things to think about

today i am thinking about: the trouble with twitter
November 23, 2009, 11:11 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I am on the road right now, which means that I am spending my days in the car or on site for art — building shit, sorting shit, making shit, or driving through the tiny winding backroads of the southern midwest. It is an amazing change of pace from my day-to-day life in NYC, where I am a fundraising professional(tm) and I spend my days crafting emails just so and worrying about attribute fields in the database and I have to cram all my artmaking, socializing, personal care time, and “other” into my aterwork hours, which are always (it feels) under fire from the mountain of work I am handed at all times.

In the land of non-profit fundraising during a recession economy (sorry, economists, I’m not buying it), there is an enormous amount of energy put into trying to figure out exactly what we need to be doing. Do we need to be using Facebook? How? Will it monetize? How many eblasts are too many eblasts? How long should your subject line be? How do you get people to open? How does direct mail play into your online strategy? And (the subject of this): do we need to be Twittering?

Just before this trip, I went to a conference about fundraising and fundraising systems. Twitter was on FIRE at that conference — just click here to see what I mean — by the end I was joking I needed Twitter detox. I also went to sessions about Twitter, and how to do it “right”: conversate don’t shout; use short funny links; talk to other people on Twitter and link to them; use twitter metrics to figure out what other people are saying and how to join them in the conversation. These are how you “succeed” at Twitter, which no one actually really defined beyond “get more followers,” as if more followers is a good thing in and of itself.

So I love Twitter. I love Twitter because I like the challenge of being pithy in only 140 characters. But as I am on the road and able to check it only sporadically — when I am not working actively, when my hands are clean, when I am in a city large enough to connect on my phone or when I am staying somewhere with wireless internet and nothing better to do — I have to say, I am getting my detox. I go back now and I skim through and the signal to noise ratio is just astounding. I like the people that I tweet with, and I have some interesting exchanges, but I find myself sitting here wondering exactly what it is, aside from some loose connections with folks, that makes Twitter worthwhile. Would I go out to dinner with some of my Tweeple? I can ask them questions, which is useful, but that seems to only work if I have enough people to ask, and I do not want to just go around adding people for the sake of adding them. How does Twitter work in my life — professionally, personally, artistically?

See, back in NYC my life is completely unmanageable. I have a lot of confusion about what and how to spend my time, and I never have enough time to do the things I want. I just read this article about time management, and the thesis was basically “do only the things that get you where you want to go, relentlessly say no to everything else, and you will make miracles.” It is a seductive pose right now, especially as I am on the road and getting to be monofocal about the single thing I love the most. I want to go back home and clean out the clutter so I can do my job well, finish my job, and go to my other work. This feels challenging, especially since — as mentioned — the fundraising world is cluttered with a lot of noise as we all try to figure out how on earth we can do the work of bringing resources to the movements and concerns we care about. And then, of course, there is the other question: will Twitter and Facebook bring me better audiences for my art? For the other things I do?

I notice a trend between how often I post on FB, or how often I tweet, and how often people reply to me. Those rules hold true: people like conversers more than they like shouters, and frequency of participation means I am more likely to be seen in the endless and overwhelming stream. But what is this getting me? Is it really getting me more social connections — maybe. But I wonder: if the answer is no, it is because I am not using my best practices, or thanking the people who RT (that’s retweet) me — or is it because it just isn’t the place to make real connections? My real social connections allow for the fact that maybe I can’t get back to you immediately, or I might need you to repeat something. Are Twitter relationships so fragile that they need this much tending?

I am skeptical of a set of best practices that require spending all my time on Twitter. I am skeptical of how to make these things people recommend for Twitter etiquette workable in my life, a life that frankly does not need any more time at a computer doing work that is not the work I want to do.

So, artists: how do you use twitter? So, everyone: what are the material benefits you have gotten from twitter? Tell me about how you cultivate your twitter audience and how you feel it benefits and supports your life.

Now, excuse me: I have to tweet this.

today i am thinking abt: tall vgl hotel fun
November 18, 2009, 10:32 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

So I am travelling for work right now, at this huge conference that honestly has been feeling daunting. I am used to movement conferences with hoodies and t shirts, not dress conferences with prime rib and art installations. It’s been ridiculous.

The best way to cope with this, of course, is to do what my people have done best for years: find the gay mafia. It took me all day Monday, but finally I found a few homosexual men to say hello to and trade conference tips. I am in a pretty lucky place for this conference, in that talking about my job requires me to be pretty out (“we are a social justice foundation that supports lgbti groups working for social change”), and I am rather visible in the context of fundraising fashion. So I made some homo man friends, and they’ve hooked me up: getting me into the fancy reception, having fun playing erotic photo hunt, and turning me on to something I never would have considered: conference ass.

Friends, Romans, countrymen, thanks to the 21st century, I bring you Craigslist.

See, this conference is huge. I am not sure how many people are here but let’s just say a crapload. We are a huge block of people in each of three or four hotels, each of which I believe sold out their conference space. And evidently, say the faggeaux, there are some folks who are using craigslist to see if they can’t take better advantage of their large hotel bed and clean hotel sheets than, say, I am.

Craigslist does this thing where links expire. So rather than linking, I am going to quote. I also have some difficulties about what happens when you expose secret cultures to the light of day, even when the light of day is still the relatively private venue of this blog; sorry pals. You’ll just have to trust me on this.

Here we go: the secret underbelly of the conference I will not name. (Why blow up someone’s spot?):

Laid back visitor to char. Looking for Jo buddy. Can host or travel. Role play…Jo/oral. Hit me back with stats and info about yourself. Glwm/5’11/160#

MWM, 42 in town Monday night for one night. In hotel by outlet mall and looking to have some man on man fun later that night. 5’10”, blue eyes, brown hair, hairy chest and 165. Looking for a wm my age or younger. Into body contact, sucking, nipple play and if chemistry is good, there will be more. If interested send me your stats and if you have one, a picture. Looking for after 8 pm monday night.

you needing 3 your 3 cock sucked,,,,,6,,,,like to 3 blow a 1 load 2 all over 3 my 1 chest,,,3,,,,oral bear type 6 botom here,,,,,msg me

white male here wanting your load, now !!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

Any hot men out there vgl 5’9″165 hairy pecs legs, hit me up

Masculine, fit, discreet professional visiting on business… like to meet similar for mutual play and fun…. discreet, masculine, fit only…five feet nine inches 42chest32waist… get into hot, man to man, body contact, stroking, kissing, sucking, rimming if clean… ddf here and expect the same…Reply with stats, interests, and pic…. discreet and laid back is given and expected… just two buddies having fun….

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Please note that this is not even opening the Adam4Adam bucket.

So this conference I have been at is — how do you put it — straight. Really straight. Not intensely overbearingly straight, but really straight. It’s a lot of huge organizations, development staff is generally speaking somewhat more conservative…you get the gist. I have felt fine at it, but definitely like something of an outlier. And here I come to find that there is an underbelly of gay sex pulsing right below my fingertips (figuratively speaking.) Some of these ads were at my very hotel – AS WE SPEAK there could be gays fucking. It thrills the voyeur in me that some of the men I might ride down in the elevator with are straightening their tie because it got loose sucking cock.

I’m not one of those people who gets mad that these guys are being discreet/not all identifying as gay. I know, I know, OUT PROUD WELL ENDOWED, it’s almost 2010, come out come out wherever you are. I don’t think you have to identify as gay to have gay sex and I can understand how some folks who might want to identify as gay just don’t feel like they can make the hard choices that can sometimes require. It’s not on me to dictate how someone else lives their life. (Provided they aren’t being anti-gay hypocrites — I’m looking at you, Larry Craig.) I am comforted, though, by knowing that underneath this veneer of professional professional suit suit suit, there are real people too.

Last night my mom called me again (like she does sometimes) totally out of her mind (like she is sometimes.) I was at an event for high-level clients that I snuck into thanks to the gay mafia, and I answered probably — to be honest — because I had had too much to drink. And as she started wailing and gnashing her teeth and all this, all I could think was dear god, not HERE. Not here in professional land where we’re all FINE and OKAY and GOOD THANKS. Not here while I’m wearing a jacket and meeting people. Everyone at these conferences is so FINE and OKAY and GOOD THANKS — maybe we’re tired, but with the eyeroll and shrug that means “that’s just because I am so busy and important and you know, the last time I wasn’t tired was 1993.” Being a professional means pretending you don’t have an animal self. The MLA had a panel on conference sex, and it is hard to find other written references but I know people joke about it — I just have to admit that I haven’t seen it. (Maybe I don’t know what it looks like when straight people are cruising each other for a little discreet fun?)

So I am comforted that something as public as Craigslist is blowing up my illusions of everyone as highly slick professionals at all times. I am comforted by the reminder that we are all people under our suits and collared shirts. I am comforted by the reminder that things are not what they seem, and especially that this conference is not as cleanly heterosexual as it appears. I hope all those ads got it on — maybe with each other — maybe in the room next to mine. Here in the South, where I have been expecting to be marginalized, I have to remember that things are often queerer than they seem.

today i am thinking about: (database) justice takes time
November 16, 2009, 12:49 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I am writing to you from the floor of the 2009 Blackbaud Conference for Non-Profits. I am here as the representative for my job; at my job, I am officially the development associate but I am functionally the database manager. I came into this job a year and a half ago, a promotion from the administrative assistant. My only Raiser’s Edge experience was restarting the server a couple of times when the previous database administrator — the membership coordinator, now departed — needed me to hit reset.

In the past year and a half we have gone from a database that did not function to a database that is actually almost reliable. We have a gift coding system that is functional, predictable, and straightforward. We can reconcile with Fiscal — our October numbers reconciled out of the box. We can pull reports predictably and we can trust the numbers as they appear; we can make mailing lists that routinely exclude the people they need to exclude; we have policies and procedures in place for a variety of challenges; we have consistent styles in our database; we can process heads of households correctly; we have set reports we use and refresh every single time so that we know we are looking at the same thing. In short, the past year and a half has been some kind of database revolution, and at the helm of it has been little old me, a week of RE Essentials, 113 calls to Blackbaud Support over the past year (I called to count!), Google, common sense, and occasional professional assistance from a consultant.

I am so proud of this work.

But here I am now, at this conference, this huge conference with thousands of people, and all I can see is how far we have to go. I am one of many people here who must be the only person here from my organization — I am only here, in fact, because I won a registration — and rather than seeing all the possibilities, at this moment I am challenged by how far we have to go. Our big goal for our next appeal is to segment our list by giving level more finely than major donor vs. house donor — our big goal for our next appeal (which I anticipate won’t be more than 1500 pieces or so) is to have an actual targeted and numeric ask. For those of you who don’t do much direct marketing, this is such a basic step that I am actually unsure I can find a metaphor to adequately explain how basic it is.

So I am trying to find all the sessions that talk about things like “how to build maintenance routines for the first time” or “how to use query to really kick ass at that mailing” — and that information is here. I wish there was a track that was “Raiser’s Edge for tiny organizations” or perhaps “Help! I inherited this busted-ass database! What do I do first? What do I do second?” I can’t use tricks in RE 7.91 because we can’t upgrade until we figure out how to get PCI compliant, which we are doing but it’s slow. We looked at using NetCommunity or Sphere for our online work but it was just so expensive — thousands of dollars more than the other competitors — that we decided to forgo it and are cobbling together something we can do ourselves out of Democracy in Action, which we STILL might drop in favor of CiviCRM. This is a cross between a user conference and a sales event, which I knew going in but it makes me wish there was more overt discussion of these concerns and what non-Blackbaud based solutions might actually make more sense for some organizations, especially organizations like mine.

Of course, at a conference put on by the scion of nonprofit donor databases, the thesis will be that more information is always better and more analysis is better and the best way is using our tools. Segment your list and the money will come in! Track what your clients are doing, add these actions to the telethon script, and watch your donations soar! This is all so obvious that it is almost without comment; I am just frustrated because I know I am not here able to sign a contract and start my brave new world of metric-driven, well-staffed, scientific fundraising.

It is funny, because I look around this conference floor at all of these INCREDIBLY ESSENTIAL! TIME SAVING! COST-EFFICIENT! services people want to sell me, and I can feel that little voice at me: how on earth can we possibly raise money if we are still not 100% sure we are capturing all of our major donors all the time? How on earth can we possibly raise money if we are writing an appeal letter with only one ask paragraph for everyone? If we don’t have action tracks? Data enrichment?

Oh right: the strength of the work. The people who we partner with to change the world. All these systems will make us better, but we have made it happen anyways.

In our grantmaking and in our other programs, we are such firm believers that change takes time — justice is incremental and changing hearts and minds is a fight we are in for the long haul. I really just want a database revolution right now. But we are doing the work of the database revolution — beginning to use analytics. Making those 113 phone calls. Sending emails. The exports and imports. This stuff takes time and I am trying to remember that rather than feel inadequate that we have not already reached database nirvana.

Maybe I will take it on myself to twitter a revolution and make a meetup for people who need that small shop talk. Maybe I will take copious notes and make an action plan, distill the theory of what we could do from the practice of all of these more expensive branded solutions. There is something to be said for being scrappy, after all; there is something to be said for the innovation of need.

today, briefly, i am thinking about: fatshion again
November 15, 2009, 8:30 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

So i am sitting on st. mark’s place waiting for my friend and i am watching the parade: nyu, nyu, punk, square, nyu, neighborhood, tourist, tourist, impeccable faggot with round glasses and a beret and pointy-toe sneakers, tourist, punk.

and so far i have only seen 2 fat people, and they looked – at first – so much more poorly dressed to me. She was in black exercise pants that were too short, and a tank top layered under a purple shirt. Black sneakers, unexciting. he was wearing a flannel shirt and normal cut too-light jeans and i didn’t think to look at his shoes because i was too busy judging, one, and realizing i was judging, two.

I include myself when i say: why do i hold fat people to such a high standard of appearance? because i am watching the people and for every nyu fashionista there are plenty of sloppy students wearing exactly what those kids were wearing. and i can totally pick – “but her pants! but his jeans!” – but i’m obfuscating.

bc i am facing lately my own intense fatphobia. i am facing the standards i hold myself to and how ridiculous they are. no one looks perfect all the time, and no one should have to, and frankly it’s funny to me that an outfit that would look sloppy-chic on a skinny person instead looks sloppy, to me, on a fat one.

i am lucky to run in a world with many paragons of fatshion crossing through it. i am lucky to live in a world where i know i am bringing the garbage and that my pov is actually not correct at all. i can tell myself i just want to run after her and be like “hey! You should find pants that are long enough! Cuter sneakers!” because i love fashion, but let’s be real, in a liberated world it wouldn’t even matter if she was so sloppy or not.

i am thinking abt this in relation to gender presentation, too; in relation to how some people don’t care about fashion. How i need to learn those are valid choices too, not to judge, just to accept and let people be. Some genders aren’t on the same axes as mine; some people don’t care about pocket squares. I am neurotic abt fashion details in part bc of my own fatphobia; in part bc i just like it. Not everyone cares so much, and that’s fine – even healthy – it just challenges my own ability to be accepting. That’s on me, not the people who pass me. Sometimes – at least, they tell me – it’s ok to just put on some yoga pants and get on with your life.