Tuesday, September 19, 2006

My name is Brian...

and I'm cheating on my blog solution. I admit it, I've been blogging elsewhere.

I seem to be in a period of transition -- blogs, work, etc. For the handful of folks interested, I'm posting thoughts over at Spaces hereand here. Oh, I'm also on del.icio.us here if you want to know what's been catching my eye.

Where and when will all this stuff sort itself out? I'm not sure just yet. At the moment, I seem to be leaning towards Spaces with the whole Messenger gleaming integration...but who knows. I'll continue to post here time to time (as well as all the other places) until I sort this all out.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Reading list from my summer break

Vacation is a great time for reflection and reading. Over the last few weeks, I had the opportunity to finish several books including:

Naked Conversations -- light reading on business blogging basics. didn't really learn anything new, other than background info on blogging at MS

Free World -- started a while ago, and finished it on the train from NYC to Baltimore. Rather interesting and timely in light of all the happenings in the Middle East and all

The Long Tail -- expansion of an earlier article posted in Wired. Still have several questions with regards to the role of The Long Tail and local civic or political life. Choice is one thing when it comes to buying things, but connecting with others is different, especially when civics and politics are factored into the equation.

Republic.com -- Been meaning to read this ever since I picked up Bowling Alone years ago. This dives deeper into some of my unresolved questions from reading The Long Tail, while addressing broader legal and societal concerns.

Kafka on the Shore -- pure "fluff" when compared to everything else I've been reading. There's not too many fiction writers I follow, but Murakami is one of them. Beatifuly written, disturbing as always, and difficult to put down.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Affiliation as it relates to reputation

I first noticed it with Yahoo! Avatars and their sponsorship of WorldCup. Mixed in with jerseys from various teams, you could choose your cause such as One.org, Breast Cancer awareness, World AIDS day, and the like. Now according to a recent article, YouthNoise and Meez are getting into this game as well.

YouthNoise, a community meant to inspire and empower young people to catapult their passion and idealism into movements that sustain the planet, teamed up with Meez, a company that helps people create their own 3D avatars. For some time, Meez has hosted virtual clothing by real life brands. It makes sense that virtual cloting for causes would take shape.

All this has me thinking about one's overall reputation and representation online. With services like Yahoo! Avatars, Meez, Acheivements on Xbox, or even tagging on 43 People, isn't affiliation with a group or cause an important part of reputation? The actions that done by people (online or off), the time they spend with a product or service, and the content (information) they share all help others gauge the relevance of content found online. Does it not go to reason that one's affiliations can also play a role in helping others gauge the value of the contributions of another online?

Also, what of overall preferences? What else could be shown/discovered to help provide people with a greater context with who they find online? What would this look like? Where would it show? To whom would it be shown? Also, what would it look like if you and others could upload tags/clothing/etc for others to see? What sort of control would you have over your profile according to others? Is that even a concern?

Certainly there comes a point when too much information right off the bat is just not useful at all. But what is that threshhold? Who determines it? What may be relevant information for you in evaulating content contributed by someone online may be worthless to me.

Anyway, lots of thoughts to ponder. Thankfully, it's still early with all of this and we're all just getting started.

Monday, August 21, 2006

back, and almost ready to play

After a trip to the East Coast to visit family and friends (Boston, NY, upstate NY, Baltimore), I'm now back in Seattle catching up with the latest happenings.  Right now, I'm checking out  Windows Live Writer, and it seems pretty cool.  Supposedly it is well integrated with maps such as Windows Live Local.  Let's see if that's the case...

[map deleted]

Apparently it's actually branded as a Microsoft Virtual Earth map, rather than Windows Live Local.  Hmmm.  Might just be weird branding stuff.  At any rate,  I think I'll keep experimenting with this tool to see what all it can do.

Update -- Apparently the image upload, at least with this map, is not working though Blogger supports image uploads.  I have deleted the map in hopes of publishing this post.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

A Netroots Victory

I haven't followed the Lamont v Lieberman primary race too closely, but from what I understand, there is no denying the impact of the internet in securing Lamont's primary win over Lieberman. This is quite exciting for someone who has followed the impact of online communities on local politics -- it is all about community afterall.

Related links:
CNet -- Lieberman defeat a win for 'Netroots' politics?
YouTube Nedheads group
The Nation -- Ned Lamont's Digital Constituency

The Long Tail on the local level?

I've been reading Chris Anderson's The Long Tail recently, and I can't help but wonder what the impact of the long tail is on communities, boradly speaking. On the one hand, the whole notion of people finding their niche is a great exaple of communities coming together. On the other hand, if everyone finds their own individual niche, does that encourage balkanization? What happens to communities on the local level? Perhaps the book addresses this later. In the mean time, I'm still pondering how the Long Tail translates on a broader, societal level.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Card readers and eye contact

Kudos to my wife for pointing this out, but in recent shopping trips at Target, Safeway and QFC she noticed that how card readers were used impacted the amount of eye contact between the cashier and the shopper. Specifically:

In Target, the card reader takes the card into a machine, and gives the purchaser instructions on what to do. The cashier, without anything to do, bags the items being purchased. The only eye contact that may occur is when the cashier turns the receipt to the purchaser (provided it's not placed directly in the bag)

In Safeway, the overall experience is similar. While the card reader machine does not take the card during the transaction, all instructions are posted on the little card reader screen. Interaction with the cashier is minimal, though they make it a point to thank you by name (provided you have one of their club cards). Presumably this is meant to personalize the experience, however if you have a difficult to prounounce name, it becomes more of a hindrance to that personal touch.

In QFC, the checkout experience is most varied. On the one hand, they have the self-check out stands where you do not need to interact with another human being. On the other hand, the check out experience in a line by a credit card is the most personable of the three stores sampled. Instead of sliding the card and following all instructions on a screen, to run the credit card, you give the card to the cashier. The cashier then hands you a slip to sign, and you return it to them. Though it seems to vary on the cashier, whether or not they check your signature, the amount of eye contact, and potential eye contact puts both Target and Safeway to shame.

There are no profound insights here regarding credit card readers, or customer loyalty programs. Rather, the only observation here is on how tech can help or hinder actual interaction between people depending on how it is used.

Friday, July 28, 2006

DOPA passed the House

Yikes! The US. House of Representatives passed the Deleting Online Predators Act. should this pass the US Senate, this will drastically change the way people connect and share information with one another online.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Seventeen and Myspace team up for CGM, PSAs

Enough acronyms in there? ;-) Myspace and Seventeen Magazine have partnered to solicit consumer generated media, in the forms of public service announcement videos, on "an issue that's important to you." The winner will be profiled on Myspace and in Seventeen.

With the popularity of YouTube, it's no surprise that people are wanting a piece of the consumer generated media pie. Having it focused on a public service announcement on an issue that the creators care about, that sounds a lot like the Current TV model. More importantly though, the generational target audience of both Seventeen and Myspace have shown to be socially conscious and technically savvy at the same time. I'll even be bold enough to say that more initiatives like this (merging of CGM and a social conscience) will become the norm shortly.

Wikipedia founder moves into poiltics

On July 4th, founder of Wikipedia Jimmy Wales announced a new initiative to provide wikis for the political sphere.

This website, Campaigns Wikia, has the goal of bringing together people from diverse political perspectives who may not share much else, but who share the idea that they would rather see democratic politics be about engaging with the serious ideas of intelligent opponents, about activating and motivating ordinary people to get involved and really care about politics beyond the television soundbites.

While there is certainly an audience of wiki-philes and political types (nod to Church of the Customer), what of everyone else? How do you engage the majority of folks who are seemingly too busy or disinterested to bother participating civically? I don't claim to have the magic bullet, but I'm certainly trying a few different things to get folks more involved locally.

Loosely related (nod to Ypulse) here's some recent research questioning whether or not cynicism leads to apathy.

Ken Lay's death and Wikipedia

This recent article is amusing. Isn't this the point of a wiki? Information is updated as it becomes available. How is this different than say a wire service and it's early reports?

Buffett and the Gates Foundation invests in our future

Given my community focus, it is hard to not think about all of the possibilities with the recent news surrounding the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Not only will Bill Gates be focusing the majority of his attention on the foundation in 2008, but now Warren Buffett is donating the majority of his wealth to the foundation. Kudos to the Gates' and Mr. Buffett for immensely inspirational work.

Of course, with my great hope for the future work of the Gates Foundation, it also raises many questions as to the changing face of philanthropy in general. Will there be consolidations between foundations? Will others divert their energies to other causes? Will this be a dis-incentive to non-billionaires or millionaires? Or could it inspire more to give?

Can the 800 pound gorilla survive the onslaught?

With increased scrutiny by media (here and here), Myspace seems to be holding up to the security concerns. They may prove to even withstand election-year politics by Congress. The big question that remains is whether or not they can survive the hackers that inevitably come with being a rather large site with a target on it's back.

Focus on the end game

I've been working a lot with changing community technology lately, and while I am a firm believer in communities being more than the sum of the technology that brings people together, the tech also matters a great deal. Think of a coffee shop, for example, being replaced by one of those automated coffee machines. While you can still get a cup of coffee, it certainly leaves a different taste in your mouth. Robert Scoble also talks of a similar notion -- of using the right tools for the job, to describe the benefits of podcasting as opposed to say a blog or RSS feed. Why mention any of this?

For anyone looking at technology and community -- pay special attention to your end goals (there are many ways to serve a cup of coffee). Every decision, technical and otherwise, will drastically impact the community in any number of ways.

What is community?

Working with communities, online and offline, I find it's helpful to make sure there's a common language from which to build. Take the notion of community, for example. What exactly does it mean? For me, community is the end result of purposeful interactions between people over time around shared interests or activities.
I'm curious as to what others think about this working definition of community. Post away in the comments :-)

After a conversation with a friend of mine in Chicago, she was quick to point out that that alone will not make a community -- someone needs to initiate. Whether it's asking a question of others or holding some sort of event…something needs to help move the community forward.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

i'm not dead yet...

just been buried. latest projects include wikis, forums, mapping and communities among other things including leadership development, and Seattle Works Day.

there's lots to catch up on -- will be getting back into the mix of things shortly.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Social Software for Social Change?

Kara Jessella asked recently whether or not sites like MySpace and Flickr can be a valid tool for progressive social change in a recent AlterNet article, especially in light of who may be owning the tech infrastructure behind it.

The more I work with online communities, and the more I explore different technologies, the more I believe it depends on the end goal. How do you define social change? Is it that a certain piece of legislation is changed? Is it a certain political outcome? How are folks defining success when talking about social change? Is it staying true to a particular set of beliefs?

For me, it's really about moving the ball forward. If tech helps you get more supporters, greater visibility, or anything that helps add to the momentum that you have, it's a good thing. Social change is a rather incremental process; it's rarely something that happens overnight, and only with long hours, persistence and dedication will it occur. As we all remember the legacy and incredible work of Coretta Scott King, her work (and that of her late husband) remains unfinished to this day. Yes, advances have been made, and hopefully they will continue, but there was not one isolated event that allowed people to say, "Ok, we're done now."

Tech is great. It makes things a lot easier in terms of communication, organizing and the like. Heck, it already has opened up new ways of organizing. We need not look too far to see how mobile communications have impacted things from politics to terrorist attacks. As with any tool, it can be a good thing, a bad thing, or neutral by design. How we use it will ultimately determine it's worth.

Related link:
8by1 -- think of this as 43things focused specifically on making the world better

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

If a picture is worth a thousand words...

After reading Nancy White's post A Few Flickr Flights of Fancy I got to thinking about what thousands of pictures are worth? Too much to think about? How about something more focused on a particular topic or population? After talking with the International District Housing Alliance's program manager for the Wilderness Inner-city Leadership Development Youth Program about the Community Perspectives Project, I started thinking about the power of photo sites like flickr for social, civic, and overall change.

To understand the thinking behind this, it probably helps to understand a bit more about the Community Perspectives Project. Briefly this project was to engage stakeholders of the International District (residents, youth, visitors, business owners, etc) in a dialogue about their perspectives of the neighborhood. The role of technology came into play through ComNET and Photovoice. ComNET stands for Computerized Neighborhood Environmental Tracking. Photovoice is a tool that gets cameras into the hands of people often left out of the decision making process. Surveys, focus groups and community presentations were also a component of this project. My main interest in this project centers on how they essentially repurposed the tech towards an engaging, social project. (I also think this is just a great idea in general)

Now does it make more sense about where I'm going with the whole flickr notion? The possibility that I see with Flickr has already been realized to an extent, given MoveOn's forray into this. I'd be curious to see what would happen if you take it a step further -- do something like Photovoice where the photographers collaborate, put their thoughts, visions and such into their own words and visuals. Have them go through a vetting process and the like to determine which is the best photo, and all. It's not so much about the tech, but how people interact with one another as supplemented by the tech. Have debates, have discussions about which photo should be selected for a wider viewing, or whatever else is appropriate. Really it's bringing people together, with the assistance of tech, and the end result of building community.

Another way of looking at this is how any photo sharing service plugged into a blog or something could be a new iteration of Photovoice or the family photo albums that users upload on the original Sims site? Not only would the groups who created the pics be able to share, but others can chime in with comments and all too. It becomes more of a dynamic conversation rather than static images. Images are powerful because of how they affect us as individuals and as a community.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


it seems in my excitement around Benjamin Franklin's 300th birthday, I got a little excited and jumped the gun last week. oops. at least i get another chance to do good.

Turns out i didn't do any good that day anyway, at least not in the Benjamin Franklin sense. Today is looking better so far. Getting a project up and running to 1) find out what people would most like help with, and 2) pairing them up with folks in the community to help them. I know there are lots of sites that help with this already -- showing you your goals, people with similar goals, and also those who've done them. This is sort of in that vein, but smaller in scale, and more of a personalized touch to foster maximum interaction between the parties involved. Should be an interesting little experiment. I'll report back as things get going.

Later today, I'm also meeting with someone who ran a program connecting youth, tech and seniors in Seattle. Go here for a video summary of the project (real). More detailed description below:

International District Housing Alliance Community Perspectives 6/27/2005
A story of how WILD (Wilderness Inner-city Leadership Development), a youth program within the International District Housing Alliance program has used technology and a partnership between local youth and elders to strengthen the voice of residents in the international District neighborhood. In an approximately thirty square block neighborhood where more than forty languages are spoken, historically it has been difficult for residents effectively speak for themselves in the larger City system. See how local youth and elders use photography, multi-language interviews, and Personal Desk Assistants to use diversity as an asset and work toward removing language as a barrier to democracy.

Monday, January 16, 2006

A Day On...

First off, I fully admit I've been a hypocrite today. As many in the US today recognized and celebrated the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a day-on, I was at the office.

Regardless, I applaud everyone who is honoring King's legacy by volunteering in their community today. There can be no greater tribute for a man who not only worked towards civil rights in this country, but later on in his life saw the need to oppose the Vietnam War, and start a campaign against poverty. I'm not a historian, nor am I an expert in all things related to Dr. King, but to me his work seems to be that of love for this community we call humanity. Regardless of color, or social status, etc, his words and actions show an incredibly deep love the human family. By giving back to our local communities with a day on, you too can honor this legacy.

Some relevant links for today's MLK Jr. Celebrations:

Heed Dr. King's words, Atlanta mayor urges
Stanford University -- Articles by the Staff of the
King Papers Project

MLK Jr Speech, "I've Been to the Mountaintop" (text and mp3)
The King Center
I May Not Get There with You : The True Martin Luther King, Jr. reviews

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Happy Birthday Ben!

In the spirit of this space, I want to wish Benjamin Franklin a wonderful 300th birthday. While none of my accomplishments are even remotely on the scale of his, it is good to know that we both seem to have a passion for technology and civics. Here's an article from the Seattle Times talking about celebrations planned in his honor.

Also, I thought this was a nice little blurb about Benjamin Franklin and civics in general:

Civic Visions tells the story of Franklin’s involvement with the founding of several key philanthropic, educational and civic institutions. From self-improvement, Franklin turned his attention to improving the community around him, asking himself, “What good shall I do this day.” Franklin, and a group of eleven working-class friends, known as the Junto were at the core of several Philadelphia institutions that were founded in the mid-18th century on behalf of the citizens of that city. Many of these institutions, such Pennsylvania Hospital and the University of Pennsylvania continue today, and the account of their founding will be told in this section, focusing on the universality of this group of new institutions— basic to any new, rapidly growing community.

from http://www.franklin300.com/exhibit.htm

What good shall I do today?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

On the tip of my brain

It's one of those times again when the forces that be are throwing things at me hoping I get an "A ha" moment. Whether or not this is the right "A ha" remains to be seen, but this broad notion of creativity is hitting me like a hammer lately.

First -- I've been reading The Big Moo ever since Jackie Huba and Ben McConnel sent me an unexpected copy of the book. Basically, the two of them along with 31 other thought leaders submitted essays on how to be remarkable. Many of the essays also focused on this notion of creativity.

Second -- Working with a casual game community, I can't help but follow happenings with community and games. ARGs is probably the best manifestation of this that insprires me to dream. In my opinion, play goes hand in hand with creativity. And with the growing influence of entertainment in day to day life, this sort of thing will be even more relevant.

Third -- The latest Fast Company has an article on something called Breakthrough Cafes. Some related information can be found at Idea Champions. This sounds a bit reminiscent of discussions I've had around the notion of Mind Camp, or some sort of conference a la the Pyramid-type events put on by Seattle Works.

So...all of those things coming together around the same time makes me wonder...how can I take it to the next level? There are certainly opportunities with Seattle Works, ACLF, or the Guiding Lights Network. And no doubt there are countless more opportunities. It's just a matter of focusing on a handful, be successful, and move from there.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Politics and Media

It's amazing what slight differences there are between Seattle and Vancouver, BC. The other week, my partner and were up there to get away for a few days. We met up with some of her friends from school and ate well as usual.

What was interesting about this trip was that it was in the middle of campaign season for Canada's government. I don't know if this only happens during elections, but I found it fascinating that while channel surfing late at night, I stumbled across a channel devoted to campaigns throughout the provinces called CPAC. Think of this as a mix between the History Channel, CSPAN and a cable news station. From a casual observation of the programming it was a mix of debates, features with potential voters, and candidate interviews. The reporters asked substantive questions and there was enough information to provide some historical context. Makes me wonder what something like this would look like in the States?

Also related to media and campaign coverage, while reading the paper in a cafe, I stumbled across an interesting assertion in The Globe and Mail (reg required):
Internet blogs also seem to have less influence in an issues-based campaign. Blogs thrive in negative campaigns. They counter misleading statements by politicians, challenge party advertising messages and expose media manipulation, bias and errors. Highlights from their postings can end up influencing coverage in the mainstream media.

So far, it seems there's less for blogs to chew over when policies dominate the campaign and media coverage.

All this suggests there's enough different in media coverage of the first half of this campaign that, if the parties focus on the negative in January, they may be surprised to find it less effective than in the past.
Not following Canadian politics all that much, I can't speak to how accurate this statement is, though it does seem to make sense. That is, if a campaign or it's supporters aren't playing defense or offense the whole time, and instead focusing on the issues at hand, the tone of the conversation is vastly different. Now wouldn't that be novel!