Generational Writing

ASAE received a letter from a member of the millennial generation, Brynn Grumstrup Slate, in response to an article they published about millennials. An excerpt:

As an engaged ASAE member and a member of the Millennial generation, I appreciated the column “Preparing for the Millennial Tsunami” in the May issue of Associations Now. The article would have been even more effective, however, if it had integrated the voice of a Millennial in addition to the experienced views of Bruce Butterfield and Susan Fox and shared a first person perspective on the work habits and career goals of this emerging group.

I’m right there with you, Brynn. The same thing always made me uncomfortable as a Gen X’er myself. There are still speakers and authors talking about how to work with Gen X even though some of us are now over 40 years old. They should start having sessions on “How to work FOR Gen X” soon. 🙂

My suggestion for Brynn and other Millenials (and any other generation for that matter) who feel cut out: start your own blog or other web site and express yourself. Formal publications are easily routed around these days.

Ben Martin had nothing to do with this post but I’m linking to him anyway.

Draft Standard from ASAE Data Standards Committee

If you need some reading for beach this weekend, have I got a draft standards document for you!

Seriously, the draft standard described in the announcement below is the first step in an overall effort to improve the ability of association systems to integrate more effectively and efficiently. If you are an association IT exec or a technology vendor serving this market, please take the time to review and comment upon the draft.

The ASAE Data Standards Task Force is pleased to announce the release of
a draft standard for expressing constituent records in XML. This
standard will serve as a core for expanding into other data
representations. Therefore, it is especially critical to gather feedback
on the draft standard from the association technology community.

Please go to this page on the ASAE web site in order to download the
standards documents:

Please review the draft standard and consider how well it serves your
needs as an association or those of your customers if you are a
technology vendor. Once you have reviewed the standard, please provide
your comments.

You will need to register with the site in order to submit a comment,
but you do not have to be a member of ASAE. Go to the same page from
which you downloaded the documents
( and follow the
instructions on providing comments.

Non-IE browser (Firefox, Safari) users: Before logging in, you will
receive an error message “Website Certified by an Unknown Authority”.
Accept the certificate permanently and you’ll be able to continue.

Please share this message with your database experts on staff or with
supporting vendor companies. Their input as experts in implementing your
technology is highly valuable to the standards development process.

We thank you in advance for your critical review of the draft standard
and the feedback you provide.


Ben Martin has pointed out an interesting scenario for ASAE, who just canceled a small program that is highly valued by the few members who have participated in it. ASAE’s Prometheus program is an open space event for senior association execs that is purposely kept small in size. This is a great opportunity to facilitate the formation of self-guided group while moving an unprofitable program off the books. Will they see it as an opportunity or a pain in the neck? I hope the former. (Read Ben’s post for an excellent summary of the situation.)

Professional Milestones

I’ve had a couple of very nice professional milestones this month that I’d like to share.

One, I’ve been named to the Editorial Advisory Board for the Journal of Association Leadership. JAL is the only peer-reviewed journal for the association profession. I’m very excited to volunteer with ASAE & the Center in this capacity. I have also issued a press release on this with more detail.

The other is that the book I have been co-authoring with four other consultants is finally published! We Have Always Done It That Way: 101 Thing About Associations That We Must Change. We gave away a couple hundred copies at ASAE’s annual meeting and have had great feedback so far. It appears to have been the buzz of the conference!

When a Lawyer Designs Your Web Page

ASAE just posted the sign-up form for using their networking application for the Annual meeting in Boston this summer. This is a pretty cool little application from IntroNetworks that maps the social network of attendees, attempting to facilitate more contacts.

However. There is a rather unfriendly disclaimer posted above the join button, which includes this paragraph (emphasis added):

Attendee acknowledges through use of the System that ASAE & The Center for Association Leadership are not in the business of creating or managing online communities and it is the sole responsibility of the attendee to adhere to recommended terms of use provided by ASAE & The Center for Association Leadership.

Really? ASAE isn’t in the online community business? I don’t agree with that statement, so I guess I shouldn’t enter the network.

This is what happens when a lawyer, who is paid to play defense, is given too much sway over what goes onto your site. What a horrible message for any association to put in front their most committed and active members.

I would delete the entire statement and replace it with this: We are in the business of facilitating your member community. We welcome you to our network and encourage you to use it to maximize the value of your Annual meeting experience!

Update: Peter Hutchins from ASAE posted in the comments that they are working on updating the page and have removed the paragraph I mentioned as a first step. Thanks for listening and acting, Peter!

Attention Economy for Associations Podcast

As promised, here is the podcast that Ben and I recorded this morning. It runs just shy of 17 minutes.

MP3 File

One note: In the recording we mention that the Attention Trust sells attention data. I believe this is incorrect in that they offer a service for storing your own attention data online but do not sell that data. What benefit this offers to the individual is unclear to me. Maybe Ed Batista can chime in here on the comments on what benefit you would receive from loading your data into one of their providers.

Investing in the Attention Economy

Ben Martin and I will be facilitating a session at the upcoming ASAE & the Center Membership and Marketing Conference. We had a short article in an ASAE newsletter recently on this very topic as a lead-in to the session. You can read the full text of it below. Ben and I will also be recording a short podcast on this topic early next week. Check back here on Tuesday to listen in.

Hope to see you at the session!

Investing in the Attention Economy
By C. David Gammel, CAE, and Ben Martin, CAE

The amount of available information is growing exponentially, but human attention seems to be a limited resource. We each only have a finite number of hours in the day with which to live our personal and professional lives. The same is true for our members.

In fact, associations compete with each other and thousands of other organizations for the attention of their members. People are distracted by millions of inconsequential information sources and must filter them out in order to recognize the things that are most important to them.

To cope, many of our members work in a state of continuous partial attention. Often they divide their attention among several things at once, such as scanning e-mail or news headlines while talking on a conference call. Your latest carefully crafted newsletter might only receive a cursory glance before hitting the electronic version of the circular file. The implication: Your members must be able to quickly scan and discern the value of your communications if you want them to invest a higher level of attention.

This has significant implications for membership recruitment and retention. Members, for instance, base their decision to renew their memberships on the basis of their feelings of connection and engagement. That’s why it’s crucial that you get an appropriate amount of your members’ attention. Generally speaking, a prospect’s attention must be 100 percent captured for at least a few moments in order to complete any financial transaction.

The study of attention is called attention economics–a combination of economic analysis and data about the things to which people give their attention. Steve Gillmor, a popular writer and podcaster on Web technology, turned this research into a trend by gathering data on what people are paying attention to on the Internet and leveraging that data to provide better service and content.

Attention economics raises many questions for associations. How much of your members’ attention do you receive? How much do you want? What will you need to give to your members in exchange for their attention? Does an increase in attention per member mean that your revenue per member will increase as well?

To help answer these questions and further explore this topic, be sure to come to “The Unsession: How to Invest in the Attention Economyâ€? at ASAE & the Center for Association Leadership’s 2006 Marketing & Membership Conference. This “unsessionâ€? will be highly interactive and driven by the participants. We’re limiting attendance to the first 40 participants, so be sure to arrive early!

Update: Ed Batista, Executive Director of the Attention Trust, posted some more details about Steve Gillmor’s role in developing the idea of the attention economy. Thanks, Ed! (Ed’s personal blog was just added to Tom Peters’ blogroll. Nice!)

Martin for ASAE Scoble

Ben Martin wrote an April fools post about how he had just been hired as ASAE & the Center’s membership evangelist and would be blogging for them full time.

It is with equal parts excitement and sadness that I announce that I’ll be leaving my current job to join the staff of ASAE & The Center for a newly created position: Member Evangelist. It seems this little blog and my unmatched enthusiasm for the CAE has gotten more than a little attention over on Eye Street, and after a couple of interviews with Susan Sarfati and John Graham, they have made an offer I simply can’t refuse. My primary duties will be blogging on a new official ASAE & The Center blog, implementing a video podcast featuring members (e-mail me if you’d like to be among the first members interviewed) and ASAE staff, and undertaking a word of mouth member outreach campaign. I start May 1, so I’ll continue blogging here until that date, but of course, a condition of my employment is that I don’t maintain a personal blog about the CAE or Association Management or the Association Management industry. So, goodbye — and hello!

As someone commented on his post, I wish it were true! Hiring a Scoble-like person for ASAE is probably the best idea I’ve heard for them in a long time. Despite their best efforts, I think ASAE still has a transparency problem, and I’m actually in the governance. Ben would be a great person to help with that issue in that kind of role.

Paperless Conferences

Ben Martin has pointed out that ASAE & the Center Annual Meeting will be going paperless this year, which was a rather last minute decision by ASAE. It was pretty obvious that paperless is much preferred, in general, by attendees after they did a paperless meeting at the Technology Strategy & Solutions conferences and then followed that up immediately by a papered Great Ideas conference.

I much prefer not having a bunch of paper to lug around then throw out in the hotel room because I can’t bear to add it to my load of stuff to carry home.

Now they just need to get rid of the speakers. 🙂


I thought I would share an example I used in the Web Site Usability Workshop that I conducted with Dave, Frank and Joanna earlier this week at the ASAE Tech conference.

I started off by asking anyone in the room who likes burritos to raise their hand. 90 out of the 100+ people in the room shot their hand up. I had the right crowd!

What is the number one thing a freshmex burrito restaurant chain’s web site should do? Get you into one of their restaurants to buy a burrito. Simple enough.

Now, go look at The store locator has a convenient search box right at the top to put in your address or zip code and find the closest store. Simple and effective.

Now go to the web site. Look out for the flying burrito zeppelin! What is that spinning tomato/tortilla chip/hot pepper thingy doing in the middle of the page? How can I find a store? No way to tell without mousing over the chip and then futzing with an animated menu with no labels displayed by default. The only plain text link on the home page is to the privacy policy. (For once, a lawyer has a positive usability impact on a web site design!)

Both sites have a store locator feature. Only BajaFresh makes it easy to find and use that key functionality.

I asked the people in the room, “Who has the more usable site?” Answer: “BajaFresh!”

Then I asked, who probably paid more for their web site? “Chipotle!”

A usable burrito site doesn’t have to be an expensive one.

The lessons here include:

  • A great product can be undone by poor usability;
  • Usability can be a competitive advantage if your site makes it easier to do business with you;
  • If your product is sub-par, making it usable alone won’t help much;
  • Flying burrito zeppelins are kind of distracting.