Sometime last year, it occurred to me: I was a consultant. No, I don’t mean consultant in the Bain, McKinsey, etc. way. I mean consultant in the way that I started giving “professional” advice, specifically on the Middlebury online community. People wanted to know how they could tap into what Middlebury folks were doing online. These are the people that are fascinated with buzzwords like “Facebook” and “social networking” and “twitter.” I first helped Dean of the College Tim Spears and then President of the College Ron Liebowitz set up their blogs. Their success has been mixed with Dean Spears penning a really nice in-depth blog and President Liebowitz sticking to his press releases. Then, people outside Middlebury started taking note of my work over on MiddBlog and emailed me to get some pointers on starting serious college-wide alternative news blogs, in a slightly different style than over at Wesleying, which does a mix of editorial and announcement-making. Just today, a colleague of mine asked about starting a transportation website for Middlebury and another student called to discuss an upcoming symposium on campus that she wants to promote.
This isn’t to toot my own horn (to use an expression that I hate), but I realized that people, more than ever, want to get involved in using the web as a tool in activism and collaboration. And yet it seems, there is a shortage of people who have the skills to use the web. They do not have a vision for the possibilities of how to use web tools. So a lot of people come to me asking for a few minutes of consultation: what’s the best way to promote an event? what’s the best way to continue discussion post-event? how can we bridge the offline and online discussions? Sometimes, to be frank, I need to convince people that offline is better than online. The Middlebury community is enclosed in a bubble — use that to your advantage.
I am not a web genius. I have to point that out to people who try to pay me compliments. I don’t really code things that extend beyond HTML. What I do is stay up-to-date on the technological possibilities and present arrays of options. That’s the consulting I do and so far, I’ve found it rewarding and engaging to help passionate people do what they want in an engaging online way.