Career changing

April 23, 2010 Community Roundtable

Today I attended the Community Roundtable’s CR Live Lunch at Flatbread Company in Bedford, Massachusetts. The Community Roundtable is “a peer network for community managers and social media practioners.”.

The lunch is a chance to get together and talk about not just community management but also social media in general, technology and any other subject that is of interest. Today’s discussions, in part, centered around Twitter and its earlier days, e. g. discovering retweeting, etc. Rachel Happe, our hostess, has been on Twitter for quite a while and remembers the community there as being considerably smaller and easier to make connections. She felt she was able to see people she knew either socially or professionally (or both) and then quickly see how (if) they were interconnected in other ways. Some of that has been lost as Twitter has grown exponentially.

The subject of automatic direct messages thanking one for following came up. Everyone agreed that these are essentially impersonal and of little value. However, direct messages should still be read as people do sometimes still take the time to handcraft them.

Since the group was slanted more than usual in the direction of people with more technical backgrounds (versus those of us who were or are more strictly community managers), the discussion turned more technical.

Another topic was company social media strategies. So many companies realize they have to “get on Twitter” but are unclear as to what, exactly, they may be getting themselves into. Once the pipeline is opened, and customer commenting (and complaining!) becomes more open and easier, that pipeline really cannot be shut off. The bell cannot be unrung. Hence companies may not understand that they are essentially getting into a marriage versus a few dates with the hot new technology.

There was also a discussion about meta tagging on the ‘Web. How are things categorized? One question was about music (more specifically, classical music). There is already some offline categorization. So how can that be adequately and accurately transferred to the Internet?

Finally, and this is one of the areas where the Community Roundtable truly excels, the participants talked a little bit about how isolating the role sometimes can be. For a social and community-oriented type of role, a lot of us spend a great deal of time at our desks. Even within a larger company not specifically dedicated to online communities, the role of the Community Manager can sometimes be a solitary one. Being together, exchanging information or tips, or just commiserating, does a lot to dispel any feelings of isolation.


Tech Boston

On the third Tuesday of every month, Boston 501 Tech Club holds a meeting. This is a group of nonprofit tech folk.

According to their site, “TechFoundation is a Cambridge-based, nonprofit organization that delivers technology, expertise and capital to help nonprofit organizations serve humanity. TechFoundation envisions a world where nonprofit organizations can access the same resources to serve humanity that businesses use to create wealth.

It’s good to see people using their technical prowess for good. I attended both the Ethos Roundtable and the Tuesday meeting/networking event yesterday.

The Ethos Roundtable, for the two times I’ve attended it, has been a place to see tech related to nonprofits. These seem to be demos of software that’s close to being ready for prime time but perhaps isn’t 100%, absolutely, there yet. Yesterday’s demo was of NPO Connect.

The concept behind NPO Connect is fairly straightforward — there are people in the nonprofit sector who wish to be mentors, and there are people who are also in the nonprofit sector who wish to be mentored (the site and its creators refer to these persons as “mentees”, a usage that, for me, is akin to nails on a chalkboard. The word is protegés). The site is intended to bring those people together. It is still in the pilot stage.

The real value to NPO Connect is in bringing mentors and protegés together, as LinkedIn, oddly enough, does not include mentorships (in either direction) as a contact setting choice. This is NPO Connect’s virtue, but it does not cover everything it should.

A glaring (to my mind, anyway) omission was in verification of expert status. A potential mentor can say that s/he is an expert at, say, working with a Board of Directors, but where is the confirmation of said expertise? This isn’t even necessarily people out and out fibbing. It can be exaggerration (e. g. people feel they’re better at doing something than they truly are), or mistake or not understanding what may be entailed. After all, a tiny day care center and Harvard University are both, essentially, nonprofits. But the director of the one-person shop day care center and the President of Harvard probably have different experiences in working with Boards. This is not to discount the day care center director’s experiences and, in fact, that person’s experiences may even turn out to be superior to those of the Harvard President.

But there’s no way to tell.

Suggestions abounded. Add a recommendations section. Add something about the fact that nonprofits don’t always work together. Add a reputation score. Make the expertise areas (one of them was, simply, Information Technology) more specific so that people can better gauge whether they really are proficient. Allow the importing of a resume from LinkedIn. Make names link to Google searches (not really feasible for people with common names — how many Mike Browns do you know?).

All of these are decent suggestions. As a Data Analyst type, I see a few issues with the database itself. The software permits of some sorting and filtering but not on every category. Hence you can sort by name but not filter by nonprofits where people have worked. What if I only wish to work with people in the hospice field? There doesn’t seem to be a way to get that granular.

One of the issues is the relation of the data itself. The database has, unfortunately, more than one many-to-many relationships. A person can work (or have worked) at more than one nonprofit and of course a nonprofit can have more than one current or past employees. A person can have more than one expertises and an expertise has several persons attached to it. A person can be both a mentor and a protegé (no, I will never write “mentee” unless I have to – ugh!).

Hence the software has promise but it needs some work.

As for the event that followed, this is a pleasant group. I particularly enjoyed interacting with Brian Thompson, Tara Greco and Brian Sadie. While the world’s problems might not have all been solved, enough laughter was exchanged so as to make it a great event and I look forward to the next one, on May 18th.

Career changing

EditMe Webinar

Today I attended (well, I listened to it in my home computer room) the EditMe Webinar. EditMe is a company that puts out WYSIWYG collaborative site software. E. g. you can make a Wiki or a forums site with their software.

I am not a customer but I am interested in pretty much anything to do with Social Media and, in particular, Community Management, as I’ve been managing Able2know for over 7 1/2 years now. It’s funny as I have more Community Management experience than many vaunted experts.

The main takeaways were as follows:

  • The Community is about them, not you
  • Make a big deal about participation. Thank everyone!
  • Use an Editorial Calendar, e. g. keep a schedule of when you’re going to release content, and keep it regular

I particularly loved that last one.

Communities and Social Media aren’t necessarily tough but they can be extraordinarily time-consuming. Everything you can do to help yourself in that area is a good thing.

Career changing

Happy Birthday Mass Innovation!

One of the best events I go to these days is Mass Innovation.

This event has been running for a year now, and it showcases startups all over the Bay State. These startups need not be in the technical area (although they often are). Plus it’s a great chance to network and meet others in not only the Social Media field but in any number of related fields. After all, most companies could use a Social Media Specialist, so why not spread the business cards around to them as well?

Bobbie Carlton does a fine job in getting the evening rolling. Competitors are encouraged to submit their ideas. Five are selected by the attendees’ votes and are given a short period of time (5 or 10 minutes) to present their ideas to the assembled guests. But all is not lost for those who weren’t voted a presentation slot. They are still invited to come in and man a booth. Often the booths hold better presentations than the actual Powerpoint shows.

The idea behind the event is to showcase up and coming entrepreneurs and offer support to them. Is anyone hired through this event? Hard to say. But awareness is raised, and attendees get to meet and bond. The best part of the event is that it’s completely portable — it could (and should!) happen in any city.

After all, there’s innovation going on all over the globe.

Career changing

Community Roundtable

Today I attended the CR lunch, which is always lively and pleasant. We didn’t really have a specific theme to discuss but it is good to be around fellow Community Manager types. People who speak my language, as it were. I need to add their blog to my blogroll.



Oh my gosh I love this place:

It’s a gathering, every Wednesday, of startup entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. For my job search/career change, it’s not exactly like I’m fishing in the precisely correct pond.

But … I don’t care. The people are so lovely, it doesn’t seem to matter.

I think it’s good to be out and about, plus these are folks who may need my services in the future. Hence I need to exercise my patience. In the meantime, it’s also an insanely gorgeous day. Here in New England, those don’t come around too often, particularly in April. I’ll ignore my allergies as best I can and, once the MeetUp is done, go home and sit on my front porch, reading more about web dev and trying to change my skin color from #ffffff to about #ffffcc or so. It’ll be bad if I bypass that and go straight to #ff0000 or so.

Career changing

Every time I think of careers ….

…. I get nervous. Careers scare me.

Careers Are Definitely Scary

I think of just how long I’m (hopefully) going to be living. And can I ever really be happy? But now I feel I’ve found my bliss — social media.

All I need is to make the leap into doing it professionally. Every day I run up, hard, to the gate. One of these days, the jump will be made, and I will land.

Come watch.

An Update After a Decade

10 years later, I think I may have finally landed somewhere.

Careers and Ambitions

Careers are tricky things, aren’t they? We ask people about their ambitions all the time. In fact, for children, it can even be an occurrence that happens more than once per week.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Raise your hand if you ever said, “I don’t know.”

Because that is totally okay.

Time Keeps On Going; If You Don’t Look Around, You Just Might Miss It

So that’s kinda, sorta paraphrasing Ferris Bueller.

But that’s all right. Because, you see, time slipping away has made careers like mine possible in the first place.

Say what?


Invention and Reinvention

I graduated from high school in June of 1979. There were no smart phones. There was no internet. And there I was, a kid who kinda, sorta understood communications.

Oh yeah, computers were the size of a room. And the popular fiction of the time showed them as unhinged menaces, lurking and ready to get us.

I’m looking at you, 2001.

And you, Star Trek TOS.

I graduated from college in 1983. Computers were a little smaller. But their cost was still comparable to a car. I had taken one programming class, hated it, and had dropped out before I could get a failing grade. But I had liked fooling around on the computer. I just didn’t want to program in DOS.

And then…

I graduated law school in 1986. I had used LexisNexis. And then I went to work for a large firm where there was still a typing pool. And IBM Selectric typewriters. No lie. Two secretaries had word processors. The managing partner had a computer which he was trying (miserably) to teach himself how to use.

I left after 6 months and was at a firm where we had dumb terminals with some actual information in them. We did scheduling this way – although the clerk still used a huge book.

When I left a few years later (and left the practice of law altogether), things had not changed much.


I taught paralegals. And I adjusted claims. Everywhere I went, it seemed computers were used less and less. In 1995, I started as a litigation auditor. I did not know how to turn on the Apple PowerBook 170 they gave me. According to Wikipedia, it was vintage 1991. I 100% believe that.

So I taught myself how to use it, and how to get faster. Slowly, we were switched to better computers. In my last 3 months or so (late 1999), we were finally given internet access.

Because I knew databases, and it was the dot-com boom, I found another job fast. 9/1 happened, and it stole my job, along with a lot of other people. I drifted. Slowly, I was getting away from databases. In 2004, I worked at Dictaphone, and I did three separate stints at Fidelity Investments.

And I was at that third Fidelity job when I first wrote something like 73 words for this, my first-ever blog post.

Life Has Changed

From there to here, I wanted out. So I went to grad school and I blogged – here! Plus I made whatever contacts I could.

In 2014, I became a published fiction author. And in 2017, I was offered a job managing content for a business credit company.

What a long, strange trip it’s been. I have never regretted changing my life this way. Careers, I have learned, are for bending and changing. Never, ever set yours in stone.