Friday, November 30, 2007

RADICAL CHIC & THE NEW CONFORMISM (BRACE YOURSELVES NONPROFITS!)

One thing that's great about my recent unemployment? Time to read. And reading means exposure to new ideas. And new ideas mean inspiration. Hurray.

Take two articles, the first David Brook's article "The Organization Kid", from way back in April, 2001 (remember when that was the science fiction future?) and another, Andrew Keen's article "Web 2.0 The second generation of the Internet has arrived. It's worse than you think." from February, 2006. Isn't it great when information converges over time?

First, credit where credit's due. These came to my attention from two blogs I read regularly (thanks to RSS!), the penny for your thoughts blog "1cent talk on nptech" and "Urban Community". They are two great reasons to keep browsing the blogosphere!

"The Organization Kid" paints a frightening picture of a new generation so conformist and content that they have become complacent, obedient even bland. Compared to the generation before who questioned authority, the organization kid isn't disturbed by authority. The key? An underlying belief that life is just.


They are responsible. They are generous. They are bright. They are good-natured. ...Evil is seen as something that can be cured with better education, or therapy, or Prozac. Instead of virtue (they) ...talk about accomplishment.
I find this fascinating because so much of my life has been devoted to a pursuit of justice. In other words, I have a belief that life is not just. I always figured it to be part of a gloomy personality type and that if only I had been blessed with a more cheerful basic life view, that I'd find the world more just. Hmmm. That's a whole 'nother can of worms.

What I'm thinking is that, hey, maybe a bit of skepticism ain't a bad thing after all.

Brooks gave us this outline of a new type back in 2001, and even though he was studying the completely non representative group of Princeton students, his portrait rings true. War protests (and other forms of social protest) seem more the territory of the 60's generation than todays college students and "under 30's".

Now, on the other hand, take Andrew Keen's article "Web 2.0: The second generation of the Internet has arrived. It's worse than you think." Keen keenly observes (sorry couldn't resist):


Buzzwords from the old dot.com era--like "cool," "eyeballs," or "burn-rate"--have been replaced in Web 2.0 by language which is simultaneously more militant and absurd: Empowering citizen media, radically democratize, smash elitism, content redistribution, authentic community . . . . This sociological jargon, once the preserve of the hippie counterculture, has now become the lexicon of new media capitalism.
So, is there a rebirth of the new conformist? or the hippie counterculture? Let's make up our minds. Want the truth? Think twice, it's scary. The truth (according to Pam) is that the young hip marketing folks must have discovered how sexy and marketable "radical" is. I haven't heard anything about the "radical chic" since my old dog-eared copy of Tom Wolfe's "Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers". It's not what he was talking about exactly, but same principle.

You know all the talk about the impending "leadership crisis" in nonprofits. OK, so if you don't, the basic idea is that the boomers will all being retiring and then who will run today's nonprofits? I don't think there will even be blip, those jobs will be filled chop-chop. All I can say is this... let's hope the sexiness of radicalism rubs off on our new conformists.


An Aside:

Keene's article really held a quite different premise, that:

(in)the Web 2.0 world ... the nightmare is not the scarcity, but the over-abundance of authors. Since everyone will use digital media to express themselves, the only decisive act will be to not mark the paper. Not writing as rebellion sounds bizarre--like a piece of fiction authored by Franz Kafka. But one of the unintended consequences of the Web 2.0 future may well be that everyone is an author, while there is no longer any audience.
The threat doesn't give me pause. I say the more the merrier. After all, where would I have had the chance to read these two articles written six years apart, and then brought to me via nonprofit bloggers, were it not for all this information overload?


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Monday, November 05, 2007

REMEMBERING MY MISSION: NONPROFIT PHILOSOPHY

Reprint: originally titled "The Dearth of Nonprofit Thought" posted on NetSquared

It's time to strike up a conversation backed by sound research, philosophy and experience. How is it we don't have our own "Wall Street Journal" by now? So much of the real estate space in nonprofit rags is devoted to a) our own salaries; b) how to raise money; or c) what nifty new accounting software we should buy.

I launched the Nonprofit Eye to do my part - kickoff some discussion on real stuff, like revenue recognition, the meaning of charity, the hazards of promising too much, the oxymoron of performance outcomes, etc. etc.

Join in, viva la revolution!



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Sunday, November 04, 2007

HOW SEO SUCKS THE LIFE OUT OF NONPROFIT BLOGGING

The short answer? Yes (now you don't have to read the rest of the article!).

In search of the holy grail of blogging (search engine optimization), I employed techniques suggested by the experts and, voila! I:
  • Decreased my bounce rate
  • Increased my stickiness
  • Increased my unique page visits
  • Achieved a better goal conversation rate (more on that later since I'm not converting anything to sales)
  • Got more subscribers
  • Got a higher Google Page ranking
  • moved up in the Google search results
In essence, everyone who's questing after SEO's dream.

So what's the problem?

Sigh. I killed my joy of writing, I left my own goals (not Googles) in the dust.

First, I narrowed my focus. My analysis showed most visitors were coming to read technical articles on accounting and compliance. I added more paths:
  • from these frequently visited pages to other similar articles
  • from the home page to a directory of similar articles
  • from the home page to specific follow-up pieces
These efforts immediately shifted my writing priorities from the joie de writing to the capturing of "eyeballs".

Second, I changed my headlines. I saw this coming back in April 2006 (ironically the month I wrote my first post) when I read a New York Times article "This Boring Article is Written for Google". As a writer (or wannabe), the crafting of a punchy headline is half of the fun or writing the story. SEO killed that. The NYT article defined the difference as witty vs. literal. Who wants to read literal? For that matter, who wants to write literal. Witty was always my writing goal, but no more. What was the title I wanted to use? "What if you gave a blog and nobody came?".

Apparently the heading wasn't enough, the search engines scan the first line for similar keywords, to avoid false leads. Thus my unaesthetic "double headline". The more the keywords appeared in the subsequent text the better. Enter redundancy. For example it would be good to mention here that SEO is killing my nonprofit blogging (sigh).

Oh, what tangled webs we weave when first we practice to...

Third, links were a problem. external links send readers away. I can't have that! Remove the links to your favs? Enter the exchange of friendship and community for self-interest. I changed my links from my friends in the blogosphere to internal links to my own posts. Whoo hooo. Way to encourage a dialog.

Then again, how do you have a dialog if you have no readers?

Conclusion? The jury's still out. The challenge is clear. We can't let little bots of code define our agenda, we can't let the limitations of programming reduce our writing to the lowest common denominator... We can't. But what's the alternative?


Read more on frustrations with SEO: I will not blog about blogging

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