web 2.0

When pictures speak a thousand words

June 15th, 2007

Meant to blog this last week, but other (actually, quite important) stuff got in the way.

Thanks to Britt Bravo for tipping me off (via Netsquared) about Amnesty’s Eyes on Darfur website, where it is asking supporters to monitor 12 villages in Darfur that they have deemed “vulnerable” to attack via satellite.

Eyes on Darfur - Amnesty International

And get a load of this.

Listen to the gasps from the audience as Microsoft Live Labs Architect, Blaise Aguera y Arcas demos Seadragon and Photosynth at the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Conference in California.Is it just me, or is the pace of innovation speeding up by the day?

Hat tip to cxpartners.

Technorati eyes on darfur, flickr, microsoft, photosynth, seadragon

Another shout for a Netsquared Europe

June 15th, 2007

Amnesty’s Dan McQuillan has made a rallying call for a Netsquared this side of the pond – which could be an “incubator for web-enabled social change in the UK & Europe”.

An idea. Photo: LeopoldoDan identifies some possible goals:

  • To stimulate web-enabled social innovation
  • To create a an online-offline community for learning skills, sharing experiences and developing expertise
  • To sustain socially progressive activity through alternative business & organisational models

I like the emphasis Dan gives to “activism”, and “the organisational question” in particular…

Perhaps, like the second Netsquared conference, it could aim to incubate a new generation of web-enabled non-profits that use new forms of organising to deliver more directly on their missions.

There is a very real tension between where social media is taking us and how charities are responding (although there needn’t be). Web 2.0 requires Leadership 2.0. Surely two sides of the same coin.

All this may well dovetail with the initiative soon to be unveiled by Bertie Bosredon, the Head of New Media at Breast Cancer Care. Bertie gave me an update earlier this week.

Yesterday, I happened to get a call from Richard Saunders, who is head of website development at NCH, the children’s charity. He also hinted he would welcome a forum along these lines. And Rob Bowker at the BTCV has flagged his interest to me via this blog.

I also know from many of the conversations I had in Brussels last week that there would be an appetite for this elsewhere in Europe, too. Paolo Ferrara left a comment on my recent Buzz Director post to let me know that they are starting to unpick this concept in their own Italian context.

I hope many others will be up for it. But it won’t all be plain sailing; David Wilcox recently held up a mirror to reflect that in the UK at least, the sector has not always been good at being generous in this way.

I’m optimistic. At the start of the year, when I was considering some of the trends that might drive charities in 2007, I wrote that I was “thinking of co-organising an open-space event for those championing social media tools (and change management) within their organisations.” But Dan is right, this is much bigger than a single event.

I would only add that I’d like to see people from all ‘disciplines’ involved in this – I’ve had enough of silo-thinking .

Thank you, Dan; count me in.

Technorati innovation, net2, netsquared, nptech, nptechuk

Communicating the soul of your non-profit

June 14th, 2007

This is bloody brilliant.

A bunch of creative types in New York are hiring and did this video one night after work. You can see by the comments, that they’ve received no shortage of offers. Could this be a tactic for a non-profit to communicate the energy and passion of its staff to supporters and potential employees… or vice-versa?

Hat tip to Carnet Williams.

Technorati communication, connected ventures, video recruitment

My Fundraising 2.0 presentation

June 9th, 2007

On Tuesday (…it already seems much longer than that), I facilitated an “online fundraising” workshop for a number of wonderful development NGO-people in Brussels. We were all attending the Euforic AGM. Scarily, a few photos have appeared on Flickr.

Not sure how much sense my presentation will make without the narrative, but here it is anyway:

I peppered the session with examples of charities (and donors) already using social media to raise money for their causes. Participants raised some challenging questions. So challenging in fact, that I need to chew on these for a bit before I can adequately respond. And I didn’t really have time to work in my re-mix of David Wilcox’s card game. I have that for another time.

It was great to meet and talk with fellow blogger Paolo Ferrara, along with Agnes Philippart and Andreas Vogt of Concord.

All told, a whirlwind (and almost sleep-deprived) 24-hours, but I did manage an evening stroll around the Grand Place, fuelled by some Belgian sausages and washed down with a glass or two of Chimay Bleu in the company of Nancy White and Joitske Hulsebosch…to name just two. Many thanks to Peter Ballantyne for the invite, and to Birthe Paul and Martin Behrens for making it easy for me on the day.

Here’s the Slideshare link, in case the presentation doesn’t load.

Technorati concord, euforic, fundraising, giving

Buzz Director: help me write a job description

June 7th, 2007

Buzz Lightyear. Photo: Thomas HawkI thought it was about time to re-visit the role of the “buzz director” – flesh out the role I first floated last October.

This is especially urgent given that much of the action is now taking place away from your own (increasingly irrelevant) website, ‘out there’, in social networks and online communities.

A good example of this is the dispersed hoohah generated by the London 2012 Olympic logo. An immediate ‘loss of control’ if ever there was one. Ben Whitnall asks whether the powers that be will be happy to engage with the debate where it is already happening (e.g the 100+ groups set up on Facebook in the last few days)… or will this be a job turned over to the suits and bean counters in the Ministry for Herding Cats?

Through this post, I’ll ping Jeremy Gould, who hints that heads of “e-communication” in government departments regularly re-assess their “roles and skillsets” now the goalposts have moved. But I reckon this awareness is unlikely to have yet ‘trickled up’ to the accountants.

Another favourite blogger of mine, Jeremiah Owyang, has also chipped in with some suggestions.

Last month I noticed that Shane Atchison included elements of the buzz director role in this post describing what a “Social Network Analyst” might do. I emailed Shane via the ClickZ website. Hope he received it.

Perhaps the “buzz director” label (which was always just a working title) sounds too marketing-centric; I don’t mean it to be; buzz directors need to be able to apply this thinking to online communities and activist networks. I’m talking ‘people’ rather than products.

Anyway, I’m going to quickly throw down some further thoughts. I fear they’ll come out in no particular order, but you’re invited to help me knock this into shape by commenting below. I’ll also set up a wiki (Update: here’s the link).

Oh, by the way… when you do come to recruit for this role, consider putting the word out like this!

Job description

You will:

  • Learn how to be in more than one place at once!! i.e. not just a space ranger but a ‘ranger of spaces’.
  • Co-create targeted engagement strategies with appropriate colleagues, especially social reporters and community technology stewards (if you have them), brand ‘ambassadors’, and ’cause evangelists’.
  • Bring the senior management team with you; earn their respect and backing.
  • Photo: Steve BridgerDevelop and coach on tactics, seeding networks, ‘brand’ positioning, etc.
  • Expect the unexpected, and be resourceful in responding in the moment. Improvise.
  • Funnel organisational strategy into focused activity.
  • Be pivotal in mapping the organisational structure onto web innovation.
  • Be generous. Eat like a bird, poop like an elephant.
  • Recruit virtual volunteers and sprinkle confetti liberally, so that you yourself can leave a ‘light footprint’.

Photos: Marta Motti & Anna Pleteneva
Photos: Marta Motti and Anna Pleteneva

  • Identify and define new measures of engagement, social capital and social impact.
  • Encourage culture of collaboration and joined-up thinking and confront ‘silo’ thinking wherever you encounter it.
  • ParachutistsCall on ‘peace-keepers’ (strictly non-combatants) to follow guidelines (which you yourself have drawn up co-created with key stakeholders.
  • Pull the highlights from the ‘dashboard’ [see below...] and prepare monthly reports of activity and impact. Distribute widely within the organisation and beyond.


  • Be able to see the wood from the trees and ideally have an eye for visualising data.
  • Be the consummate diplomat and demonstrate the ability to slip into the role of chameleon or conductor when appropriate… and very very occasionally don an invisible cloak (but leave dagger behind).
  • Show good judgement.
  • Some legal nous would be desirable, as would be the ability to conduct risk assessments around ‘user-generated content’.
  • Know how to take calculated risks.
  • Be a good listener.
  • Be inspired and inspire others.
  • Coach.
  • Possess a sixth sense.
  • Be as light on your feet as a prizefighter. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.
  • Instinctively recognise when serendipity occurs; capture it, bottle it… and pass on the recipe.


Back in the 1980s we had the press cuttings service (as well as the telephone tree). New functions and responsibilities require new tools and devices.

Ed Mitchell, Nigel Dunn and I have been discussing the concept of a “dashboard”. Now, none of us is absolutely certain yet how or what to measure – well, not everything – although I think we’ve got a pretty good foundation.

Bear with me. I visualise this dashboard as a ‘virtual’ mixing desk… with levers and buttons, dials, green and amber lights, a few scary red ones, a built-in early warning system. Basically, this ‘thing’ would be so cool that nobody will want to be without one. Not if you’re a buzz director, anyway.

Mixing desk

The dashboard would reflect the different activities and behaviours around ‘your’ cause. It would aggregate all the conversations (see Pageflakes, Netvibes, and coComment), but be much more than that.

Check out London-based Onalytica who have updated their website. It now features live graphs offering – as they put it – “an unprecedented X-ray of the stakeholder universe”.



Right, need to set up that wiki…


Caveat: this is a work in progress.

Technorati buzz director, community dashboard, net2, nptechuk, social media measurement

Priming the widget response network for action

May 30th, 2007

Blending the use of social tools around the current focus and concerns of your work colleagues’ and activists is a must. So I think Nigel Dunn is onto something with his concept for a widget response network.

Nigel blogged after listening to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) Darfur and Chad Appeal over the weekend.

While the UK-based DEC does have a Rapid Response Network for Big Media, he believes (and I agree) that they could benefit enormously from providing a badge/widget that is available all the time.

If there’s an appeal happening then content connected with that is delivered, otherwise it’s empty. This would allow the ongoing development of a network that could be brought into play (more or less) instantly that a new appeal is launched.

He even anticipates widget strategy meetings…

Inevitably new technologies and ideas will spring up over time, which means that you will have different versions [of the badge/widget] operating at the same time. So a few years down the road you will have meetings to decide what content/functionality to deliver to everyone left on version 1 compared to the whizzy new version 2, etc.

These widgets could have a “donate” button embedded in them, but it’s the network effect of thousands of ‘smart’ widgets of the sort I wrote about in March (see widgets of the world unite) that is really exciting. Lots of potential for demonstrating real social impact.

A widget response network in the way Nigel describes would also be a powerful tool for groups like the The Genocide Intervention Network, and Amnesty’s crisis response network.

Families arrive at Otash Camp. They have fled from fighting in south Darfur seeking shelter, food and protection. With permission - World Vision

Incidently, the Appeal for Darfur and Chad has raised around £3m since its launch last Thursday, and for the first time ever in a DEC appeal, more has been raised online than by phone, according to this article in Professional Fundraising.

Twitter for urgent actions

It seems relevant to link the ‘widget response network’ concept to my first thoughts on Twitter.

Photo: LeopoldoIt was Andy Carvin who recently asked “might text messaging… serve any purpose in times of public emergencies?”. He explored the humanitarian relief potential of Twitter in his post Can Twitter Save Lives?

For another take, check out Twitter for human rights, from the always brilliant Dan MacQuillan.

Something else to go on the radar of your buzz director. (What, you still don’t have one?)

Technorati darfur, dec, emergency appeal, net2, nptechuk, rapid response network, twitter, widgets

Valentine’s Day meets Web 2.0

February 15th, 2007

I meant to post this yesterday, but a deadline prevented me from doing so. Then, of course, blogging was out of the question in the evening (you know what day it was).

I may have earned some leeway had I been bright enough to think up something as clever as this. But instead I tucked into Gicela’s home-made chicken mole, followed by a DVD (…since you asked, it was Volver).

Anyway, I digress.

This pacy video by Michael Wesch has been doing the rounds in recent days, but since I viewed it for the first time only yesterday (where have I been?), I thought I’d post it here, in case you missed it, too!
YouTube Preview Image

This five-minute clip itself became a lesson in viral video and the power of Web 2.0

Oh, and another video: an amusing reality check

Technorati michael wesch, web 2.0 valentine

An interview with the Widget King

February 7th, 2007

Last year, Hawaii-based ChipIn launched its “social ecommerce” service designed to help individuals connect with people in their social network for collection of money for a personal cause, to purchase a gift, or for community fundraising.

ChipIn widgetIn recent months, the business has morphed into a “distributed fundraising widget management company”. Shel Israel blogged about this following a breakfast meeting he had with Carnet Williams, CEO at ChipIn, last December.

Now, if you want to find out how the ChipIn widget works, then you should read Beth Kanter’s case study, who incidentally interviewed Carnet in his pre-ChipIn days.

I think that distributed widget fundraising is a hugely important development and is set to sky-rocket this year… something I asked Carnet.

Do you agree that 2007 will be the Year of the Widget?

Yes! But I have a caveat on the term ‘widget’. I think in 2007 we will see a trend moving away from pure consumer-based widgets that act more like banner ads, and see the rise of the “smart” widgets – actual mini-applications that are embedded on both websites and desktops.
We are moving towards a more business-oriented rationale for widgets. Some good examples are the box.net widget to access and upload your files. It also plays mp3′s. This is a widget that serves a clear business purpose. That is where we wanted to position ChipIn – as a transactional widget that helps collect money. We will soon move beyond just tracking the collection of money, and onto tracking many different actions.

How do widgets offer a brand-building opportunity for not-for-profits?

When we think of widgets, we should be thinking of online branding and advocacy. It is not just the widget or the donations that not-for-profits should be seeking, but building a network of advocates that will carry a particular message. If the message is compelling, the donations will follow. Not-for-profits have an amazing ability to harness the power of their constituents’ social network through well-designed widgets that offer compelling value (content, actions, etc).

What is the blueprint for a successful widget strategy?

Just like selling your organisation’s mission, a widget strategy must start with a compelling message / reason to create a widget in the first place. It must cater to the stakeholder who is going to carry that widget around with them. It has to offer value in terms of changing content and help an organisation’s advocate make their case for support.

Definitely check out Beth Kanter’s Sharing Foundation case study, mentioned above [and listen to Nick Booth's podcast of Beth talking about her widget fundraising].

How do you measure the effectiveness of a widget?

We look at the number of widgets created, how many times they are viewed, and most importantly, we track the parent-child relationship between widgets. This allows us to track the word-of-mouth impact a widget is having, and the best advocates at spreading the message.

Can you identify some successful distributed fundraising activities and blog-raising campaigns?

DonorsChoose ran a great widget campaign last year to get bloggers to support school projects. I think they were one of the first not-for-profits to jump into this space themselves.

There are other campaigns running now, such as Network for Good’s SixDegrees.org campaign.

What are the main barriers to the adoption and spread of widgets (e.g. those sites which operate as ‘walled gardens’)?

I think the main barrier is going to be a crowded space and widgets that do not provide tangible value. For example, widgets that are just fancy banner ads will get old and tired very quickly for users.

The web is now all about user-generated content and changing content. Widgets need to follow this trend and provide a robust and rich media channel between the organisation and their supporters.

The walled gardens of the larger social media sites (MySpace, TypePad) will be an issue for groups, but we [ChipIn] are working to provide an aggregated approach to this problem by working with the larger sites to allow our system to work across the board. Everyone is always holding their breath to see what MySpace is going to do… but the desktop widgets may take some pressure off.

What’s behind the repositioning of your product as a Widget Management System?

Very simple. We had so many clients asking us for the platform that it made sense for us to shift our business from a consumer-facing product, to a back-end widget platform. We designed our core system to integrate very easily with our clients’ payment systems.

So, we are poised to fundamentally change the way online fundraising and advocacy will work within social media. We want to go far beyond just fundraising and see that as measurable benefit of our system. We want to see ChipIn become an online organising tool unlike anything else seen before. You’ll see a totally new and revamped ChipIn in the next month or so!!

(Wow… is this something for Comic Relief to try, perhaps?)

Technorati carnet williams, chipin, distributed fundraising, nptech, social ecommerce, widgets

Charities: Are you cool or old school?

February 6th, 2007

Launch of Global Cool charity and campaign in London, 30 January 2007

Compare this photo of the Windows Vista launch (blogged by Seth Godin last week to make a slightly different point) with the photo above – taken in London less than 24 hours later after the launch of Global Cool – a 10-year campaign “to reverse global warming”.

With which image do you most associate your charity?1

I mentioned Global Cool to Whitewater’s Steve Andrews and Anna Crofton over a beer last week. I predict that we will see new charities like Global Cool popping up in other ‘areas of benefit’, perhaps filling a gap a sluggish or less effective organisation has ‘vacated’.

Small charities can now have influence way beyond their size. Individuals, too.

Steve then highlighted the examples of Kiva.org and Robert Thompson’s water buffalo movie on the Whitewater group blog, which I wrote about last time. But he offers more evidence that the charity sector cannot afford to stand still.

Earlier this week I sat through the first four Whitewater Baby Boomer focus groups and, while it’s early days, I’ve heard plenty of donors say they’re bored and turned off by fundraising that asks for generic donations into the corporate pool. And, conversely, I’ve heard them thrilled with the idea that donations might actually pay for the stuff they’ve donated to. Ear-marking really is the future, whether we like it or not.

Now I’m not qualified enough to judge the credentials of the founder Dan Morrell and the scientific brains behind Global Cool, nor get into a debate about whether carbon offsetting will really make a difference, or whether we need to go much further… but that’s not my point anyway.

Frankly, I like their style.

Platinum-selling recording artists such as KT Tunstall and Josh Hartnett will act as ‘messengers’ to “empower a community of individuals” to take positive collective action. MySpace is also on board and will be pushing the message out to its millions of subscribers.

Chancellor Gordon Brown and Bill Gates addressing the Scottish Parliament. Photo courtesy of The Scottish ParliamentLast week Chancellor Gordon Brown said politicians must be more open and accountable if they are to engage new generations of internet-savvy voters in tackling the most urgent problems of the 21st century.

The Chancellor (pictured right) told delegates at the Microsoft Government Leaders Forum in Edinburgh that young people growing up with MySpace and YouTube expect to be involved more fully in political deliberation than previous generations. Access to information and the ability to mobilise public campaigns online has empowered ordinary citizens, he said.

Personally, I don’t think Global Cool is about the cult of celebrity but recognises that by harnessing the power and energy of the entertainment industry much can be done to spread the message. What do you think – a short-term publicity stunt or 10-year slog?

Al Gore is in it for the long haul. I was surprised by Gore’s wit and style in An Inconvenient Truth, which I watched on DVD for the first time last night. Big Al is now a Nobel nominee and the film is up for an Academy Award. Environment Minister David Miliband announced on Friday that the British government will distribute the film to all secondary schools in England (in the US, the National Science Teachers Association rejected a similar offer).

Anyway, before you think I’ve lost my judgement, I know ‘being cool’ and show-offy is no substitute for substance. But I have no reason to doubt that those fronting Cool Planet do not have the passion for their cause. Now they need to show they can be effective.

A decade ago, Joe Saxton wrote in What Are Charities For?

[Charities] have the potential to do far more than a better job. They exist because of what they believe in. The roots of most charities are in visions of a better world. Yet those visions, those beliefs, those values are all too often hidden. The beliefs are there, but the passion has gone the fire in the belly, the outrage and the anger long extinguished by layers of hierarchy, working parties and procedure.

Joe called on charities to put themselves forward as moral leaders and the source of new and innovative ideas to tackle some of society’s intractable problems.

If you do not, you will end up somewhere near the middle of Kathy Sierra’s mediocrity index.

1 I know Microsoft is not a charity… I’m just comparing the two images to make a point :)

Technorati dan morrell, global cool, global warming, joe saxton, seth godin, whitewater

Engagement is (not) made to measure

January 29th, 2007

Measuring ‘engagement’ is like eating an elephant: it’s a big job and you’re not sure where to start.

Photo by Alice Creative Commons licenceI’m no exception, and my thinking on this topic still feels heavy and a little clumsy. So, please indulge me for a moment…

At the start of the year, I wrote:

The page view is dead, long live, err… something else! Hmm… web metrics just do not cut it (and just when you’d got to grips with it!). But what should we be looking at now? In 2007, the sector needs to identify new measures of ‘engagement’ online. This work is urgent, especially as charities need to show accountability for everything they do.

In one sense, this may seem a pointless exercise – preparing to get the tape measure out as the social web gets widgetised, atomised, and more distributed.

But engagement was a key theme explored at the Future of Information Summit ’07 presented by Experian recently. Last month, a Factiva roundtable reached to figure out how to measure social media the best way, and Robert Scoble (no less) had already added his call for a new metric for engagement.

I’m equally aware that some people do not care for the term, ‘engagement’ (possibly because of all this attention). Anyway, for want of anything better, I’m sticking with it for now. More importantly, a lot of people whom I listen to in the sector are using the e-word. So there.

So, why all the talk about social media measurement? Well, it’s one thing to have an engaged website, but more and more the action takes place in other places, in existing communities and social networks. Charities must turn from ‘owning’ their cause to enabling networks to run with the ball. Yet again, this was reinforced to me over the weekend after reading Robin’s Hamman’s post about BBC 2.0.

So what are we measuring? Influence? Reach? Audience…?

Brian Oberkirch helped me make some more sense of this conundrum, although he admitted it was tough: “Like nailing down a shadow”…

That’s why I have a bit of trepidation over the rush to quantify and reify ‘engagement’ as the baseline by which all social media work should be evaluated. JKO called these ‘the holy grail’ as part of the discussion, and that’s what is problematic. ‘Engagement’, like ‘conversation’ is one of those terms that feels like it means something, but really is mushy enough for anyone to bend it to their will.

Check out Brian’s excellent post for some things we might want to measure. This certainly goes beyond the standard (and not so standard) toolset on web metrics deployed and listed here by Beth Kanter. To pick out one snippet from Beth’s post:

Metrics alone are not very meaningful – they need to be put into some context. Context to me means outcomes, intent, and audience. No matter what type of metrics you trying to figure out … that’s a universal metric standard.

Outcomes. That’s it. Or “Return on Objectives” (ROO) as my friend Richard Sedley is justly keen on saying.

It takes two to tango

For me, the term ‘engagement’ suggests a two-way street – it implies not simply a ‘connection’, but a reciprocal action. As Mark Ghuneim et al say in their mini-essay on the Wiredset blog, Terms of Engagement: Measuring the Active Consumer

In the traditional sense, engagement is the period between proposal and marriage

True. Many (most?) people will rebuff your advances. Others may be content to donate cash, but not wish to be ‘engaged’ in anything. A few will get mobilised into taking some form of action for your cause.

These ‘degrees of engagement’ (is there a better way of saying this?) remind me of Dick Carlson’s comment on the aforementioned Scoble post.

Dick proposes a four-level model for measuring engagement:

1. Click – A reader arrived (current metric)
2. Consume – A reader read the content
3. Understood – A reader understood the content and remembers
4. Applied – A reader applies the content in another venue

Now, let’s put some meat on the bones – with thanks to Mark Ghuneim for allowing me to reproduce this terrific graphic (original here).

Now we’re getting somewhere.

Work with your buzz director to create milestones and targets for activity for each engagement ‘type’. Roll your findings up into monthly progress reports (which should get as wide a distribution as possible). And remember, ensure what you are measuring is aligned to your organisation’s strategic goals.

The ‘goalposts’ haven’t moved; it’s just that there are now many more pitches on which you must play (a bit like Hackney Marshes on a Sunday morning).

Technorati engagement, nptech, nptechuk, social media measurement, web metrics