MY Hines

Archive for January 2010

When I started my blog I wanted to write every work day. Well, since 2010 has started off with such a rocky start for too many of my projects, that goal left a long time ago. I even have a plot to write a whole bunch of blog posts over the weekend to post during the week with just a couple clicks – but I’m not sure if I will even want to open my eyes this weekend.

However, I think now is the best time to just point you to someone else’s blog post about something that has been the talk this week between staff, vendors and friends – the iPad. My twitter account is full of tweets between iPads and the Pittsburgh Penguins – so I’m thinking that I’m not the only one who has heard a lot about the iPad. I would probably have gotten a lot more tweets and emails about iPad had it been launched on Verizon instead of AT&T!

So, without further introduction, the most useful summary of the why iPad will work vs. why iPad will not work is at this link:

Yep, I’m sending you to my friends at the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Business Management. Jeff Forster – you rock!


As a follow-up from my last post – Warning: Tech Dangerous – I felt the need to explain something that I listed in one of my responses to a comment. (Note that I love the comments and I want to interact with other tech people – hopefully in the nonprofit sphere, but even from – gasp! – the for-profit sphere.)

I must also admit something, if you haven’t caught on from my blog – my first instinct is that “Glass Half Empty” view – but often I can see the “Glass Half Full” view a bit later. But in this post, I want to focus on both views – the Pros vs. the Cons of each type of tech type that I have created in my mind. Just like any tech project that you are going to be doing – there are pros and cons to every single decision. With technology some of these pros and cons are just magnified a bit larger.  Either way, let’s get to these Tech Types.

IT Staff – Some may argue that IT staff shouldn’t be listed as a tech type, but from experience, this is far from true. At least in my agency, there is a big difference between the IT staff and the regular employee.  Our work is in front of a computer – it’s written all over our job description, it isnt’ just one line in a job description. Motivation of IT staff are different and IT staff have different pressures and consequences for not completing work. Plus, again at least at my agency, there are lots of ‘hats’ that the IT staff hold, not just the traditional roles IT staff have in a for-profit (i.e. web design, employee newsletters, agency newsletters, social media, video production…….)

The Pros of IT Staff – These are the staff members that are going to know technology. It is their life. Most find technology interesting to learn, will learn/explore on their own, and will bring new ideas and thoughts to the table. When you get really good IT staff, they know when to ask for help, where to go for help, and know when to stop what they are doing because they are about to become dangerous to your network. Without IT staff, you probably don’t really use technology in your agency strategically.

The Cons of IT Staff – I believe IT staff are usually don’t respond as well to traditional motivation that may be in place in an agency. Some IT staff can get big egos and lose that trigger of what may be dangerous to the network because they know it all. IT staff usually tend to be the social minority in an agency and that can cause communication issues between departments, especially if the IT staff don’t have a firm grasp on the tech type of the person that they are communicating with to resolve an issue (i.e. need to speak “English” and not “geek” when talking to a novice user).

Power Users – These users are comfortable in using the computer, they love to learn the new products, and often volunteer to work on projects that may involve technology. These are the people that understand what is trying to be accomplished by the tech department and they show respect back to the tech department. When there is downtime on the network, they understand that this is part of the nature of computers and often will defend technology decisions.

The Pros of Power Users – This is where you can find those people who can champion a technology change without it being just a ‘tech department project’. They can also be leveraged to provide additional support and these are the staff members you would select to be the trainer in the “Train the Trainer” situations. IT staff find it easiest to communicate with these power users and often these end up being the friends of the IT staff.

The Cons of Power Users – The number one con of Power Users is that they can start seeing themselves as the IT staff.  When this occurs and they start troubleshooting beyond their abilities, their coworkers may become confused over the role of the IT staff and they may cause additional problems (beyond just those problems that may occur by fixing something incorrectly). IT staff will have to monitor Power Users to make sure that the proper policies and procedures are being followed and that Power Users remember the role of the IT staff.

Tech Dangerous (a.k.a. Tech Savvy) – Think of the staff that you immediately think about when someone comes in with the newest tech toy because you know that they are going to want it and they will do anything to get it. These might be the ones that you know will go out and get the said new tech toy without a care if it will work with your network – or if it is even allowed on your network. They talk the talk with IT staff and Power Users – usually very well and can often be confused with a Power User.

The Pros of Tech Dangerous – As commented in my post a couple days ago, they can cause change in the agency. Their desires for the new tech toys that may be useful for their job can cause the IT staff to change network structures to allow for the new tech toys to become new tech tools. They are forward thinking, often will bring new ideas to the table about how to use technology, and they can talk about technology without it being translated from “geek” to “English”.

The Cons of Tech Dangerous – To some, the Tech Dangerous sound, act, and feel like a Power User. My distinction between the two is that the Tech Dangerous does in ways disregard established rules and regulations (which as pointed out a couple days ago by Holly could be a good thing, but I think it can be a negative thing especially if the rules and regulations are just being established within an agency). The Tech Dangerous can take up a lot of time and energy of the IT staff by causing the tech toys to become the focus instead of other projects or support issues. They are not firm supporters of the IT staff and if there is a conflict between IT staff and the Tech Dangerous, the Tech Dangerous can stop supporting all tech projects. It is difficult for the IT staff to have the Tech Dangerous in a working group that is formed for a tech project.

Novices – The biggest percentage of staff fall underneath the Novices section (hopefully!). These are staff members who are comfortable using technology for the purpose that it was given to them for their job and they can do these tasks without much assistance.

The Pros of Novices – These are the ‘steady-as-it-goes’ staff. Sometimes IT staff don’t even interact with these staff members often because they go with the flow and don’t need much assistance beyond fixing the more difficult fixes. They understand that they have to use technology to complete their job and for the mission of the agency to be reached.

The Cons of Novices – These staff are not going to go out and seek new ways to learn technology. They are going to usually only do what they know how to do for work. If they learned something a while ago but haven’t had a need to use it, they are not going to remember how to do it any longer and may need retrained.

Non-Techies – These staff members are easily to identify. When they start to work with the agency, they may have trouble identifying where the power button is located (and yes, this still is happening!). They are comfortable in all non-tech parts of their job. Their eyes will glass over if any type of geek term is used in explaining something and often believe that IT staff are from a different world.

Pros of the Non-Techies – These staff require the IT staff to communicate differently and in “English”. They can bring the IT staff down to earth and can think things thru differently. When IT staff fix problems for them or complete “computer magic” they usually heap great praise on the IT staff (and sometimes rewards with gifts of gratitude).

Cons of the Non-Techies – These staff require lots and lots and lots of training. Hands-on training with training guides are not going to be enough for these staff. IT staff are going to spend lots of time hand holding these staff and assisting them. They are going to be vocal against changes and would rather have old versions of software than the newest versions. IT staff are going to need to communicate using simple terms about the technology and need to give Non-Techies lots of advance notice of changes and/or outages.

Tech Indifferent – If you hear the phrase “why can’t we just go back to paper and the typewriter?” then you should know that you are talking to the Tech Indifferent. There are probably two different types of this type – the ones who are passively indifferent (they just do not seem to care about the technology) or aggressively indifferent (or also known as those against technology entirely in a whole). These are probably the biggest minority of all types.

Pros of the Tech Indifferent – There are pros to the Tech Indifferent. I believe that because these staff would rather use paper, they often are organized and know how their work flows (getting those work flows to the computer then is the IT staff challenge). I find that they are the historians and they have a good sense of how paperwork should be completed.

Cons of the Tech Indifferent – Counting on what type of Tech Indifferent you have, IT staff can spend lots of time and energy addressing why technology should be used by these staff. They can easily go back to paper solutions and may even do this without regard to what the network can give them. Although they need the training, they also tend to have the most reasons not to attend a training.

Now that I have outlined these types that I categorized on, I think the focus is to move the staff one step up from where they are (except those Power Users). If that can be a focus of the IT staff and if this type of tech adoption would help the agency achieve its mission – big changes are there to be had.

I find great satisfaction when I get done with a webinar or some sort of training that gives me something to blog about – especially if I can blog about it for days. I enjoyed the Ask The Tech presented by NTEN so much today as they featured Jeff Ello, who is now one of my favorite columnists on ComputerWorld. The biggest point was made that we can’t really call people ‘Tech Savvy” because they are more like “Tech Dangerous”.

And once it was uttered, the big giant yellow light bulb moment happened. Those two words went combined together gave the perfect picture of what can happen to a nonprofit when there are some staff that know some about technology. Those people might consider themselves the ‘tech savvy’ but deep down, don’t you believe that these are going to be your most dangerous users to your network?

I think I would much rather work with a person who is not very comfortable on a computer. What are they truly going to do? They may hestitate on trying things, but they are going to follow the rules. They aren’t going to push the boundaries of what is acceptable and they surely aren’t going to be bringing in shiny new geek toys to use. If they make a mistake, it’s probably an honest mistake.

But the “tech dangerous’ – those people scare me. You want to embrace them because they can be powerful force in helping you to bring along the non-techies. However, you always have to be watching out for that shiny new geek toy that was plugged into the network that is now sucking resources away from the network. They are also very bright and will challenge your decisions. They may also be the type that find it hard to accept that work computers are not the same as home computers (i.e. I should be able to do this here if I can do it from home).

When you put new policies in place because of something going wrong on the network, who is truly for? Is it for the non-techies or the tech dangerous? I would say almost 75% of the time it is for the tech dangerous people that we are making changes to our network (along with policies and procedures).

So now how do we leverage the tech dangerous and make them our allies rather than those that we have to strategically plan for handling in our networks? How do we let them see the network has a whole instead of just their own personal little view?

Interesting thoughts…. Ideas on neutralizing the danger of these tech dangerous users are needed: STAT!

After a week of having lots of back-to-back meetings on multiple days, my warning to nonprofit techies out there – get yourself a facemask, pads, a huge stick, a blocker, a catcher and all other things that a hockey goalie wears when they hit the ice – before you go to a meeting. You will find in ways, you will need all the protection that you can get. There is nothing wrong with those in meetings with you, but my experience is that they have no idea how it is in your seat. (Yes, I realize that I”m combining my job with my love of watching hockey, but it’s my blog and this is what is on my mind tonight!)

Goalie Interference is the best way to describe the most common thing that happens to me during a meeting – most often a meeting that might not even necessarily be a meeting about technology. How many have heard the phrase, “While we have you here, we have a computer question that you can answer for us?”  I think I would rather face a 50 foot slapshot than field the next several sentences that come after that phrase!

It is not that I don’t understand what the person who says is doing. They may have forgotten to mention something to you sooner and now that they see you, they remember what they needed to discuss with you. It may be that this just occurred before the meeting that you just haven’t heard about. Either way, I understand that person saying that phrase – but it doesn’t make it any easier for me when the conversation continues.

Often, I prepare my mind for a meeting. There are just too many things in there to not prepare for a meeting. (Who wants to be prepared to talk about SharePoint and find out that you are going to talk about website design? – so preparing is a necessary step before a meeting.) So when that phrase starts – and I can normally tell as soon as I hear “Now that we have…” – my mind is taken off the topic of the meeting and being pulled somewhere else. That shift is as dramatic as going from Office 2003 to Office 2007 – you just aren’t talking about the same thing any longer.  It takes me personally a while to recover from the shift and by then, they are already explaining the issue, problem, or possibly new project. Now you are behind and you really wish that you could just cover your face – with a facemask.

Then you realize that you have to respond to the question, issue or project that was just brought forth – yep, sudden death shootout time. I would love to say that I can answer anything, but I know that I do not know enough to answer or respond all the time. It’s time to get ready to kick that puck away to the netting – deflect – or just do anything to handle the issue in the most nonspecific way as possible.  I try never to offer a solution off the top of my head without saying that I have look into it and I do not want to give a timeline ever.

I also want people to know that they are doing this. I honestly today asked if I could get my goalie mask out today if there were more things for me to find out about. I said this humorously (at least I believe so because people chuckled.) Hockey is a team sport so the more people you make aware that this often happens to you during meetings, you start to create defensemen to help you out. Let them take on the big time shooters and block some shots for you. Saves you the trouble (and bruises!) in the long run.

I”m not quite sure what color of hockey pads I want to buy. I’m trying to find out if they sell pink ones. I think pink would be a great color on me…

Right off the bat, I did not come up with this one at all – but it is such an important concept, something that is actually printed out and hanging around my desk – and all of my staff have done the same – that I wanted to share. You might be wondering what does a QTIP have to do with technology? Is this blog about how to use a QTIP to clean out old-school mice? Wait – you know what it is, I’m going to explain how to use a QTIP to fix roller problems with laser printers!

Honestly, you don’t need a physical QTIP for this at all. It’s just an easy way to remember this phrase “Quit Taking It Personally.”  Maybe it is hard to admit it, but think about how many things you take personally each day. How about that driver who cut infront of you? Or maybe that coworker just hates you? Better yet, the network personally targeted you this morning to have updates completed.

I think it is partly human nature to say that things happen to us personally. We read a lot into what is being said and not all of it is correct. (See, I do believe that there are certain things that should be taken personally, but that isn’t the focus of this post.)

I think if you are the ‘in-house tech’ or in a role like that, you can easily fall into the pitfall of not having enough QTIPs on hand for everything that flies to you. It is hard to not take the complains about your network personally. If you have been working on a troubleshooting issue for 6 hours and it still isn’t working, the staff are going to be upset and it may seem like it is being focused towards you. STOP! Think about this for a second: Is it truly you that they are upset with or are they upset at the situation that they are in?

Another example that I have had happen to myself and I have had others fall into is when a staff member calls in for help and they are saying “You did something to my account and I can’t logon!” If you don’t use that QTIP right away, your defenses are going to go up and you are ready to almost fight back. Is that truly going to fix the problem? But since I have had these phone calls and I did have that fight response back – I have found by using QTIP that I actually got to the real problem faster. What was the real problem? Well, the staff person who was calling in was more upset about how they didn’t know what they did to cause the problem and they did not want to appear as if they didn’t know the computer enough. Instead of saying, “I really don’t know what is going on, but I can’t logon,” they assigned blame to protect themselves.

So, I do have some Tips for using QTIP. None of this is set in stone. You may not even like this Quit Taking It Personally thing that I’m talking about right now. But maybe something will help you out.

  1. Post a reminder for QTIP somewhere. I found that just a small QTIP isn’t enough. I have a full-page, full color sign that has a picture of a QTIP on it along with the words Quit Taking It Personally hanging right to the right of my screen, where I can still see it (if I am properly using my keyboard tray!)
  2. Tell others about QTIP. The best thing is that now that my entire department knows about this, we can look at each other and say, “QTIP”, if someone is taking something very personally. It’s good to have others remind you because in the heat of the moment, you may not even realize that you are taking something very personally.
  3. Prepare to forget QTIP. There are going to be days that you are going to take things personally. There is going to be a project that you have worked hours and hours on and you are going to snap if someone says anything against it. I found that if you have those days, it’s ok to admit that you took something very personally and correct it then. That might mean allowing yourself the mistake and moving on. It may mean telling the person that you took something personally and that you want to move forward. All of that is up to you – but know that there is no way to make QTIP foolproof.
  4. Have ways to clear your mind when you are taking something personally. I know that as a techie, I can easily get caught up in the world that is at my desk and computer. But if you are caught up in that cycle of just seeing everything as an attack on what you are doing – it’s time to take a break. I know one of the ones I do that is with several select songs on my iPod. It’s like my happy mix. It has upbeat songs and it has a couple different versions of the song “Smile”. Whatever you need to do to break your mind away from that cycle of seeing everything as against you.
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I flagged an email I received last week that I got from one of the numerous mailing lists that I get from InfoWorld. Honestly, I rarely open them up unless there is something in the subject line that makes me. This one was: 2020 Vision: What will tech look like in 10 years?. I know that it was written to be humorous, but it did bring up thought in my mind about what 2020 would look like for technology.

While there have been amazing strides in technology in the past decade, there are areas that the progress isn’t as amazing as it has been with televisions, storage devices, personal music devices, and web 2.0. The reality is, areas of technology that aren’t that “sexy’ don’t really get the advancements in them as there should be – they don’t grow as quickly as changes in storage has. 

I’m specifically thinking of some of the assistive technology devices that are out there. I have a coworker that had us install DragonSpeak for him a couple weeks ago. He knows this software so he knows the ‘funny’ things that happen with it. However, when I saw it and worked with it, I realized that it doesn’t seem to be that much better than it was when we were installing it on our computer lab downstairs. It doesn’t even work in the computer lab that well because it is too noisy. With all the advancements out there, why hasn’t DragonSpeak been able to address the “noisy background” issue yet? I can get my Blackberry to call numbers for me with my voice, usually with the radio still on – but if I have music on with DragonSpeak, it’s a no go. 

I hope that this is something that could be fixed in the next 10 years. I mean, there are lots of voice activated things out there, so this can’t be that hard, can it?  And maybe call it ‘pie-in-the-sky’ thought – but I would like to believe that in ten years the voice activated software has gotten to the point that it starts to recognize speach that isn’t perfect or better yet, be able to associate noise from a non-verbal person in order to perform a task.

I’m not discrediting what is out there – there are amazing technologies out there – but look at where the priorities are – on mass produced, consumer goods. There is now foul to that – I just want to see more – I need to see more.

I have to say the same thing about my new Livescribe pen. I do enjoy it a lot. It saves me a lot of work – but it is still not as easy as it seems on reviews and websites. You still have to spend a lot of time with it and you have to be consistent in your writing. The additional software I bought to send it to Word? I sometimes find it much easier to just retype than to go thru the process of fixing the mistakes that it brings over. Plus, it really cannnot handle any formatting issues at all. Boy, if that could just come up some more, life would be so simple. I’ve been using the signature pads for my credit card for a long time in stores and you know – it still looks like crap usually. To me, there needs to be a LOT of progress here.

There is also one other area that I hope improves in ten years and that is the knowledge of people. I know that the school students right now are learning so much more about computers than I ever did in school. I didn’t have computer class – it was just “Word Processing” which meant – typing. But sometimes I wonder if a person doesn’t truly have an interest in computers and they don’t want to enter a field that is “technical” if they actually get the education that is needed in the workplace.

I graduated from the School of Social Work with my Masters in Social Work and have to admit, outside of papers needing to be typed, technology wasn’t really used. I know that there is now more use of Blackboard applications and such and more classes are online, but I work with other social workers. I know that they are still not being told of the realities out there that when they get out in the field – they are going to have to know how to use technology. It would be so beneficial that schools start integrating technology into the knowledge of these college students. But it isn’t just knowing about Google and knowing about Microsoft. It is knowing what to do when what you are trying to do doesn’t work right. When you are in school, they have tech support – and tech support helps out. Can a nonprofit organization offer the same sort of tech support that a college does? Well, if you are huge, yeah, probably. But middle sized? How about small sized? Probably not. Bring the word troubleshooting into any education about technology. It is so important.

So while I loved the article’s humor and it did make me laugh, it made me really think about what progress can truly be made in ten years. I just hope that the three areas that I mentioned aren’t still as slow in change/advancement as I’ve seen them being in the past decade.

On January 7th, are your New Year’s Resolutions already history? Honestly – I don’t want to hear the answer because for a majority of people I know, the answer is “yes” and it frustrates me. I never really got why if you broke your resolution just once, it was enough to say that you broke your resolution.

I didn’t realize that there was a commandment that resolutions are absolutes and cannot be broken, not even once. To me, if you believe that, you might as well not have a resolution. We are all humans and mistakes are going to happen. Knowing that, I prepared for my resolutions in 2010 to be ready for when I didn’t meet up to the expectations of the goal of my resolution.

I have the perfect example. In my list posted on my blog – Partial List of New Year Resolutions – I listed one of my resolutions of “Try Positivity”. I think just in the wording that one could tell that I knew that I wouldn’t be able to be 100% positive. That is absolutely never going to happen. Gosh, with the snow and cold of this week, it’s been super rough to even remember that this was a resolution. I hate to admit it, I probably led the “negativity parade” that seemed to be spawned in my office two days ago when I think the ratio of negative comments to positive comments was 100 to 1. But, I know that it is still important to go back and get back to that resolution. I didn’t say that I was going to be 100% positive all the time. I’m going to try positivity – which means I can go back to this resolution and pick up where I was, and hopefully get back on track.

Some resolutions are easier than others. I think that is why I had a list of them. It’s much easier for me to have a resolution that is task oriented (such as keep up with email). The ones that are hard are not so much task oriented – such as enjoy life outside of work and delegate. Those ones are going to be hard because I know that there is no way to measure them and they are vague. Maybe in the next month I can work on making those more concrete so I have a way to measure them and see how I’m doing – but I have to remember that they are my resolutions. But man, it’s nice to have a mixture of resolutions so I have some successes to already build off of and grow. I’m actually really enjoying reading my first resource.

The internet provides such a wealth of information on resolutions and tons of resources that can help people with different types of resolutions. I got a Shape magazine just before the New Year that had I believe two pages of write-ups on internet resources for getting into better shape. I believe it is never bad to share some of those resources one finds with others.


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