t get to wonky with the slides.  IDC and Microsoft have a ton of diagrams outlining server setups that you can download, but they are not what an NTEN crowd wants to see.  Nobody wants to stare at a Visio diagram with 16 objects and 10 arrows and tiny tiny labels saying what they all mean.
  2. Mine the wisdom of the crowd.  Most people attend sessions to learn, but some attend because they love the topic and have a lot of expertise in it.  The best Q&A (which should never be less than 30 minutes) is one that the presenter facilitates, encouraging dialogue among the attendees.  As the presenter, you can reply (or weigh in), as you’ll have relevant expertise that the audience might lack, but it’s often the case that someone else in the room knows what you know, and more.

I hope this is helpful, but, even more, I hope that you’ll submit a session and make 14NTC the most rewarding yet for the IT staff that attend. It’s in my neighborhood nest year (DC), so come early and have a beer with me beforehand.

NTEN, NTC And Technology

The Nonprofit Technology Conference was held in snowy Minneapolis this year and, as usual, a good time was had by all, despite some painful plane delays and dramatic turnover in the NTEN staff. The choice of Dan Palotta as keynoter was, in many ways, a great one, not because he had much to say to the nptech community in particular, but because what he has to say is thought-provoking and controversial. At a time when NTEN, itself, is going through a big period of change, it was appropriate to take on the dialogue about the nonprofit sector as a whole.

From my less-trendy-social-media,-more-tech perspective, the conference had some high points. Matt Eshleman led a very practical and informative session on IT governance , taking a wonky topic and bringing it down to earth. And I sat on a fairly heated panel debating the role of IT, where the four of us mostly agreed that the chief technologist needs to be at the management level, but had a variety of ideas about what the role entailed. The conversation got a bit wild when we got to IT compensation, with all four panelists vying for the mic and three of four of the audience jumping up as well. It’s clear that while we mostly challenge Palotta a bit and do think that working for a mission justifies making a little less than our for-profit peers, we need to remain competitive in order to attract and maintain good technologists. Irrespective of IT, we can’t let people who do inspiring work in our sector go on to live in poverty or on the streets – their contributions are worthy of more than just respect.

All that said, the technical sessions this year, once again, were hard to tease of of the huge array of social media and Web offerings. Despite hard work curating the IT Staff track, Online Fundraising and Facebook strategy sessions still made the NTEN cut for the IT Staff track, where they don’t belong. I’m told that this is because some presenters insist that IT Staff is the audience that they want to reach, but that doesn’t explain to me why it belongs in the track. The track should adhere to the interests of the group that it’s named for.  If the IT Staff session draws a majority of communications or fundraising staff, well, it wasn’t an IT Staff session . Fail!

Here’s the challenge. It’s twofold. Lindsay Martin-Bilbrey, NTEN’s Program Director, tells me that they receive five times as many submissions for the Communications track as they do for the IT Staff track. And the IT Staff submissions are often multiple sessions by the same people. I think this is a cultural issue, and a bit of a catch-22. IT Staff are generally not outgoing people, in the way that Communications staff are. We’re inwardly-focused, and generally not comfortable presenting to crowds. There are exceptions, like me, Matt and Donny, but we aren’t the norm. So Lyndsay and I agree that we need to do something to support and engage the millions of techs working at NPOs. The Communications staff don’t have us outnumbered. But it’s going to take some intervening.

So I’m here to intervene. If you do tech work at a nonprofit, and you have expertise in the current trends, such as Voice Over IP telephony, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, Software As A Service, Bring Your Own Device, online backup, cloud, and dashboards, we need sessions on all of these topics at 14NTC. It’s not enough to just show up; I’m asking you to submit a session. If you want help preparing it, coaching on presenting, or a strong Co-Presenter, I’ll help with that or help arrange it. The truth is that NTEN can’t address the comm/tech imbalance without the explicit help of the npTECH community. So let’s do our part, and keep the tech in nonprofit technology.

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!

 

 

The Evolution Of The NTEN Tech Track

My friends in the Nonprofit Technology Network know that I have been championing a resurgence in plain old tech talk at NTEN’s annual conference for a few years now. While “technology” is part of the organizations name, it’s seemed to translate to “social media” for the last few years, to the point in 2009/10 that it seemed like the social media focus of NTEN might overwhelm the nonprofit one — the NTEN conference was trending on Twitter and more and more social media mavens were referencing “NTC” along with “SXSW“. Meanwhile, the tens of thousands of staff and consultants that deal with servers, routers, wireless, Windows and virtualization at nonprofit oprgs were finding little of interest in the NTC session list.

So, in 2010, a group of us put together the first “tech tracK“. A subtrack of the IT Staff track of sessions, it included topics like Wireless Computing, Virtualization, Cloud Computing, Budgeting, and Change Management — the core things that IT staff are dealing with these days. The mini-track was conceived as a peer learning and community building subtrack. We eschewed Powerpoints and daises for a more informal discussion format, mining the attendees for both issues to discuss and expertise to share. It was a great success: five high-rated sessions with good attendance and a stated appreciation for the takeaways provided. In 2011, the Tech track was back (even though I didn’t attend that year) and was also a success.

So the 2012 NTC planning is well underway, and I’m declaring the ultimate victory. There will be no Tech Track this year. Instead, the IT Staff track definition has been narrowed to this:

IT Staff: This track is for staff and consultants who manage and support technology infrastructure. This is a resource-sharing track for all nonprofit techies, no matter how you arrived at your role, looking to share success stories, challenges, voice concerns, and glean wisdom from each other.

To my mind, this is how it always should have been — a fifth of the sessions dedicated to those of us who toil in the IT trenches, providing the tools, systems and platforms that enable mission-focused endeavors.

So now’s the time for you to speak up — if you’ve taken on the challenge of supporting your org’s use of technology, what do you need help with? What do you want to see on the 2012 NTC session list that you can bring to your CEO and say “send me to San Francisco, because this is information we need to know?” NTEN is seeking submissions for session topics. You can submit one without committing to present on it. The goal is to hear about what interests you, and they’ll match up the session submissions with speakers and/or facilitators later on. So, have at it! Click here to submit your sessions.

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!

Tech Tips From The Nonprofit Technology Conference

This article was first published on the Idealware Blog in May of 2010.

Last month, I reported on the first annual Tech Track, a series of sessions presented at the April, 2010 Nonprofit Technology Conference. In that post I listed the topics covered in the five session track. Today I want to discuss some of the answers that the group came up with.

Session 1: Working Without a Wire

This session covered wireless technologies, from cell phones to laptops. Some conclusions:

The state of wireless is still not 100%, but it’s better than it was last year and it’s still improving Major metropolitan areas are well covered; remote areas (like Wyoming) are not. There are alternatives, such as Satellite, but that still requires that your location be in unobstructed satellite range. All in all, we can’t assume that wireless access is a given, and the challenge is more about managing staff expectations than installing all of the wireless by ourselves. It will get there.
Wireless security options are improving. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), remote access solutions (such as Citrix, VNC andTerminal Services) are being provided for more devices and platforms, and the major smartphone companies are supporting enterprise features like remote device wipes.
Policy-wise, more orgs are moving to a module where staff buy their own smartphones and the companies reimburse a portion of the bill to cover business use. Some companies set strict password policies for accessing office content; others don’t.

Session 2: Proper Plumbing

This session was pitched as covering virtualization and other server room technologies, but when we quizzed the participants, virtualization was at the top of their list, so that’s what we focused on.

We established that virtualizing servers is a recommended practice. If you have a consultant recommending it and you don’t trust their recommendation, find another consultant and have them virtualize your systems, because the recommendation is a good one, but it’s a problem that you don’t trust your consultant!
The benefits of virtualization are numerous — reduced budgets, reduced carbon footprints, instant testing environments, 24/7 availability (if you can upgrade a copy of a server and then switch it back live, an advanced virtualization function).
There’s no need to rush it — it’s easier on the budget and the staff, as well as the environment, to replace standalone servers with virtualized ones as the hardware fails.
On the planning side, bigger networks do better by moving all of their data to a Storage Area Network (SAN) before virtualizing. This allows for even more flexibility and reduced costs, as servers are strictly operating systems with software and data is stored on fast, redundant disk arrays that can be accessed by any server, virtual or otherwise.

Session 3: Earth to Cloud

The cloud computing session focused a lot on comparisons. While the general concern is that hosting data with a third party is risky, is it any more risky than hosting it on our own systems? Which approach is more expensive? Which affords the most freedom to work with our data and integrate systems? How do we manage disaster recovery and business continuity in each scenario?

Security – Everyone is hackable, and Google and Salesforce have a lot more expertise in securing data systems than we do. So, from a “is your data safe?” perspective, it’s at least a wash. But if you have sensitive client data that needs to be protected from subpoenas, as well as or more than hackers, than you might be safer hosting your own systems.
Cost – We had no final answers; it will vary from vendor to vendor. But the cost calculation needs to figure in more than dollars spent — staff time managing systems is another big expense of technology.
Integration and Data Management – Systems don’t have to be in the same room to be integrated; they have to have robustAPIs. And internal systems can be just as locked as external if your contract with the vendor doesn’t give you full access and control over your data. This, again, was a wash.
Risk Management – There’s a definite risk involved if your outsourced host goes out of business. But there are advantages to being hosted, as many providers offer multiply-redundant systems. Google, in particular, writes every save on a Google Doc or GMail to two separate server farms on two different continents.
It all boils down to assessing the maturity of the vendors and negotiating contracts carefully, to cover all of the risks. Don’t sign up with the guy who hosts his servers from his basement; and have a detailed continuity plan in place should the vendor close up shop.
 If you’re a small org (15 staff or less), it’s almost a no-brainer that it will be more cost-effective and safer to host your email and data in the cloud, as opposed to running our own complex CRMs and Exchange servers. If you’re a large org, it might be much more complex, as larger enterprise apps sometimes depend on that Exchange server being in place. But, all in all, Cloud computing is a viable option that might be a good fit for you — check it out, thoroughly.

I’ll finish this thread up with one more post on budgeting and change management in the next few weeks.

Putting The Tech Back In Nonprofit Technology

This post was first published on the Idealware Blog in April of 2014.

We’re all back from the Nonprofit Technology Conference, where nine of the ten Idealware bloggers congregated, along with some 1,440 of our peers in the nptech community. What a gas! NTC, as we call the conference, is what high school would have been like if everyone had been a member of the popular clique. The combination of peer education and celebration of our common interest in saving the world with heart and technology make for an exuberant occasion. And I can’t say enough about the awe and appreciation I have for Holly, Anna, Annaliese, Brett, Sarah and Karl, and the amazing event that they recreate year after year for us.

But, enough gushing. One of my (many) rants regards my concern that, although the biggest group of people that we call “nptechies” are the ones who support technology in their organizations, our biggest nptech conferences focus heavily on social media and the web (NTC, Netsquared, and now SXSW). It is true that the advent of social media and the interactive web is spawning a revolution in the way that we do advocacy and fundraising. But there is no less of a revolution in our server rooms, where virtualization, cloud computing and wireless devices are changing the entire way that we manage and deliver applications.

Our System Administrators, Support Specialists and Accidental Techies need to share in the peer support that can inform their efforts and help them feel more connected, both to their missions and the broader community. This year, in deference to a throat getting hoarse from ranting, I took a first stab at addressing this gap.

The Tech Track

The tech track was conceived as a six session “mini” track; five of the proposed sessions made the cut. The topics went from the basics to the broad overview:

  • Tech Track 1: Working Without a Wire (But With a Net): Dealing with Wireless Networks, Laptops, and Cell Phones
  • Tech Track 2: Proper Plumbing: Virtualization and Networking Technologies
  • Tech Track 3: Earth to Cloud: When, Why and How to Outsource Applications
  • Tech Track 4: Budget vs Benefits: Providing Top Class Technology in Constrained Resource Environments
  • Tech Track 5: Articulating Tech: How to Win Friends and Influence Luddites.

Joining me in these sessions were fellow blogger Johanna Bates of OpenIssue, Matt Eshleman of CITIDC, Tracy Kronzak of Applied Research Center, John Merritt of the San Diego YMCA, Michelle Murrain of OpenIssue, Michael Sola of National Wildlife Federation and Thomas Taylor of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance.

Subject Matter

Instead of doing the usual Powerpoint presentations and talking to the crowd, we pulled the chairs into circles for these sessions and put the session agenda up for grabs, asking each group what issues, related to the session topic, were foremost in their minds. The conversation was rich, and served as a healthy catalogue of the challenges facing nonprofit technology practitioners. Some highlights:

  • Supporting remote laptop use in a western state with very little wireless bandwidth available
  • Securing our networks while making network data accessible on mobile devices
  • Supporting use of and crafting fair policies to address the boom in mobile devices
  • Understanding the risks and benefits of virtualizing servers and desktops
  • Knowing how and when to virtualize, and how Storage Area Networks fit in the big picture
  • Weighing the risk of cloud computing, which also entails weighing the risks of our non-cloud networks
  • Knowing what to ask a cloud provider to insure that data is safe, even in the case of the provider going out of business
  • Assessing the cost of owned vs service-provided applications
  • Assessing the readiness of Cloud Computing, and moving large, complex server rooms to the cloud
  • Chickens and eggs: what to do when IT is asked to budget, but is not part of the planning process prior?
  • What strategies can be applied to provide good technology with limited budgets?
  • What tools and resources are available to help with the budgeting process?
  • How can we engage our users when we roll out new technology?
  • How do we get them to attend training?

Next week, I’ll follow this up with some of the answers we came up with for these questions.

5 Questions: How To Win Friends And Influence Luddites

This Interview was conducted by Holly Ross and the article was first published on the NTEN Blog in February of 2010.

Ed. Note: As we prepare for the 2010 Nonprofit Technology Conference, we wanted share a wee bit of the wisdom our speakers will be serving up, so as not to overwhelm you when you get to Atlanta. We’re asking them all to share their answers to five very important questions.

Speaker: Peter Campbell, Earthjustice

Session: The Tech Track

1. What’s the most important trend in nonprofit technology for 2010?

It’s cloud computing, hands down.  I know, I know: Social media! Online fundraising! All well and good, but those are evolutionary trends, cloud computing is a revolutionary trend. As it matures, it will remove the frustrating burden of managing servers and applications from our under-resourced organizations and allow IT to focus on tying systems to strategy, not just keeping the six year old systems alive. That’s a really big deal.

2. Why do you think your session topic is important for nonprofits to address

Because my sessions (the five part tech track) are geared toward helping nptechies — accidental and otherwise — both manage what they’re stuck with today and prepare for the new computing paradigm, which is virtual, not physical.  And, by prepare, I mean more than just learning about the trends and strategies.  The ambitious goal of the tech track is to build a peer community that will help the sector move their IT forward, as a team.

3. What’s the one thing you want attendees to remember from your session?

That they are not alone. You said one thing, but I’ll cheat and add: this new stuff isn’t overwhelming — a lot of it is enabling.

4. Which Muppet do you most identify with and why?

I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that it might incriminate me. Did you know that, when I was a kid, I had a dog named Oscar?

5. Where can people follow you online (twitter, blog, etc.)?

 

NTC (Just) Past and Future

Photo by Andrew J. Cohen of Forum1

Photo by Andrew J. Cohen of Forum1

Here it is Saturday, and I’m still reeling from the awesome event that was the Nonprofit Technology Conference, put on by org of awesomeness NTEN. First things first, if you attended, live or virtually, and, like me, you not only appreciate, but are pretty much astounded by the way Holly, Anna, Annaliese, Brett and crew get this amazing event together and remain 100% approachable and sociable while they’re keeping the thing running, then you should show your support here.

We had 1400 people at the sold-out event, and if that hadn’t been a capacity crowd, I’m pretty sure we had at least 200 more people that were turned away. What does that say about this conference in a year when almost all of us have slashed this type of budget in response to a dire economic situation? I think it says that NTEN is an organization that gets, totally, and phenomenally, what the web means to cash-strapped, mission-focused organizations, and, while we have all cut spending, sometimes with the painful sacrifice of treasured people and programs, we know that mastering the web is a sound strategic investment.

Accordingly, social media permeated the event, from the Clay Shirky plenary, to the giant screen of tweets on the wall, and the 80% penetration of social media as topic in the sessions. As usual, I lit a candle for the vast majority of nonprofit techies who are not on Twitter, don’t have an organizational Facebook page, and, instead, spend their days troubleshooting Windows glitches and installing routers. My Monday morning session, presented with guru Matt Eshleman of CITIDC, was on Server Virtualization. If you missed it, @jackaponte did such a complete, accurate transcription, and you can feel like you were there just by reading her notes (scroll down to 10:12) and following along with the slides.

My dream — which I will do my best to make reality — is that next year will include a Geek Track that focuses much harder on the traditional technology support that so many NPTechs need. I stand on record that I’m willing to put this track together and make it great!

I was also quite pleased to do a session on How to Decide, Planning and Prioritizing, based on my chapter of NTEN’s book, Managing Technology to Meet Your Mission.  It was really great to start the session with a question that I’ve always dreamed I’d be able to ask: “Have you read my book?”.  I’m in debt to NTEN for that opportunity!

The biggest omission at this event (um, besides reliable wifi, but what can you do?) was the addition of a twitter name space on our ID badges. Twitter provided a number of things to the — by my estimation — half of the attendees who hang out there.

  • Event anticipation buildup, resource sharing, session coordination and  planning, ride and room sharing and other activities were all rife on Twitter as the conference approached.
  • Session tweeting allowed people both in other sessions and at home to participate and share in some of the great knowledge shared.
  • For me, as a Twitter user who has been on the network for two years and is primarily connected to NTEN members, Twitter did something phenomenal. Catching up with many of my “tweeps”, we just skipped the formalities and dived into the conversations. So much ice is broken when you know who works where, what they focus on in their job, if they have partners and/or kids, what music tastes you share, that catching up in person means diving in deeper. The end result is clear — #09ntc is still an active tag on Twitter, and the conference continues there, and will continue until it quietly evolves into #10ntc.

One thing, however, worries me. This was the tenth NTC, my fifth, but it was the first NTC that the online world noticed. Tuesday, on Twitter, we were the second most popular trend (the competing pandemic outranked us). NTEN’s mission is to help nonprofits use technologies to further their missions. But, as said above, this conference was, in many ways, a social media event. I’m hoping that Holly and crew will review their registration process next year to insure that early spots in what is sure to be an even more popular event aren’t filled up by people who really aren’t as committed to changing the world as they are to keeping up with this trend.

But, concerns aside, we need to send that team to a week-long spa retreat, and be proud of them, and proud of ourselves for not only being a community that cares, but being one that shares. I urge even the most skeptical of you to jump on the Twitter bandwagon, we’re not on there discussing what we had for breakfast. We’re taking the annual event and making it a perpetual one, with the same expertise sharing,  querying, peer support and genuine camaraderie that makes the nptech community so unique – and great. Come join us!