Sunday, April 20, 2008

Using Social Media to Enhance Community

I'm doing a new community film project entitled 'Using Social Media to Enhance Community' (until I can come up with a better name). This film will briefly explore what social media is (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, blogging, wikis) followed by interview clips, short screencasts, and some fly-on-the-wall views of at least one in-person meeting of people who are involved in social media.

Right now I'm looking for some non-technical people who would provide a balance to the tech-savvy people who I am interviewing. The focus for the interview and video with non-technical people is to explore how their reaction to using social media applications for community-building. Although the tone of this film is intended to be positive toward the use of social media for communities, hearing some of the difficulties would also be constructive.

I may also explore how social media is used in secondary or pre-secondary education, how it is perceived and used by the leaders and workers of the future, although I haven't decided if this will make it into this film.

If you are someone interested in participating in this project, to be interviewed or to recommend others, please contact me.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Social Networking, Social Business, and the Future

I'm struggling with how to take advantage as well as how to assess the utility of social networking sites and tools like Facebook, Twitter, Bebo, MySpace and even StumbleUpon. There are some obvious positive scenarios as evidenced by Beth Kanter's (and others') use of these networks to drive a fund-raising challenge like America's Giving Challenge. It is absolutely awesome that the Sharing Foundation, supporting poor children in Cambodia, was able to top the leadership chart of the forementioned Challenge mostly by the sweat and tears Beth had shed over the last few days.

But as this article points out, there has been an apparent drop in the usage of these networks and they are still looking for a raison d'etre while most of the users appear to be simply hanging out and sharing what they're currently doing.

I'm optimistic that the social networking sites represent an evolution in human interaction. We've gone from 99% of the population knowing only people living within a few miles to a world where we can instantly make friends around the world, talk to them and share one's lives, using commodity technology. All within the past couple of hundred years! It's way too early to judge the utility of the current Web 2.0 technologies except to say they're sexy, cool, fun and, for a small number of hard-working people, lucrative.

But I want to take this post in a slightly different direction. There are major developments occurring right now in technology, environmental and social systems that will have impacts on every person on this planet. The Web 2.0 phenomena is one part of the technology surge. There are also all of the creative uses of cell phone technology (for improving business communications, e.g.) and applied approaches to nanotechnology to solve problems.

In the social sphere, there is a surge of interest in eradicating extreme poverty. And one aspect of this is reflected on by Dave Richards on his blog as he breaks down what a social business is. I feel that there's a synergy between the technological developments and the social developments (whether they be the social networking web sites or social business models). Bringing these developments to fruition to solve extreme poverty is where I think we, as a unified group of people on this planet, need to be.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Wired Reading - What Fun!

With Maria studying in a paralegal program now, we have had less time together. Tonight we got out for a great budget meal at Laughing Planet and followed that with a visit to Barnes & Noble where Maria picked up some reading material (where she gets the time for leisure reading I don't know). We decided to head over to Vivace, one of our favorite coffee shops to read. I brought along a novel by James Rollins called Black Order. But after sitting down, I brought out my new phone, a TMobile Dash, aka the HTC Excalibur and browsed over to my Google Reader where I read some interesting blog entries, most notably one by Adrian Holovaty, a programmer-journalist, a citizen journalist who developed and EveryBlock

Reading what Adrian is doing, creating mashups that serve local communities, I had a moment where I realized that what I was doing was a completely different take on the passive art of reading. Holding a lightweight phone (with a small but very clear screen by the way) in my hand, I could absorb news or opinions from anywhere in the world instead of limiting myself to the one book, one author of a hardcopy book. Ya this is nothing new but the act of reading took on a more exciting, electric feeling for me.

I was brought a little back to earth when I then tried to write a blog entry about this topic right on the phone. Unfortunately, Blogger required me to send a message to an email address they provide, get back a code and then when I get back to my computer, go to Blogger and give it the code which it sent to my phone. Not exactly a simple write and publish, one-stop process!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Computer Instruction, high-speed access and Cambodia

I'm writing this entry as a response to Beth Kanter's challenge.

What advice would you offer to Mam Sari about incorporating computer instruction on a REALLY slow connection and with one computer connected to the Internet?

If he has time, he can prepare for the class by printing out a Google results page and then annotating with his own comments. For example, he might have (in colored ink) labels for each part of each results item. Going over these as handouts to the class will give them something to study prior to their own practice.

Perform some searches before class and use the forward and back browser buttons to shorten the wait time between pages.

Use the "wait" time effectively. This is where pre-written or printed materials are helpful. Go to Google Help (available through the About Google page) and use some of the pages, printed, as material to expand the students' understanding of what Google offers.

Are there any web resources or books that you think I should send over to him to read?

We in the developed world, have access to high-quality printers, plotters, etc. Having some color charts and handouts would be helpful. I don't know what your budget is, and if the students can read English well, but providing how-to books for the students would be great.

Dream a little dream with me, if we had a fast Internet connection, what are the possibilities?

What do the students need to be successful? Do they need money to go to school? Having access to a high-speed connection gives them the ability to participate in the person-to-person loans that are becoming more common on the Internet (e.g., fynanz). Actually, I'm not sure this requires a fast connection but it would certainly allow students to do a lot more exploration, to see how they can get additional help, even virtual tutoring.

Just today, a friend suggested that it would be cool to have a microfinance-like site similar to Kiva, which instead of providing money for a business, provides money in the form of loans for education. I think it's a great idea, although to get it to work effectively in countries like Cambodia will require some facilitative or management presence in the country. Making sure that the students have the support of their family, who may see education as a drain on their economic needs, to align students with programs and make sure the funds get to the school, etc. Sorry, I may be getting off topic a bit but the more that the everyday person in Cambodia can access the web as an extension of the market, the more likely such ventures will happen.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Community Film Production and Basic Rights Oregon

I'm taking a Field Production class from Portland Community Media and this Saturday we had our first filming session. Our class is divided into two groups, the other group is producing a short film on the pinball craze and our group is producing a film on the effects on families of the injunction on the Oregon Family Fairness Act. On Saturday we visited a family of four in Southeast Portland. Our goals were to get some interesting commentary on the effects on their lives from the two parents and to get some background filler material including their two children.

And wow, were our expectations met and far exceeded! After setting up the Sony DS250 on a tripod, doing the technical preparation (white adjustment, iris setting, audio settings), Kevin, one of our team, sat down next to the camera as the interviewer. The subjects (I don't want to reveal names here in the interest of their privacy, although you will surely be able to see them when the film is aired on local community television) were asked how they met. Let me say, that was all we had to do. These two women gave us such a spirited, interactive, friendly and intelligent story that no other questions were necessary (although we did ask a few others just to give them a break from talking).

I was so entertained by their story! Full of funny stories and poignant moments! Then they naturally gravitated to the subject of the Family Fairness Act and how the current state of the world in Oregon, that they are not officially married, that although they have had two separate wedding or union ceremonies, they are still not legally considered married. The student film team has the tough task of trying to scale this film session down to a short film. Maybe we will be able to convince our instructor, Tim, that this needs to be a longer film.

Before moving on, I can't help but comment on the interview with their two cute daughters who gave us some remarkably nice interview material.

I can't imagine anyone who sees our final film believing that these wonderful people are not a true family and deserve every single right that heterosexual couples receive for their families.

So we learned how to setup equipment, how to film, we did a little roaming camera work to pick up some interesting household views, including some home-schooling, and then we were off. Next Saturday we go to Basic Rights Oregon to do some additional interviewing.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Education for Cambodian Children

I've written about America's Giving Challenge, urging readers to support the Sharing Foundation which helps get children out of poverty. We are in the stretch run now for the challenge, with the Sharing Foundation having raised over $14,000. from over 500 donations and are in 4th place in the challenge. The top 4 charitable organizations in the challenge will receive an additional $50,000. Let's help them achieve this goal. Click on the "Give Now" button on the "Route Out of Poverty for Cambodian Children" widget on the right side of my blog.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

There's Hope in their Voices

Feeling like I am rising from the ashes of this horrible cold or flu, two wonderful voices have greeted me with hope. The first was Mark Bittner in the acclaimed documentary The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. I don't remember where I first read of Bittner and this film but the rental arrived over the past week and we decided to watch it last night. Wild Parrots was like a warm blanket and cup of (just the right temperature) herbal tea, a soothing look at how one man has found his calling in life caring for these non-native birds in a leafy hill corner of a bustling American city (San Francisco). The main characters in the film are not human (well, yes, Bittner is but he is also a co-narrator) but they nevertheless have names, like Connor, and Mingus. In his folksy voice, Bittner tells how he was introduced to the parrots, how he became so attached to some of them, and that he had names for all of them as well (at least while he was living there). But there's a point in the movie where he reflects on the whole experience and on whether he was being anthropomorphic, that really allowed us, the audience, a view into the soul of this gentle man. It was a beautiful point in the film. There is also a book by the same name. See the film as it is Bittner's voice throughout that helps carry this wonderful story.

The other voice, written not spoken in this case, is that of Andy Brouwer, an expat Brit living in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. I was unable to keep up my reading pace through the past week due to this cold, and Andy has a tendency to become extremely prolific in his blog postings over a short period of time. Fortunately, today I have felt well enough to flee the home for a coffee shop and get some uninterrupted reading in. I had over twenty unread entries in Andy's blog going back to December 30th, so I decided to start there. And am I happy I did. The mix of travelogue, history, humor and humanity that Andy weaves in his writings is truly remarkable. My heart was warmed by the pictures of Khmer children he met at temple visits or along the road, then it is wrenched from my chest as I observed the piles of skulls at the genocide memorial at Sala Trapeang Sva. Then the "three sreys" restored my hope and the painted pagoda at Wat Kork Ksang made me yearn to visit. I felt myself being very thankful that I had been introduced to Andy's blog (thanks Kilong) for his light-hearted as well as his serious jaunts around that beautiful country have been a joy to follow. And finally, he has recommended a book that I am looking forward to reading: The Judas Strain by James Rollins. Andy's recommendation mentions that he's a Robert Ludlum fan. I devoured the Bourne series and am looking forward to reading another author of a similar vein.

Friday, January 04, 2008

We're all sick and noplace to go!

Now that the holidays are over I've been looking forward to getting going on my plans for the new year. But I picked up something while waiting in the chiropractor's office on Monday, and that something has found my wife and daughter who are now feeling a lot worse that I am (so I'm the nurse today). We're trying to get better fast! Next week is the start of the school term for both of them, and I'm starting my field production class on Wednesday. Ughh, the doldrums of being sick. Just reading is exhausting!