Thursday, September 30, 2004

Frankly, I think Google is all about aggregation

I've been following a lot of the conversation about Google as platform which has associated conversations about the Google browser. I agree that it would be a powerful application. But that's not what I really want.

I want Google to aggregate me.

When I go to my Blogger user profile, I see:
  • some social networking-like qualities. I can click on "Nonprofits" and see other blogger profiles with an industry of nonprofit. I can find Blogger bloggers who like Cal Tjader or the movie Adventures in Babysitting; and,
  • my blog posts are integrated. I have two blogs -- they are separate, have separate purposes, designs. They are even hosted separately. The only real commonality is I maintain them and use Blogger to do so.
I also use Gmail. What if I could tag something, an email I send to a listserv let's say, as public? And what if that then appears on my profile page?

And how about photos? Well, if I use Picasa, maybe I can just check a box. On my profile page.

Google Groups? My contributions show up. Automatically. Profile page.

Alerts? Searches? You got it.

The value to me is, sure, that I have a tool or a tightly woven suite of tools. A Google Operating System, if you well.

Frankly, even though it might be a better operating system than my current choice, a bigger operating system, let's face it: My current choice is one of 3 good choices and I'm okay with it.

What I don't have is an easy method of developing and maintaining my identity. Right now, it's a lot of work. I post a comment on someone's blog, send an email, post a listserv, share a photo and don't have single place that integrates those various activities -- in a way that provides them each with a context -- so that I can use it however I might use that identity.

Web Services and open APIs could push this even further so that my TechSoup.org posts, my omidyar network self, my Amazon reviews, my Netflix queue all become a part, evidence, of who I am in the world. On the Internet.

And what does this have to do with nonprofits? I'm not sure yet. What are your ideas?


Weblogs and online communities.

Weblog as Online Community Management Tool:

Aside from participation in discussions, the community manager often needs a consistent and accessible place to have an independent voice to relate community news and information. Below you will see how a weblog may be used to fill this need.


This sends me off on a little riff:

I don't think it's trival to argue the difference between whether something is an online community or weblog or listserv or simple a homepage. I think that this forces the site owner to define the goals for their work (bringing people together in conversation or pointing out interesting things, for example), naming that, and then looking at tools that make it easy to manage the associated processes.

This is not to say that tools can't be used for other purposes (in fact, some of the most interesting tools happen precisely because they get used in a way that differs from the original intention). However, when it happens, it should happen because a good tool doesn't already exist and not because you are trying to turn a message board into a blog or a blog into a message board.

So what do I mean by this: when I get ready to share information I think a little about the goal of sharing that information, how I expect users to interact with it and then, on the basis of that thinking, I decide if I want to use Word or Excel. It might be that I could use either -- tabular data with narrative context -- but my goals -- I want people to improve the numbers or check my calculation; I want them to be able to quickly re-sort the information to meet their own needs -- push me to use Excel instead of Word.

I suspect that we'll end up with web suites in much the same way that we currently have productivity suites.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

10 trends in the Internet's first decade of use

From the USC Annenberg Center for the Digital Future comes 10 trends in the Internet's first decade of use. Here's a snippet from the press release:

Among the findings from Year Four of the Digital Future Project:

  • Internet access has risen to its highest level ever. About three-quarters of Americans now go online.
  • The number of hours spent online continues to increase, rising to an average of 12.5 hours per week – the highest level in the study thus far.
  • Although the Internet has become the most important source of current information for users, the initially high level of credibility of information on the Internet began to drop in the third year of the study, and declined even further in Year Four.
  • The number of users who believe that only about half of the information on the Internet is accurate and reliable is growing and has now passed 40 percent of users for the first time.
  • The study showed that most users trust information on the websites they visit regularly, and on pages created by established media and the government.
  • Information pages posted by individuals have the lowest credibility: only 9.5 percent of users say information on those sites is reliable and accurate.
  • Television viewing continues to decline among Internet users, raising the question: 'What will happen as a nation that once spent an extremely large portion of time in a passive activity (watching television) transfers increasingly large portions of that time to an interactive activity (the Internet)?'


You can get at the whole report here.

(Tip o' the hat to Instructional Technology Resources and Musings via PubSub)

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Got a name?

Groundspring can use your help in naming their new offering: Groundspring.org Community Blog: Enterprise?!?!

Another presentation, "Weblogs in the classroom and school library"

Will at provides a link to his presentation "Weblogs in the Classroom and School Library". Another nice compliation of resources, weblogs, and possibilities.

Scoble deals with information flow

Scoble blogs about information flow in preparation for an upcoming BloggerCon session.

(I keep meaning to write about how I do this; here's yet another reminder to myself.)

Busy days.

My fingers have been flying over the keyboard lately, though, unfortunately, not in the services of this particular weblog. With luck, I'll some stuff to announce here soon. In the meantime, check out the link blog to the right. I've been managing to keep dumping new content in there.

Day 5: Marcus - Dive Into Accessibility

The last user case study: Day 5: Marcus - Dive Into Accessibility.

(I side note, it looks like my 30 days may not be 30 contiguous days. But I'll get there.)

Friday, September 24, 2004

from Network-Centric Advocacy: Looking at the Technology Trap

Network-Centric Advocacy: Looking at the Technology Trap. A very nice little analysis of the change that's going on in nonprofit technology and the struggle to deal with it.

The Chronicle of Higher Education: Information Technology

The Chronicle of Higher Education: Information Technology. A nice roster of articles. I'm looking forward to reading through them.

Today's weblog brown bag

It's not too late to come to our brown bag today: Weblogs: Beyond the Hype. Okay. I admit. There will be hype. Because, you know, I'll be there talking about weblogs.

Anyway.

If you're in the San Francisco Bay Area and you have time, bring your lunch and come talk with us about weblogs. We're in San Francisco, on Brannan between Third and Fourth. There's a big green sign. You can't miss it. Airplanes don't miss it.

Day 4: Lillian - Dive Into Accessibility

And another user profile: Day 4: Lillian - Dive Into Accessibility.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Category hack for blogger

I haven't tried this category hack for blogger yet. Anyone else given it a shot?

Ipodder for Advocacy

Network-Centric Advocacy: Ipodder for Advocacy

Ideally, new campaigns will use these devises as another information stream to help build awareness of core participants, educate staff, train volunteers and inspire actions. The audio leaps across digital divide issues. Future campaigns will create dedicated issue advocacy channels for download to individual Ipods.

Gorilla Media Literacy 101

onfocus has a post today about media literacy.

Though I've read the books on his list, it's time to pull them out and go through them again.

Andy Carvin talks about the new Creative Commons License

Andy Carvin's Waste of Bandwidth: New Creative Commons License "Frees Creativity Across the Digital Divide".

I agree that this is a terrific opportunity -- particularly for the nonprofit/ngo sector. I'm interested in finding out what people do with this.

Day 3: Bill - Dive Into Accessibility

Another user profile: Day 3: Bill - Dive Into Accessibility.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Day 2: Michael - Dive Into Accessibility

Monday, September 20, 2004

Day 1: Jackie - Dive Into Accessibility

Today's exercise simply introduces one of the test users: Jackie.

Getting your blog discovered.

How your blog will be discovered -- 8 nice little pieces of advice.

One of the most difficult things in talking to nonprofits about weblogs is describing the notion that you have to network to get your blog noticed. This tips provide a nice guide to what that networking is.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Added: Link Blog

Look, over there, to your right. See it? The link blog. Right under "Contact Me." This changing list of links is generated by furl -- a social bookmarking tool. I do not like it nearly as much as del.icio.us. It's not nearly as easy to use and, oddly, I don't like the way the page looks as much as I like the way del.icio.us looks. Something about del.icio.us. It inspires me to click around. It could, though, be what I'm used to.

Anyway.

I do like it because it provides a very simple single line of javascript to allow me to include it on my blog. I'll try and capture most of links in both tools -- we'll see how well I do.

Microsoft virtual labs

Blogging tips from HP

More Hewlett-Packard goodness: HP Small & Medium Business - Small & Medium Business: technology tips. The real kicker, for nonprofits, is here:

Another major difference is that weblogs typically have an informal, personal tone that contrasts sharply to the polished content on most websites. That's because ordinary people with a particular interest, expertise, or point of view (as opposed to marketing professionals) are usually the ones who write blog posts.

(Tip o' the hat to NevOn via Scoble)

Securing VPN Clients on Windows Server 2003 (Tips)

HP's Blog Epidemic Analyzer

Blog Epidemic Analyzer:

This is a demonstration website for our recent research (here and here) on information dynamics in blogspace. You may type in a partial substring of a URL you would like to track. For example compare slow, long running memes like "giantmicrobes" (i.e. www.giantmicrobes.com) or "spambayes" (i.e. spambayes.sourceforge.net) to short punctuated ones like "cnn.com" articles.

From HP's Information Dynamics. It looks like there's an interesting list of topics to dig into. I may wish I'd never found this site.

(Tip o' the hat to Lockergnome)

Technology as an assistive device

Last night, I went to a screening of Freedom Machines:

Freedom Machines is scheduled for broadcast September 14, 2004 on the PBS award-winning series POV. The film plugs the viewer into the largely unrealized power represented by assistive technology (AT) through the stories of an intriguing group of people, who are achieving exceptional things through their desires for ordinary lives.

The film impressed me, not so much because of the technology that is available, but because of the ways in which the promise of the technology is ignored -- along with the people who use it.

I highly recommend it. Find out when it's showing. If you can, attend on of the related events. Heck, host one. And don't forget to check out the resources at both Freedom Machines and the POV site.

All which reminds me to point folks to dive into accessibility. I plan on starting my 30 days to a more accessible web site on Monday. We'll see how blogger/blogspot do.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Networked Web Services

Gideon Rosenblatt's Blog: Networked Web Services:

There are many potential benefits to being this "aggregator" but it is a world where lock-in becomes near impossible, which might explain why few are ready and willing to go there. This reminds me of a "discussion" in one of the panel sessions at this year's PlaNetwork conference, where a number of FOAF backers were assailing the head of LinkedIn and other social networking services with this same point.

Blogging, learning and teaching

Coniecto has a terrific post on blogging, learning and teaching. A little something to whet your appetite:

This speech of Downes gave me wings: I was constantly asking myself how the world would look like if people would be encouraged to learn what they want, how they want, and when they want. To pick up their own masters. To be able to find friends to do parts of the travel with.

Blogging made this possible - nobody can dictate you what blogs to read, nobody can force you to make a post if you're not ready with digesting your thoughts. We can see the signs of this new type of learning - some people are doing it already, and - accidentally or not - most of them have something to do with blogs. Is this something for the grand public? Not yet. But, as Downes says, it's important to start by giving an example yourself. "We need to contribute what we know to begin this atmosphere of learning. What that does, it's to create the marketplace, the model and experience of sharing, a part of the network. And that's really all you have to do. You don't need to rewrite the world- you just need to contribute a bit of it. Feed forward!"

Friday, September 10, 2004

Tech Nation Summit 2004

I spent today at the Tech Nation Summit 2004. Essentially, it was a day of listening to keynote speeches. They were all interesting.

I'm not sure, yet, that I have anything broader to say. I feel like I should have a list of things that I brought out of the sessions with me but I haven't quite been able to digest the information. A portion of that is because the format did not allow for Q and A. I didn't feel like I had the chance to interact with the information.

I do know that Lawrence Lessig's performance -- I'm not sure that it was only a speech -- was the most impressive. It reminded me that I hadn't yet generated a creative commons license for this site. Done now.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Feedback on "Weblogs: The Promise for Nonprofits"

isma of ICTlogy gives me what I asked for: feedback on one of the TechSoup articles I wrote about blogging, Weblogs: The Promise for Nonprofit Organizations. I agree with his assessment whole-heartedly. Particularly the need to explain RSS and to define other uses for a weblog. I think, were I to rename the article, I might simple suggest it be called "10 Reasons You Should Start a Blog Right Now."

The current title is much more wide-ranging and encompasses internal knowledge management benefits as well as external facing communications. This artilce doesn't live up to the promise of the title.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Text messaging, RNC protesters, and TxtMob

Another article: The New York Times > Technology > Circuits > Protests Powered by Cellphone (All of this publicity about the cellphone carrying, text messaging protesters has left an odd picture in my head).

The article focuses on TxtMob -- used at both conventions. The author says of the software, "The software was not intended for everyday mobile socializing. It was created as a tool political activists could use to organize their work, from staff meetings to street protests. Most of the people using it are on the left: of the 142 public groups listed on the TXTMob site, the largest are dedicated to protesting the Bush administration, the Republican Party or the state of the world in general."

I'd love to hear the experiences of folks who have been using this. Leave me a comment or shoot a message to marniewebb@gmail.com.

Here's the Google Search for TxtMob and Google News Search.

(A side note: I'd love to have an RSS feed available for these kinds of stuff-I'd-like-to-track searches)

Reaching out with SMS

Texting teens use SMS for help:

Base 25, a charity offering advice on subjects such as relationship and health issues is using text messages to communicate with teenagers.

Text Talk allows troubled youngsters to send a text to a dedicated number and receive an immediate response.

"It makes sense to use a medium which our target market is very comfortable with," said Rob Willoughby at Base 25.

"Research has found that 96% of young people own mobile phones, regardless of social class and youngsters are extremely adept at using text messaging technology," he added.

Often when we talk with nonprofits about things like these, they refer to their current points of pain -- which, typically include network and printer problems, difficulties generating a report and not the ability to send text message to mobile phones. However, as cell phones become more and more ubiquitious text messaging becomes a legitimate way to offer services -- not to replace existing services or to replace the human touch but as a way to keep in contact with an individual who is receiving services.

The wireless networks keep rolling in

Rolling wheat fields are also Wi-Fi country:

Walla Walla County is better known for wheat fields than Wi-Fi. But a small community-owned utility in this agriculture-dependent region has constructed one of the largest wireless Internet networks in rural America, rolling out high-speed connections across about 1,500 square miles.

Dayton-based Columbia Energy, a subsidiary of the Columbia Rural Electric Association, built the network for farmers who monitor irrigation equipment in the field and for residential and business customers who have limited access to cable or digital subscriber line service.


(Tip o' the hat to Smart Mobs)

Replace membership organizations with advocacy networks

I tend to dislike rants. They often talk about what is wrong with a current system -- helpful -- but rarely take on the vision of what can replace it. This rant, WorldChanging: Another World Is Here: Members Unite! You have nothing to lose but your newsletters and crappy coffee-cup premiums..., at WorldChanging is different. While slamming the way many NGOs use their members (as a pool for small donations), Alex Steffen talks about what is possible with tools and a changing model: "For groups willing to learn how to collaborate on the fly, and work from a campaign-centric model, advocacy networks will be transformative."

Your remote users can hurt you

Guarding against malware infection from remote users

Sadly, many organizations today haven't adequately addressed the potential for malicious code infection via telecommuters. Often, a home user gets infected by some pathogen on the Internet and then sets up a VPN connection to the corporate network. Once connected, the infected home system acts like the Typhoid Mary on the internal network -- spreading the malicious code and bypassing your perimeter defenses, including Internet firewalls. How can you stop this plague in your environment? The solution requires both policy and technology.

(Tip o' the hat to lockergnome)

3 things about blogging

Three things I've learned about blogging. Some good advice for capturing your thoughts and becoming a part of the conversation.

Enterpise knowledge management with weblogs

Another weblog event

A month of week o' weblogs wasn't enough for us here at CompuMentor/TechSoup. On September 24, we're inviting San Francisco Bay Area nonprofits to get together for a brown bag lunch. The topic, you guessed it, is Weblogs: Beyond the Hype. Hope to you there.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

It's not just Philly that's going wireless

MiWiFi Brings Wireless Internet to State Parks, Marinas, Rest Areas and Welcome Centers:

The State of Michigan and SBC Communications have announced that wireless Internet access, or WiFi, is now available at the Holland State Park and the Grand Haven State Park, the first two state parks in the nation to provide this service.

MiWiFi is powered by the SBC FreedomLink Wi-Fi service and will soon be available in many other state parks, welcome centers and rest areas across the state. The service will enable travelers to wirelessly connect to the Internet at speeds 50 to 100 times faster than dial-up. Customers can gain access to a FreedomLink hotspot when in an approximately 150-foot rage of its location.

(Tip o' the hat to ResearchBuzz)

Does social change need a network?

An interesting discussion on , Do you need to take a networked approach to your social change work?

We've been thinking a lot about how to apply network principles -- the human kind and the computer kind -- to the work we are doing. I'm not sure yet exactly what I think here or, really, even how to formulate it. Every pass seems to come out "It takes a village...."

(And check out the rest of the discussions on omidyar while you're there. Interesting, interesting stuff.)

(Tip o' the hat to network-centric advocacy)

Sunbird Review

In attempt to see how Open Source I could get on my Windows machine, I turned to Mozilla.

I use:

I don't use a PDA of any type (well I have what I call a "pocket blog" and others call "a notebook. It's just a notebook") so I don't have to worry about any pesky synching issues.

I've been very happy with my use of these. Now, it appears Sunbird is betting ready to go public. Here's a
review.

Downhill Battle Labs

Downhill Battle Labs has a common participant with Drop Cash.

They look to be developing some interesting things -- Local Ink, Battle Cart, and Battle Torrent all look to be tools that many nonprofits could benefit from.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Organizational Culture and Knowledge Sharing

Understanding Organizational Culture for Knowledge Sharing:

Culture encompasses the values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviour of an organisation.
Culture is how things get done in organisations. It is also a well-known fact that an organisationÂ’s culture shapes its learning orientation. It is therefore important to understand the cultural aspects of the organisation before planning any initiative in e-learning or knowledge management.

In this article, I will build on a popular model for understanding organisational culture and present a map that can be used to make quick inferences when making decisions on other facets of organisational learning (e.g. e-learning or knowledge management initiatives).

Tip o' the hat to Column Two.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Apply this to nonproifts

In XML Watch: Planet Blog, the author talks about using RSS and RDF to set up communities of developers who are working on the same software application. It seems to me that the same thing can be applied to nonprofits working in the same subsector. A way to aggregate the weblogs or other publications of nonprofits who are working in the same field. It's a pretty geeky read but still worth it.

Avoid tear gas

The latest protest tool: 'texting':

For protesters navigating Manhattan during the Republican National Convention, text-message broadcasting services like this, sent to their cell phones, provided an up-to-the-minute guide to the action on the streets.

Texting "tells you where the hot zones are, where people are getting arrested," said Greg Altman, 31, of New York City. "It tells you which stuff to avoid." When he got a message Tuesday that protesters were being beaten near Manhattan's Union Square, he stayed away.

Protesters weren't just employing the message services to look for trouble and stay out of it.

Experimenting with IRC

I've never really played that much with IRC. Poked around a bit and used it for some work-related projects but not much more than that. Inspired by O'Reilly's Top Ten Tricks article, I've decided to do some experimenting. Per their suggestion, I've registered my user name -- webb -- and a channel: irc channel ext337. I haven't yet figured out how to set the topic but let's say it's, oh, technology, nonprofits and social change. If you'd like to talk, join me.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

O'Reilly Network: Top Ten Tricks and Tips for New IRC Users

O'Reilly Network: Top Ten Tricks and Tips for New IRC Users:

Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is an often overlooked medium of communication. I've been using IRC for several years and have found it to be a great way to collaborate and interact with other people, wherever they may be.

If you're used to traditional peer-to-peer chat systems, you may at first feel rather daunted by the unfamiliar look and feel of IRC. Once you're able to gloss over this, you will start to appreciate the true power of IRC and maybe even adopt it as your preferred chat medium.

Here is my top ten list of tips and tricks that will give you a good start on the road to becoming an everyday IRC user.

Om Malik on Broadband: Broadband Policy Now

Om Malik on Broadband: Broadband Policy Now:

Many have laughed at me for constantly harping on the point, that the axis of technology world has moved to somewhere in South China Sea. I think we sit in our ivory towers with a myopic view of the world, getting excited about WiFi. Look when there are going to be a half-a-billion people in Asia using 50 megabits per second broadband connections, some of them - lets assume 0.0001% - will figure out a new use for the speed, will write applications and decide the direction of broadband. That will result in another 0.0001% figuring out how to build new hardware to make those networks work their way. You see where I am going with it. Anyway the whole article argues, correctly about backward looking regulatory policies are to blame for US falling behind in the broadband sweepstakes. Up until the point where it starts talking about WiMAX, the greatest FUD there ever was. I think WiMAX is going to turn out to be 'push' technology of the 21st century.

Wireless for everyone -- in Philadelphia

Philly Considers Wireless Internet for All: "Once complete, the network would deliver broadband Internet almost anywhere radio waves can travel - including poor neighborhoods where high-speed Internet access is now rare.

And the city would likely offer the service either for free, or at costs far lower than the $35 to $60 a month charged by commercial providers, said the city's chief information officer, Dianah Neff. "

(Tip o' the hat to /.)

Color-coding Your E-mail (Tips)

Color-coding Your E-mail (Tips): "Another option you have for organizing your e-mail is to color-code it. This way messages from different senders will appear in different colors. For example, you may want to have messages received from your boss appear in red or messages sent to a distribution list which you are a member of appear in blue. "

Email this post

Blogger adds a new feature: email this post. You can see it in action in the little envelope icon on the bottom of each of my posts.

This demonstrates one of the reasons I stick with Blogger even though they don't have categories/tags for their posts (note to Blogger: pleasepleaseplease): they make it incredibly easy to add a new feature to my blog. The threshold is so low and it is getting easier and easier all the time.