Sunday, November 6, 2011

Technology is a Tool - Not a "Tool"

Technology is a Tool

(Just an excerpt from the most recent IT Update at the City of Shawnee I wrote. Nothing earth shattering but quite true IMHO)

Just like the caveman used a club and fire, the modern man and women have tools to do the jobs of the day. The computer, and other technology, are simply that… tools of the current time. Yes, we still use clubs and fire, but just like in the caveman days, the ones what knew and used the tools the most effectively survived yet another day and thrived.

It’s pretty hard to think of any position at the City where a computer type device doesn’t come in to play somehow, somewhere… or won’t be in the near future. Meter readers use handheld devices, janitors use email, offices workers spend a majority of their time on a box, Police have laptops in their cars, Fire has iPads in their hands. Water and Sewer plants run on embedded systems, and Cemetery workers use databases and soon GPS and GIS. Garage mechanics lookup manuals and help online, and soon line workers will be using iPads to see their networks of water and sewer pipes.

So when we hear someone say “I don’t know much about computers” I pause and think: “How do you do your job then?” I know, maybe we’re partial to the whole technology thing since that’s our job to keep it all working, but seriously, how do you do your job the most effective and efficient way if you don’t know the tools you use?

If you’re waiting for someone to show you everything you need to know then you’ll always be behind the learning curve. Just look around a little and you’ll see all kinds of help waiting there for you to be proactive with. On the COS Intranet you’ll see Computer Self Help, INCODE Help and Documents, Global Records information, how to add printers, setup email, and more. And once you are using a piece of software, nearly everything you need to know is often lurking behind that HELP button or menu item. If you say you don’t have time to learn, I challenge you that you don’t have time NOT to learn how to be more effective with the tools of the 21st century… technology and computers.

Just don’t use the club or fire I talked about on the Computer.. that doesn’t help.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Presenting YouTown - Learning about

In October of 2011, I had the opportunity to assist in a presentation on a mobile app the City of Shawnee is currently testing / deploying for one of our mobile solutions as well as sit in on a meeting about a major website redesign project the City of Oklahoma City has underway. Interesting and informative day.

YouTown App Presentation

The presentation audience were government entities, primarily State Agencies and Libraries, from across Oklahoma attending the annual Oklahoma State Webmanagers Group (OSWG) - See #OSWG hashtag on Twitter or the OSWG Website for more information. Although I did not attend many sessions due to presentation coordination and planning time on site, both Governor Mary Fallin and Oklahoma State CIO Alex Pettit were keynote speakers at the conference.

The presentation went well with DotGov Inc/YouTown's Director of Government Operations Sid Burgess leading off the discussion about the history behind the app, and an overview of the company. Sid has been a local Gov 2.0 advocate in Oklahoma City for several years and was the brains behind the past Oklahoma Gov2.0a (applied) forums that brought in Open Government and social media experts from across the nation for presentations, City Camps, and discussions. Sid is moving to Seattle to open up the first DotGov offices in the United States the end of October 2011. He will be missed greatly by many in the OKC and beyond area.

Derrick Silas, Web Communications Development/Social Media Specialist from Enid continued with their involvement in the YouTown Beta test run, why they chose YouTown and how to setup various features of the app from the dashboard control. Derrick is deeply involved in the re-branding of the City of Enid and their use in Social Media and Mobile access and helped to bring YouTown to the forefront for Oklahoma cities.

I then discussed the news feeds, the ability to repackage existing data from your existing RSS feeds and the mapping options with emphasis on how we at the City of Shawnee are generating dynamic KML maps of all the various data feeds we have such as CAD Calls, nuisance properties, Police Incidents, etc. We appear to be the only YouTown user of the 300+ cities participating in the app that are currently doing this dynamically. However, we are lacking in general GIS maps such as zoning, water and sewer lines, etc as this information needs to come from the proper department in either SHP or KML formats to be utilized.

Although the audience were not City or Town based, DotGov plans to rebrand the app as simply DotGov or DotGov Mobile and market up the layers of government as they have done in other parts of the world. This provides the ability for a single app to aggregate news/events/mapping and service feeds for end users in a single app solution if desired. There are challenges, but acceptance at the City level has surpassed their expectations and projections to date.

If you haven't already, you should download the YouTown app in the App store for Apple devices or the market for Android devices. We will have a story in the Shawnee Outlook Magazine in the near future that will be timed with a press release and official publication of the YouTown app as well as our City of Shawnee Mobile Website.

I did stay and listen to marketing expert Korey Mcmahon from Norman Ok talk about using Social Media to market basically anything. Good session with general discussions of the various channels, motivational information about the possibilities and tools to monitor and use in the Social Media world. Nothing strikingly new based on our past use and experiences at the City of Shawnee but reaffirming if nothing else.

I also had a long lunch and coffee with Sid Burgess discussing the YouTown app, DotGov's future plans, and a City's needs and limitations, resources, etc as well as some technical features behind our data. DotGov is also working towards Open Data standards in government services and data that can allow better data exchange and more transparent government. I was asked to consider future travel to Seattle for a two day brain storming / discussion session to help explore the directions of DotGov and the needs of Cities similar to ours.

Link to a news release we are in:

Oklahoma City Web Site Redesign

While at the OSWG conference I was asked via Twitter by Oklahoma City Creative Manager Zach Nash to attend a public meeting about the redesign project of the Oklahoma City website ( at 6:30pm that evening. Zach was presenting / presiding over the meeting and was looking for input for discussions. I dropped by the meeting to learn more about their process. Unfortunately this particular meeting was very lightly attended with mostly staff from the PIO's office and IT being there. This is a City the size of OKC and that is the participation they get at this point. :-(

Although discussion was limited, it was another good opportunity to talk again with OKC IT and PIO contacts such as Zach and the Director of the Public Information and Marketing department Kristy Yager as well as IT R&D Specialist David Grothe and IT employee Dustin Gabus. The presentation was helpful outlining existing issues and future goals of the OKC marketing department and website as well as their hooks in Social Media. Information on their efforts to collect input to plan the redesign can be found at including their ongoing survey page which may be helpful in the future for our efforts. They are using a wide variety of input options including the survey, public meetings, email, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Wireframing apps as well as old school postal mail. A big outreach effort to insure the direction is what citizens want and /or expect.

Just another day well worth it outside the office…

-Stephen W Nolen

Thursday, January 27, 2011


So you fight the battles, figure out how to get through the best way you think you know how, make what you think are wise decisions, look forward and try to plan your best route through this thing called life and then WHAM - smack in the face it can all unwind.

Of course when you look back you usually see all those mistakes you couldn't see at the time. Those mistakes you should have seen but didn't. Maybe someone told you about them, pointed them out, but...

Those same mistakes also seem to be because many, if not most of those decisions, plans, and maybe even dreams where self centered, very much about YOU only.

It's funny and sad how you can get so tied up in what you think is "living", that when something hits you in the face and life stops for a moment for whatever reasons and makes you ponder, what you really care about the most may be already be lost and those things you were "living" really do not matter much anymore.

I'm sure like everyone says when you pick yourself back up and get back on the road of life things will get better again. Hopefully they don't get bitter as well. Just picking your way through the crash is very difficult, scary, and sad.

I recently heard this quote the other day but it is so fitting for life:

"Cherish today what you have because you don't know what tomorrow will bring or take away."

And true to it's form this does happen....