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September 04 2012


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December 19 2011


Daily Must Reads, Dec. 19, 2011

The best stories across the web on media and technology, curated by Nathan Gibbs

1. Joshua Kopstein: Dear Congress, it's no longer OK to not know how the Internet works (Motherboard)

2. Schools explore rules to limit how teachers and students interact online (New York Times)

3. Demonstration of touchless control of smartphones and TVs (BBC News)

4. What does life after IPO look like for Zynga? (Inside Social Games)

5. Apple moves forward with TV plans (Wall Street Journal)

6. Mathew Ingram: Publishers still missing the point on e-book prices (GigaOM)

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May 24 2011


Follow, Follow, Tweet Tweet (realities of microblogging)

Microblogs like Twitter are a great vehicle to help organize political demonstrations in countries run by corrupt governments (and an effective way to spread misinformation), but how can nonprofit organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), libraries, government programs, and other mission-based organizations really use microblogs to promote their work, increase attendance at an event, get donations or mobilize or support volunteers?

I've updated my resource on Microblogs and Nonprofits yet again, this time adding much more information about live microblog/live tweet events. This is a primer based in reality - you won't find a panting endorsement about how you will raise millions of dollars via Twitter or Facebook or any other technology-tool. Rather, this resource is, I hope, a no-nonsense, anti-fluff, anti-hype, practical list to help nonprofits, NGOs and other community-focused initiatives explore microblogging and use it effectively with volunteers, event attendees and others they are trying to reach and engage.

Being able to work online is now an essential and much-sought-after skill in the work place, no matter what your job at a nonprofit, NGO, government agency, etc. This isn't the domain of just your marketing department anymore: program staff, those that work with volunteers, and anyone that works with the public or with clients at a mission-based organization has a role in using online tools on behalf of mission-based organizations. This updated resource is just one of many pages on my site meant to help those at mission-based organizations who want to enhance their online skills quickly.

Remember: content is still king. Be thoughtful and be strategic about whatever communication tool you use, even the flavor of the month.

April 01 2011


Map Mashup Shows Broadband Speeds for Schools in U.S.

The Department of Education (DOE) recently launched Maps.ed.gov/Broadband an interactive map that shows schools and their proximity to broadband Internet access speeds across the country. This is an important story for DOE, an agency that has a stated goal that all students and teachers have access to a sufficient infrastructure for learning -- which nowadays includes a fast Internet connection. The map is based on open data released last month by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). As you can see below, the result is a custom map that shows a unique story -- how schools' Internet access compares across the country.

In addition to being an example of an open data mashup, this map also serves as an example of what can be built with emerging open-source mapping tools. We worked with DOE to process and merge the two data sets, and then generated the new map tiles using Mapnik, an open-source toolkit for rendering map tiles. Then we created the custom overlay of schools and universities using TileMill, our open-source map design studio. Finally, a TileMill layer was added on top of the broadband data.

The Feds' Open-Source Leadership

It is great to see both the DOE and FCC able to leverage open data to make smarter policy decisions. Karen Cator, the director of the office of educational technology at DOE has an awesome blog post about why this mashup matters:

"The Department of Education's National Education Technology Plan sets a goal that all students and teachers will have access to a comprehensive infrastructure for learning, when and where they need it," Cator writes. "Broadband access is a critical part of that infrastructure. This map shows the best data to date and efforts will continue to gather better data and continually refresh the maps."

September 13 2010


Story ideas 9.12.10

I almost hate to admit it, but some of my best story ideas come while cruising and dreaming or hitting garage sales. At the latter remember – you have to TALK to people to get information.

So at a garage sale just down the street I ran into a friendly guy and we were wandering and checking out the stuff he had for sale when another neighbor yelled out, “Hey why don’t you put your fire stuff out!”

He had me right there…as a dusty old bag was pulled out and there it was! Nomex! You wouldn’t understand unless you’ve been in a forest fire. Fire retardant clothing. Bright yellow. Outrageous. Brought back memories.

Turns out Tony was a former volunteer firefighter. A dying profession. It seems that rural fire departments in my area are no longer allowing volunteers to man the trucks and hoses and haven’t been for some time.

Used to be in the outback areas if you wanted to fight fire, you had to do it yourself. Many of the men in the community would sign up and at the sound of the bell (or phone) they’d drop everything and head to the smoke (or accident). For a while I remember there being an issue with not enough volunteers. And now this.

Story idea: what is the status of volunteer firefighting in YOUR rural areas? Is it still thriving or has it died out due to lack of volunteers or (worse yet) bureaucracy?

And speaking of volunteerism, how easy is it for folks to volunteer at schools in your community? Now I just retired from teaching a little over three months ago – and when I went back on campus the first few times it was okay but then – WHAM! The doors slammed shut and I was told I needed to complete a volunteer form and get fingerprinted. Same for my daughter who at 18 was a recent grad of the school and had been training the school’s color guard for nearly a mont.

Problem? They slammed down so hard and fast that no one know what we needed to do exactly to get the paperwork done. Some kind soul finally figured it out and got the proper forms up to the front desk. And the district finally confirmed that yes my fingerprints from teaching were still good…but now my daughter has to PAY to volunteer. Sweet.

Story idea: with all of the cutbacks to schools and complaints they don’t get enough help – are they making it hard or easy for folks to volunteer? What kind of barriers are set up or what kinds of incentives are given to help out?

Enjoy the week – I’m on the road again.

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