Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Who is this stranger with her face against mine?

lucinda 023
lucinda 023,
originally uploaded by gorickjones.
Okay, I promise this won't become a baby blog -- but one more picture. I keep looking at her and thinking it, daughter. I haven't quite been able to bring myself to say it yet, though. It's amazing. Yesterday, just a person walking around in the world; today, I have a daughter.

On a personal note....

lucinda 008
lucinda 008,
originally uploaded by gorickjones.
Lucinda Beckwith Rickart Webb was born on December 27, 2004 at 8:25pm. Both the baby and the birth mom are doing great. And me, well, there's no word for how I'm doing.

I expect about the only thing I'll be doing on-line for the next few days is sending to pictures to grandparents.

If you're interested, here are all the photos.

(in: personal, making3)

Monday, December 27, 2004

An open letter to BloggerCorps from El Oso, El Moreno and El Abogado

El Oso, El Moreno, and El Abogado: Social Entrepreneurship and Project Management. This excellent post talks about the problems with expecting volunteers efforts to spring up organically. Very nice job for anyone considering using virtual volunteers.

(tip o' the hat to Richard Koman's blog)

(in: bloggercorps, volunteers)

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Smart Mobs: Folksonomy - more collective classification

Smart Mobs: Folksonomy - more collective classification. This is related to the discussion we're having on Omidyar Network about Nonprofit Technology Taxonomy Creaation.

We're trying to understand if we can harness del.icio.us and a single tag -- nptech is being proposed -- to collect information and then begin to analyize the other words used as tags so that we can use the data to create a taxonomy.

(in: folksonomy, user_created_taxonomy)

Thursday, December 23, 2004

RConversation: BloggerCorps has 1st success story... where to go from here?

RConversation: BloggerCorps has 1st success story... where to go from here?. She's right; we all do need to be working to get the word out about this.

And I think this is a terrific idea.

Maybe this is just my organizational bias (after all CompuMentor was founded on the idea of hooking up technically skilled volunteers with the technology mentors, but it does seem to me that some structure or some something is needed.

I'm not sure what the something is -- do nonprofits without blogs, for example, know to get on to request help with this? Will bloggers be able to respond will to relatively ill-defined tasks? All of that is manageable and doesn't require an organizational entity but it does, I think, require some organization.

Sonny Cloward and I spent some time IMing about this. Here's a clip:

sonnycloward: as far as making a case for blogs (and leveraging content), i've been wondering about working the fundraising angle as a point of entry into npos
sonnycloward: stories are the foundation for fundraisers
sonnycloward: if there could be a case to aggregate and distribute stories to diverse audiences as a fundraising tool, npos could begin to understand their relevancy
sonnycloward: and adoption would soon follow (i make the leap of faith)
marniewwebb: You mean stories like ? I believe that they've been successful in leveraging their content to engage with a donor audience.
sonnycloward: perfect case study...yes
marniewwebb: hmmm...that actually should be pretty do-able w/o funding. TechSoup, for example, could use it as an article and then it could be easily passed around.
marniewwebb: I agree, by the way, that that could be an effective way to engage.
sonnycloward: i just think without a tangible return, most npo EDs are not going to buy it (Mr. Kenyon case in point)

So here's the point we both found ourselves nodding over: Why should nonprofit's adopt blogging? Why should they go to BloggerCorps to get help?

Two reasons: outreach and fundraising. And those reasons are not separate from each other.

So I'm going to add my own plea to the blogosphere: Do you know of a nonprofit who can serve as a case study? A nonprofit to whom blogging has made an organizational difference? If so, it would be great to be put in touch with them so that we can add some adoption stories to help motivate organizations to sign up for BloggerCorps.

(in: bloggercorps, nptech, weblogs)

How do you create a nonprofit technology taxonomy?

Nonprofit Technology Taxonomy Creation is a conversation, at this point, between Phil Klein, David Geilhufe, Michael Maranda and me.

We're proposing, essentially, advocating the use of a single del.icio.us tag -- something like nptech -- and finding out what people bookmark, the other words they use to tag the information and going from there to create a meaningful taxonomy.

(in: nonprofit_technology_taxonomy, nptech, folksonomy, user_created_taxonomy)

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Beginners Guide to RSS

Richard Koman's blog: Beginners Guide to RSS. I told you we were talking about it.

(in: rss, aggregators, web_feeds)

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

10 Reasons Nonprofits Should Use RSS

Update: This post is the base for the TechSoup article, RSS for Nonprofits.

Richard Koman and I were talking yesterday about how there are no RSS articles on TechSoup. And there aren't. Often, when I hear something like that, I think< Yeah, but there are a lot of good RSS articles in general. And that's true. Here are some of the ones I frequently find myself pointing people towards:

(The following depends on the notion that you have a notion of what RSS/web feeds/aggregators are. If you don't, read one of the above. "RSS (protocol)" and "What's RSS and Why Should I Care About It?" are both easy starting places)

The argument we frequently find ourselves using is that none of that explains the reasons nonprofits should do it. Frankly, nonprofits should use RSS for the same reasons everyone else should. But here goes -- 10 reasons translated into nonprofit-speak.

This is the start of what may eventually be a TechSoup article. Please give me your feedback in the comments -- and make sure that I have a way of crediting your contribution.

  1. It's a ridiculously easy way to read the web. So, how many bookmarks do you have in your browser? How many of them have new information? Does it make you sick to your stomach to think of clicking through all of those to discover whether or not the website owners have added new, interesting content? Via RSS, you can subscribe to many websites and very easily find out whether there is new relevant content. My bookmarks no longer scare me. In fact, I rarely use them.
  2. It's ridiculously easy to discover relevant information. For people without a desire to spelunk on the web, finding things and checking back has been a chore. Many folks approach Google like it's a library card catalog. I want to find out about X and so I'll search on Google and then trust in its algorithm and click through the links on the first, oh, two, let's say, pages. RSS allows you to tap important, relevant, even mission-critical information by enabling the creation of feeds based on keywords (how this happens varies but there are a variety of tools -- PubSub, technorati, feedster -- that you can use and many aggregators integrate with those tools in way that allows you to create searches). So, let's say you work for an organization that is following issues pertaining to same sex civil unions and/or marriages. You can set up some keyword searches and then subscribe to those searches. This can allow relevant information to come to you.
  3. It's ridiculously easy to share the information you get. One of the nice things about RSS is that information comes to you in manageable chunks: a NYTimes headline with a sentence-long article summary; a complete weblog entry; a teaser for a longer weblog entry; the pointer to a newsgroup posting; an email announcement list; events. You can push that information out to communities who may interested -- simply send it via email or put it on your own blog.
  4. It's ridiculously easy to participate in conversations. Okay, RSS is just an enabler here. Why should you care what people are saying about the issues you're interested in? Well, if it's the New York Times or own local paper that interest can be self-evident (we certainly have framed NY Times articles gracing the entry way to our offices). But what about what people are saying on weblogs or on community sites like Tribe? Knowing what they are saying -- and where they are saying it -- gives you the opportunity to participate in the conversation. You make a comment on someone's website or participate in a message board thread. This helps to further the conversation and distributes your content (you'll sign your comment right? and include your organization's web presence?) around the web. This makes the web a richer place but it also helps to generate attention to the issues you are working on.
  5. It's ridiculously easy to control your own subscriptions. Here's the truth: unsubscribing from some mailing lists, announcements, or other outreach is, how do you say, a chore. You have to click a link that, about half the time, merely confirms that you are a real, live body receiving email. You can't remember how it is that you elected to receive the information and, most critical to me, it ends up mixed in with the ebb-and-flow of your inbox and, hence, gets in the way of getting work done. RSS gives you complete control. You can easily segment your feed (it's hard to set up an email filter for something you don't know you are receiving) from your regular email. You can even use a non-email client aggregator.
  6. It's ridiculously easy to allow people to trade your good content like it's a baseball card. It may sound like I'm being flip. I'm not; I swear. Hook yourself up with an RSS feed (to see an organization trying to talk through that read this thread on TechSoup, TechSoup newsfeed please!). It allows people to very easily trade your good relevant content and that's exactly what you want right? It happens at almost no cost to you.
  7. It's ridiculously easy for other people to lend you a bit of their web real estate. Okay, this one is a little harder. But RSS does offer up the possibility of allowing other organizations to display some of your content on their website. This is good. It gets your content out to a variety of audiences and it can greatly enhance relevant partnerships. The best part? They don't actually have to talk to you for this to happen. Painless content partnerships. What more could anyone want?
  8. It's ridiculously easy to avoid being a spammer. Opt-in, double opt-in. Allowing people to subscribe via RSS puts complete control into their hands and gets you completely off the spammer hook. Okay, so some email publishers (as Bill Pease says in this TechSoup thread, Is email dead?) hate that. It's hard to track traffic and click thrus, and it puts control completely in the hands of the subscriber and not the publisher. I just don't agree. If you are creating good content people will subscribe and they will stay subscribed. That means that, ultimately, the control is really in your hands. Compelling content works better than anything else. Oh yeah, not being a spammer isn't just an ethical (and increasingly legal issue) not being a spammer also means that you message will get to your intended audience and not dumped into a spam filter.
  9. It's ridiculously easy to contribute to web-wide conversations. Okay, if you're using RSS to track what people are saying about important issues and what people are saying about you, so are other folks. By making your content available via RSS, you're allowing other people to discover you. And they'll be commenting on your site, linking to it, and (here's the kicker) subscribing to your RSS feed and not just stumbling across you in their own keyword searches.
  10. It's only just beginning. RSS is in relatively early stages. The tools are still pretty raw but it pays for nonprofits, in their efforts to gain mindshare for the change they are trying to make, it get in on the ground floor of these types of communication technologies. It'll better position you to take advantage of them as they mature and additional uses become available.

So, what isn't' clear? What did I leave out? Let me know. As I said, be sure to give me a way to credit you in any repurposing of this post.

(This might also end up in a session I'm doing at NTC -- more on that later)

updated: removed some of the most offensive typos.

RSS, web_feeds, nonprofits, leveraged_content)

Normally, this would just rate a spurl link

But it absolutely cracks me up: Courts Freak Out That People Might Actually Use Their Wireless Networks.

I love the unexpected uses of technology and the ways in which it has the capacity to surprise. But the expected uses? Come on, now. They are, er, expected.

(in: freaks, wifi)

Starting to cross one divide

I was talking with someone recently who pointed out that text-to-speech software helped more than the blind -- the place I'd gone when thinking of that technology. It also helped people who spoke a primary language other than the one on the page. It also helps people who can't read. The below seems like an excellent opportunity to help cross more than one divide.

Speech takes on search engines: A Scottish firm is looking to attract web surfers with a search engine that reads out results.

(in: text_to_speech, digital_divide)

Monday, December 20, 2004

Technology Triage comment

Here's a snippet from red rantings (some reformatting):

... Technology Triage:Keeping Mission-Critical Technology Running: This article originally appeared on TechSoup Here's how technology projects work: plan, implement, support, plan, implement, support. Ad infinitum. I recieve different newsletter information and think it's pretty relevent in rural communities that have limited access to funds and technical ...

It would be great if there was a mechanism to comment on this blog. I'd love to find out more details. Too often, I find that the articles that I write work really well for organizations located in a tech heavy urban area -- you know, a place like San Francisco. It would be nice to be able to dig deeper into different perspectives so that I could understand how to represent them.

(in: techsoup_articles, technology_triage)

I frequently think of websites as Winchester Mystery Houses

This Is My House - Let's Build A City:

Have you ever thought about your blog as your house? And your contacts with other bloggers resembling "life between buildings"? Well, I hadn't until I read this paper about blog communities.

The authors use the city metaphor to find a way of describing - understanding - a very interesting question, even a paradox: How can the existence of highly personal spaces guarded by individuals result in the emergence of social structures?

The way I see it, this question is fundamental to business blogging as well as personal blogging. You can have many different reasons to start a corporate blog, but building strong relationships with people must be among the most common ones.

(in: web_management)

TechSoup's publisher gets a blog.

Richard Koman joined TechSoup (and, hence, CompuMentor) about three months ago. Though we don't work closely together, it's been terrific to have someone to talk with about various bits of web technology. I was pleasantly suprised, this morning, to have in my inbox a message that announced his blog: Richard Koman's blog. He didn't go with the extension convention but we'll love the blog just the same.

(in: interesting_blogs)

Friday, December 17, 2004

Choosing for standards

Commentary: Why OpenOffice.org? This post talks about the notion of the information you use your software applications to manage and not the application themselves. In this line of thinking, the ability to run on multiple platforms, stability, data interoperability (via standards) are incredibly important because they help to ensure that a software change, the demise of single vendor, or a vendor's change to a new standard won't lock you out of your information.

It's funny, because just this morning is was talking about choosing in favor of standardizing around applications as lazy persons mechanism for office standards. A slightly more difficult route, choosing in favor of open, established and shared standards, and then picking those applications that implement and adhere to them, is a better bet in the long run.

Right now, organizations worry about the vendor they are choosing. Will this company be around? Will the continue to develop additional functionality and feature sets? Will they fix bugs? These questions are all one way of worrying about the ongoing capability of an organization to access and work with information -- and it doesn't matter if the information is stored in a Word document or a mySQL database. Instead, organizations should talk about whether they can have access to their data because they are using tools manipulate that data according to shared, open standards. This way that don't have to worry about the vendor; they will be able to get at their data.

(in: open_standards, open_source, interoperability, openoffice)

Using Technology for Civic Engagement

Another "right now at Compumentor" post: In our consulting services department we are trying to understand high impact projects that we can support -- in terms of their technology compnents -- to help provide mechanisms for civic and community engagement. This post at the excellent Muniwireless is one way that such a project could work: Muniwireless: Wireless broadband: anti-poverty weapon.

(in: broadband, wireless, community_engagement)

Column Two: Using a Wiki for documentation and collaborative authoring

I'm on a wiki tear right now. Column Two: Using a Wiki for documentation and collaborative authoring points to an article with the same title.

I'm trying to understand how we, at CompuMentor, can use a wiki to engage our local consulting sommunity and develop a collaborative knowledge sharing/creation project. More on this soon.

(in: wiki, cms, library)

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Online Fundraising and Engagement: The Vital Link

NPQ - Winter 2004 Issue - Online Fundraising and Engagement: The Vital Link:

The Nonprofit Quarterly's editor in chief, Ruth McCambridge, recently conducted an interview with Eli Pariser, executive director of MoveOn PAC (http://www.moveonpac.org/) about MoveOn's very successful approach to citizen engagement and fundraising. Although MoveOn now uses some advanced technology to support its operations, readers should note that just like many small organizations, it started with a single email and commitment to serve member interests and facilitate their involvement in issues of concern to them. In this model, online fundraising is just one of many pieces that comprise member involvement.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

A list of links

Friday, December 10, 2004

Contact Info

Really. Feel free.

  • marniewebb@gmail.com
  • 415-633-9300 x337
  • AIM: wbb204
  • ICQ: 318636276
  • Yahoo: GorickJones
  • Jabber: marniewebb@jabber.com
  • MSN: marniewebb@gmail.com

Aggregating goodness

Just a reminder, here's how you can subscribe to the different webfeeds associated with extension 337:

(in: rss, webfeeds, housekeeping)

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Groundspring.org Community Blog is a terrific service

Groundspring.org Community Blog: Why is Enterprise initially a hosted solution? This post is an example of why I think Groundspring.org is offering up a great service with their blog. It gives people that are interested a route into the thinking process of the developers. In addition, they often go out of their way to ask for feedback and publish documents like their needs and requirements. If I have a complaint, it's that we don't know who is doing the posting. It would be great to see the authors names attached to the posts.

(in: groundspring, open_source, foss, nonprofit_apps)

What's the difference between social networks and online communities?

Lee LeFever at Common Craft has a thoughtful post comparing social networking to online communities. He writes:

I mean “social networking” to mean sites/communities like Orkut, Tribe, Ryze, etc.

I mean “traditional online communities” to mean discussion or message board-based communities (there are a million variations).

Following are the points that I believe make the biggest differences:

  • Use of the Member Profile
  • Identity without Collaboration
  • Explicit Relationships with Forums and People
  • New Forum/Group Creation
  • Network Centric Navigation

And then goes on to provide detail for each of his points. Like I said, thoughtful.

And more though-provoking than I can probably deal with right now.

I've been trying to hard to think about how social networking can provide support for nonprofit organizations. For me, sites like Care2 don't quite make it. I think there is value in creating an ad hoc social networking site around a community. That is, I want access to member profile in the way that Lee writes about but I also want to access the way in which the use the site.

Let me take a directory that CompuMentor has been involved in: TechFinder. As a technology consultant, it would be great if the site had social networking features, like a member profile and group forming capabilities, so that I could use them to connect with other service providers. That's interesting but...

For me, the real possibility is ad hoc social networking features among the users. So, let's say that I'm logged in to TechSoup and I've already given permission to share a certain level of information1. So, I go to TechFinder to find a database consultant in my area. When I get my search results, I also see other TechSoup registered users who ran a similar search in my area. I have an option to contact them and find out what, if anything, they know about these database consultants. This gives me an opportunity to, very quickly and for a very specific purpose, make someone my "friend." I get their help solving a problem and then our temporal relationship is dissolved -- unless we take specific steps to take the relationship further.

I don't know how hard this would be, from a technical standpoint. Any opinions? Any examples of this kind of feature?

1The point of that sentence is really just to say that I know there are privacy concerns and then need to be explicitly dealt with in a completely transparent way that includes, but doesn't harness, the user.

(in: social_networking, online_communities, adhoc_group_forming)

Technical Help Resources for Libraries and NPOs

CompuMentor (my employer of record, received a grant from the Gates Foundation.

Essentially, we're doing research on available help resources for libraries with the goal of understanding which help modalities are best suited to which category of libraries. We've started getting some findings from various interviews and surveys. As we get this findings, we'll be posting them on Omidyar. You can find them via this discussion: Technical Help Resources for Libraries and NPOs.

(in: library, gates, compumentor, omidyar)

Monday, December 06, 2004

NGO photos

NGOPhotos is a Finnish site that points to creative commons licensed photos suitable for NGO work.

Because they've licensed the site with a creative commons license (here's their license in Finnish and in English it would wonderful to undertake an effort to translate this site.

It also points to be the big need -- at least in the US -- for NGOs, nonprofits to think of licensing, sharing and looking for work through a creative commons lense.

(tip o' the hat to: NGO photos)

(in: creative_commons, images, open_content)

Friday, December 03, 2004

I didn't take (or steal) this picture

Golden Gate bridge at dusk
Golden Gate bridge at dusk,
originally uploaded by bigempty.
This picture is an example of what flickr and creative commons can bring.

It's possible to find some nice photos to add to your website by simply using a service like flickr and looking for creative commons licensed materials. While this has little to do with my website, it's a nice iconic image that relates to the city that I'm in.

I can certainly see organizations that work with youth or poverty being able to add and use rich images from this kind a network.


This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

TechSoup Online Event: Some Tasty Spam Discussion

I've linked to these in my TechSoup.org feed (RSS) but wanted to call out a couple of conversations that are of particular interest:

Have at the discussions and enjoy the article.

(in: spam, techsoup)