Sunday, March 22, 2009

Twitter: Training Wheels, Airbag, or Insurance?

I'm pursuing a number of job opportunities right now. If I'm hired, I might move away from Denver. I'm casting my net wide, so I'm not really sure where I might end up, but I know that before I get there, I'll try to build up my Twitter network with local contacts - people who might be able to help me navigate the move and so on.

As I thought about how I could best leverage my current and future network, it occurred to me that we can look at Twitter in three distinct ways: as training wheels, as an airbag, or as insurance.

Training wheels - The world moves at about a million miles a second nowadays. It can be frustrating and time-consuming to enter the stream all at once without help. One of the much-touted uses of Twitter is helping people. We need to know where to go for Kindle support, or what kind of RAM our computers need, or even how to use Twitter itself. Other users can act as training wheels to help speed us along into the web and in real life.

Airbag - Bad things happen. As an airbag, Twitter can help to insulate us against problems. Closely related to its use as training wheels, there are many ways that we've seen the community come together to help those in need, as it did when David Armano helped Daniela and her family. With many of our jobs in crisis, Twitter can be helpful for job-finders or even those seeking state and federal help to get by. An airbag is used to slow us down in an accident and prevent big hurts; Twitter, as a community of interesting and interested people, can be that airbag.

Insurance - Last but not least, we cannot ignore the power of microblogging to aid us in our most desperate...or our most powerful. Let me explain: Last April, a blogger tweeted about his arrest in Egypt. The message got out and so did he. Imagine witnessing a crime on a city street. Unable to stop the criminal, the best you can do is shoot out 140 characters describing his or her appearance. It's a rough example, to be sure, and there's no guarantee that it will necessarily help the situation, but at least it's something. And in terms of power: a Twitter user snaps/uploads a Twitpic of an elected official engaging in questionable activity (let your mind wander). Boom! Lights out. Twitter in the hands of a disgruntled employee can also be wielded with frightful results, if that employee was so inclined.

Training wheels, airbag, or insurance. It can be one, all three, or none of these. How do you see Twitter?

Flickr photo from user kate at yr own risk

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Religion on Twitter

Here's the questions:

And here are the answers:

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What is Twitter?

This video explaining Twitter is awesome. I think it should replace the Common Craft version that Twitter uses:

, ,

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Shakespeare Factoid of the...Year?

I'm visiting home for spring break and a job interview. While sleeping on the couch very early this morning, my mother dropped what she called an "interesting fact" on the table next to me. Upon waking, I read this (apparently from a "Fact-a-Day" calendar, dated Wednesday, January 28th):
It is believed that Shakespeare was forty-six around the time the King James version of the Bible was written. In Psalm 46, the forty-sixth word from the first word is shake, and the forty-sixth word from the last word is spear.
Holy moly.

, ,

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Of Advertising and Return

A little while ago, I caught a tweet from @davewiner pointing out that super web-guy and blog-champ @jasoncalacanis was offering Twitter $10000/month to be on the "Suggested Users" list. I retweeted it and offered Mr. Calacanis $5000/month to relentlessly promote him and his work. I wasn't entirely serious, and I'm convinced that my response was out of line. But that is neither here nor there.

Calacanis responded to @davewiner, clarifying that the offer was payable in advance for two years' standing on the "Suggested Users" list. Do the math. That's $250000 for a presence on a list for a service that hasn't completely figured itself out (this is largely due to the fact that Twitter morphs on an hourly basis!). Calacanis is entirely justified in wanting a spot - Twitter continues to explode, and as more and more people come to it, they'll likely check the Suggested list for who to follow.

But I'm not so sure that dumping a quarter of a million dollars on the "Suggested Users" list is the best way to promote his stuff. If Mr. Calacanis was serious about attracting not only regular web-users but also the people new to the social web, he could find better ways to spend the money. Why not "blow" the money on anti-malarial bednets; 25000 bednets is a lot of safe families in the developing world. Such a gift would generate immediate mainstream media attention, and the story would certainly get around on Twitter. $250000 would also start a lot of businesses in the developing world (shameless plug there).

I'm not questioning his methods, and I'm certainly not complaining about his advertising budget. But if he wanted to make a big splash, both in terms of regular and web-media, there are many "Suggested Awesome Things" that he could do instead.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

FedEx Freebies

FedEx/Kinko's will provide job seekers with 25 free copies of their resume (albeit for only one day, March 10). It's a great example of socially-conscious marketing. The round-up is here at Microgiving.

I oftentimes see companies doing things like this. My first reaction is always one of excitement and empathy. I immediately see the company in a better light. My second reaction is always one of suspicion. When my first reaction is not invalidated by the second reaction, as in the case of FedEx, I smile even wider.

Monday, March 2, 2009


The 1010 Project was asked to present a workshop on poverty eradication at a PeaceJam conference here in Denver this past weekend. The Advocacy and Outreach Coordinator and I were going to co-present, but she fell ill and I flew solo. I think it went well. The room was packed, the kids asked good questions, and none of my multimedia fell through.

Some of the tougher questions were about comparisons between microfinance institutions in the developing world and sub-prime mortgages in the US. It sounds crazy, but it's a good question. I answered that we have to hope that our rosy vision for the future is correct, and that communities in the developing world have a better sense the rest of us. Other good questions were about regulation of the informal sector in our world's slums. It really was a lot of fun. I'll include the description of the workshop below for your perusal:

Initiatives to tackle poverty are not new, but the methods and best practices employed by people to do so change quite often. Even twenty-five years ago, the prevailing notion was that eradicating poverty could be done from the top down. Those initiatives failed, or produced systems of dependence wherein no real change was made. What was needed was a shift from the top-down model to a bottom-up model. What was needed was ownership of poverty eradication by the very people who would benefit from it: the poor.

It is important to explain to the general public, and especially young people, that ending poverty is not simply a question of how much foreign aid is sent to the developing world but rather a question of where that money is going and how it is being used. Purchasing emergency rations during humanitarian disasters is perfectly noble, but when the food trucks leave, are the people there really in a better position?

The 1010 Project employs a model of development that ensures sustainable, healthy growth coupled with positive social change, and we are not alone in our work. There are countless activists in developed and developing countries working hard every day to make sure that foreign aid dollars and individual donations are used to their greatest effect. This is achieved by actually listening to what the poor have to say. They usually have ideas about how they can help themselves and their communities to break the cycle of poverty but just lack the resources.

Also important is the notion that the “conversation” about poverty is changing. We are used to seeing photos of hungry children and destitute slums; we are told time and time again about the conditions in such places, with malaria and HIV/AIDS running rampant. The conversation now includes success stories; reports about community-based organizations coming together to help each other. Billions still live on less than $2 per day, but every day, thousands of people and families are lifting themselves out of poverty. We know how to help them, and they are more than ready to partner with us.

We will walk participants through the following content areas:
  1. Introductions: Our icebreaker is discussing what “poverty” means to us. This is, in a large way, the perfect starting point for any discussion about ending global poverty – defining it.
  2. History of foreign aid infrastructure and poverty alleviation/eradication techniques.
  3. Description of The 1010 Project methodology as it relates to poverty eradication.
  4. Description of other NGO/NPO work, e.g. Kiva, GlobalGiving, etc.
  5. “Success stories from the field” – Describing the positive effects of in-country ownership of poverty eradication initiatives.
  6. Taking it to the streets – What can activists do to advocate on behalf of the poor, and how can those successes be expanded upon and globalized?
  7. Q & A

, , ,