Monday, January 31, 2005

A Community-based Tagging Project

So, I've been thinking and talking a lot about tags lately. Not just the nptech tag in Or even its use in flickr and, as Katrin suggested, 43things. I've also been thinking about the ways in which they can be used to build and support community in local geographies.

I've been talking with my colleagues about the kinds of projects that can be developed with tagging. Here's an example of the kind of thing we've been brainstorming.

So imagine this: you send out 100 digital cameras to each of ten libraries. On a specific day, the libraries bring together volunteers and community members. They teach the community members -- kids maybe or...? -- to use the cameras. They send them out to take pictures. The volunteers help the community members to get the photos from the camera to the web using the public access terminals in the libraries. Then they put all the photos up on flickr.

Everyone in all ten cities uses one common tag for their photos -- say "community project" -- and then they add the city name. From then on, the tags are whatever the photographer thinks is appropriate. At the end of the day, the participating photographers keep the cameras and their newly setup flickr account.

So what comes of this?

Well, the libraries get to meet some interested volunteers. The community members get introduced to the library as a resource beyond shelves of books. The public access terminals get some play. The community members get to produce and share some content.

Now, the common tag can be used to call up all photos taken as a part of this project. Interesting -- maybe you can make an Internet art show out of this. Combined with the city name, local community-based organizations can have access to community created images. Who knows what comes of that? Maybe the library does a place-based art exhibit (people rank the photos as "favorites" those photos are printed and hung in the library).

I don't know all the possibilities but it seems interesting.

What would be required? An organizing partner to do project management, develop the training, help recruit volunteers, and provide assistance with outreach and fundraising. The ten libraries. A corporate partner to donate the cameras. That one or others to provide a hook to volunteers. A funder or two to provide the dollars necessary to support the participating organizations' involvement.

Does anyone know of any projects like this?

(in: proposal, half_baked, tagging, tags, folksonomy)

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Updated: A Nonprofit Guide to Getting Started with RSS | extension337

A Nonprofit Guide to Getting Started with RSS | extension337. I've added some more detail to this outline. If you have any comments, please feel free to add them. If you sign up for an account, you can edit the page.

(in: rss, nonprofit_guide, how-to)

Extension 311 - Tech for Arts Orgs

Greg Beuthin joins the blogosphere: Extension 311 - Tech for Arts Orgs. This should be good.

(in: nptech, arts_organizations, compumentor)

Friday, January 28, 2005

Recycled Computer Lab

Recycled Computer Lab
Recycled Computer Lab,
originally uploaded by xurtum.
So, I'm looking at Zac's flickr stream and I start wondering, What if we apply the nptech tag to photos, too?

(in: nptech, tags, photos)

Thursday, January 27, 2005

3 URLS podcast from audio activism

Audio Activism: 3URLs 01/23/05. This podcast is an interview/discussion with Ruby Sinreich. She talks about RSS, the end of objectivity, and three interesting URLs. In the course of it, she helps to push the nptech meme.


(in: podcast, rss)

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Contact me.

Really. I mean it.

  • 415-633-9300 x337
  • AIM: wbb204
  • ICQ: 318636276
  • Yahoo: GorickJones
  • Jabber:
  • MSN:

Monday, January 24, 2005


Get yer red hot link feed:

Link blog feed

A Nonprofit Guide to Getting Started with RSS | extension337

A Nonprofit Guide to Getting Started with RSS -- I've created an outline on a test version of a bryght site. If you have any edits, go for it.

(I'm thinking of moving over to bryght because of the more robust tool set -- particularly the ability to host wiki-like editable pages)

(in: nonprofit, rss)

Sometimes, I'm lonely

A few months ago, I played around with an ext337 IRC channel. Mostly, I did it because it gave me some IRC experience.

Lately, though, I realize I'm lonely. Okay, I work in an office full of great people. I guess I'm lonely for other voices -- and more real-time than the voices I get through people's weblog postings and the various listservs to which I subscribe. So, I'm reviving the channel. I'd love to chat with folks about weblogs, RSS and various other communication technologies as they pertain to nonprofits.

(in: irc, npo_consultants)

Nonprofit weblogger dinner at NTC?

So, I was thinking about the upcoming Nonprofit Technology Conference and I was thinking about the people I want to meet and I realized that many of those folks have weblogs. Which started me wondering if anyone else would be up for a weblogger dinner.

We could talk about weblogs and nonprofits and what's good and what's bad and trade URLs and ideas. What do you say? Wanna get together?

(in: nonprofit, activist, weblogs, blogs)

TechSoup: Web Accessibility Event: Welcome and Agenda

This week, January 24 - 28, TechSoup will be hosting Web Accessibility Event. Here's the agenda:

Monday, 01/24/05 – What is Web Accessibility

Definition of Web Accessibility, assistive devices and why you’d want your site to be accessible.

Monday, 01/24/05 – U.S. Law, Section 508(Standards) & Guidelines

The laws and who they apply to, the difference between laws, guidelines and standards

Tuesday, 01/25/05 – Web Accessibility Site Review

Submit your homepage address (or the URL of any one web page) for an accessibility review. Each web page submitted/posted will be responded back to with a detailed review of any issues (and related to the standard or guideline), suggested quick fixes, or kudos on great accessibility.

Wednesday, 01/26/05 – How Accessible Should it really be

How far should you go with accessibility on your web site.

Tools and web sites with online automated code and accessibility validators, and how to use and understand them without being a coder.

Thursday, 01/27/05 – Recap, Additional Topics Requested and Reviews Continued

Recap of high points of items from discussions, continuation of reviewing submitted web pages for accessibility reviews, and any new topics that have spun off the main topic discussions or special request topics.

Friday, 01/28/05 – Resources and Going a Step Further

Tons of interesting resources on all elements of accessibility and tips on taking basic accessibility further.

I'm looking forward to the conversation.

(in: techsoup, accessibility, nptech)

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Workplace conversation

Coworker: [as we are leaving the building] Do you have everything you need?

Me: [patting pockets] Yes. Everything.

Coworker: Man, you travel light.

Me: [patting one more time] Door key. Pen. Pocket blog.

Coworker: What?

Me: Pocket blog.

Coworker: What?

Me: Pocket. [taking moleskine out of pocket] Blog.

Coworker: It's a notebook. Freak. Note. Book.

(in: random)

Friday, January 14, 2005

Folks are jumping on to the tagging experiment

We have a couple of new posters to the nptech tag in Good on them. It's starting to turn into a nice compendium of bookmarks.

But we're aiming for something more. We'd also like the words that people use to describe the tags. Not just nptech -- in fact, that tag is pretty much a conceit so that we can find/share easily. It's other words. These words, shared in the form of tags, will result in a potential understanding of the words that could go into a reasonable taxonomy.

For example, I noticed that DEF tagged Creative Commons with "nptech." Only the "nptech" tag was used. What else could be used to describe this for nonprofits? I'd throw in words like "content," "free," "licensing," "share." As other people put their tags in, the words that use to describe the item in question in this particular context, we'll end up with a whole pool of words and then, exempting the "nptech" tag, we can see which are the most common. These start to inform the basis of a nonprofit technology taxonomy.

Creative Commons has been tagged by 308 people. Why not just use the words that they've used? Well, they aren't necessarily tagging from a nonprofit mindset. As such, their tags might not be quite as valuable.

Again, this project has three goals:

  1. Collect relevant nonprofit technology bookmarks in a easily sharable way;
  2. Collect the words used, by various people, to describe those bookmarks so that we can search for commonalties and inform more formal taxonomy efforts; and,
  3. Invite the unexpected.

Interestingly, has incorporated tags. They are combining the tags used in, flickr, and the ones individuals use to categorize their posts on blogs. This pulling together is very interesting and, again, feels like the tip of an unknowable iceberg. I'm confident that there is tremendous potential their for nonprofits even if I can't exactly articulate that potential.

So, is there a write and wrong way to tag items? Nope, not really, However, the additional tags help to information the second and third goal as well as the first.

This has to be done for some time and with some intensity for it to work. So, if you are interested in this experiment, I urge you to link to it, let your constituency know about it, participate in it. If you aren't please drop me a note in the comments section and let me know why. That, too, is very informative.

(in: nptech, about, nonprofit_technology_taxonomy, tags, folksonomy, experiment)

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Time to get serious about the Nonprofit Technology Taxonomy Experiment

So, this all started in a thread on the Omidyar Network. I'm pretty sure I've mentioned it a few times before.

But I'd like to get serious about it. Or as serious as you can get about this type of a project.

First, the rationale. Here's the deal, I believe in authoritative taxonomies. However, creating them is very, very hard. It takes a lot of time and then, when the work is done, the users can't find anything because it isn't in their language. Granted, the users language is less precise and accurate but what, exactly, is the point? To describe and find. I'm thinking of this purely pragmatically.

And folksonomies, as they are dubbed, also have problems. The exact opposite. They are chaotic and sprawling. They tend to meander all over the place. And the users stretch and bend the words well past their original intended meaning -- if anyone can figure out what that is.

But why does it have to be an either or proposition? Can't you start with folksonomy? That's rhetorical by the way. I think you can start with a folksonomy and that's what we're proposing.

Spend some time, using, gathering and tagging relavant bookmarks. We'll (and that we is a bit nebulous; if you are interested in being a part just chime in on the Omidyar thread) review the bookmarks that have been added and try to get two pieces of information: what are people interested in bookmarking and gathering? The sense is always that people are interested in lists of software. But are they? Are they maybe interested in nonprofit adoption stories or news articles or fundraising information or...? And we'll also look at the words people use to describe these bookmarks, the tags.

So, more precisely how does this work? Sign up for a account. Put the bookmarklets in your link bar. And then, when you are on a site that has some link to nonprofit technology -- and you decide whether you think it does or not, there are no rules -- bookmark it. Apply the tag "nptech". That's going to allow us find everyone's bookmarks. After that, use whatever tag you'd like.

If you want to track what other folks are bookmarking, you can view the collection for the nptech. You can subscribe to the RSS feed on that page.

Where is this going? I don't know. But it feels like a good idea and I'm going to push it along a little bit.

What use is there in a nonprofit taxonomy? Well, it could be used to provide keyword metadata for websites to make it possible to more easily and more precisely and find and pull together content. It could be used to build it into databases of various pieces of information. And, I hope anyway, it can be used for a few things that I can't even think of right now.

(in: nonprofit_technology_taxonomy, experiment, nptech)

Good Feedback on the 10 Reasons...RSS post

Thanks to the folks at Information Systems Forum (relevant posts here and here), the Digital Divide Network and Omidyar Network, as well as the various people that validated the thoughts by picking up the original post, I got lots of good feedback on my 10 Reasons Nonprofits Should Use RSS post.

Essentially, a next draft is going to separate the reasons into the reading the web and writing the web as categories. They are different and require a slightly different mindset.

Some of the comments asked me for more -- sort of a how to. I guess I see that as a companion article to this one. A getting started guide to RSS for nonprofit organizations. Hmmmm....that sounds like another post.

When I started, these were just brainstorms for TechSoup articles. Now, I'm thinking of this more as a campaign. How can we spread the word about RSS?

I mean, the post made the rounds and that's good to see. But, as best as I can tell, it made the rounds to people who already had aggregators (the possible exception is the person who wrote me asking if they could print and hand it out). So, how do you get the word to people who don't have aggregators?

I'm thinking (and this not-so-coincidentally coincides with an upcoming presentation I need to do) that one way to make a presentation -- directed at nonprofits -- on blogging and RSS. And then invite people to give it. Make it available and lobby to have people present it at local conferences. In fact, I think that state nonprofit conferences can be the best bet for this kind of thing.

That way, one person doesn't have to bear the expense of attending all those conferences. The good people who are giving and working on the presentation can both improve it for one another and localize it so that it is specific for their audience. how does that sound? Any thoughts?

(in: rss, evangelizing, open_source_presentations, conferences, nonprofits)

A weblog jump starts any conversation you're going to have

I've been trying to convince two key co-workers to start weblogs. Both are good writers. They have a sense of now -- that is they spend some time surfing and reading and regularly share information fairly quickly. And the both can benefit, I believe, from the relationship building that happens on weblogs.

Certainly, I find that some of my relationships have gotten better since I started blogging. I go to events and people know what I'm interested in and a conversation is already started. It's terrific.

But I also feel that I have a window in to a world I otherwise wouldn't know about. Blogging expands possibilities in every way.

So these people, the ones I'm trying to convince, they'd point out that their audience doesn't always read weblogs. How will that start a conversation? Well, by writing about the things I'm interested in and thinking about I've practiced talking about them. And, when the occasion arises, I find that I'm more articulate and better able to get to the point.

I also find that I frequently have a link I can send to someone to demonstrate a point in an email exchange. That link may or may not be one of my blog posts, but it's often something I find because of blogging.

(in: starting_a_weblog, why_blog

Linky goodness

Just finished uploading lots of choice links to my link blog. It's on the right hand side of my blog. You can also subscribe to the web feed.

(in: link_blog)

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Community Journalism

This one is for Richard: Ed Cone points to changes at Greensboro 101. They are adding an editorial board so that they can make content/placement decisions. This dovetails nicely with Richard's and my recent back and forth.

(in: community_journalism, citizen_journalism, new_journalism)

Monday, January 10, 2005

Richard Koman asks "Are Blogs the New Journalism" -- I'm not so sure

Are Blogs the New Journalism, a nice roundup of the evidence in favor of blogs being the new journalism. On Richard's blog, I posted a comment disagreeing with this idea.

Don't get me wrong. I'm completely on the citizen reporting train. It's just that I think there is a difference between reporting and journalism. And that difference is an editorial one. I think there are ways to provide for a community editorial stance -- both DailyKos and Slashdot do this. However, blogs alone do not. In many ways, I think of blogs as the raw source material but it needs shaping.

The problem, from my admittedly consumer perspective (I have very little journalism training -- a few college classes and a stint on various newspapers, college, high school, and free), is that journalists aren't doing any shaping of the raw materials. They are simply reporting it in a very "this happened and then this" perspective. Joan Didion provided what I thought of as a compelling argument in Political Fictions. Basically, it told about journalisms merely reporting what people were saying and not questioning it or comparing it to past statements. It's this juxtaposition of various bits of information that is a part of the editorial function, it seems to me.

Josh Marshall is doing it on Talking Points Memo. But TPM isn't, by anyone standards, an average blog.

Certainly, blogs can and should be integrated into a communities online presence, whether that's spearheaded by a newspaper or by some other community entity. But blogs reportage, no matter how good, can't serve as journalism all by itself.

Rather than citizen journalism, I like the idea of "community journalism." That's what both DailyKos and Slashdot exploit to great effect. The new Digital Divide Network certainly has this possibility. This gets at the community editorial stance I mentioned above. It's a way for people to elevate stories, writers, writing, news bits, images, videos, or audio to a prominent place within a community of information. It's easy enough, on my weblog -- one writer -- to say something is worthy of the front page. I can (and do) use services like technorati, pub sub, and feedster to determine votes via links. On a community site, though, only maybe one or two of my entries would have been worth front page status.

That filter is good for the users. It's helps them to sort through what is, hopefully, a positive plethora of reportage and get to the journalism. It also helps to solidify comments and provide the community with a common language of issues -- one of the functions of a newspaper, it seems to me.

So, what does all this have to do with nonprofits? I think that by exploiting weblogs, RSS and other community tools, nonprofits can start providing a greater amount of reportage. And this, providing the source materials, can help to advance their causes in ways that I can only guess at right now.

Bonus link: Blogs of War: this San Francisco Chronicle article talks about the information that soldiers are sending out about the war in Iraq.

(in: blogs, citizen_reporters, community_journalism), things_about_which_I_should_not_spout_off)

RSS Goodness

A reminder of the web feeds available from this site: Track Federal Legislation Track Federal Legislation is the winner of the Technorati developers contest. The application allows you to track what bloggers are saying about various bills, representatives and other things. From the About page:

There is a huge divide between citizens and government in the United States. I'm no expert in politics, but it seems to me the larger the divide the less responsible politicians are to their constituents, and this is bad. Worse yet, it can be avoided. We could have better government if we could only make it simpler for people to see what their representatives are doing.

The problem isn't that people cannot see what their senators and representatives are doing. They tell us what they're doing through newsletters and media coverage. And we can see them doing what they're doing on C-SPAN. Furthermore, the government itself makes available information about legislation through Thomas ( But each of these sources has its flaws, including bias, dullness, and information overload, making them useless for the interested citizen to casually keep tabs on Congress. fills the need for a source of information useful for people. It is both a large collection of data as well as a tool for filtering out what you don't want to see. You can dig deep in GovTrack, finding information the mass media does not have room for, and you can let GovTrack send information to you, like a newspaper customized to your interests. It's the power of the Internet put to use to close the citizen-country divide.

On this site you'll find the status of legislation, the speeches of representatives on the House and Senate floors, voting records, campaign contribution summaries, and more, plus the opinions of other users through their blog entries. And you can follow only the issues that interest you through email updates and RSS feeds.

It seems that there is a tremendous use here for activists. They can quickly and easily gather information -- following it very close to real time. This allows for many benefits: commenting directly to various interested parties, sending the information out to their own constituencies, and making sure that the work they are doing is showing up in GovTrack because they are using RSS feeds.

(in: technorati, govtrack, activist_tools)

Friday, January 07, 2005

Technical Help Resources for Libraries

About 6 months ago now, CompuMentor (the org for which I work) received funding from the Gates Foundation to examine the ways in which technology can be supported within libraries. As we go through the research, we're learning the problems that libraries have in implementing technology -- even simply having publicly accessible machines reliably working and connected to the Internet. At the same time, by following various library weblogs, I'm learning more and more about the needs of libraries to have technology and the potential for libraries to serve as a community center. Anyway, we are posting the results of our initial surveys and interviews, along with notes from stakeholder meetings and possible support scenarios on the Omidyar Network. If anyone is interested, we'd love comments: Technical Help Resources for Libraries.

(in: library, library_technology_resources, technical_assistance)

Upcoming speaking engagements

I'll be speaking, in a session with colleagues from NPower and Blueprint R&D at the Alliance for Nonprofit Management Annual Conference. We'll be talking about engaging with groups for successful cohort projects. Technology-based projects will be our focus but we'll also be talking about readiness factors and enabling technologies. It's my hope that the session will be useful to folks engaging any community effort.

And blogs and RSS will be the subject of my session at this year's Nonprofit Technology Conference. I'm hoping to rope in a blog-critic colleague I know so that we can stage a debate and maybe get a little movement and interest going in the room.

I'll be working on the outline and docs for both sessions on this weblog. Please feel free to give me input.

(in: speaking, conferences)

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Mitch Kapor's Weblog: Does the open source model apply beyond software?

Mitch Kapor's Weblog: Does the open source model apply beyond software?:

Open source heralds a global paradigm shift in social and economic value creation of enormous proportions, the extent of which is almost completely unappreciated. If I am right, then we are in for interesting times as the irresistible force of open source meets the immoveable object of corporate entrenchment. There will be enormous economic dislocations with opportunities for new undertakings and threats to the established order. Mental categories we take so much for granted we don't even know we have them will become obsolete.

Interesting read. Need time to digest and respond more thoughfully. I will say that I've been a strong proponent (very vocally since March) of incorporating some of the philosophy of open source into the work we do at CompuMentor and TechSoup. I'm trying to understand how I can use this to help make my case.

(in: open_source, practices, business_models)

Andy Carvin writes about the tsunami and the digital divide

DDN Articles - The Tsunami as a Wake-Up Call to Bridging the Digital Divide:

One of the first stories to hit home for me was that of Mr. Vijaykumar, a former volunteer at a telecenter in Nallavadu, India, run by the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation. Vijaykumar, who's now living in Singapore, received word of the tsunami well before anyone in southern India did. He called his family in Nallavadu, then called the telecenter. Another telecenter volunteer living abroad, Mr. Gopu, did the same thing. Immediately the community sprung into action. Using the telecenter's public address system, local volunteers alerted fellow villagers. Among the 500 families in Nallavadu, 150 of their houses were destroyed -- yet no one died, because the telecenter responded to the imminent crisis at a time when no other local or national warning system was in place.

The Nallavadu telecenter is fortunate because it is a part of the Open Knowledge Network (OKN), an initiative that provides communities in developing countries the tools and skills they need to become content producers. In the case of Nallavadu and other local OKN communities in southern India, they're using the initiative to collect weather data and distribute it to fisherman in order to protect them when they're out at see. Because Nallavadu's telecenter volunteers had the information and communication technology (ICT) skills to gather information and get it out by all possible means - including mobile phones and public address systems -- they saved thousands of lives. The telecenter became a lifeline for the entire community.

Andy's observations are always good. This helps to reaffirm the importance of the work that is being done in the area. The digital divide isn't only about a computer in a house (the way we often think of it in this country). It can also be about public safety.

Bonus link: Also started by Andy. It pulls together various RSS feeds with tsunami- and help-related information. It was fascinating to watch Andy think of and implement this, very quickly, via his posts on the digital divide listserv.

(in: digital_divide, tsunami, andy_carvin)

Monday, January 03, 2005

flickr and missing persons

This is just an amazing use of this service.

Missing Persons Photos on Flickr

The Southeast Asia Tsunami-MISSING PERSONS


If you are looking for someone missing in any country affected by the earthquake and tsunami

on December 26, 2004, please post a photo of the person




3. In comment section, add any other information you think is RELEVANT.

4. TAG your photos with the following: missing, tsunami, and country where last seen. TAGS HELP!

This group is formed in conjunction with The South East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami blog (SEA-EAT).

more posts at this blog on missing persons and notice the listing of images galeries.

Referring to this item a blogger requested the RSS of this missing persons listing. Smartmobs thanks Pria Prakash and Carl Henderson for providing this.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Catching up edition