Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Google Grants

Google Grants:

The Google Grants program supports organizations sharing our philosophy of community service to help the world in areas such as science and technology, education, global public health, the environment, youth advocacy, and the arts.

Designed for 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations, Google Grants is a unique in-kind advertising program. It harnesses the power of our flagship advertising product, Google AdWords, to non-profits seeking to inform and engage their constituents online. Google Grants has awarded AdWords advertising to hundreds of non-profit groups whose missions range from animal welfare to literacy, from supporting homeless children to promoting HIV education.

Google Grant recipients use their award of free AdWords advertising on Google.com to raise awareness and increase traffic.

Ethnoclassification and vernacular vocabularies (peterme.com)

Ethnoclassification and vernacular vocabularies

First off, I think we should drop the term "folksonomy." No offense to Thomas -- it's a catchy term, which, I guess, is why it has caught on. It's also inaccurate. What bugs me most is the use of the word "taxonomy." Taxonomies tend toward hierarchy, and they tend to be imposed. Tagging does not a taxonomy make.

What we're talking about here is "classification." In rooting around, trying to find some prior research on this topic, I plugged "folk classification" into Google, it turns out that anthropologists have done some thinking around this, particularly with respect to ethnobiology, or how the folk approach biology, and ethnoscience.

This lead me to think that the appropriate term would be "ethnoclassification", and when I plugged that into Google, I found "Slouching Toward Infrastructure", a page for a 1996 Digital Libraries Workshop lead by Susan Leigh Star.

The practice of tagging on del.icio.us works because, at its heart, it's meant for the use of the individual doing the tagging. The fact that it contributes to the group is a happy by-product... But as a tool for group tagging, it's woefully insufficient. Del.icio.us has a very low findability quotient. It's great for serendipity and browsing, and an utter disaster for anything targeted.

I'm not sure that I agree that there is no use for this sort of organizing. I think that it can be used to gather a vocabulary and help people be able find themselves in the searches they are doing.

Of course, I'm not sure exactly how I think this is useful -- perhaps as a test way of generating a series of important word to be added to a proper hierarchical taxonomy.

Folksonomy and the ESP Game (nate's notes)

nate's notes: Folksonomy and the ESP Game:

The ESP Game is a Java-based game that facilitates two people viewing a single image at the same time. You can read about how to play, but basically two people are looking at the same image. They both type labels describing the picture. When they've both identified the same label, a match is declared and both players earn points. The points are the reward to the humans -- the high-quality, double-human-confirmed keyword/label associated with an image is the reward to the system that CMU is building.

Wikis, credibility and finding truth through writing

From Wikis -- "Credibility in Action":

A wiki is a perfect tool to teach kids about finding truth and developing trust. Regular Weblog readers know that trust is something that has to be earned. It takes time for someone to be added to the blogroll. We've always taught students to assume that trust with textbooks and encyclopedias; if it's in print, it must be right...right? But times are changing, and I would bet that as the Web's influence continues to grow, truths are going to be challenged to an even greater degree, and it's not going to be so easy for students to find the right answer or right quote. That has huge implications for education.

Making connections

I don't know if Sonny Cloward knows the author of coniecto. It's always nice to see the potential connection coming from the TechSoup events. It's also nice to see the way the information about the events travels.

Monday, August 30, 2004


Added...it's a new header above the long list o' links over there on the right. I'll keep links in there for a week or so before moving them to either blogs or news.

I'm not happy with my two-folder hierarchy and might ditch it all together. It's not very meaningful and conveys a sort of weight to traditional media, and an accompanying lack of serious to blogs, that I'm entirely sure I mean.

Participate in tool development

Groundspring.org Community Blog: Enterprise Specifications and Screen Mock Ups. Groundsping's Enterprise (I've heard this is just a project name) brings together many of their tools in an ASP (I can't find a clearer description of the project online. Anyone from Groundspring.org out there? Will you point me to something). They've published the requirements for the project and a few mock-ups and asked for feedback.

This is a great example of a developer reaching out to get a response from the community. It's also an example of being transparent in action and not just code. Encourage 'em by giving 'em what they've asked for: response.

Speaking of folksonomies

Which, really, I often am. Here's a collection of photos tagged with rnc.

On the second day of the convention, there are already well over 300 photos.

Report from the N-TEN Conference

We just had an internal brown bag to share our experience of the N-TEN San Francisco Regional Conference with other staff members. That reminded me that I hadn't yet shared here.

I heard four major themes:

  • Points of Pain: People wanted to understand the story behind the technology solution; they wanted to understand how they saw themselves in a technological solution. This seemed to be coming, mainly, from the folks who worked in organizations. Even in my session, on weblogging, there was a robust discussion on what problem weblogs were solving. People were interested in discussing how to push their own technologies to amplify their work but the point of pain was a starting place for the conversation.
  • Software reviews and comparison: Nonprofits/Techies need a guide to available software, a description of its function (remembering the points of pain) and a method for comparing it to other, like, software.
  • A Vision: We need someone to talk, not just about the immediate efficiencies and fixes of nonprofit technology, but a vision of where this field can go and the role of technology. This is, specifically, so that people do not become mired in what hurts and an "if it's not broken don't fix it" mentality. This is to identify organizations that can push out to the edge of technology and describe their success and, just as importantly, their failures.
  • Dialogs: People who do not normally interact -- developers, vendors and nonprofit program staff -- need a way of communicating to one another. A specific suggestion, during the Technology Tango session, was a Nonprofit Requirements Sprint. That is: bring together nonprofits in a particular sub-sector, find out what they need and describe it in technical language to appropriate developers.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Spyware, Be Gone!

Is it a message board or a weblog? Is there even a difference?

In a TechSoup post, I tried to get at what I thought. Basically, for me, it came down to what I called the unit of currency. In a weblog, that's a link. In a message board, it's the conversation.

What Are the Differences Between Message Boards and Weblogs? by Lee LeFever gets at a much deeper and multi-faceted answer. He looks at weblogs and message boards with respect to locus of control, authoring of new topics, intent, responses, tools, chronology, personal connections, pollution control and content buckets.

Tip o' the hat to Column Two for the pointer

TechSoup Message Board Thread on Windows XP Service Pack 2

earlier, I pointed to colleague Zac Mutrux's TechSoup post about Windows XP Service Pack 2. Others have joined in. The collection of useful information grows.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004


This topic has captured my imagination. I read and blogged the bit before during breakfast and through my shower and BART ride into the office (where I'm writing the first version of this post), I can't stop thinking about it.

I love the term "folksonomy."

There's something going on here and I'm not quite sure what it is. But pieces are swirling around in my head and I feel like if I make the effort to write about them. To put the pieces into the same content unit that I'll have some chance, or someone else will, of getting at what I mean.

That's all a disclaimer that says: I don't actually know what I'm talking about here.

Here's what I've seen:
del.icio.us and flickr
the smartmobs tag
the swiftvets tag

Rafe Colburn of rc3daily propogated the use of the del.icio.us swiftvet tag. On Smart Mobs, Howard Rheingold pushed using the tag smartmobs. This method aggregates the all del.icio.us links users approrpiately tagged posting into one nice neat file. It can then be exported via the del.icio.us API for display on a website. Okay interesting.

But it doesn't take advantage of the concept of a folksonomy. It pushes out one word and asks that users pick that piece and uses it, swiftvets or smartmobs, as a starting place for a taxonomy. This depends that people see the information in the first place, that they remember and use the tag (I didn't; I kept trying to use "swiftvet" which left me out of the community that was being formed).

It seems there have to be other ways to get at this. Bottom up ways. But they require, as do most bottom up ways, a lot more effort on the part of the people who are trying to create the benefit to the group.

If I post a link to del.icio.us I can quickly and easily see who else as posted to that link (in fact, it tells me how many people have posted the link). There should be some way for someone (not me mind you, but someone) to write a script that uses the del.icio.us API to see what the most common tags, presented in descending order, This would be a way to find out what words people are using to describe what you've identified, for whatever reason, as a like group of objects. Once you've grabbed it use it and let power laws and aggregation begin to apply.

Demonstrating the Google toolbar blogger button

CompuMentor --and then it publishes your post.

Even with:

  • bullets
  • lists

Want Gmail?

I currently have four invites to Gmail; drop me a message (all the contact info is on the right) and I'll gladly send Gmail invites.

Classification is hard

A few weeks ago, I wrote My jobs makes me do it. I'd been thinking about the pain of user created taxonomies and the ways in which social tools such as del.icio.us could help alleviate it (I've since seen this referred to as folksonomy). Today, (through del.icio.us amusingly enough), I stumbled across The Cognitive Cost of Classification. A snippet:

So if facets aren’t the silver bullet, what is? Well, to have active participation in classification requires that the benefits outweigh the necessary investment. Most KM programs work on this by including punishments and incentives, like tying participation to performance reviews. That carrot and stick approach still doesn’t address the systemic imbalance inherent in structured classification systems, whether faceted or hierarchical. What we need is a way to make the system work better itself before resorting to extrinsic motivation.

One partial solution could be social classification. Services like Flickr and del.icio.us allow ad hoc tags added to entries. Popular tags get promoted to the top. Gene Smith has a good post about social classification and folksonomies – classification schemes based on this folk categorization, and Stewart Butterfield points out that ad hoc tags take less effort to create than mapping content into a structured scheme. Ad hoc tagging acts as a low-investment bridge between personal classification and shared classification.
Related: Collaborative knowledge gardening

(tip o' the hat to del.icio.us/Preoccupations and del.icio.us/jonstahl)

The Wisdom of Crowds

(I posted this on my personal-personal blog as well as Omidyar Networks)

I didn't like The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki as much as I was prepared to. I read the back of the book standing in the Laurel Bookstore waiting for my writing group to start.

I've been thinking a lot at work about how to harness the energy, desires and collective experience of a community to serve nonprofits' technology needs and this book seemed like it would have the magic bullet.

Maybe, I'm saying, I didn't start out with realistic expectations.

So what I really liked. I was impressed with stories like the sub story that captured the ways in which independent thought and analysis can be gathered and aggregated. I also liked Surowiecki's list of the characteristics that allow crowds to shoot for wisdom rather than madness:
  • diversity
  • opportunities for minority opinion
  • independent thought
  • aggregating mechanism

The stock market seemed to be a key reflector for Surowiecki because of the built in aggregating mechanism. He referred to directly via many stories and also indirectly when talking about the Iowa Electronic Markets as well as the Hollywood Stock Exchange. I admit to having a few problems with this. In addition, he argues that consumer purchasing behavior provides a level of collective wisdom (he does point out the trend pushing dangers of group think).

Surowiecki assumes that the stock market and our collective purchasing decisions reflect what we think the best solution is to a given problem; that is: the actions being collected stand for long-term and not short term decisions. In fact, I'd argue that on the stock market people are predicting what others are likely to buy in the future but don't know about in the present (the hiddent gem that will make us millions).

I'd argue that the more common mechanism of looking at purchases as being a decision-making tool also fails. Rather than bet on what will make us a buck, we are betting on what will reserve as many of our bucks as possible. In this instance, price becomes a major feature and decision-making factor. However, price is compared to the immediate feature set of the goods and not things like health care for the people who produced the goods, disposal costs, opportunity costs for the region that developed the good or the materials which went into the manufacture of the goods. Basically, I do feel that price stands for enough to allow it convey the information necessary to make a full decision.

So, I guess this is my bottom line: I was very happy to see his discussion of the characteristics of wise crowds and can find some immediate applications for them in my work. I'd like more depth around the characterstics of necessary decision-making information.

For some related links on this:

How Scoble keeps criminals at bay

Robert Scoble gives a 14 point plan for keeping your computers secure. Though this is directed at home users, his good points are handy for nonprofits as well.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Happy birthday, Blogger.

Happy fifth. And thanks very much for giving me the web as I now know it.


Pierre's Web to the blogroll.

Pierre Omidyar describes changes to the Omidyar Foundation

Pierre's Web: What I've been up to:

Ever since eBay, I've been inspired by people discovering their own power, and believed that every individual can make a difference. It seems obvious now, but we finally asked ourselves the question: "If eBay is such a good example of people discovering their own power, then does it make sense that as a Foundation, we wouldn't be able to invest in something like eBay?"

We realized that legal structure -- for-profit versus non-profit -- wasn't all that relevant to what we believed in. What was important was our simple core belief: that every individual has the power to make a difference.

So, we created the Omidyar Network for one single purpose: so that more and more people discover their own power to make good things happen.

(Tip o' the hat to anil's daily links)

Technology fails me.

Apparently, AudBlogs servers were down Friday. I'll have to experiment with audio blogging another day.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

It will only be a test.

One of the things I've admired about Andy Carvin's Waste of Bandwidth is his willingness to try out different tools. In that spirit, I'm hoping to have a chance at tomorrow's N-TEN San Francisco Regional Conference to test out audio blogging. Maybe I'll see if I can ask the questions from my weblog profile piece.

And if you're at the conference, stop by and say hi. That picture up to the right? The kid in the sink? I still look exactly like that.

I'll be presenting a session called Weblogs: What is it and why should you care? Christian Crumlish is my co-presenter. I'm looking forward to his discussion (and learning more about his book).

Weblogs: Beyond the Hype

The TechSoup online event, Weblogs: Beyond the Hype, has one day left. It's been interesting, reading the various posts. I'm looking forward to the conversation that will come out of tomorrow's open thread.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

SF Bay Area Technology Survey

The Latino Issues Forum offers a fewpublications. One of which I just mentioned in a meeting and thought might be interesting more broadly: (fair warning: .pdf) The Online Civic Engagement Project: Assessing the Technology Needs and Interest of Latino-serving Non-Profits in the SF Bay Area. This was released in March, 2004.

I continue to find it interesting that, for nonprofits, the number one technology need is money. It is, quite simply, a barrier of dollars. I'm interested in understanding how, more and more, nonprofits can turn the thinking from a dollars/purchasing model to a resources model. And then provide services to meet those resource needs.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Blogs are just all over the nonprofit world this week

Monday, August 16, 2004

Windows XP Service Pack 2, once more for good measure

Straight from the Microsoft Knowledge Base: Some programs seem to stop working after you install Windows XP Service Pack 2 There's a list toward the bottom of the article.


Contact info (with a clue as to the name of this blog) off to the right.

Sometimes people ask me to proofread things.

And I do. Then I say, Hey, it looks like you spelled everything right and had all the necessary words to make your meaning clear. I went ahead and fixed that for you. I tossed in a couple of mispellings and removed all those pesky helping verbs. They never thank me.

Consider this a warning.

TechSoup's Online Event: Weblogs: Beyond the Hype

(or "How many colons can I fit in a weblog post title") I just finished posting the agenda and other kick-off information for this week's event on TechSoup.

I'm hoping to get a lively discussion going.


Two new blogs to the blogroll at the right:

Sunday, August 15, 2004



I-neighbors is a FREE online community that connects people to neighbors in their local community. Unlike other websites that allow global, national, or city-wide communication, I-Neighbors links members of a single neighborhood, defined by the people that create them

I-neighbors was created by a team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). These services were designed to encourage neighborhood participation and to help people form local social ties. We believe that the Internet can help people connect to their local communities and to create neighborhoods that are safer, better informed, more trusting, and better equipped to deal with local issues. I-neighbors helps communities build "neighborhood social capital" by providing a place for neighbors to find each other, share information and work together to solve local problems.

Haven't dug through this yet but I'm looking forward to it.

(via Smart Mobs)

Shout out to Vermont Nonprofit CommunIT

Thanks to Sonny Cloward for his post, Vermont Nonprofit CommunIT: Weblogs: The Promise for Nonprofit Organizations, pointing to the recent TechSoup article and online event. If you want to know more about Sonny's weblog, you can read a short interview with him.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

More on Windows XP Service Pack 2

Yesterday, I pointed to a couple of articles about Windows XP SP2. Zac has a post about this on the TechSoup forums: Important: Windows XP Service Pack 2.

TechSoup - Weblogs for Nonprofits

TechSoup - Weblogs for Nonprofits. I worked on the articles for this page as a part of two conferences I was supposed to be attending: The Alliance for Nonprofit Management Annual Conference and N-TEN's Regional Conference: San Francisco. Turns out an emergency is keeping form the Alliance Conference (my able colleague John Lorance will be presenting in my place).

I will, however, be able at the San Francisco Conference presenting with Christian Crumlish of Radio Free Blogistan.

In addition, TechSoup will be hosting an event on weblogs for nonprofits in the Virtual Community Forum. The event will be August 16-20.

Cell Phones as Coordination Tools

Wired News: Text Messages for Critical Masses:

Known as TxtMob, the new service from the Institute for Applied Autonomy was unveiled last month at the Democratic National Convention in Boston. There, TxtMob allowed more than 260 subscribers to automatically blast text messages to the mobile phones of every other subscriber.

'There were ... a number of interesting uses that the system got put to" at the DNC, said John Henry, TxtMob's developer. "Police did arrest one protester, and there were not a lot of people around. Someone saw it happen, (sent a TxtMob message), and a hundred of that kid's friends were on the scene in minutes ... to make sure' the police acted correctly.

Henry said TxtMob was also widely deployed at the DNC by medic groups that used the service to ensure they had personnel in the right places at the right time in case of problems.

And because of concerns that police at the convention would run roughshod over them, some protesters found that TxtMob was useful for keeping each other apprised of police movements.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004


Blogs and news sites via bloglines.

I keep meaning to right about the process I use to consume weblogs and other Internet based sources. This is a place holder to remind me to actually do it.

Windows XP SP2

I'm having a hard time parsing through the information to understand the worth of this upgrade (which seems high), those who are at risk by implementing this, and Microsoft's strategy for roll-out. Here are some articles I'll be looking at more closely to try and understand this better:

Koha - Open Source Library System

We've been doing some work with libraries. We were a part of the WebJunction project and continue to have involvement with the library community (more on that later, I'm sure). So I was very interested today when I stumbled across the Koha - Open Source Library System. It was developed by some folks in New Zealand.

Making Room for the Third World in the Second Superpower

Making Room for the Third World in the Second Superpower:

It's my intent in this essay to explore the challenges we face in ensuring that the community growing around online newsgathering, deliberation and action includes the entire world, especially the developing world. I hope to flag situations where techniques and behaviors appropriate for the communities currently served by these tools will likely fail in developing nations. And I attempt to recognize efforts to ensure that these tools have as broad applicability as possible, as well as efforts in the developing world that parallel developments in the online community space.

I haven't read and digested all of this essay yet but I'm looking forward to it. I've been spending a lot of time thinking about both weblogs and the digital divide laterly and trying to get them to meet into some kind of a story. I'm hoping this essay will expand my understanding of the issues. I'm also interested in exploring the footnotes.

(via boingboing)

Smallworldmedia | Weblog | Organising data with TypePad

Smallworldmedia | Weblog | Organising data with TypePad: "Have you got a big pile of data sitting somewhere you wished was in a nice, neat, web browse-able format? Bored of forever tinkering with Access or Excel? You might need to look no further than TypePad. "

I often describe a blog as a personal knowledge management system or a news clipping service. This fits in very neatly with that idea.

TechSoup - The Technology Place for Nonprofits

TechSoup - The Technology Place for Nonprofits: just found this good resource (actually showing off the blogger button in the Google toolbar)

Tuesday, August 10, 2004


What Weblogs Can Do, A Short List

  1. Allow you to informally gather information from your co-workers.

  2. Track a project.

  3. Point to outside resources related to your work.

  4. Provide a mechanism for your constituency to engage with a less formal version of your organization.

  5. Make it easy to frequently update your website.

  6. Make it easy to turn a portion of your website over to your constituency, through commenting or authorial privileges.

  7. Serve as a personal knowledge management database.

  8. Allow you to share a variety of media, audio posts, images, videos.

  9. Make Google love your website.

  10. Entice readers to come back again and again and again and again. And again.

(a portion of an upcoming TechSoup article that pimps the promise and potential of weblogs to the nonprofit sector)

TechSoup: An Introduction to Weblogs

TechSoup - Articles: Using the Internet - An Introduction to Weblogs. Written by our very own Sarah Hawkins. Of course, if you're reading this, you probably don't need the article...


I've been running a personal weblog (full of general links, obnoxious letters to California Senator Barbara Boxer, fiction-related items and personal stuff) for about four years. And I've had a personal site for longer than that.

Finally, I've started a weblog that is more closely related to work.

And tip o' the hat to my colleague, Zac Mutrux, for the blog title.