Sunday, November 10, 2013

What's your profile?

DSC_1828Roses are red, violets are blue
Who are you?

Egg for photo
Equal to zero 

Profile blank
No rank

Nothing down
Not is this online town

Blank ProfilesNo image for your face
Failure in online space

No description
No depiction

An online name
With no aim

Need some chiding

For online herds
The Eternal HandshakeDescribe in words 

Say hello
Let us know

Online scripture
Upload a picture

Up to us
On the online bus 

Narrate a few 
Connect with you
Blog Marketing Up Close Blue Pen Graphic
Give us a view
Follow you

Know you
Friend you

No longer a trial
What's your profile?

Creative Commons License
What's your profile by Anne Mims Adrian is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License  Based on a work at

This poem is written out of my frustration in seeing many great professionals who are dipping their toes in the social media waters and are limiting their professional and personal learning because they are not adequately describing themselves in profiles. 

Their bland presence means that they are not reaching the potential in building relationships. They don't realize what they are missing. 

Complete that dang profile!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Do the Math: Cooperative Extension's Reach

While trying to obtain some information on some recent tweets, I ran a TweetReach report* on my last 50 tweets-something I have never done for my own tweets. I found the tweets I was looking for, but I also was totally surprised by the the number of accounts that could have seen my tweets. The last 50 tweets in the last 4 days including my name reached 36,000 accounts. Doing a little math and extrapolation, I can reach 63,000 accounts in 7 days. I then had to ask a "What if.." question. Imagine the potential if every Extension professional had a significant online following and presence.

How many Extension professionals can say that could have had anything they talked about have the potential of reaching 63,000 people in a week?

It is rather silly to think that every tweet was seen by every account. Here is expanding the "What if.." scenario. What if 10% of the 63,000 accounts saw tweets from me? That means 6,300 people in a week read something I wrote. How many Extension professionals could say that 6,300 people read something they wrote in the last week--or every week?

This post is not about me--it is a demonstration. It is about What if each Extension professional had a a substantial and meaningful online presence?

Almost 4,000 people follow me. Although I believe some Extension professionals could have many more than 4,000 followers, I am assuming that most Extension people will have fewer people follow them in Twitter (or in any other network). Now, let's do more more math and estimation.

If each of the 15,000 Extension professionals had 2,000 followers, then as an organization, Cooperative Extension, we could have the potential of reaching 47 million people (20% of the U.S. population) in a week or a realistic 23,000 people in a week. By the way, 15 to 20% of the adults in the U.S. use Twitter, and many more use Facebook.

What if 2,000 followers is too aggressive? If each Cooperative Extension professional had a following of 1,000 people, then Cooperative Extension would have the potential of reaching 23 million people (10% of the population in a week). That percentage is very close to the percentage of adults who have said that they have used Cooperative Extension (according to the Copernicus  study).

This Google Doc Spreadsheet shows my calculations.

As I did this estimation, here are some of my additional thoughts in creating online presence.

  • Creating an online presence does not exclude from having a strong local face-to-face presence. 
  • My interactions from week to week change a bit. For instance, this week I interacted with a few accounts I have never interacted with before. My engagement ebbs and flows as I learn from new people and interact on different topics. Therefore the people who read my tweets and interact with me are not always the same from week to week.
  • Cooperative Extension and land-grants are missing out on a lot of potential because our faculty, educators, and professionals are not online--opportunities are lost. 
  • We are also not reaching our potential because Extension professionals who are online are being too conservative in reaching people whom they don't know. 
  • Most of my interactions are with individuals and not very often with organizational accounts. Interactions and sharing best happens with people -- not with organizations. Thus, the reason we need to pushing for individuals to work in social media.
  • Twitter is my most active account and it is the easiest to measure interactions. I am also online in several other accounts. While Klout has many faults, it does provide some relative metrics. Using Klout, these are my accounts where I interact. These are listed in order of the "graded" interaction: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Google +. Any of these accounts can be used for connecting, conversing, and learning from others. 
  • I am not advocating that every professional has to be active on Twitter, though Twitter is by far the easiest to use. I am trying to make the point that if each Extension professional were to create a strong online presence, then we could become a lot better at reaching more people than we are currently. 
  • It has taken me 6 years to build a following of 4,000. I don't use any automated services for following or unfollowing. I have learned to be more liberal in choosing who to follow.
  • As I become more active in any given network, I gain more followers and increase interactions. 
  • It takes assertive efforts to get the value of online networks and connecting with others.
  • There is nothing Cooperative Extension is doing from a traditional standpoint that comes even close to reaching this kind of potential.  The "Connectedness" discussion of my virtual keynote to Iowa State Extension, describes a part of Cooperative Extension's reach problem. In the Copernicus study, it is recommended that Cooperative Extension brand ourselves better. However, I firmly believe we must also be doing more individually.

If you don't know how to get started or how to improve your online presence, start by becoming involved in the Network Literacy CoP.

*If you are wondering TweetReach accounts for duplicates. For instance, my colleague +Rusty Presley (@rpresley) and I have some of the same followers. In the calculating the accounts reached, TweetReach takes in account duplicate followers.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Is it really a problem?

I find solace in that I am not the only one who feels this way. MTV's Bill Flanagan of CBS Sunday Morning finds the phrase, "no problem" to be a problem. 

About three years ago in a instant message when I asked for help from a colleague, I said "Thank you" he replied "np".

This happened a few more times with different colleagues in instant messaging until I looked it up. "np" is a short form meaning "No problem". Honestly I was still perplexed. What does that mean?

When someone is doing their job or exceeding their job and someone else recognizes the effort by saying "Thank you" why is the response "No problem"? It made no sense to me.

Not until recently when I was with a friend who thanked a waitress for bringing our drinks to the table, the waitress replied with "No problem" and my friend blurted out "I hate that phrase".

Immediately I found kinship. "Why?" I asked.

He said, "What does 'problem' mean?"

I said "A 'problem' means something is wrong."

His response "Right, a negative, a bad situation or issue."

By saying "No problem" one is implying that there is not a negative or bad situation. A person doing a service as part of his/her job should not see that task as a problem.

When one is doing one's job, why would one turn attention to a potential problem--negative issue--when one does not exist. Doing one's job, paying attention to others, reacting in ways of service or solving problems is opposite of a negative connotation.

When excelling at at a task, one is at the other end of the spectrum from the negative. The "No problem" response is rather silly.

When is it that "no problem" is an appropriate response? Maybe, when a customer asks, "Would it be a problem to do ..?" and then the appropriate response could be "It would be no problem to ..."

Words having meaning. Giving service at the minimum maybe one's job. Making a customer feel like you enjoy waiting on them gives meaning to your service.

What are more appropriate responses? A simple "You are welcome." A better answer is "My pleasure." What are others? Whatever your response is, don't indicate that it could have been a problem.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Jim Novak--quietly influential in my early career

About this time of the year 25 years ago, Jim Novak hired me to become a Microcomputer Specialist. I had just finished my Masters in Agricultural Economics. In 1987, there was a need for training, support, and direction is using computers but few people thought computers were worthwhile the effort and time. Most certainly discounted the importance of computing and technologies that linked us to each others. For instance, networking online and using Mozilla made little sense to most--few saw the value. In fact, I remember one Extension agent in a meeting vehemently declaring farmers would never use computers. We see how well his prediction held out. Farmers are some of the most technologically advanced small business owners around.

During the years, I have found lots of energy in helping others understand that the future does not look like the present. Over the last 25 years, technology has changed the way we work and how we communicate, collaborate, learn, and socialize. These advancements give us access and connections to people we would have never met before. Networking online serves as our gateway to diversity of thoughts.

Jim Novak and Gene Simpson understood the significance of connecting professionals and clientele. They provided a vision for Alabama Cooperative Extension System that set a stage and ignited our efforts in front of most Cooperative Extension services. An important piece of this vision was Gene's hiring Jonathan Davis to develop a wide area network for Alabama Cooperative Extension in 1987.

Jim Novak at his retirement reception in Comer Hall
I am very grateful that Jim saw something in my own talents and abilities that I did not. He gave me a great start in my career with a great organization--Cooperative Extension. Jim and Gene allowed us in the technology unit to use our own ideas in a constantly changing environment. That freedom was essential to my professional growth.

Though it was not clear at the time, Jim's faith in my talents gave me a confidence to keep rowing in uncharted waters throughout my career. I am still trying to convince people to see the future in way that does not look like that past or the present.

Thank you Jim for having faith in me as I was a young professional. And, thank you for your service to Alabama Cooperative Extension.

Enjoy your retirement!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

John Seely Brown's Global One-Room Schoolhouse

Thanks to Stan Skrabut sharing this video in Google Plus.

The Global One-Room Schoolhouse: John Seely Brown (Highlights from his "Entrepreneurial Learner" Keynote at DML2012) from DML Research Hub on Vimeo.

I watched John Seely Brown's video Global One-Room Schoolhouse and Entrepreneurial Learning twice and wrote down words and phrases that resonated with me as important to understand. Some are concepts that I am afraid we are not seeing and understanding because we are so very tied to the traditional, one to many, industrial educational model.
John Seely Brown Global One Room Schoolhouse
As knowledge workers and educators, we are responsible for understanding our own effectiveness and lack of effectiveness and for understanding how our work and decisions will affect our failure or success in the future.
If institutional structures of learning--institutions of schooling, universities and research universities education and universities and look the same as they do now, we have problems. (paraphrased around 1.12 mark)
Recently I have seen reports from some administrators and educators on the skills that they think that we need in the future for public education. The report was disappointing because what some educators see as necessary for the future is based on the way we have worked in the last 30 years.

Brown's analogy of the advantages and environments of the one room schoolhouse reminds of the effectiveness and why we should be return to Seaman Knapp's and George Washington Carver's Extension models.  

Access to more and different kinds of information, joint context creation, co-learning, and contextual ubiquitous learning means we should be asking:
How do we transform from a slow moving steamship set on a course to kayaking into the flow?  (paraphrased around the 2::00 minute mark)
We better be creating arcs of life learning, creating content in joint contexts, participating in ever-changing knowledge ecologies, and orchestrating learning for ourselves and others.

I would love to see examples of institutions looking at learning in this way. Hopefully, you can point me to some examples.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Alternative Keynote Session

Tomorrow I will be discussing elements of the Iowa State Virtual Conference Keynote address Continuous Beta and a Healthy Dose of Paranoia in a webinar. We hope to have some discussion at the end of the 45 minute webinar.

Other information and connection information can be found:

Please join us on June 25, 2013 at 3 PM Eastern. If you can't attend the archive will be added to the website above in a few days.

The recording of this keynote is located

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Continuous Beta and a Healthy Dose of Paranoia

This is the original script for the Iowa State Cooperative Extension Virtual Conference keynote address. The presentation can be found The recording of the keynote can be found 

Continuous Beta and a Healthy Dose of Paranoia

Before we get started I want to applaud you, the organizers of this conference, and your administration for developing a state conference different from any other. Cooperative Extension has conducted other virtual conferences—the first one I spoke at was in 2009 when North Carolina State held a statewide technology virtual conference. eXtension has hosted several virtual conferences. This one, in Iowa, provides the efficiency you would expect but also folds in other concepts like a flipped classroom and a blended approach. I congratulate you on trying something new and taking a risk.

My discussion today will be based on a few concepts of changes and why we need to look at our work and the way others work differently. We will also discuss some skills we need to work in this new environment. We will look at how a fast and continuously abundant flow of information, including noise, makes it harder for us to listen and to be heard. It also gives us great opportunities for inclusion and diversity and how “do it yourself” creativity, innovations, and research are important to our work. They cannot be ignored. Hopefully, the discussion today will help us understand how interconnected we are to the forces of change.

The part of the title “Continuous Beta” is the first concept of change we will discuss.

Continuous Beta

Are you, both personally and professionally, and is Cooperative Extension ready to perform, produce, learn, connect, communicate, and make a difference in a perpetual beta environment? The term perpetual beta comes from the idea of keeping software in a beta development stage for an extended time maybe indefinitely. A beta stage is where software is usable but not completely tested in multiple and unforeseen situations. The advantage of having software or some systems in perpetual beta is that these systems can be changed rapidly allowing for continued development. Continuous beta also means that the system is agile.

Obviously continuous beta is not suitable for mission critical systems—such as airline traffic controls and selling products if that is your bread and butter. A beta stage to Cooperative Extension is attractive because the environment in which we are trying to make a difference is complex and influenced by fast flowing and abundant information from vast and diverse sources.

As we look at solving complex problems, we may want to look Dave Snowden’s Cynefin framework. Complex problems have no known solutions and to solve complex problems we need to probe sense, respond, create emergent solutions and then repeat as we learn. So you see there are reasons to develop a Beta mentality about our work. We are in a time that Cooperative Extension is needed more than ever, but our successes will depend on whether we can listen and assess needs in new ways, be agile, rapidly rapidly, include others outside of the land-grant system, and be willing to experiment.

The Connected Worker
The Connected Organization
The next concept of change is Connectedness.  We are now connected in ways we have never before. We can Skype across the world, we can conference, share documents, and simultaneously or asynchronously edit those documents, we can share our most endearing, most embarrassing, and most mundane moments with select friends and with the world.  We can play games of strategy, bartering, and power with people all over the world and while playing these games we can have social interactions—conversations beyond the game itself.

We can take a class with thousands of others. In that class, we can select who we want to collaborate with, study with, and help and get from, with the intention of never meeting our classmates or our teacher. We can create music, movies, computer programs, and science projects with strangers. We can play music with others in outer space. If we are not the connected worker, we simply are not reaching enough people with the same goals.

I know many of you are very well connected in your local communities. That has been Extension’s model. Embed Extension agents in communities to build credibility, access needs, and help to solve problems, and change behavior—all to improve lives and our communities. The 2008 Copernicus survey found that only 27% of the population had ever heard of Cooperative Extension. Only 11% had used Cooperative Extension at least once in their lifetime. When we look at the numbers in the 18-35 year old age group, these numbers are incredibly dismal. I suspect the numbers in Iowa are better than the national numbers—but not greatly.  Cooperative Extension simply has to reach be more relevant, reach more people and brand ourselves better.  

Nodes of Networks

The fact is that we are part of many networks.

In the 50s and 60s and possibly the 70s, Cooperative Extension could set the norms of communities. Often times, the county agent was one of a few people in the community besides the local doctor, veterinarian and possibly the preacher, who had a college degree. We still hear stories today of how Extension agents were the connection to the land-grant universities. In strong 4-H programs, this may still be true.

However, the environment has changed and we are not the only ones in local communities with college degrees. This is a success of Cooperative Extension—we helped people in local communities understand the value of higher education. 

We simply can’t be setting the norms if people don’t know who we are. Instead we are now members or nodes within many networks. These networks are interconnected. The bigger the node—the more connected and possibly more influential. Our individual roles vary across networks.

When we think of ourselves as being a node within a network rather than being the one person of authority, we should change the way we do business.

More people can develop content. Yes, there is a ridiculous amount of noise. We also know that serious amateurs are doing research and are creating content that is research-based. Yes, some of content generated is biased. But remember, if we are not setting the norm (albeit we probably can name few exceptions), and we are nodes within networks.

Another reason we are not setting norms in communities is that the amount of information today available is almost incomprehensible. Every two days we create as much information as we did from the beginning of time up to 2003.

Let’s look at some examples.

Frank Kovac, a Wisconsin millworker, always dreamed of becoming a director of a planetarium. However, college math was definitely a trouble spot. Without a college degree, he was determined to fulfill his dream. He built his own rotating planetarium and you can visit the planetarium in Wisconsin.

A 15 year-old finds a new way to detect pancreatic cancer. This new way is simpler and less expensive and can be performed much earlier than the current method.

A homeless man finds a way to hack sites and becomes employed. Isn’t this exciting? Everyone can make a difference. Serious amateurs can provide innovative and useful contributions. 

So what is Extension’s role in local communities and online? I say this as if local communities and online communities are separate—they are not. We have only one life. The two are not separate. Local communities extend themselves online as well. We are members of interconnecting networks.

Communications and knowledge expertise is no longer in a hierarchy one-to-many structure like many traditional educational models. There is now dynamic flow of power and authority based on knowledge, trust, credibility and a focus on results, which is enabled by interconnected people and technology. In other words, a few experts no longer hold the authority of knowledge and information. Harold Jarche says that organizations need to learn as fast as their environments.

Is Cooperative Extension learning as fast as the economy changes, adjusting as fast as technology advances, and adjusting to the increasing flow of information? 

Can we learn to work in a wireachy knowledge environment rather than hierarchical one?

Disruptive Innovations

Disruptive technologies are innovations that put unwieldy businesses out of business. Kodak did not respond to the rise of digital photo technology and the change in customers’ and potential customers’ behavior.  Are we in Cooperative Extension blind to the pressures of public accountability, funding responsibility, and changing information political, and economical environment? 

Disruptive innovations provide new value through new products, processes, or concepts. Extension work can be affected by disruptive innovations. Mobile computing has led to mobile lives.  According to Prosper Insights & Analytics
60% of smartphone owners say they cannot live without them.

Wearable computing and Google glasses will bring new meaning and opportunities to ubiquitous computing, visual application, and geolocation. Wearable computing will provide new opportunities for sharing and contextual information. Wearable computing will provide new challenges particularly to privacy concerns and information filter abilities. Google glasses and wearable computing increases data, choices, sharing, and perspectives in ways we cannot imagine.

Let’s consider what your own faculty described. Nancy Franz and Ronald Cox in the Journal of Extension offer these reasons as to why Extension does not embrace disruptive innovations as threats or opportunities. The bolded ones are the ones I am most concerned about.
·         Lack of urgency to innovate
·         A lack of diversity in customer base and staffing
·         Strong linkage to academia, bureaucracy and historic slowness to react to change
·         Lack of operating with a business mindset
·         An expert model paradigm rather than collaborative paradigms with clients
·         Over reliance on rural customers
·         A lack of customer management/tracking over time
·         Status quo 
·         Over dependence on past sources of funding

The challenge is to not get in the way of innovation and to develop structures that support the messy process of experimentation, creativity, innovation, and failure. 

Big Data

What do we mean by Big Data? Everything—purchased, searched, shared and every response and location can be and will be recorded. We have entered a time of having increasing information on almost everything. Companies use this information usually in aggregate to targeted marketing messages and these tactics are becoming more and more just-in-time.

For instance, at big sports events, phone companies gather data on users within in specific location and the data are combined with demographic data and are sold in aggregate to marketers. Companies can determine if sponsorship at a venue drives sales. Big Data allows companies to see trends and patterns to make production and service decisions as well.

Big Data also provides community, health, environmental, finance, and economics information. We will continue to amass more data that can better predict epidemics, for instance. Big Data means that more sophisticated analytical tools need to be created. Not only will we need better decision tools, but also knowledge workers will be called on to have higher levels of sense-making skills and programming skills.

On a negative side, there is no doubt that people will grow more concerned over privacy invasion.

Extension’s role is to understand the implications and how to decipher and make sense of findings. We have great potential in helping others understand the benefits of big data and the changes in privacy. We need to be able to filter and interpret the information.

We must be agile in working with a variety of organizations in coming up with practical solutions—possibly on the fly. In times of crisis, we may not be able to have tested research in hand. Are we positioned to react in minutes, hours, days, and weeks? Months will possibly be too long.

Race with the Machine Economy

We are now already in a data, knowledge, and service economy.

Big data, machine automation, machine learning, artificial intelligence, knowledge automation and services are changing economies.

MIT professors, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, tell us that the traditional method of measuring economic growth does not accurately measure the value in innovations, services, and current economic changes. The knowledge and service economy does not adjust to government and other interventions as when we were in the industrialization age. During the industrial age, manual laborers shifted from rural locations to urban locations.

Innovations in service industries and technological advances don’t displace only the manual laborers. Machine/computing automation has already replaced people like bank tellers. Knowledge automation or artificial intelligent systems are replacing tasks performed by higher level knowledge workers, such as legal staff and some accounting professionals. Computing systems now perform legal discovery, costing a small fraction of legal staff and these systems are much faster and more accurate. Hopefully, these systems mean lower billed hours. These systems also find documents that are related through concepts—related concepts that could be helpful to cases.

You may ask then where legal staff members who have done these kinds of services go. It is possible for them to “step down” in the career ladder. Or, they could become better sense-makers with better analytical skills to “move up” in the career ladder. Legal staff members now are called to curate information and organized the most important information found through automated discovery.

As smart as these systems are, the best knowledge systems are those where humans and computers collaborate—working together. A new thought on virtual collaboration, heh?

The good news about improvements in technology is that it creates massive wealth; the bad news is that not everyone shares in the prosperity.

You could be listening to all of these changes and question whether Cooperative Extension can survive or whether you, as an Extension professional, are ready or willing to get ready for all of these changes? You may also be thinking that these changes are not going to affect your local community. I would caution you on having that kind of thought. Interconnectedness cannot be underestimated giving you power or making you insignificant.

But I have hope. I have a lot of hope. Cooperative Extension is needed more than ever. But, we simply can’t wait until “our clients” adopt technology—I would argue most already have. And remember we are not reaching enough people. For those people who we are not reaching and should, how do you think they are working in this connected world?

Where do we start? What skills and mindsets are needed to succeed? Most of the skills and approaches fall in an individual domain to take responsibility for developing. But, please also think about the culture and leadership can influence a learning organization.

Skills need for the Connected Worker


Curation is a perfect opportunity for Cooperative Extension. Curation is what we already do at the local level, particularly one-to-one interaction. Local agents put information into context, helping clients understand benefits and options. The online curation is an aggregation of lots of information from lots of sources, filtering the most important, making sense of the information within relative points of context, and designing discussions, articles, and graphics in ways to help others understand. Curation is much more than aggregating. It’s making sense of all that we know at a moment of time. Curation should be done in a public, open, shareable way so it is use can be multiplied and scaled. Curation can be done with others. Virtual collaboration enriches the curated product.

Extension professionals are groomed to become online curators and providing thoughtful filters. Some example curation tools are: Community Gardens –Illinois
Twitter Paul McKenzie, Ag Agent


LinkedIn: Early Ed for Military Families
                                                                                                                            Stan Skrabut, Wyoming

Kurator Bob Bertsch, ND State

Storify This presentation

Informal learning

Only 10-20% of learning takes place in formal settings. Informal learning is the responsibility of the individual. The opportunities to connect with others like yourself and those you would never have a chance to meet are endless—Embrace it. The skills needed today are changing as fast as the environment is changing. It is essential that one finds new information and keeps up to date. But keeping up date with only the latest journal findings will keep us woefully behind. As professionals we have been called change agents—change agents do not wait until their clientele has adopted technology to adopt technology—change agents adapt technology first.

One tactic of informal learning is to have planned serendipity.  That is to put yourself in communities that you have never been a part of. Learning a technology just because. Learning a concept outside of your focus area. We don’t come up with new ideas by continuing only the connections we had. We develop new ideas when we are exposed to a diverse opinions and knowledge.

Technologically Adept and Socially Savvy Online

Staying connected means that one has to become technologically adept. This is one of the 10 skills named by the Institute of the Future. Along with the technology skills we in Extension must learn to connect, converse, build, and maintain relationships like we have traditional taught young agents as they began their work in local communities. Another skill in the Institute of the Future report is to be able to virtually collaborate. We don’t have the luxury physical meetings to do our work effectively.

A professional and staff development unit can carry you only so far. You have to be assertive in learning.  In fact any Extension professional who is not willing to learn is not only is hurting him or her self but is doing a disservice to the greater Cooperative Extension system and to his or her community.

Some suggest that college graduates today need to know basic HTML—the programming language behind every web and mobile application.

The eXtension Network Literacy Community of Practice is an excellent way to get started. They use a variety of ways for professionals to learn including virtual immersive learning.

eXtension’s Learn site provides webinar offered by different institutions. For instance Stan Skrabut from Wyoming lists all of his social media sessions on eXtensionLearn and welcomes others from other institutions.

Balancing new and old

Knowledge workers will need to learn to balance integration, oversharing, massive information, noise, finding, and sharing the relevant.  Accountability is not only reserved for government and watch groups, but now is possible at the ground level. We will continue to balance calls for rapid responses and try to stay focused for the long-term goals.

Society will struggle with more polarized politics and opinions, possibly enabled by sharing and connectedness. Extension will struggle as how to work with diverse audiences who have much different views than we do personally.

Balancing will evolve. We can start by not polarizing the questions we have. Why do we say face-to-face is always better? Instead maybe the question is what are advantages and disadvantages of face to face and virtual? Or maybe we should ask how we can enhance the effectiveness of both by merging them? For instance look at how television networks are embracing and capitalizing on social media around movies, showing and big sporting events.

Confident paranoia

This is probably the only time you will hear the word paranoia in a positive sense. It is a skill every advisory council member, program assistant, local agent, campus faculty, middle manager, administrator, and university president should develop.

Confident paranoia means you are not comfortable where you stand as a professional and you are not comfortable where your organization stands. Confident paranoia means you know there is always someone or something that can take over and that there are ways to adjust and serve better and differently. 

I recently met a young man who played football for a mid-major Division I school in the Southeast. He later played a short while for the pros. He was teasing a few of us about the Auburn and University of Alabama football rivalry and then he got serious and he explained why he respects Alabama’s Coach Nick Saban—the University of Alabama has won 3 national championships under Coach Saban since arriving at Alabama in 2007. He also won a national championship while at LSU years before.

The young man explained how young athletes (the ones who get recruited to major Division I schools like University of Alabama, Ohio State, and Notre Dame) have been told that for the last 8 to 10 years of their lives that they are great because of their abilities, strength, size, speed, and athletic smarts. In the local communities, college potentials are held high on a pedestal—with pride as locals want these kids to succeed at the next level.

Saban recruits these great athletes—like all great coaches. These athletes become Coach Saban’s first, second, and third string players. Saban does not tell his players how great they are. Instead, Saban continues develop players making each one better. If they want to keep playing they have to keep getting better. This is a healthy dose of paranoia—knowing that someone can take your place.

Imagine if Kodak had had a confident paranoia when making the decision not to embrace digital technology. Imagine if Blockbuster had had a confident level of paranoia and reorganized and rebuilt the business based on buyers’ changes in behavior.

In the case of Saban’s great college football players, they, most of the time, can identify the next player and compare the next player to his own strength and weaknesses.

In Cooperative Extension, we can’t necessarily identify the next player, but we can see the horizon. Being a little paranoid should lead us to make changes that keep us from becoming obsolete.

The complexities of society, environment, energy, public health, knowledge, data and service based economy, and feeding 9 billion people mean that Cooperative Extension is needed more now than any of us can remember. But we can’t solve problems, make a difference and reach enough people if we don’t embrace the opportunities and benefits of working differently.  This means developing individual skills, and organizationally letting go of some controls, and learning to probe, sense, and respond to emergent problems.

It is an exciting time to be working for Cooperative Extension because our potential for making a difference could not be better.

My challenge to you is find one or two things you will learn to do differently with the goal of reaching more people, connecting with someone with whom you would not normally connect, or collaborating to develop programs with someone outside of your normal area of work and comfort area.

All the resources I used can be found: and I welcomed continued discussions. Email me or you can openly make comments on my blog

I want to thank you inviting me today. Also I want to give a shout out to Robin, Lisa, Brian, Daniel, Nancy, and others for guiding me and helping me feel comfortable with the broadcast.  As always, the Iowa State web conference crew is a topnotch group to work with.


Normative to nodes

Rate of information

15 year old finds a way to detect pancreatic cancer

60% of smartphone owners cannot live with their phones

Disruptive Innovation in Extension

Marketing and cell phone companies

Steven Rosenbaum design and curation

Informal learning

Informal learning

10 Skills needed for the future

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Working for Cooperative Extension's Future

Below is statement (adapted slightly from its original purpose) of some of my views on how Extension should be approaching marketing, communications, and educational efforts. In the spirit of transparency, I am sharing these thoughts and would love to hear from you on these concepts and other ways that we can do a better job of convening education, communications, and marketing in Cooperative Extension.

The flattening of the information flow indicates that communications and marketing methods should take advantage of the knowledge and appreciation of others and engage them. Also online and offline behaviors are becoming less separate. We already see this convergence in those who have never known life without the Internet. Today’s youth do not have separate online and offline lives—they have one life—a concept that most adults have trouble understanding, yet our future depends on our understanding these changes.
While we know that those who use Cooperative Extension are very satisfied with Cooperative Extension, we are not widely known to the public (2008 Copernicus Survey). Only 15% of the U.S. citizens between the ages of 18 and 35 have heard of Cooperative Extension, and only 27% of the US adult population knows who we are. A dismal 5% of the younger adults have used Cooperative Extension and 11% of the US adult population has used Cooperative Extension. These findings indicate that we need to do a better job branding Cooperative Extension. Part of the strategy is to blend our educational and marketing efforts—organizationally and individually. Faculty, agents, and staff who represent Extension everyday are our best resource (haven't we said this for decades?) and the best way to develop and deepen our credibility by working differently.

Some concepts and traditional approaches to education and marketing should continue to be the basis of our work, however Extension needs to find ways to reach and scale the effectiveness of our programs and meeting new expectations of the public. This different way of working includes communications, marketing and educational efforts that are merged and building relationships with people who don’t come to our meetings or into our local offices.

Working differently to connect with others includes being open and transparent, learning and sharing simultaneously, and embracing co-learning and contributions outside of land-grant universities. Interestingly, these values are not different from the early days of Cooperative Extension with on-farm research and in-home demonstrations. Today though, we have the ability to scale and spread the interaction and engagement in new ways.

While we want to continue to use some traditional marketing efforts, occasionally we need to jolt audiences or potential audiences with unique and disrupting messaging. Cooperative Extension generally does not want to upset (for good reasons) our existing clientele—clientele who are often like ourselves. Sometimes we have to test the system in order to make progress with clientele who we are not currently reaching by using disruptive messages in education, communications, and marketing. This approach may come with risks but has the opportunity to reach new audiences. These decisions should be considered and weighed.
Some elements of a converged educational and marketing effort:
  • Start with a mindset that marketing is not a separate function than the educational function and that these efforts are everyone's responsibilities--not just those in the communications and marketing units.
  • Make a habit of listening (like any good marketing plan)--listening in communities we are not active in and in communities where we already have relationships. 
  • Think of building online relationshps like we think of building relationships locally.
  • Think about how to share while we are learning. We don't have to wait until published results are available to start discussing what we already know.
  • Develop a plan of work but make sure there is room to adjust. Opportunities may come about in unexpected ways.
  • Plan and develop strategies and tactics for communications, and most importantly, engagement, but be flexible to seek new ways and discard ways that don't work. 
  • Know that community building and participation are works in progress and will grow, but the growth may be more like a curving spiral and less like a line.
  • May need to target certain connections and interests.
  • Be ready to identify new connections because of serendipitous encounters and plan for serendipity.
  • Evaluate based on goals and search for patterns of activities, evaluating each stage and change tactics along the way.
  • Involve more than one person to keep organizational accounts up-to-date as staying consistent is difficult with only one person.
  • Encourage individuals to establish and develop their online reputations.
  • Understand social media is more than Facebook and Twitter and is more than the technology itself. Contributing in collaborative environments maybe the very best way to grow ourselves.
The process of "scaling" ourselves without growing our organization begins with understanding what the challenges, opportunities, and characteristics of the future.

"The medium is the message. This is merely to say that the personal and social consequences of any medium - that is, of any extension of ourselves - result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology."  Marshall McLuhan


McLuhan discoveries help us understand that failing to interpret how technologies shape us and how we shape technology means failure to be prepared for the the future.

Some of the ideas in this post came in part from some books I have read recently. I found these books particularly useful as we look at Cooperative Extension's future:

The Connected Company by Dave Gray and Thomas Vander Wal

The Race Against Machine by Erik Brynjolfsoon and Andrew McAfee

Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson

The photo is embedded from Flickr

Monday, January 7, 2013


It did not dawn on me until I read a tweet that said something like " I want Notre Dame to win because I don't want the SEC to win another championship" why I have struggled with this game.

I have ties to both Alabama and Notre Dame. For goodness sake, I live in the state of Alabama and work for Auburn University. My nephew has a degree from Notre Dame.

Put this in perspective: in about an hour Notre Dame and University will be playing for the NCAA National Football Championship (Division I).

One of the most talked about titles about this game is Cousins vs. Catholics. UGH REALLY!

I hate categorizations. Period. I do it my mind. Many categorized because they want to make sense of a complex world but I hate categorizations and chastise myself when I do.

I have until this point not chosen a favorite--the team I want to win tonight--or the team I want to lose.

In 2010, Auburn University won the National Championship. It was so much fun to watch Auburn play. It was fun to watch Cam Newton thrill us. And before the Cam Newton controversy started, this video of the quarterback who loved helping kids was produced. This video about the influence for kids who need an influence:

Prior to the Bama game, SEC championship, and National Championship in 2010, there was much hate on Twitter,  Facebook, and blogs gainst Auburn and Cam Newton. Crazy as it seems, a man allegedly poisoned our beautiful oak trees. The controversy and the hatred made me realize that I am better than that! And so is most everyone else!
It was back in 2010 that I vowed to myself to

  • be for something or for someone; 
  • not be against an organization and not against a particularly person.

The politics in the US have become polarized and unproductive mostly because more about being against the liberals or against the conservatives, and not for what individuals believe in. The Obama and now Boehner (during the election is was Obama vs. Romney) hatred is disgusting to me.

  • We have the freedom--express your views. 
  • We have leaders in this country--respect them. 
  • We have different views in this country--learn from them. 
  • Pray or give positive thoughts toward leadership.
  • Know that being against a person or an organization will not lead to long term productive results.

Off of my podium: here is my thought about the game.

This game tonight is fun and is important for the pride of winning. I hope I see a hard fought ballgame that signifies that each team deserves to be there.

Additionally, I hope that all athletes and coaches show their abilities and meet their potential and give to their communities because they have great opportunities to do so.

May the best team win! And afterwards, many benefit from the participation of college athletes.