How to decide whether to join a volunteer board

Dinner Party DessertIt's an honor and a privilege to have volunteer opportunities to use our time and talents for the betterment of our communities. One common opportunity is to serve as a board member at an organization you care about and whose mission you support.

I've written before about things you might consider when leaving a volunteer board of directors for a non-profit or other community organization. I've also had some good conversations recently about the process on the other side of that kind of community involvement, deciding whether or not to say "yes" to joining a board of directors or taking on some other leadership role. For your sake and for that of the organization, it's important to do some research and reflecting before accepting that invitation, to make sure your involvement is a good fit and that the experience will be rewarding for all involved.

From my experience, here's a list of steps to take and questions to ask when you're considering whether or not to join a board of directors:

Continue reading "How to decide whether to join a volunteer board"

Tom's New York Deli changes ownership

In early January, I published a blog entry noting that Tom Amyx, owner of Tom's New York Deli here in Richmond, wanted to give away his restaurant to someone who could carry it forward with a positive and exciting vision.  It turns out that my blog post generated quite a few inquiries to Tom about doing just that.  A local couple, Ron and Rachel Hughes, saw my post, talked to Tom about the possibilities, and are now taking over ownership of the Deli as of this week.

Earlier today, I sat down with Ron and Tom to ask about how giving away a whole restaurant works, plans for the future of the Deli, and what Tom will do with all of his spare time (and cheesy jokes) in life after small business ownership; here are some excerpts from the conversation:

I love this city!  Thanks to Tom, Ron, Rachel, and the entire staff of Tom's Deli for living out a great vision for small business and community building in Richmond, Indiana.

Why can't those downtown merchants get it right?

There's an interesting and sad article in today's Palladium-Item, Main Street struggles for survival.  Articles like it are being written about struggling downtown areas across the country, so of course it's nothing new in "this economy," but because it's about the downtown in my community, I take special notice.

The article contains some interviews with downtown business owners, some perspective on the history of the Main Street organization there, and some talk of renewed activity from merchants and business owners (myself among them) in helping make the area thrive.  But there's something missing from the picture the article paints.

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Walking to Work

Main Street West of 8th - 1960For over a year now, I've lived less than a mile away from my company's office in downtown Richmond, Indiana.  And for the first time in my life, on most days I get to and from the office by walking instead of driving.  It's been a really enjoyable shift, and one that I hope I never take for granted, given how much of the rest of the country commutes to work every day.

Some observations on walking to work:

  1. Since walking has become my usual mode of commuting, I've found myself noticing even more what complex and sometimes onerous machines automobiles can be.  There a feeling of lightness I have in walking out the door and propelling myself down the street, feeling my muscles working and pace changing, saying hi to people and noticing changes in their moods and dispositions from day to day, just being out in the open air of the world.  This is much different from the protocols for entering, activating and safely operating my internal combustion go-go machine from one place to another; it's just a much heavier and more isolating experience, and while it still has its place, I'm quite glad to partake in it less often. Continue reading "Walking to Work"

Upcoming speaking events

I have a few upcoming speaking events that you might be interested in:

  1. Capitalism vs. The Environment: A small business perspective on doing well AND doing good. This coming Thursday September 24th at 4 PM at Indiana University East in Whitewater Hall Room 132 the Community Room, free and open to the public, no registration required.  I'll be talking about our experiences at Summersault as we've tried to do the "right thing" when it comes to the environment and nurturing sustainable lifestyles, and examine whether it's even possible to pursue a for-profit technology venture and not be in a harmful relationship with the land and life around us.
  2. Get Techie, Get Social! A workshop to help non-technical people learn more about technical topics, especially social media like Facebook and Twitter.  Monday September 28th from 9:30 AM to 11:30 AM at Morrisson-Reeves Library, free and open to the public, no registration required.  If you're at all intimidated by some of those "newfangled Internet trends" or the Internet in general, I hope you'll bring your questions and frustrations so we can work them out together.  There's a PDF flyer for the event.
  3. TCP/IP topics in Introduction to Computers and Computing.  I'll be speaking at this IU East class on Monday October 12th about things like DNS/Bind, network topologies and routing, e-mail technologies, and web technologies.  This particular class isn't open to the public, but if you have folks interested in discussing these topics in technical detail, let me know and I'd love to speak with your group.
  4. Communicating Through Technology. Friday October 23rd at 9 AM at a conference for women hosted by the Wayne County Foundation.  I'll be speaking along with co-worker Jane Holman about social media and general technology topics.  You can view the conference brochure in PDF, and registration is required.

I hope you can join me for one of these events!

Growing a Geek Culture in Richmond

Surveying the courseA few weeks ago I was asked to talk with some folks at the Wayne County Area Chamber of Commerce about Summersault's past, present and future, and I enjoyed the conversation and questions very much.  One really good question that came out of the meeting was "how can Richmond better encourage, nurture, cater to technology professionals like the ones working at Summersault?"  I'll simplify that question to be "How can we grow a better geek culture in Richmond?"

It's something that I think about a lot (especially when we're trying to hire someone), but I didn't have a ready answer - partly because there is no simple answer, but partly because I hadn't really ever taken the time to write one down.  Below is a list of ideas and comments, in no particular order, that came out when I put the question to the wider Summersault staff.  I hope that you'll contribute your own thoughts and suggestions, and I'll pass the list back to the Chamber and anyone else I can find who might be in a position to work on some of these things.

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Obama, Gates and Restorative Justice

When Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested on July 16th at his house in an apparently over-zealous and possibly racially charged police decision, everyone involved quickly fell into the usual pattern of conflict for these kinds of incidents.  Statements were released, lawyers were hired, accusations and implications were flung, and everyone prepared for to defend themselves in battle.  The media did its usual thing, egging on the conflict and brinksmanship, interpreting every action and word in the worst possible light, and the parties involved in the fight used those channels to communicate their anger with each other indirectly.  When President Obama first got involved, he only escalated the situation by first admitting that he didn't have all the facts, and then proceeding anyway to say that one of the parties involved had acted "stupidly."  Awful and disturbing, but pretty much what everyone expected.

But then something curious and possibly amazing happened.

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Cutting the Grass

Leaning InOne of my recurring summer jobs, in addition to filling and unfilling the tubes of the Internets, is to adjust the height of the small vertically-oriented plant life that densely covers the land surrounding my house.

Many people refer to this act as "cutting the grass."

Over the last few years I've tried quite a wide variety of approaches to and implements for "cutting the grass," and I'd like to share them with you now, because imparting unsolicited and only moderately useful information to a halfway-interested audience is what blogging is all about, no?

  1. Not mowing the grass at all.
    Continue reading "Cutting the Grass"

Things to know if you follow me online

If you spend any amount of time following my online adventures - through my blog, Twitter, Facebook, or otherwise - then there are some things you need to know:

  1. Please don't assume that you know me because you read my posts or status updates. I'm not saying this because I think I'm mysterious or hard to know, I'm saying it because I believe reading someone's status updates does not constitute an engaged and genuine human relationship.  I do use the Internet to express myself, but only one very particular slice of myself.  I hope we can talk "in real life" or even via more direct online communication if we really want to get to know each other better. Continue reading "Things to know if you follow me online"