Technology

One Last Jump Onto the Tech Soapbox

By / Aug 31, 2020 (vasiliki/E+/Getty Images Plus)

The weekly Associations Now tech blog is going away, though our tech coverage will very much be sticking around. Here’s a reflection on eight years of nerding out on association tech every Tuesday.

If nothing else, I’m good at finding a soapbox and jumping onto it with both feet. Perhaps in a different world and generation, I would be the town crier, breathlessly shouting about the future to anyone who was ready to listen.

Today, I’m still shouting about that future in my own way, but I’m going to try a different approach beyond the soapbox.

For the past eight years, I’ve been writing this blog once a week, highlighting the ways that technology is destined to affect associations. This is an important message to highlight, because the truth is that there has been no trend larger and more noticeable during that eight-year period.

When I started writing this way back when the Associations Now website launched in October 2012, my pieces were often about emerging trends related to mobile, such as BYOD (bring your own device) and responsive design. Now, technology has permeated everything, narrow and not so narrow.

It was a growing trend back then, but now it’s an absolute juggernaut. Perhaps never before in the history of the association space have the imprints of external technology had such an influence on the way that we work on a daily basis. A decision by Facebook, Google, or Apple can affect the way you do your job or reach your members.

Of course, that does not mitigate the need for specific or more narrowly defined technology in the association space, of the kind that surfaces at ASAE’s TEC conference each year. Discussions about content management systems, AMS platforms, cloud computing, and IT infrastructure are not only prevalent, but they can also reshape an organization’s destiny by making it work better and more efficiently. After taking into account the people running the organization and the members who make it all possible, these are the foundations from which a modern association is built.

We’ll continue to cover these all-important topics in the months and years to come, and I’ll be helping to highlight big-picture tech trends as always. But I’ll be pushing the soapbox off to the side, and we’ll be integrating technology issues into our daily news coverage. (If you have a good idea for something I should touch on, as always, my inbox is open.)

In place of this blog, we’ll be starting a new feature called the Weekly Now, which will highlight the latest news and trends in the association space. It will generally run on Tuesdays, but it will make its first appearance on Wednesday, September 2—a.k.a. tomorrow.

Some Good Stuff in the Archives

So now that I’ve gotten that news out of the way, let’s get nostalgic for a little bit.

I’ve written a lot of weekly posts over the past eight years—according to my count, 390 in all. I won’t claim to have a perfect record, but I do think I’ve touched on some fascinating trends. These are a few of my favorites:

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‌Kick Out the Jams: The Hot Content Tech You Should Be Keeping an Eye On. This recent piece, about the rising trend of JAMstack, was not only personally interesting to me (I actually am a nut for content management systems) but it also pointed to an important technology for associations to keep an eye on, even if they aren’t looking to change their CMS platforms anytime soon.

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What Happens When Everyone Offers a Membership Model. This piece from 2018 highlights a trend that I think will continue to grow in the technology space: the evolution of membership into something that nearly every company with an internet connection does. Associations were the innovators here, and that should not be lost on association execs every time they sign up for someone’s Patreon or Substack.

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Why Is Your Association Still Sharing PDFs Online? This 2016 piece made a case against PDFs being used online in places where they don’t belong, like press releases. I’ve probably softened a little on the hard-line since, given the stronger permanence of PDFs over HTML, but the fact is that PDFs are still harder to use than they need to be.

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The State of Email Design Stinks. This was a pretty pointed headline, and suitably, it generated a lot of discussion around ways to make email better. Since this piece was published almost five years ago, Gmail has improved its rendering capabilities significantly, and developers focused on building emails have come up with innovative techniques to fix it. I’d like to think it was because an important conversation started with this post.

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Enterprise Social Networks: A Chicken-and-Egg Problem. “If the social enterprise is gonna hatch at Microsoft scale, we either need better eggs or more eager chickens,” I wrote at the end of this 2014 piece. “I’m betting that we’re more likely to see the former than the latter.” I’m bad at predictions, but given the pandemic-era success of Slack and Microsoft Teams, I’m pretty sure we did, in fact, get better eggs.

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Google Glass at Events: A First-Person View. There was a time not long after I started writing this blog when the most hyped thing in the universe was Google Glass. It sounds funny to think about now, but that’s something that happened. At the 2013 ASAE Technology Conference & Expo, before its rebranding as ASAE TEC, I managed to get my hands on one of these and wore it around for a little while. While the technology was perhaps of dubious usefulness, it was a conversation starter of the first order.

While this weekly blog is going to step aside, my plan is to generally keep writing nerdy things.

May your association stay innovative.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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