The Internet: A Half Century Down the Tubes?

Just one more cross post before bed! This is my favorite write up for the Buzz Bin so far (from June 17th), because I'm finally being honest about how much the Internet makes me crazy. It's good, but it's bad. This post also marks my "coming out" as a fan of LOL Cats. Sigh.

I'm very thankful to have a boss and coworkers that are pro-authenticity and letting your true voice shine through on the company blog. It's not like that everywhere. Enjoy.

The Internet: A Half Century Down the Tubes?
"I just did a little piece on packet switching and I get blamed for the whole go*d*mned Internet, you know?"
(Paul Baran, "How the Web Was Won.")
It is impossible to escape the Internet. Even when trying to hide in the pages an Angelina-laden issue of Vanity Fair. The folds of this haut-living magazine currently feature an 12+ page spread celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Web.

It’s only the best oral history of the Internet ever written. Spanning Arpanet to eBay to Ning; spotlighting our forefathers Vint Cerf, Pierre Omidyar, Marc Andreessen (and more). A perfectly off-line weekend foiled again.

in_ur_realityWe’ve come a long way, baby. But the more we know, the more there is to learn – and unlearn. Some might even say that life was a whole lot easier to manage before America went online.

You've Got a Whole Lotta Mail

Raise your hand if you successfully keep up with email. NPR's current ‘crushed by email’ series reminds us that, between work and family, we're inundated with the daily deluge of being plugged in. (Worldwide email traffic, currently soaring at 210 messages per day, will double by 2014, according to the Radicati Group. Big Tech is now eating its own dog food.)

Some of you really do have it together, thanks to Xobni, AwayFind, Getting Things Done, not sleeping or not caring. Nobody can afford to declare email bankruptcy, although Microsoft's Joel Cherkis and Wired's Lawrence Lessig might beg to differ.

It’s no wonder the masses clamor to consume social media: they’d sooner jump off a bridge than deal with retooling the enewsletter and emarketing strategy just one more time. Blogs are sexier than the eternal battle to raise CRTs and evade spam filters.

teddy_twitterbadge_topCorporate Hoohah

On that note, don’t get me started on the ripple effect of the Web on corporate marketing. Verizon just hired a teddy bear that Twitters. Teddy doesn't deal with customer service issues, which puts this initiative at dead zero on the "Good Use of Time" meter.

Faulty Doodads

To illustrate the theory of fallible online services, Google Maps has failed me 7 times in the past month alone. It’s one thing when faulty directions lead to late arrival to your agency’s most important event of the year (and subsequently get you tanked in the dog house by your boss). It’s another thing all together when the same mapping service delivers you an hour late to a dear friend’s wedding (at least I got there for the kiss).

While there’s an element of human error in most technological blunders, does that excuse today’s radical services from reliability? The trusty, beat up Rand McNally atlas now relegated to my trunk used to get me from point A to point B just fine.

funny-pictures-cat-smokes-catnip"Kids Today"

By far, the biggest oil slick/skid mark at the end of the rainbow/long tail is the impact on younger generations. Kids r submitting school papers w/ txt msg abbrevs, and talking about issues way beyond their years in forums for teens “thirteen and older.”

COPA cannot keepa uppa. Neither can parents. Neither can the law.

Ain't No Stopping Us

None of these - or other - issues can hold the Internet down. Privacy and copyright issues. Increased driving accidents from mobile phone usage. Incorrect self-diagnosis of illnesses. LOL Cats. All spawned by the glorious Intertubes, but we will prevail.

Because, of course, the bounty of the web has also brought us good things. Splendid, knock-your-socks-off wonders. More ways to connect with the people we love and new people that share our interests. The priceless ability to make our voices heard for things that matter. Correct self-diagnosis of illnesses. Many of our jobs. And LOL Cats (don’t front: we’ve all laughed once).

So, a toast! Here’s to the next 50 years of misery, mischief and miracles. To our choice to use the power of the Web for good. To the possibility of connecting face to face, writing complete sentences, and going dark – if only for the weekend.

And if anyone has other suggestions for online direction/mapping services, please save me. Save us all.

Photo credits are unknown.

Bloggers Unite for Stuff, Lose Momentum

Back-posting from The Buzz Bin. Below is my cross post from May 20th. For the sake of time - here are links to some of my other recent thoughts, too.
Do I feel like I'm cheating when I cross post? Yes. Let's move on.

Bloggers Unite for Stuff, Lose Momentum

When CNN broadcasted promotion of last week's Bloggers Unite for Human Rights movement, my initial reaction was Viva la revolution!

vivalarevolucion.jpgIt was May 15th, 2008, the very day that Amnesty International was calling for all bloggers everywhere to simultaneously cover a human rights issue to educate the masses. No time to participate myself, Twitter was a helpful fall back. Dozens of others tweeted and blogged about human rights on May 15th, demonstrating their support of the initiative.

We've seen campaigns like this before, and sadly, watched them fall silent shortly after the main event. The unsustained momentum leaves behind a disenchanting question: What was the point of all that?

  • Exhibit A - October 15, 2007. More than 20,600 blogs covered environmental topics as part of Blog Action Day. Twenty. Thousand. Blogs! 19 of which were on Technorati's Top 100. Mainstream media picked up the story. It was a tremendous accomplishment, getting so many people - "influencers" - to talk about the same thing at the same time. After contributing a post to Blog Action Day last October, I found myself defending the campaign to my boss (who at that time was Alison Byrne Fields). Alison argued that it was a waste of time.

    In effect, she forewarned, "People are already aware of problems associated with climate change, so unless the point is action, then I'm not interested in this load of crap. If bloggers want to save Earth they should stop flying." "But education is key," I maintained. "This blogger campaign is meant to educate."But we're almost in the bottom half of 2008, and there is no sign of Blog Action Day Part II. What was the purpose of all that hype.
  • Exhibit B - One week ago: May 10, 2008. Pangea Day. Backed by Chris Andersen and the TED Conference, Pangea Day rallied filmmakers to participate in a 4-hour global screening that took place at more than 1,000 locations simultaneously. A "synchronized film festival to . . . foster understanding and peace." 2,500 films were submitted; 12 were chosen for the screening. A quick Google Blog search produces nearly 8,000 blog posts on the event. Newsweek's Brian Bailker honed in on the weak spot of this type of campaign: " . . . the type of person who would tune in to watch the Pangea Day pageantry is probably the least likely to be going around killing anyone in their spare time." Oh. Right. What happens now that Pangea Day is over?
The Value is Self-Education

The true impact of these campaigns is self-serving. All participants (hopefully) learn something about the issues they cover. In the end, that adds up to more potential for commitment. Awareness is the first step, whether you're trying to spring someone from prison, get Gary Vaynerchuck's book ranked #1 on Amazon.com or help an independent musician top iTunes charts.

But We can do More than Bum Rush the Charts.

Why corral bloggers (or filmmakers) if there's no follow through? After you cross "raise awareness" off the list, shouldn't you move on to the next step? The goal is action, advocacy, conversion. Especially when nonprofits are seeing a rise in demand, but decline in resources.

Richard Becker of Copywrite, Ink. helped coordinate Bloggers Unite for Human Rights. He wants to ensure that the campaign "is not just a flash in the pan." Richard says, "It's something we could all think about more often." We need to move beyond thinking.

Who doesn't want Amnesty International to successfully thwart the inhumanity in China, Darfur and Guantanamo Bay? When is the next Bloggers Unite event? What is needed to make an even bigger impact? Please hurry and tell us what our step is: update the homepage, send emails. A campaign for time, money, in-kind donations? Let's give the revolution feet before inertia sets in, again.

Images: "Shannon" by kellykashcrafts and "It's Raining Lucidity" by CoolPhotos.

And The Winner Is....

The Washington Tennis and Education Foundation!

This extraordinary group won the 2008 Washington Post Award for Excellence in Nonprofit Management (and $10,000). The selection committee (steered by Susan Sanow and Margo Bailey, of which I was a part), was looking for a group that went beyond best practices to ingenuity and innovation. We found what we were looking for in 3 Finalists, including Urban Alliance and MVLE, Inc., who both took home Honorable Mentions and $2,500.

Pictured above: Lionel Neptune, Washington Post Company Vice President, WTEF Executive Director Eleni Rossides, and WTEF's Board Chair Rick Edmunds. Photo credit: Center for Nonprofit Advancement

Congratulations to all those who participated, especially the individuals who wrote and coordinated submissions on behalf of their organizations, and my co-reviewers who have logged a lot of hours assessing applicants since last Fall. And of course, congrats are in order for the winning group, which will share their big tips and tricks at a workshop during next year's award ceremony. (A few best practices/tools that were shared by all 3 finalists at this year's program are available here, including a great Donor Stewardship Plan from Urban Alliance.)

The 2009 award will mark the the Fifteenth Year of this partnership between the Washington Post and the Center for Nonprofit Advancement - a membership group for 501(c)(3) organizations in the DC area. And it will be an even bigger and better year.

Maybe we can get mainstream media to cover it. If the Washington Post covered their own award this year, I did not see it. Year 15 deserves at least a blurb, ya hear?


Social Media Soundtrack Vol. 1

Several stellar suggestions for the Social Media Soundtrack or whatever it's called.

Andre's requests:
  • If I Ruled the World - Nas feat Lauryn Hill
  • Touch the Sky - Lupe Fiasco
  • Comedown - Bush
  • Ready or Not - Fugees
  • Drive - Incubus (a favorite)
Geoff's request's
  • Cypress Hill - Rock Superstar
  • The Beatles - We Can Work It Out
  • Eurythmics - Sweet Dreams
Chris Brogan's requests (via Geoff's post)(Yes I am poaching a comment)
  • Jeremy - Pearl Jam
  • Anyone Else But You - Moldy Peaches
  • Code Monkey - Jonathan Coulton
Add that too my initial recommendations . . .
  • Hova - Jay Z
  • Can't Keep It In - Cat Stevens
  • It's Your Thang - Salt n Pepa
. . . and you've got 14 tracks of pure platinum 2.0 jams, fit for online fighting, fundraising and friendships.

Because all good mixes have 18 songs, I'll kick in these additional bonus tracks, inspired by today's very rap-a-licious jog on the canal.
  • Can't See Me - 2 Pac (the lyrics are so vile but the beat gets you good and jacked)
  • Method Man - Wu-Tang Clan ("Hey. You. Get of my cloud.")
  • Juicy - Notorious B.I.G ("Condos in Queens, indo for weeks, sold out seats to hear Biggie Smalls speak")
  • Body Movin' - Beastie Boys ("Lemme get some action from the back section!")
In case anyone's wondering, my hip-hop love affair simmered down in 2003 when mainstream got lame. I've stayed true to the classics. Volume 2 will have to feature the Roots, Tribe, Talib Kwali and Slick Rick. Yes, I said Slick Rick.