The four pillars of Active Dialogue

People.
Ideas.
Communication.
Action.

These four principles are the foundation for more than just active conversations that transform communities, organizations and interactions between people. It’s a way to reinvent the way you think about communicating with audiences and individuals.

More is forthcoming on the subject in the coming months.

You aren’t really all that special

I read Penelope Trunk’s blog today, talking about a blogger and her belief that her world was unique because she felt the need to talk about the intimate details of her life.

It’s something that really rings true when you think about people who are passionate bloggers and discuss all of the things that are going on, keep their Facebook status updated regularly and feel the need to twitter each thing as it happens too.

As someone who used to be far more active blogging than I am these days — even as I maintain two distinct blogs — I just don’t feel the need to let everyone to that degree. I feel there are lots of things that a blog can help you do personally and professionally. But I also think it exposes almost too much in the way of things that you are not always able to provide context for.

The reason I began blogging seriously for my career is because I made a decision after changing jobs that I would leverage the experience I’d gained over the years, to establish myself as an expert in the field rather than just sitting on the sidelines and letting other yahoos decide without at least participating in the conversation.

That turned out to be a smart decision. But what her post does is reveal to me a paradigm shift occurring within myself in regards to the way I approach the web and ideas. I tend to think to eschew exposing the ideas that crop up in the recesses of my brain late at night, because they’re either not well formed or because I don’t know if I want to expand on them. But when I do it, it ends up pretty well received.

So I think there is a trick to it all and that’s to use the vehicle to express yourself however you want and throw caution to the wind.

Text-Sims, an alternative sporting experience

Here’s a story about text sport simulation games for PC.

The fact that sports text games draw a more intellectual and involved crowd comes as no surprise, as many of these gamers tend to devour statistics like the Russians sip vodka. In my opinion, text-sim gamers are the freakiest of sports gamers, the people who can’t get their fix only with a gamepad or a handful of Fantasy League teams. As sports videogames have, more or less, existed for the better part of two decades, it only seems natural to have this progression of gaming intensity.

Having beta tested Out of the Park Baseball for past few years and been an active player of a few games in the genre for the better part of the decade, the story speaks truth. There isn’t a better gaming experience out there for statheads.

Content Cowboys and the need for wranglers

It’s a really strange thing when you start to deal with CMS vendors and understand the way that they do the things they do.

What do I mean?

I mean that it’s really interesting how they spend all of this time building products that are sold as newer/faster/better than what’s already out there in the status quo, but in reality, it’s just another layer of closed-source software that’s going to find ways to keep your institution locked into their tools for as long as possible.

That’s fine if you’re thinking about it from the perspective of profitability and trying to keep your company in business. But from the concept of having open information access and portability of data over a period of time, it’s the absolute worst idea ever.

Here’s an example:

In so many instances, I see situations where you have internal constituents such as faculty, staff or even students who avoid using the web site completely and create their own external things in open-source or free programs online such as Blogger or WordPress, because it’s easier for them to use and gives them rapid access without having to wade through the institutional bureaucracy.

I don’t think I blame them, even if from where I’ve sat, it can be a real pain to deal with that from a control of content perspective.

I guess there isn’t a real compelling financial interest for web design consultants to offer clients clear solutions, to charge a fixed fee for that and then to work together to deliver what they need from start to finish, irrespective of a need to lump additional services or other value-added ways to force the client to stay with you whether they like it or not.

In other words, your web consulting firm shouldn’t be like your cell phone company.

If you communicate well, give people what they want, help them break down barriers and help them develop a product that’s going to have some lasting value, then you’ve done your job. Hopefully, they’ll tell their friends about it and you’ll get continual business. If not, well you learn and keep working with people and go from there.

But giving people a content management system for CMS sake with SO many options that already exist in the field that doesn’t do anything new, different or better than what’s already out there is maybe a great way to line your pockets, but it’s not really a sustainable way to help people manage their content.

To ask reasonably intelligent individuals who might even do this for a living to spend an inordinate amount of time becoming familiar with institutional corporate nomenclature for otherwise ordinary things that people in the status quo are using and employing everyday is just another way to increase the barriers to entry for institutional folks are able to do things that their ordinary friends do. Meaning they’ll take your flashy new CMS with all of its xyz-million features and just go around it to do all of the stuff they were going to do before in the tools they know how to use.

You can teach them, you can invest time to train them and the fact is, the gargantuan investment of time involved is unlikely to be recouped in the long run.

Mimicking the flawed institutional problems that plague higher ed in the way we deliver web development and strategic services to them will not improve the minefield. It does give those willing to detach from it, an opportunity to thrive.

The Web isn’t a place for your institutional quirks

Something that’s been on my mind lately is the idea of higher education web sites inability to adapt their web content to their audiences. Anyone can write slick marketing copy or develop videos and other hooks to drag people in. That’s not what I’m talking about here.

We’re talking specifically about the specific nomenclature of campus specific entities and the way that we can make web sites far more accessible to end users from a wide range of constituent groups have access to college web sites to find the information they are looking for.

Sometimes, it could be a matter of legacy issues that prevent you from being able to truly shine on the web. Other times, it could be a bottleneck of regulations or “walls of ivy” (red tape is for government, walls of ivy, for educational bureaucracy) that prevent change from moving forward.

A web strategy will not weed out these problems by itself, but it can give colleges and universities an opportunity to assess what is working and what isn’t on their campuses. Depending on the scope and inclusiveness of the study, it can give stakeholders of all stripes an opportunity to understand 1) what the web site intends to do and give their input on 2) what they would like it to do for them.

A cohesive web strategy can empower those in charge of managing web sites and content with the ability to move forward with an actual plan and it can inform the way college and university web sites are build and adapted over the years.

Transferring your institutional quirks and problems over layers of decades onto a rapidly evolving platform is bad business and should be avoided at all costs. Or it may truly cost you down the road.

Content cowboys & the need for wranglers

It’s a really strange thing when you start to deal with CMS vendors and understand the way that they do the things they do.

What do I mean?

I mean that it’s really interesting how they spend all of this time building products that are sold as newer/faster/better than what’s already out there in the status quo, but in reality, it’s just another layer of closed-source software that’s going to find ways to keep your institution locked into their tools for as long as possible.

That’s fine if you’re thinking about it from the perspective of profitability and trying to keep your company in business. But from the concept of having open information access and portability of data over a period of time, it’s the absolute worst idea ever.

Here’s an example:

In so many instances, I see situations where you have internal constituents such as faculty, staff or even students who avoid using the web site completely and create their own external things in open-source or free programs online such as Blogger or WordPress, because it’s easier for them to use and gives them rapid access without having to wade through the institutional bureaucracy.

I don’t think I blame them, even if from where I’ve sat, it can be a real pain to deal with that from a control of content perspective.

I guess there isn’t a real compelling financial interest for web design consultants to offer clients clear solutions, to charge a fixed fee for that and then to work together to deliver what they need from start to finish, irrespective of a need to lump additional services or other value-added ways to force the client to stay with you whether they like it or not.

In other words, your web consulting firm shouldn’t be like your cell phone company.

If you communicate well, give people what they want, help them break down barriers and help them develop a product that’s going to have some lasting value, then you’ve done your job. Hopefully, they’ll tell their friends about it and you’ll get continual business. If not, well you learn and keep working with people and go from there.

But giving people a content management system for CMS sake with SO many options that already exist in the field that doesn’t do anything new, different or better than what’s already out there is maybe a great way to line your pockets, but it’s not really a sustainable way to help people manage their content.

To ask reasonably intelligent individuals who might even do this for a living to spend an inordinate amount of time becoming familiar with institutional corporate nomenclature for otherwise ordinary things that people in the status quo are using and employing everyday is just another way to increase the barriers to entry for institutional folks are able to do things that their ordinary friends do. Meaning they’ll take your flashy new CMS with all of its xyz-million features and just go around it to do all of the stuff they were going to do before in the tools they know how to use.

You can teach them, you can invest time to train them and the fact is, the gargantuan investment of time involved is unlikely to be recouped in the long run.

Mimicking the flawed institutional problems that plague higher ed in the way we deliver web development and strategic services to them will not improve the minefield. It does give those willing to detach from it, an opportunity to thrive.