March, 2007

Second Life vs My Real One

March 23rd, 2007

Get a First Life

I’m still getting over a bit of a head cold (read “man flu”), but this cheered me up.

Deborah Weil flagged this single-page parody of Second Life, Get A First Life.

Second Life – compare this page – is the virtual world that a handful of not-for-profits have dabbled in over recent months, which I have been following on this blog.

I meant to mention that journalist Peter Davy interviewed me for his alternative realities article [not sure how long this will be available online], which appeared in the Jan/Feb issue of Charity Times. The jury is still out on Second Life, of course.

And did you read that apparently avatars consume as much electricity as your average Brazilian (is there such a thing?).

I’ve got as far as creating my avatar (“Joe Boa”), but I’m with Amy Gahran: Second Life: I’ve enough going on in my First Life, thanks.

By Steve Bridger filed under second life

Technorati avatars, get a first life, second life

The (not-for-much-profit) blogging consultant

March 21st, 2007

Blogging Consultant - Hugh MacLeod

I wish ;-)

Thanks to Hugh :: http://www.gapingvoid.com/

I can’t really sign off without pointing you to Michael Baler’s Blogs And CRM for non-profits piece published in the NonProfit Times last May, but (still) one of the best introductions to this topic.

By Steve Bridger filed under blogging

Technorati blogging consultant, michael baler

Leveraging social networking to influence change

March 20th, 2007

PR Blogger Stephen Davies thinks we’ll start to see a fragmentation of social networks. As people begin to tire with the vast, general nature of MySpace et al, they may migrate to niche social networks that are more relevant to them, their passions and their lives.

He asks:

So what does it mean for brands? Niche social networks can be tapped into for more relevancy in online engagement. For example, which platform makes the most sense for a brand like Pedigree? Bebo or DoggySnaps?

Stephen continues…

But identifying the right platform is just the minor part. It’s how you engage with the users in a creative, respectful and non-intrusive manner which will be the key to a successful online PR campaign…

Spot on, Stephen. I’ll come back to that.

Interestingly, there is already some activity in the ‘social networks for change’ space. Change.org launched last month, and Cauzoo.com will be “a space where you can promote your passion, rally for a cause, and raise money for charities in a variety of different ways.”

change-cauzoo.jpgAnd then there’s Carebadges… who do it with widgets.

It’s early days, but I’m not totally convinced that these social networks are themselves authentic enough: they seem a little forced… activism for activism’s sake (not that there’s anything wrong with that particularly). I’m not sure about the lack of focus though – well, unless you’re an activist first, and something else second.

You need to get close to where your supporters are (and their distributed network)… which is why DoggySnaps is so good.

Moving on… I’ve harped on before about how I registered the mycauses.org.uk domain and how I hoped one of the players in the social networking space would create a “My Causes” tab in their members’ profile pages.

LinkedIn for Good

Well, I’m pleased to see that LinkedIn has moved a step in this direction, and should be applauded – thanks to Kerri Karvetski for the tip-off.

LinkedIn for Good

The first not-for-profit to benefit from a presence on LinkedIn is Médecins Sans Frontières.

It looks pretty good… up to a point! I feel it’s only a start though, as this still has the feel of what you might call a “networked giving” and nothing more – in other words, too much focus on fundraising.

The implementation on a member’s profile page (see below) could be improved. I’m not sure that “Member” is entirely accurate in this context either.

linkedin-group.pngWhat if I want a different kind of relationship with a not-for-profit… or with a cause with which I identify for some reason?

LinkedIn members are – on the whole – accustomed to having more of a voice. In fact, I believe that LinkedIn will discover that members will desire a 360 degree relationship with not-for-profits.

LinkedIn feels entrepreneurial. There’s real potential here I think for the not-for-profits to engage members of the LinkedIn network in a relationship that goes beyond giving. Think of members of LinkedIn as potential ambassadors for your cause.

I might be able to indicate in my profile that a preference for becoming a virtual volunteer and trustee.

As Jeff Brooks writes, donors can also give:

  • Information: ranging from market insight to specialized professional knowledge.
  • Voice: the ability to speak for you in many ways.
  • Influence: the ability to help things go your way.

And of course, donations will surely follow.

The 9m+ members of LinkedIn must carry a fair bit of clout between them. You’d think it would be pretty unstoppable if this collective intelligence – already into thinking about network-building and showing leadership in a networked world – could be harnessed to support individual actions through the social network, even to find solutions to problems.

I can actually foresee new agile social enterprises springing up from a network like LinkedIn… united by their ability to connect to others with shared passions, complementary skills, and a vision to change things. And I’m sure there’s a link here with the creation of like the Omidyar Network and Kiva.

The Simplicity of Social Networks by Dan Cooney - published with permissionThere, I’ve just this minute received an email from LinkedIn’s Dave Sanford (thanks for getting back to me, Dave), so this post should serve as a good discussion opener!

Returning to the DoggySnaps example… what started as a photo-sharing community has the potential to evolve into a dynamic social network.

Niche, yes… but it can extend the reach of the Dogs Trust, the not-for-profit behind it.

(Related post: my DoggySnaps interview).

Update: See Dave Sanford’s response, below…

Technorati doggysnaps, linkedin, mycauses, net2, niche social networks, nptechuk

Shaggy Blog Stories… for Comic Relief

March 16th, 2007

My daughter Nelly was shuttled off to infant school this morning dressed as “Super Nelly” with a pocketful of loose change. Yes, it’s that time again: Red Nose Day.

Shaggy Blog StoriesBut did you know that 100 British bloggers have contributed to a book to raise funds for Comic Relief? You do now.

The book, “Shaggy Blog Stories: a collection of amusing tales from the UK blogosphere”, is the idea of Mike Atkinson who writes the ‘Troubled Diva’ blog.

The book went from idea to finished product in a “ridiculously short” seven days, using the latest publishing-on-demand technology.

To ORDER THE BOOK – it’s less than 10 quid – visit Lulu.com.

Take a look at Mike’s blog for the background story on how “Shaggy Blog Stories” came about.

Finally, after the laughter dies down, remind yourself here, and here, why all this silly stuff every two years.

Oh, and finally (finally)… I’ll be publishing an interview with Martin Gill, Head of New Media at Comic Relief, sometime next week. Hopefully.

By Steve Bridger filed under blogging

Technorati comic relief, fundraising, rednoseday, shaggy blog stories

The Next Big Thing in fundraising: saying thank you

March 15th, 2007

We can learn a lot from our kids… and how they say thank you. I’m no exception.

But Whitewater’s Steve Andrews says it perfectly:

Saying ‘thank you’ is one of the best opportunities you have to inspire your donors, to make them feel fantastic about their decision to give.

I urge you to read Steve’s post.

Another ‘must read’ blogger, Jeff Brooks, touched on a similar theme recently:
Photo courtesy Eunice XR Lai

If you want full value from donors, you need to engage them in a relationship and conversation.

Treating donors as human beings. There’s a concept.

Reminds me of something a kid once said to me at youth club. He fancied himself as a bit of a bully. He said something to me in an attempt to provoke a response. I ignored him. He got huffy, got his words muddled up and barked, “You’re talking to a brick wall”. I think he meant to say something else. Anyway, we were teens. It was a long time ago.

People have long memories.

Technorati fundraising, giving, whitewater

My Social Network, circa 1987

March 15th, 2007

I was recently drawn to this interesting graphic posted to Flickr by NMK’s Ian Delaney. It illustrates the fragmentation of people’s media consumption over recent decades. So what should I find when rummaging about in the garage earlier this week, but this rather dog-eared yellow card, 148mm x 210mm. Old media indeed.

Ah, but it’s so much more than that.

Now my years at university grimly coincided with Margaret Thatcher’s third term as prime minister, when the streets were often filled with the sound of protest: “Maggie, Maggie, Maggie! Out! Out! Out!”…

Among other things, Thatcher made savage cuts to higher education funding and exactly twenty years ago, our department was threatened with closure.

We, students and faculty, fought back. We organised ourselves. As the winter break approached, we vowed not to lose touch, despite physically dispersing around the globe. What tools were available to us back then, twenty years ago? The Telephone. Simple as that. So the “Save DEV” telephone tree was born. It was this that I stumbled upon in the garage on Monday.

Save DEV campaign

View a larger version of the telephone tree.

But I mention this, not for old times’ sake, but because I recall what it was like to run a campaign (as I subsequently did for Oxfam) without the tools that are now available to us – to blog, to tag, to video, and so on. Part of my motivation for starting this blog was this memory (“if only we’d had these tools back then…”).

But we still networked. Quite effectively, actually (we saved our department).

TIME magazine, Jan 3, 1983It’s just easier now to make connections, and join existing ‘conversations’ we would never have known about before.

Thinking about it, I guess the computer revolution really coincided with the Thatcher regime (I still like to call it that). In 1982, TIME magazine selected ‘The Computer’ as its “Man of the Year”. In 2006, it picked “You”. The Machine is now Us.

I guess that symbolises just how far we’ve come.

Or have we? I notice that one of my lecturer’s, John Cameron, is still there. Must get in touch. And with all the others. By email. Where are they now, I wonder? Can we reconnect the network… via the internet… which is, after all, the same old network of people.

Technorati media fragmentation, net2, networks, nptechuk, university of east anglia

That Sarah McLachlan music video

March 7th, 2007

I’m a little slow on the uptake on this one… like two years!

Canadian singer/songwriter Sarah McLachlan’s World on Fire music video cost $150,000 to produce… except it didn’t, it cost $15 and the rest was donated to these charities.

YouTube Preview Image

Well, it hasn’t actually been available on YouTube for that long; thanks to Kai Chan Vong at Justgiving for the tip off.

Oh, and Justgiving has launched its very own page on YouTube. I’m pretty certain that we’ll see a steady increase in the number of people capturing their fundraising stories on video.

Of course, we already know that $500 can buy a family in China a water buffalo.

Technorati justgiving, sarah mclachlan, youtube

Widgets of the world unite…

March 6th, 2007

I’ve been having a lot of widgety thoughts recently, so I thought I’d bundle up a few loose ends in the one (long) post.

First though, if you’re playing catch-up a bit, Heidi Cohen has written a good widgets primer on ClickZ.

18seconds.org badgeNow… I happened to replace half a dozen conventional light bulbs at home on Sunday with compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs). Over in the US, Yahoo! has launched a campaign in collaboration with Inconvenient Truth producer Lawrence Bender, Wal-Mart, and others, to raise awareness among Americans about the energy and environmental savings afforded by CFLs.

When you purchase a CFL bulb anywhere in the US it will be added to 18seconds.org! And, you guessed it… you can easily and quickly configure your own widget (or ‘badge’ in Yahoo-speak) and install it on your website, blog and / or social network page with a simple cut and paste. Brilliant!

If you’re interested in reading more about the campaign, Lawrence Bender has written a guest post on Yahoo’s Yodel Anecdotal blog.

Demonstrating impact

The first book I ever read on campaigning was Des Wilson’s A to Z of Public Advocacy, first published in 1984. I can’t lay my hands on my copy (in the garage?) but if I recall correctly, one of Des’s golden rules was encourage you to campaign for something, rather than against something, and the 18seconds widget does a great job of visualising – in raw numbers anyway – the accumulated impact of hundreds of thousands of small actions by distributed individuals to effect positive change.

I emphasise “positive” change, as leveraging Web 2.0 communication tools for good was something that was discussed in a lively ‘conversation’ hosted by Amnesty’s Dan McQuillan during the Uploading Innovation ‘unconference’ last week.

If you hadn’t guessed already… for me, widgets are one of the most exciting ingredients in the emerging Web 2.0 toolbox.

Wear your cause on your blog

Another new kid on the widget block is Carebadges, who aspire to be the yellow bracelet campaign of the web, and while I think the implementation can be improved a lot, I agree with co-founder Saar Gur who told me:

Uploaded by Zanoobi on 26 May '05We think that as people express their identities on the web, there is a big gap where social causes ought to be. We want people to express the things that they care about beyond cultural items (music, movies, etc.).

Last year I actually registered the domain name – mycauses.org.uk – and wrote on this blog that I would willingly give it up to any organisation which promised to use it wisely (or hand it over to MySpace if they agreed to establish a “My Causes” tab on their social networking site!)

Anyway, I interrupted Saar…

We want to give people ‘badges’ to help them identify with a cause and have a positive social influence amongst their peers. We use our “impact meter” of impressions/awareness, donations/support to help recognise folks that use their popularity for good. The money [donations] will come later if we can give tools to those who want to create cool badges, email signatures, etc., and we focus on the social impact that each user has in recruiting new members…

I’m not totally convinced in this peer group tactic, in much the same way as I’m not sure how much saying “I’m In” means you’re really anything other than a number. You’re agreeing that Oxfam’s mission is a noble thing.

Widgets have the potential to show you how by taking this or that action, you are making a difference.

Communicating success

This could be the Holy Grail for widgets.

18seconds does this in a visually compelling way… it joins the dots… and it makes it look simple.

But wait a minute. ChipIn’s Carnet Williams says something very interesting in this interview with Britt Bravo (which to Britt’s great credit rather trumps my own interview with Carnet last month).

Carnet says…

What I think 2007 really should be part of is the evolution of the widget into a smart widget. We are going to see widgets that are going to be focused around transactions, such as a ChipIn widget around donations, focused around intelligent content, meaning that widgets will soon be able to identify the users, and where they’re located, so that they can serve our conditional and intelligent content.

I really think that widgets are going to evolve and you’re going to start seeing a whole new breed of widgets that are more intelligent, that are richer in the data, and that have a much more grounded rationale so they’ll move from becoming decorations to part of a business process for companies and individuals online.

Now the slightest hint of ‘smart’ widgets is enough for me: if I could only get information I care about – e.g. what difference a project I supported is actually having, or the accumulated effect of campaigning actions, etc. via a widget… now, that would surely become a key driver of my future support for that cause.

The Network Effect

For a great insight into the power of the widget widget web, check out Dion Hinchcliffe’s excellent article, Tracking the DIY phenomenon Part 1: Widgets, badges, and gadgets.

Dion identifies the YouTube ‘badge’ (we’re still talking widgets) as demonstrating the value of ‘chunking’ up content and services into bite-sized reusable pieces.

Particularly because it has so many viral distribution pieces built into it, the YouTube badge is the canonical example of the power of opening up and letting the entire web distribute your content for you.

Not content just to ask you if you’d like to share a video with friends via e-mail (resulting in friends forwarding to friends, and to their friends and so on) but YouTube makes the code snippet for embedding it right on your own site or blog readily visible and available to the right of each video.

Not content just to have their content just on a single site, YouTube realized that it was by mobilizing millions of users to extend the YouTube platform to their own sites that they could achieve lasting and durable network effects. E-mail propagation is powerful but it’s almost certainly no match for having millions of persistent, discoverable YouTube badge installations all over the web.

Dion kindly gave me permission to reproduce the following graphic (originally published here) which illustrates the full potential of the network for extending the reach of your widget / message.

Widget Network Effect: Dion Hinchcliffe - graphic reproduced with permission

Here in the UK, Justgiving has added badges (these are just badges) to the toolset available to fundraisers (is it just me who thinks all widgets, gadgets, etc… look better with rounded corners?).

Justgiving badge

Their widgets have been doing pretty well, too. Since their release at the end of December, over 8,000 individual Justgiving widgets have been posted on the web and the highest performing widgets have registered over 500,000 page impressions.

Right now, there are 1,479 “active” Justgiving widgets, all doing their stuff, and this figure is expected to rise pretty steeply as we get nearer to the London Marathon.

Justgiving’s Simon Doggett told me that a Flash version of their widget is in testing, and should be released later this month (fundraisers have been asking for a widget that is optimised for those websites that currently block iframes, e.g. MySpace).

Well, that turned into rather a long post, so I had better think of a way to summarise how I believe widgets can prove a winner for not-for-profits:

  • You move beyond the single website model and turn the entire web into a distribution system for your content / stories (Dion Hinchcliffe)
  • Smart widgets will (hopefully soon) allow you to report back on how you are making a difference

Technorati 18seconds, chipin, justgiving, nestauploading, net2, nptechuk, saar gur, widgets

Children’s charity checks into virtual hotel

March 3rd, 2007

I’ve written previously about how the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) has embraced innovation to raise awareness of its cause.

Now Childline, which merged with the NSPCC last year, has created the Childline Zen Garden room in Habbo Hotel – a virtual community for teenagers. The child protection charity hopes that its three-month stay in Habbo (until May) will allow it to reach out to the young audience in their natural browsing environment.

The room was unoccupied when this screengrab was taken as all ‘Habbos’ (the user-created avatars) were in school at the time.

Childline Zen Garden in Habbo Hotel

The charity will host events and activities on Habbo aimed at getting young people involved in its anti-bullying campaign, Don’t Hide It.

Rebecca Newton, Safety & Moderation Manager for Habbo’s creators, Sulake Corporation, told me that there’s a promo on the Habbo UK website about the Zen Garden room. This is the primary way of pushing traffic to partnered areas – along with word-of-mouth.

Habbo UK now attracts 750,000 players aged 11-18 each month, according to this BBC article.

Habbo Hotel UKEmily Knee, NSPCC’s digital project manager is quoted as saying…

It is imperative that we talk to teenagers in their own environment, much of which is online

She hopes the partnership with Habbo will drive traffic to the NSPCC website, as well as encouraging members of the community to take part in polls and design an anti-bullying themed room.

The NSPCC previously ran some interactive ads on Habbo (as well as Mykindaplace and Bebo).

Habbo started in Finland in 2000, so pre-dates Second Life by three years or so. It’s probably the first successful virtual world this side of the pond.

I like the look of the two-dimensional Habbo. It’s more colourful than Second Life’s 3D environment – and hence, more appealing to teens.

As Rebecca put it:

There’s no peer pressure to look “older” or “cool” since we’re all 2-inch pixelated characters.

Technorati anti-bullying, childline, habbo hotel, net2, nptechuk, nspcc, sulake

Saved by the brushstroke

March 1st, 2007

Last month I wrote about the public appeal to raise a lot of dosh to keep one of JMW Turner’s greatest paintings in the UK.

Today, the BBC report that the campaign has been successful.

I understand that over a third of 11,433 individual donors ‘bought’ brushstokes, and that of the £552,198 raised in total (via post, phone and web), £73,281 – or 13 percent – was donated through the buy a brushstroke initiative.

By Steve Bridger filed under giving

Technorati buy a brushstroke, jmw turner, tate, the art fund, the blue rigi