Monday, February 23, 2009

Teaching Me to Type

My mom taught me to type. It was an elective she taught and I chose to take when I was in junior high school. She taught me and a dozen others to type on those old typewriters that forced you to place lots of pressure on one key, a single, skinny arm would fly up out of the guts of the machine and slap a letter on to your paper. It was manual. You had to replace the ribbon that would get eaten up by the slapping, but you didn't have to turn it on or plug it in. It was an amazing little machine. We cursed how difficult it was to use.

I got up to 35 or 40 words per minute when I was in my prime. Now that I am using my phone to text, I am back down to under four.

It is funny that we would take the most technologically advanced piece of communication the world has ever seen...and TYPE on it! I really am struggling to figure it out.

Then I am sitting in this large meeting on Thursday and I receive a text. I dart my eyes back and forth to ensure I can respond discreetly.
I can.
I do.
I push send.
I feel like James Bond.

Is this why texting is so popular? We can pat ourselves on the back for multitasking? There are probably some other reasons it appeals to my base, but I still feel sneaky and dishonest by texting in a meeting. I am still very leery of what this will do to me.

Anyway, thanks Mom, your skill is still helping me today. But I am in need of a teacher for an even smaller, non-qwerty keyboard. Any 13 year old girls out there develop a curriculum yet?

Monday, February 16, 2009

My Attempt to inspire Fundraising on Facebook

Well, I should relay the story of last October's facebook fund raising escapade at some point. This is my way of saying thank you to my donors and trying to inspire more generosity from their own passion for justice.

Fundraising and Twitter - rabbit trail off the Dallas Twestival

Here is an article from the Chronicle of Philanthropy that asks the wrong question.

Hildy Gottlieb urges readers not to succumb to the “sirens song” of social media, which lures charities with the promise of raising money fast—and on the cheap.

I don't know why the conversation of fund raising and social media continues to exist at this level. Sound fund raising principles have continued to be developed over history. Stick with the sound principles, and strategize with how technology might apply with some of the steps and not others.

Acquisition, Cultivation, Solicitation and Stewardship -- which of these steps can best utilize social media?

If you answered Solicitation you are wrong.
If you answered, Solicitation in small amounts, you are still wrong.
Social Media platforms are not naturally conducive for fund raising.

Social media is synonymous with "conversation"
Lets all say it out loud, together...
Social media is synonymous with "conversation"

Cultivation is the step that most naturally utilizes social media. But cultivation has an end goal of solicitation. If your entire conversation is bent towards, "Eventually, I am going to ask you for money." Few people will want to engage in your conversation. Your conversation won't sound genuine.

Do you have permission to solicit your social media audience? Certainly, but if you turn your cultivation into solicitation, you could kill it in a matter of weeks. Use social media as a platform to develop advocates. Advocates can message their own audience on your behalf for small donations. Let them be the solicitors for you, and you won't have to kill the conversation.

Prerequisites for succeess...
1. Willingness to change the way you communicate. (2-way, not 1-way)
2. Willingness to change the way you control conversations. (let go)
3. Willingness to embrace technology in ways that make sense to your strategy. (twitter contains potential tactics, it is not a strategy)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Dallas Twestival

Quick Report.
I'll do a detailed report this weekend.

Track the overall donations as they continue to come in from around the world.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Big Day for the Tech Hermit!

After years of resisting a cell phone...
After 18 months of having a cell...
After two months of having a twitter account...

I am going to take the plunge.
[Hold you breath]

I am going to enable my phone to send and receive text messages.

"whoa, there big fella. Running out of the cave a little quick aren't we?"

Yes, I know it feels that way, but I have good reason.
I am heading down to take part in the tweet up for Dallas Twestival tomorrow evening. Part of the festivities may include a group led activity of sending out various messages. I have operated on Twitter for the last several weeks using just my desktop computer. In order to fully participate in tomorrow night, I am probably going to go freestyle on the twitter.

I am nervous.

My plan is to turn it off immediately after the event.
I am definitely not letting feeds go to my phone. I would never turn it off!

So, aside from reporting on the Dallas Twestival event, I'll also post a little reflection of what my first texts are going to be like.
Let's hope the hermit can socialize properly with all the extra pressure.

Twitter and Fundraising - 1 day 'til Dallas Twestival

Listening in on the final conference call to organize tomorrow nights local version of twestival, I find myself hearing the same kind of last minute details that would be talked about whether the event took a year to plan. Of course, all over the world, it has been put together by volunteers in about two weeks time.

I am typing this with tweetdeck open on my desktop and a search feed set to the term "twestival." The tweet signal is going off every 30 seconds or so with an average of 5 updates containing the word each time. It is amazing. The planning progress that I have been reporting on for Dallas in the last week has been replicated in hundreds of cities, each with their own grass roots volunteerism.

4 cities in Africa
26 cities in Asia Pacific
54 cities in Europe
7 cities in the Middle East
75 cities in North America
20 cities in South America
2 virtual twestivals (in Moderne Island and Second Life)

Each has a organically designated volunteer coordinator(s) and an active plan to get together in the name of Charity: Water.

Press coverage has been expectantly minimal. If you listen to the most recent Dallas twestival conference call you will hear of some press coverage that has been negative from news outlets that "just don't get it." The NY times did post a brief write up today that obviously had a day or so of research behind it.

I'd like to lift this quote from the NY Times piece and make an observation for nonprofits.
Ms. Rose said that the Twitter community is particularly adept at mobilizing Internet activity into real-world action because the undercurrent of social currency is strong within the service’s ever-expanding community.

If your NPO ever wants to come close to having social media have an impact on your development or fund raising efforts, you must trust the adeptness of the community's social currency.

Speaking of currency, you can monitor the growing fund raising mark through the tipjoy home page. The day of twestivities has already started in some parts of the world.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Twitter and Fundraising - 2 days 'til Dallas Twestival

Here is the ongoing report of the worldwide Twestival 2009 coming together in Dallas.

If you listened to the conference call that I linked you to yesterday, you heard the reference to other metro areas organizing their own events. Los Angeles is one local event that is coming together with the help of some high profile web celebrities. ijustine put together this video to promote the worlwide and the local LA event.

If you look around at some of these other local tweet ups that are coming together, you'll realize that many of them have set local goals. I have read in several places that the worldwide goal is $500,000. Los Angeles alone has a goal of $250,000. London launched a little music station for all the bands that will be performing called which has it's own $20,000 goal. It will be an interesting number to track and count and see grow. Because it's fundrasing organized from the bottom up, I don't know that there is a central thermometer that we can watch the funds associated with twestival be accurately counted.

Here is the main lesson your organization can learn from Charity: Water and they way they are interacting as recipients of the twitter communities generosity and efforts.

They have let go of their need to control it.
They are not running around enforcing branding standards or editorial platforms.
Charity: Water, I suspect, is just barely riding the wave that will flood over them come Thursday...and they are letting it happen.
Most nonprofits probably aren't engaged in this grass roots conversation enough for it to happen to them. And most would accidentally kill it by trying to control it (if it ever started to happen to them)

If the development cycle for you is...

Acquisition, Cultivation, Solicitation, and Stewardship.

You must have a good Acquisition and Cultivation strategy in order to get close to a good Solicitation strategy. If you are going to engage in social media conversations as part of your Cultivation tactics, you will kill the conversation by turning it into a Solicitation tactic. You will kill it fast.

Charity: Water controls it's Solicitation tactics and strategy. Here is an example of Cultivation naturally bubbling up into it's own kind of Solicitation. Charity: Water is an example to us all by just letting it happen.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Twitter and Fundraising - 3 days 'til Dallas Twestival

Late last week I sat in on a public conference call for Dallas Twestival, the local version of ground swell volunteerism for Twestival 2009.

Lauren Vargas, local volunteer coordinator for the Dallas event led the call. I asked her in a tweet earlier in the day if it would be barging in for me to be a fly on the wall for the call. She tweeted me right back and assured that it wouldn't be barging at all.

I just love the transparency that shows up when sprinting to organize something within a couple of weeks. As I sat and listened to the stage of planning this group of volunteers was at, it was exciting to hear the excitement and nerves of an event that had a lot of work to do, but was obviously coming together nicely. Different people had stepped up to take on various aspects of the planning. You could hear that there was a level of expertise in various professions that was being tapped into to cover the details of the event. I missed the Sunday evening planning call, but if you'd like to hear the evolution of the event coming together, the Monday evening planning call was recorded and is available here under "clip one".

The group has been doing a good job of using twitter and a wiki site to communicate calls, announcements, and ongoing needs. There is still time for you to step up and figure out how you can fit in to the volunteer coordination.

A couple of observations at this point in the process...

1. These people are great and they mostly seemed to find each other through twitter, with no prior affinity to the charity.

2. Grass roots planning is exciting. It is great to watch a group sprint to finish without any time to get territorial or political.

3. Transparency is so refreshing. It is a great reflection of social media at it's best.

When this make news the morning after, just be aware that this "grass roots effort" had some active blades of grass who do a lot of work for the rest of the lawn. The world wide community was ripe to do something, ANYTHING productive with the community energy. Tapping into that community would demand that you participate in
the conversation. Until your organization is authentically willing to participate in the emerging conversation, social media will continue to be a foreign language for you to interpret in vain.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Twitter and Fundraising

The company I work for has decided to sponsor the upcoming twestival that is being organized by volunteers in Dallas. The event is, at it's core, a fundraiser for charity: water which is doing all kinds of good work across the globe to provide clean drinking water to the billions that don't have it.

I am interested in it for a couple of different reasons.

As you read about how it is being organized you can see that it is a very grassroots event that is simultaneously taking place in various city centers across the globe. It is mostly PR professionals and friends in London who are behind the initial push when, in September 2008, this group of Twitterers decided to organize an event where the local Twitter community could socialize offline; meet the faces behind the avatars, enjoy some entertainment, have a few drinks and tie this in with a food drive and fundraising effort for a local homeless charity. Simply, a tweet up with a common goal of social action.

This same group who experienced the success of last September has now seen participation sprout up from city centers all over the world for this upcoming event.

Here is my prediction. The day after this event, press releases everywhere will shock the fundraising world with the headline... Charity:Water Raise 750K in One Day Using Twitter

These London PR pros who volunteered their efforts (@amanda, @tommalcolm, @renate and @timhoang @brightonecomms)to begin with with (rightly) get all kinds of credit.
Nonprofit everywhere will start to look at taking twitter very seriously, but will be so transfixed by the headline that they will be at a loss to recognize how it was accomplished.

If you work for a non profit and your reading this, know that it takes a lot of work.
Know that exposing your organization to social media will mean fundamental changes to the culture of your organization in order to be effective. Know that, there are resources available to help you get started, but twitter is not a magic bullet. Fund raising strategy hasn't fundamentally changed...
Acquire, Cultivate, Solicit, Steward
You can't jump in to social media and expect to quickly move to Solicitation.
You need months of cultivation using social media tools, NOT USING THEM AS A DISTRIBUTION CHANNEL FOR YOUR PRESS RELEASES!

I am going to report on the progress of the Dallas Twestival event and keep give an update of the ongoing observations can make.

By the way, Beth Kanter has a great write up on the origins of twestival.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

DISQUS explored

I've read some good things about how DISQUS works.

Experiencing it myself for the first time with this post.
I'll track the overall experience and give an update once I have had time to digest it.

A single place to monitor and traffic and syndicate all the discussions that surrounds my online activity seems promising and efficient.

UPDATE - two days later.

I didn't really expect that comments and subscribers would explode now that I'm using the service. But some of the hype surrounding it did leave me with that impression. Did I believe the hype? maybe. What else would a hopeful hermit do?

Until this content is well worth reading and has a reason to have a following, I wouldn't really expect the benefits of this kind of service to be noticed. I'll give another report once a reach a notable number of subscribers. For now I would say the sign up experience was smooth and intuitive. I knew going in what the service was about, but if i had stumbled upon it, I might not be completely clear what the benefits would be to someone fresh to the content production business.

in Beta

Accepting the Beta label for myself has been satisfying. It fits with my personality and temperament anyway.

I felt, at one time, that college graduation would somehow signify my full featured launch. Like several failed product roll-outs we have all seen, I now realize that graduation should have been viewed as a soft launch, barely alpha version. But I was so bold, I was determined to defend my alpha version as if it was the full featured version of myself.

Staying in Beta release mode is quite liberating. If the label is used as an excuse to bumble along and barely improve or change, I suppose that could be just as frustrating as a premature public launch. Being in Beta allows me the freedom of all kinds of exploration and change. I know that half the world would look at things the other way around...but I don't mind the ambiguity. This is how a tech hermit like me can work for a technology company.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Twitter Cage Match: Cardinals v Steelers

This has nothing to do with the responsiveness of corporations to social media.
It is simply a very fun way to engage and see the twittersphere.

You'll notice the overall numbers represented in this are pretty small, but it has a good sampling. Even if the entire twitterverse were represented, you would probably see the same effect.

I highly recommend choosing "player's names" and clicking play to see the progression. It is funny to watch Fitzgerald go crazy in the 4th quarter.

Play with this tool here.

This is the part of technology that is really enjoyable for me. Making observations about human behavior and aggregating data in real time to see the pulse of pop culture is very interesting. Digg has out with a few tools like this over the past few years that are just as engaging. Better than mindless screensavers.

It's funny that it feels like I can be one step removed from the technology when I'm making grand observations like this. I guess I don't mind being owned by my fascination with emerging technology as long as I have the freedom to withdraw from it without violating some new code of ethics.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Corporate Twitter Cage Match: DishNetwork v Direct TV

My last little experiment put Lowes head to head with HomeDeopt. You can read that here.

So I wanted to expand the research information and put Dish Network and DirectTV head to head in their twitter response time. I sent out this tweet.

You can see I stepped up the challenge by not putting the @ symbol in front of the name. They would have to monitor and respond to their search feeds to even know I asked them a question.

30 hours later, no response.
I followed up with this tweet...

Now my question will be more obvious and easier to be on their radar.

40 minutes later DirecTV hits me back with this little number.

DishNetwork has yet to respond. I'm sure I am lost to them in the twitter toilet, even though I'm just a few scrolls down the page if they were to search their own profile. At some point, I am going to need to be an angry consumer and put somebody through the ringer in order for this to be a serious rating system.

Dish, unfortunately, seems to be using this primarily as a way to get press releases and announcements out. They do seem to be engaging with the little twits, but not very often. Directv has far fewer broadcast announcements, and it shows that their approach to this is for listening and responding instead of broadcasting.

Unscientifically, I have engaged with 4 corporate entities.
100% have twitter profiles.
50% interacted with me on a direct question.
0% punched me in the throat
results have a +/-margin of 50%