December 14, 2010

5 tech tools for nontech people

If you're into technology, the 2010 Association Technology Conference is the place to be. But even if you consider yourself technologically ... challenged, there's still some great info floating around that can help you do your job better. A good session example? This afternoon, David DeLorenzo, chief technology officer of National Association of College and University Business Officers, Chris Shue, vice president and director of information services of Reinsurance Association of America, Loretta M. DeLuca, CEO and founder of DelCor Technology Solutions, and Maggie McGary, online community and social media manager for American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, presented "Cool Tech Tips in 75 Minutes," and offered up dozens of websites and tech tools. Here are five of my favorites:

  1. Tweetwally. A "tweetwall' displays all the tweets available from Twitter by hashtag, username, or keywords. This tool makes aggregating tweets around a particular event a breeze and can generate a URL of your tweetwall that virtual attendees can use to follow your event.
  2. Portable Apps. Portable Apps is a collection of applications that you can download to a thumb drive and carry with you everywhere. Keep your information to yourself but have access to your favorite computer applications while you're at a conference computer or a hotel business center with this nifty, and free, tech tool.
  3. FiveSecondTest. Working on some website upgrades? Though nothing can replace rigorous user testing, FiveSecondTest gives you a quick way to test out your latest website upgrades. It's simple: Create an image or screenshot of your website with a question such as, "Can you find the 'Contact Us' link?" and users get five seconds to view your image and respond to your query. Get the data from their responses. Make your website better and your users happy.
  4. Twapper Keeper. Yes, this one makes me nostalgic for the satisfying rip of Velcro on my old Trapper Keeper, and it's sort of like one because it can hold your most important information. In Twapper Keeper's case, this information is the archive of tweets from an event or about your organization. Since Twitter doesn't keep an archive of tweets forever, Twapper Keeper can archive what's important for your association to keep and organizes tweets by hashtag, keyword, or user. Take that data and make it into a spreadsheet or another nifty report.  
  5. XOBNI. This Outlook plugin allows you to see a sender's full communication with you, including past emails, attachments, and contact info. This is great for those of us who receive a lot of email but find that the Outlook search function doesn't always find what we're looking for. The basic version is free, but an upgrade might make your email life easier than ever.
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The Technology Hype Cycle

Reggie Henry at Tech10

I asked Reggie Henry, CAE, CIO of ASAE: The Center for Association Leadership, to share an important theme from yesterday's Technology Conference Town Hall Meeting. He said that an important concept referred back to what Gartner Research calls the Technology Hype Cycle.

"It's really clear that although everybody thinks digital is crazy important, that social media is critically important from a strategic point of view," Henry says, "the expected benefits did not match how important they said it was."

To begin to understand why, you need to follow the link to see Gartner's Technology Hype Cycle, or at least picture this: a graph with an initial peak labeled "peak of inflated expectations," which drops to a trough labeled the "trough of disillusionment," which rises again, less steeply, through a "slope of enlightenment" to the "plateau of production."

"I've seen every technology go through that process," says Henry. "Some take longer than others to get to that plateau. They stay in that trough until people decide what they want to get out of the technology, and then they develop a strategy around it and they develop metrics to see if that strategy is successful. Where we are with digital and social media pieces is that we've decided they're important, they're really important, but we don't know what we want from them yet."