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The topics discussed here grow out of the bread-and-butter issues that confront my consulting and software clients on a daily basis. We'll talk about prosaic stuff like Membership Management, Meetings and Events Management and Fundraising, broader ideas like security and software project management, and the social, cultural, and organizational issues that impact IT decision-making.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Friday Links

Well, I haven't been much of a blogger lately, what with how busy it's gotten around the office this month. And tomorrow I'm off for one of my favorite weeks of the year - Southern Week at Ashokan. Here's a fantastic set of pics from last year, taken by George Touchstone, another software developer/fiddler, just to let you know what you're missing. And what's best, Ashokan is located in a valley that is a complete wireless blindspot - so if you need assistance on your project next week, don't call me! Ring the office and Sharon will make sure you are taken care of. Have a great week!

Non-profit Marketing
I found this buried among Kerri Karvetski's round-up of links yesterday: Building a Better Business Card. Marketing guru Harry Joiner suggests that a business card be thought of as a special-purpose tool. With the cost of printing as low as it is, why not print a new card for each conference you attend, or each time you write a new article? He urges you to think about what action you are going to want the recipient of the card to take, and build the card to encourage that action. I picture it like this: in the weeks before your big fundraising event, feature the fundraiser on your card. At the fundraiser, you'll want a new card, with a new action step emphasized. I have to admit I've never considered this approach, and I like it.

15 Minute XP Tune-up
Here's a nice resource for the accidental techy - a brief course in "cleaning up" your user's pcs to improve performance. I found it through the always useful Geeks are Sexy site. This site also in recent days pointed out a new stage for malware - malicious Firefox extensions. So download with care!

Application Development
If you develop software applications, or contract with developers, I hope you are familar with the Creating Passionate Users blog. It's a blog that deals with the human and organizational side of creating applications that get users excited. Last week, Kathy Sierra posted an article on why users can so often use only a fraction of an application. Making an analogy to her digital SLR camera that she has never taken out of automatic mode, she says:
The camera manuals describe precisely how to turn the dials and push the buttons, but never tell us why we'd want to. They focus on the tool rather than the thing the tool enables (taking pictures). What good does it do to master a tool if we haven't understood (let alone mastered) the thing we're using the tool for?
This implies that the developers should not be documenting alone - your training materials need to be built in conjunction with operations staff who understand the actual tasks involved. A developer-written helpfile may miss the point entirely.

Wikipedia takes center stage
Nicholas Carr has been bemused for a good while now by the growing popularity of the publically editied Internet knowledge compendium Wikipedia. In a posting a few days ago, he points out the seriousness of his concerns - Wikipedia is quickly gaining the highest page rank for any number of google search terms. It's becoming, in other words, the first place net users get their information. Nick pointed out it was the #1 page for World War II and Israel. I found it was the Number 2 rank for Islam , and #3 for George W Bush, right after two White House sites. It's hard to find a topic where the Wikipedia entry is not among the top 10! (well, not that hard: for "non-profit", it came it at 11.) Nick says
That's pretty striking, and I bet that most Wikipedia entries are continuing to move upward - and many will, like "World War II," come to reach the top spot. In the not too distant future, we may be living in a world where the default source of information about, well, pretty much everything will be a single and not altogether reliable amateur reference work.
[See the first comment below, which came in shortly after my posting, for the opposing view.]



Comments on "Friday Links"


Anonymous Young Man said ... (August 12, 2006 at 5:33 AM) : 

Michael, I always enjoy your blog. There’s a dearth of technologists in this arena who come from the mindset common in the Silicon Valley heyday and you fill that void nicely. This makes checking in on your blog to see what you’re following an always interesting experience. I wanted to comment here not so much on what you said, but on the tone of what you referenced in your post.

I participate in a number of online communities that revolve around the discussion (requiring sourcing for citation of facts) of current events and their relation to any number of academic disciplines (history, sociologym], economics, etc). Wikipedia is an invaluable tool not just for a quick once-over of information, but also as a jumping off point for finding more reliable sources as many wikipedia articles are thoroughly sourced and include "further reading" links.

The potential erroneous nature of any given wikipedia entry is a cause for general concern and, given this reality, wikipedia alone is not considered an adequate standalone source for any fact.

That being said, the academic community achieves any consensus that it does achieve through publication and peer review. Wikipedia lowers the bar for what constitutes a peer, but preserves the model adequately. The nugget of advice I come away with after dealing with this topic on a regular basis is that if academics and various knowledgeable sources want to wring their hands about the fallibility of wikipedia then, if they truly care about getting the best information possible out there in the ether, they should roll up their sleeves and contribute. There are still some inherent problems with the challenge mechanism, but aside from a few political hot potatoes (mainly any article involving Israel or Palestinians) the moderation and dispute resolution mechanism works out pretty well. Put more simply, it's an open forum for aggregating knowledge and it relies on all of us. If you see a problem, fix it. If you see a hole, fill it.


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