July 4, 2008

Bulk view

Sowing seeds: What is technology evangelism, anyway?

Today, I want to talk about grassroots adoption, when you’re trying to influence people around you to try out something new–a new tool, a new idea, a new way of working–without dictating to people. I hope that I can help you get a better sense of where other people are, what might be stopping them from moving forward, where you are, and how you can get better at helping other people learn.

I’m interested in this because as a technology evangelist, I’ve talked to a lot of people about social tools like blogging and wikis. Over the next few blog entries, I want to share some of the objections that I’ve come across. I also want to share some of the methods I’ve tried and observed.

But first, let’s talk about what technology evangelism is. You might be wondering why I use the term “evangelism”, considering its religious roots and sometimes negative connotations.

For me, evangelism has that hint of being more than just a dry list of facts. You want to inspire people to action, and you want to do this in a way that sticks even when you’re not around.

The technology you want to promote is not going to be a perfect fit for everyone or every time. Technology evangelism is not about convincing people that your way is the right way. It’s about showing people what their options are, helping them find something that fits them, and helping them learn how to make it part of their work or their lives. (I forget this sometimes, too.)

So if a technology isn’t going to be a perfect fit for everyone immediately, how can you encourage grassroots adoption?

One way is to scatter the seeds as widely as possible. If you reach out, you might find a lot of people who can benefit from the technology you want to promote. Help them, and their success stories and influence will help you reach out to even more people.

You might not have that option. You might have been asked to help a team get up to speed on a tool. You might want to explore a collaborative tool, but before you can take advantage of that tool, you’ll need to get other people on board too. (After all, you can’t collaborate on your own.)

This is where it can get frustrating.

Next post on Monday (or earlier =) ): Sowing seeds: Five common objections

Weekly report, week ending July 4, 2008

As promised, weekly report on Friday instead of Sunday! Let’s see how well that works.

This week:

  • Drupal: Our CSS person started work. Hooray!
  • Drupal: We switched over to the next phase of configuration management. Instead of dropping and recreating the database from scratch, we now have to work with a live database, making sure that we don’t lose the editorial changes that users have been making. It’s pretty straightforward with Drupal, actually. Database changes are added to module .install files as modulename_update_() functions. Edits and other system changes are handled in the .profile and through the Web interface. I should blog about this soon.
  • Drupal: I handled lots of little defects and a few larger changes.
  • Speaking: Prepared another presentation for the upcoming IBM Academy of Technology conference on collaboration. “Sowing Seeds: A Technology Evangelist’s Guide to Grassroots Adoption.” Uploaded it to internal file-sharing site.
  • Speaking: Got the survey results back from the IBM Technical Leadership Exchange! Blog post about that later.
  • New hires and networking: Had lunch and tea with some of the other new hires and older employees. =) Good stories. Also, started working on a guide for new hires.
  • Work: I wrote two short Ruby scripts that analyzed internal blogging, bookmarking, and file-sharing activity for one of the communities I’m active in. Posted the results in internal blog posts.
  • Work: I started putting together some resources for fellow IBM newbies. It’s in our internal version of Pass It Along.
  • Fight/fitness: Not much this week. Just one class of yoga because the gym was closed on Tuesday and I was feeling tired last Thursday.

Next week:

  • Drupal: Survive the demo. Plan tasks for the next phase and clarify my responsibilities.
  • Speaking and presentations: Write blog posts / speaker notes / articles for my upcoming presentations. Make plans for conference travel.
  • New hires and networking: Make a one-page list of tips about IBM and Web 2.0