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Did Facebook kill Conferences?

In a recent post by Dr. Richard Beck on his blog Experimental Theology, tackles the question on why churches are experiencing an exodus of their young people.  To this end, Dr. Beck’s position is that mobile social computing trends appear to have a direct correlation with the decrease in church membership.  To this end, Dr. Beck argues the idea that prior to mobile social computing church goers found social outlets as part of their church experience.  With the advent of mobile social computing, there is no need to go to church for this social outlet.

While reading this post, I began to wonder if this same perspective could be applied to technical conferences?  I recognize that many folks within technology operations are feeling the pinch of the economy, but I wonder if tight budgets is only part of the equation.  I for one, have squirreled away funds so that I can continue sending my team to training and conferences.  I know that my organization continues to sees value and return in having it’s technology staff continue to receive training and exposure to the new wares, procedures, and philosophies for supporting enterprise technology initiatives.  I’m also personally aware that training classes and technology conferences are different then they were just 10 years ago.

I fondly remember the first off-site technology training course I attended back in 1997.  The course was on the Installation and Maintenance of Nortel’s Meridian One PBX system and it was delivered by Williams Communications at their Houston corporate location.  The attendees were a mix of Williams field technicians from across the country and a handful of customers like myself.  While we soaked in the training content, there was also an element of “war stories” that we each shared related to supporting this particular product.  These “war stories” added so much to the training experience and the connections made during this week enhanced the value of the training.  Even the first technology conference I attended a couple years later looks and feels drastically different than the ones I frequent today.  The stories offered are fewer, the business cards collected are fewer, and the overall context seems to be more consumption rather than delivery.

Maybe the social aspects of training have decreased because of outlets like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter (social media).  Rather than expense a visit to a conference, we can now Google our problem to find a suitable answer.  User group forums and events seem to be less attended than in years past, and I will confuse I am somewhat nostalgic for those “war stories”.  Whether mobile social computing has killed, lamed, or had not affect, I thought it was an interesting perspective with implications much broader than church.

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Categories: social media

Why should you use social media?

January 22, 2010 Leave a comment

In April, I’m slated to be one of the presenters at the annual ACUTA Conference to serve on a Social Media panel to discuss why and how to use social media as an IT professional.  Over the course of the last couple of months I’ve scoured the web-o-sphere looking for materials to support the idea that IT professionals should be leveraging social media.  The only problem is that most of the articles, blog posts, tweets, etc are focused on branding, messaging, and promotion.  They take a very “marketing” centric approach, whether it’s individually or corporately, and present reasons or rational of why social media is the new avenue to customers, fans, or constituents.  While I believe these references have merit and some application can be made for “joe the IT professional”, I’m struggling to find the statistics or smoking gun that confirms my position that social media is a viable community for your average IT professional.

My own indulgence in the social media arena came about because I heard others talking about twitter, linkedIn, facebook, etc.  Curiosity brought me to the table, and my willingness to try it out has kept me engaged.  In the subcommittee I serve on for ACUTA, I’ve received the moniker as the “twitter expert” because that’s a medium I’ve chosen for professional stuff.  I follow several folks who talk about IT stuff I’m interested in and I often tweet about articles I’ve read or items I’ve seen that I believe is relevant to the broader IT professional ranks.  I concede there is a rhyme and reason to my activities, but it’s more something I’ve decided upon-intentional use.  I did not read it in a “how to book”, although I did listen to others who share similar opinions in how to leverage the medium.

On the other hand, I’ve chosen to limit Facebook activities to more personal or private interactions.  Via Facebook I share with friends more than colleagues, and I’m conscious about security measures when professional contacts “friend” me on Facebook.    For LinkedIn, I try to keep the details listed as current as possible, but I don’t “live” there.  As a co-worker phrased it to me, “LinkedIn is for when you are looking for a job.” And since I’m not actively looking, I’m not there much.

So why should you use social media?  While I can’t find empirical evidence that supports my claims, I believe social media is the latest evolution in communication vehicles that keeps folks informed.  Just ten years ago, listservs function in this space.  Now a 140 character tweet that includes a link to a blog provides similar features and potentially has a broader reach because it doesn’t require a user to “subscribe” to a service.   For me, social media offers a large resource pool that includes folks, ideas, and locations that I would have never considered as a source.  Social media demonstrates the power a single voice can be heard by those who active listen.  The opportunity to tap into this vast resource of experiences, opinions, references, and ideas with little investment is simply gold.  I don’t need to a marketing genius, or a big corporation to appreciate the opportunity that awaits on social platforms.  I simply need to be curious enough and savvy enough to  work the interface to filter the content that is most applicable to me.

In my efforts to find a reason why you should use social media, the only reference I found was a tweet from an attendee of the Educause annual conference in Denver this past November.  The tweet read … “Interesting Twitter tidbit from #educause09, ’employees who use social media in the workplace (ie. work-related content) are often leaders.”  Sounded reasonable enough.

Social Media & IT Governance

January 13, 2010 Leave a comment

Earlier this week, I was sat on a conference call with a group of higher education IT professionals who were reviewing a survey that is destined for members of an association we all belong to.  The survey is on the topic of “social media” and how our respective organizations are engaging this environment.  At one point someone suggested that a question be posed about how organizations are applying IT governance to social media.  This actually caught me off gaurd for two reasons.  First, my own organization’s use of social media is championed by our marketing department, with little if any influence by the organizations IT department.  Second, since the resources that host social media exists in the cloud or on the Internet, our organization’s IT department has little interest in getting involved.  Now I’m not saying that corporate governance or business governance isn’t involved, I’m just saying that from my perspective IT has had little to say about how outside, hosted, or cloud resources are utilized.

In talking with my own organization’s Director of Social Media (who works within my organization’s Marketing department), the only IT governance reference given related to use of the organizations computers and to ensure that statements within the organization’s “Acceptable Use of Technology” policy were applicable for individuals to engage in social media.  As I’ve read some on this topic, the opinions I’m seeing trend more to the concept of Business Governance and the purposeful, strategic, and guided use of social media as an extension of the organization’s communications platform. 

I am sure this question will continue to linger, and I know I’ll continue to watch as more organizations dive into the realm of social media.