The Narrowing Orbit of Search

The New York Times Bits Blog is reporting this morning that Google will be adding social network posts from Google to its search results. Google takes its search algorithm very seriously, and any changes to the way search is analyzed or displayed has the potential to significantly influence the way that we all — really, a significant portion of the world’s population – access, identify and consume information. Today’s shift, which adds posts, photos, profiles and conversations from Google that are public or were shared privately with the person searching, is valuable for users because it brings "your world" (as Google refers to it) into search, aggregating all of the information you might be interested in seeking. It’s valuable to Google as further boosts the centrality of Google relative to other social networks (which for now are not included), and positions your search engine as the singular window into all aspects of your world. If I’m planning a trip to Paris I might find in my search hotels, reviews, discounts, maps, historical info, and now tips from friends who have been there, or even become aware that someone I know will be there at the same time. But more than the search engine as the window into the world, these changes position me as the center of the universe, with information orbiting me. Helpful, perhaps. But what are the implications? The Filter Bubble But the flip side of all of this is the narrowing of our worlds. Eli Pariser’s The Filter Bubble describes how because of the search algorithm (the ‘filter’), we don’t even know what is being hidden from us. What we’ve done and sought in the past strongly influence what we are exposed to in the future "leaving less room for the unexpected encounters that spark creativity, innovation, and the democratic exchange of ideas". Now that’s not so radically different from the way we lived prior to the internet. If I live in a particular neighborhood or my kids go to a particular school, I’m more likely to be friends with those people and remain in that orbit. But other recent research shows that young people today, while fairly technically savvy, have not been taught skills to evaluate the information they find. "Google’s a trusted web site," says one British student in a BBC segment. She used the first result Google returned and didn’t really think about it any further. While teaching a course at the high school Genesis program at Brandeis University a few years ago, I challenged my students to do a research project with limited access to resources: Only books, internet minus Wikipedia and the top 5 Google search results, or anything. As you can imagine, the results were vastly different. The students who were limited in their online search had a much deeper understanding of the material because they were exposed to many more sources and forced to evaluate and synthesize the information. The bottom line here is the difference between information and knowledge. We often confuse the two. Google’s shifts may change the way we access information, but it is our responsibility to create our own knowledge. And it is the responsibility of educators and parents to recognize that this process of knowledge creation and meaning making is different today than it has been in the past. We must teach these skills, and illustrate to students the implications of Google’s decisions, lazy searching and the conclusions we draw. Happy searching and socializing. And don’t forget to get outside of your own orbit from time to time. More on Google’s recent change: Mashable: Google Merges Search and Google Into Social Media Juggernaut Huffington Post: Google ‘Search Plus Your World’ Brings Google Into Search Results New York Times’ Bits Blog: Google’s Social Move Attracts Critics New York Times’ Bits Blog: Google Adds Posts From Its Social Network to Search Results

Educators as Accidental Techies

Several years ago during a conversation with Harlene Appelman of The Covenant Foundation, I learned an important term: The Positive Deviant. Harlene uses this term (and now so do I) to describe those people who are doing things in new and different ways, perhaps disrupting systems and organizations from the inside out in good, productive, and important ways. They are the people who are worthy of cheerleading and supporting because they are making change on the ground, and their work will — in time — impact many people. In the field of nonprofit technology, we have another term for these sorts of folks: The Accidental Techie. As defined by Webster’s Online Dictionary:

In the field of nonprofit technology, an accidental techie is an individual who has gravitated toward responsibility for an organization’s information technology infrastructure, even though his or her professional training or job description did not include tasks of this kind.

In other words, someone’s filling the void, charting new territory, and becoming a resource for others in their organization. More often than not, we find the accidental techies in synagogues are the educators. Today in the last of our 6 part webinar series for NATE and JEA educators, we explored why this is often the case (they love learning curves, rather than being intimidated by them; they are willing to try new things and refresh their approach often; the "new rules of the game" walk in their door every year; and they know technology alone isn’t a silver bullet — the SMARTboard doesn’t educate the student, the teacher does), what their colleagues and organizations actually need, and how it feels to occupy this role. As social media and other technologies are influencing individuals, society, and business, organizations must evolve the way they conduct their work and communicate with their constituents. Enter technology. From data management to communications to customer service. While few will argue about the importance of these tools, most organizations have not actually made the structural changes to support their use. One important shift is staffing. Who has these responsibilities written into their job description? Who is in charge of listening and engaging community members? When do you need to move from the occasional IT consultant to someone who has expertise in-house? In today’s webinar, educators shared the roles they are playing — from IT support to providing in-house trainings, from being the communications "nag" to the "technology advocate". In some cases participants felt they are swimming upstream in a culture that does not yet recognize the importance or need of these tools and applications, nor recognizes the asset they have in a tech-savvy educator. In other cases, participants felt that their congregation is in fact very appreciative of the expertise they bring, and are so eager to take advantage of it that they don’t have enough time to do their "real" job. This is a moment of important evolution. If you are an accidental technie or positive deviant, please know you’re not alone. It’s so valuable to hear each others stories, to know what’s working well and where you could use some creative ideas and support from your peers. How are you problem solving, balancing your various responsibilities, gaining respect and appreciation for this additional role you are playing, and ultimately advancing and maturing your organization? I invite the NATE and JEA participants — and everyone else — to use the comments on this post as a space for sharing, listening, asking and supporting. Interested in learning more about accidental techies? Judi Sohn, from the Colorectal Cancer Coalition, writing on the NTEN blog Robert Weiner, nonprofit technology consultant, writing on the NTEN blog

The Four Children as Developmental Stages of Technology Leadership: Reflections from the Avi Chai Technology Academy

(Cross posted from a guest post on the Avi Chai Foundation blog) And… They’re off! As you may have heard, the Avi Chai Foundation has gathered a diverse cohort of New York and New Jersey Day Schools to learn about social media tools and strategies, and to support them in developing their own “experiments” to develop their networks, engage with parents and alumni, and ramp up development efforts over the next several months. After two full workshops, online exchanges and a bit of homework, the teams (2 from each school) are off and running with their project plans. Or maybe, more accurately we should say that they are playing and experimenting — because this is how we learn. One thing that I enjoy about this cohort is that they ask great questions. While reading about the four children (Wise, Wicked, Simple and One that does not know how to ask) this year at our Pesach seder, I began thinking about how these archetypes apply to (adult) students of social media. When teaching about something as new and different as a communications revolution, I see all of these archetypes (and, honestly, I experience all of them myself too). In the most successful situations, I’ve seen participants progress from one to the next as their openness, comfort, curiosity and enthusiasm grow. Inspired by the four children in the Haggadah, I offer you four (non-judgemental) archetypes of the social media learner: The accidental techie comes eager to learn, ready to experiment, and with some solid social media experience under their belt. They know the tools (largely self-taught), can learn by exploring themselves, and are willing to assume a pioneering role for their organization. Encourage the accidental techie to play a leadership role in the organization, to teach others, and to explain the opportunities and successes taking place that others might miss. Give them the time and encouragement to continue to explore and innovate online, and make sure they have peers and mentors to support them. The implementer is concerned with the “how-to” of social media. This person accepts the responsibility to use the tools in their job, and is developing a skill set to be able to effectively execute this role. Without an instinctual understanding of social media culture, this person may tend to post only about events, or neglect the need to be listening and engaging online as well as speaking. An early stage implementer applies the old paradigm social norms to the new paradigm spaces. An advanced implementer has learned these skills and they are on the verge of becoming instinctual and natural as he or she develops this “fluency” – it’s not unlike learning a language. Continue to point out to this person the idiosyncrasies that take their work from good to great. The deer-in-headlights is the one who doesn’t know how to ask. While they may be overwhelmed and feel like a fish out of water, this person is curious and listening. This person needs to know that there are no stupid questions – that we are all learning all the time, and that the rate of change is in fact ridiculously fast. Make sure this participant realizes that they are not alone (most of the room feels this way too!) and help them to feel confidence and success in at least a few places. Celebrate the small successes, and guide them to focus on a small number of basic tasks in order to develop their own foundation from which they can play and experiment. The nay-sayer resists acknowledging that communications revolution applies to their work. They are often heard saying, “We’ve always done it this way and it’s working just fine,” or “Our community doesn’t use these things.” The nay-sayer is often scared of change (aren’t we all?) and finds it safer and easier to deny the influence of social media tools and culture on their work than to wrestle with the inevitable questions and issues that we all must face. The best way to engage the nay-sayer is to help them see the value of these tools personally (“oh, photos of my grandson on Facebook! This is great!” or “Wow, someone volunteered to bring snack to the soccer game in 3 minutes – that’s incredible!”) before considering how to apply them to their professional work. The participants in the Academy are largely the first two archetypes. They are eager, curious, and are asking deep, meaningful, and profound questions. Some are “implementer” questions (How can we upload a video of students that we can link to for parents without making it publicly available?); some are more strategic (Should we have multiple Facebook Pages for Lower, Middle and High schools, and another for alumni, or should we consolidate into one Page?); and others are philosophical or ethical (How can we model and teach responsible online behavior for our students when we’re not in control of what people post on our wall? Should we condone use of social media when this can lead to gossip or slander?). I know that as they begin the implement their projects, the questions will become more frequent and more fascinating. They are keeping me on my toes, and I love it! On May 5th we’ll conduct our third full day workshop. Their toolboxes will be full, their goals articulated, and coaches holding their hands for the next important phase of this experience – putting it into practice. As each school team embarks on developing their project, we’ll be learning together, reflecting and revising, and sharing with each other and with you as well. Stay tuned. We may have questions for you. In the meantime, take a moment to reflect on which archetype you are. What defines your current experience with and feelings about social media either personally or professionally? What do you need to move from one stage to the next?

Avi Chai Foundation Gets Social

Cross posted from Allison Fine’s blog, A Fine Blog In partnership with my friends at Personal Democracy Forum, I have had the great pleasure of working with the Avi Chai Foundation since last May. Our engagement has two sides; working with the foundation staff to help them use social media, and developing efforts to strengthen the ability of their grantees and community, particularly Jewish day schools, to become more adept at using social media to build and strengthen their own networks. The foundation has been very courageous and forward thinking about using social media. They are sunsetting in 9 years and want part of their legacy to be a growing “tribe” of Jews that are connected with one another and Judaism. It’s a fascinating notion. They’re not interested in leaving buildings and legacy organizations but want to leave the capacity of a network of people to continue to grow and thrive. We are beginning with a set of experiments with day schools including a training academy for which we will have the great fortune of working with Darim Online, a video contest and online fundraising match. The foundation has taken concrete steps to enter the social media waters. Staffers have started tweeting. Deena Fuchs, the director of special projects and communications, came up with a great idea yesterday. For the next two weeks, the staff is going to have a contest to see who can gain the largest number of new friends on Twitter. We couldn’t decide on a prize. Any ideas? In addition, we agreed on social media policies to provide guidance for staff and boundaries for management. A very interesting point that someone brought up at the meeting is that these really are communications guidelines, that there shouldn’t be an artificial distinction between policies related to social media versus traditional media. Here are their policies. I think they’ve done a great job of keeping them simple, manageable and direct: The AVI CHAI Foundation Social Media Policy AVI CHAI encourages staff and Trustees to be champions on behalf of the Foundation, LRP, day schools and overnight summer camps. The rapidly growing phenomenon of blogging, social networks and other forms of online electronic publishing are emerging as unprecedented opportunities for outreach, information-sharing and advocacy. AVI CHAI encourages (but does not require) staff and Trustees to use the Internet to blog and talk about our work and our grant making and therefore wants staff and Trustees to understand the responsibilities in discussing AVI CHAI in the public square known as the World Wide Web. Guidelines for AVI CHAI Social Media Users 1. Be Smart. A blog or community post is visible to the entire world. Remember that what you write will be public for a long time – be respectful to the Foundation, colleagues, grantees, and partners, and protect your privacy. 2. Write What You Know. You have a unique perspective on our organization based on your talents, skills and current responsibilities. Share your knowledge, your passions and your personality in your posts by writing about what you know. If you’re interesting and authentic, you’ll attract readers who understand your specialty and interests. Don’t spread gossip, hearsay or assumptions. 3. Identify Yourself. Authenticity and transparency are driving factors of the blogosphere. List your name and when relevant, role at AVI CHAI, when you blog about AVI CHAI-related topics. 4. Include Links. Find out who else is blogging about the same topic and cite them with a link or make a post on their blog. Links are what determine a blog’s popularity rating on blog search engines like Technorati. It’s also a way of connecting to the bigger conversation and reaching out to new audiences. Be sure to also link to avichai.org. 5. Include a Disclaimer. If you blog or post to an online forum in an unofficial capacity, make it clear that you are speaking for yourself and not on behalf of AVI CHAI. If your post has to do with your work or subjects associated with AVI CHAI, use a disclaimer such as this: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t represent AVI CHAI’s positions, strategies or opinions.” This is a good practice but does not exempt you from being held accountable for what you write. 6. Be Respectful. It’s okay to disagree with others but cutting down or insulting readers, employees, bosses or partners and vendors is not. Respect your audience and don’t use obscenities, personal insults, ethnic slurs or other disparaging language to express yourself. 7. Work Matters. Ensure that your blogging does not interfere with your other work commitments. 8. Respect Privacy of Others. Don’t publish or cite personal or confidential details and photographs about AVI CHAI grantees, employees, Trustees, partners or vendors without their permission. 9. Don’t Tell Secrets. The nature of your job may provide you with access to confidential information regarding AVI CHAI, AVI CHAI grantees, partners, or fellow employees. Respect and maintain the confidentiality that has been entrusted to you. Don’t divulge or discuss proprietary information, internal documents, personal details about other people or other confidential material 10. Be Responsible. Blogs, wikis, photo-sharing and other forms of online dialogue (unless posted by authorized AVI CHAI personnel) are individual interactions, not corporate communications. AVI CHAI staff and Trustees are personally responsible for their posts.

Jewish New Media Innovation Fund Winners Go Beyond Those Awarded Funds

Today the Jewish New Media Innovation Fund announced the winners of the exciting process that help catalyze our community to focus on new media, our missions, and our strategy for the digital age. It was a fascinating experience to read the applications of the final 30, think deeply about the criteria of the fund, collaborate with an extraordinary team of advisors, and work with three visionary foundations. I am honored to have been part of this pilot year, and I hope that this initiative, and others like it, will continue.

While I’m quite excited about the projects that have been awarded funding, I’m even more excited about the broader impact that this fund has had on established organizations, entrepreneurs, and funders alike. Having worked to advance the Jewish community’s use of digital media for over 10 years now (wow, that went fast), I can see that even the announcement of the Fund changed the conversations among staff and lay leaders throughout the Jewish community. While a social media and mobile strategy might have been pushed to the bottom of the agenda over and over again, the Jewish New Media Innovation Fund forced them to put it at the top of the agenda, and to think about it strategically, not just tactically. Regardless of whether or not these ideas were funded today, providing an incentive, structure and time line I’m sure has deepened and advanced the work of many applicants.

It’s also important to note that the criteria used to evaluate the proposals has an impact beyond the short term decision making about fund allocation. For example, one requirement was that the projects would be able to launch or achieve results within 12 months. While in some cases this felt like a really compressed time line, the reality is that we are all in a permanent beta mode — we have to throw ideas against the wall, assess their effectiveness, and continue to refine over time. If you’re spending more than a year putting it together, either the idea wasn’t sufficiently thought out to begin with, or you’re not prepared to develop in an agile and iterative process.

The fund also set a priority on innovation – though the term was fairly broadly defined. In many cases, I think the made applicants really think beyond the obvious. I was impressed by how many applications viewed their mission through a new lens as they developed their applications. While the technology employed may not have been so “innovative” and new, the ways that they were thinking about their work clearly were. Kol hakavod to those that busted through the walls of their buildings, put the freedom of exploration in the hands of their users, and researched technologies, platforms and models outside of their immediate sphere of influence, or even their comfort zones.

There are many more lessons to be learned from the applicant pool, process, and over time, the outcomes of the projects funded. Regardless of who receives a check, this Fund was a tremendous gift to our community. I hope that those who used the opportunity to think in new and deeper and riskier ways will still find inspiration and value from the process, and will resolve to continue to take action on these ideas by incorporating these costs into their operating budget where appropriate, writing other grants, and seeking the support of other funders – foundations and individuals – who also recognize that these tools, ideas and approaches are critical to our communal future.

Are you an applicant to the #JNMIF who didn’t get your project funded this round? How are you going to proceed with this work? What non-financial assistance do you need? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

What’s that [email protected] ?

No, I’m not trying to swear in the headline of this post, though the three symbols in a row might have led you to question my professional judgment. More and more, I’m seeing people drop a period before the @ when starting a tweet with a username, such as “@estherk I wish I could be at #tribefest”. You might, as I did, wonder why some tweets appear like this “[email protected] reports on #tribefest”. (By the way, I’m making up these tweets as examples).

One Forty to the rescue! Laura Fitton (@pistachio) runs this smart “Social Business Software Hub”, which recently blogged 5 Common Twitter Mistakes and How to Fix Them. It’s worth reading. I’ll share the fifth one with you here, since it’s a juicy factoid I’m betting many people are curious about:

@ vs. [email protected] The way that Twitter is constructed, only people that also follow whoever you are @replying can see that @reply. Sometimes, people will start a Tweet with @ when its not intended to be an @reply, though. For instance, @CNNs coverage of the Egyptian riots. If you Tweeted that, only your followers that follow @CNN will see that Tweet in their timeline.

HOW TO FIX: Want everyone to see those Tweets? Use the [email protected] trick: stick a period in front of the @ sign and itll send the Tweet into the main Twitter stream for all to enjoy.

See? Simple and brilliant explanation. Now go check out their blog for many more.

[email protected]’all, see you on Twitter!

Hanukkah Entertainment That Educates?

in collaboration with guest blogger Rick Recht The ultimate form of ‘cool’ in the Jewish world is when your non-Jewish friends also think it, whatever IT is, is cool. Well, cool just happened – twice. [If you’ve seen the videos, feel free to skip below them to the bottom of this post. Unless, of course, you can’t help yourself but watch them again.] On December 4, the CNN.com top headline picture was a snapshot from a viral video by the Maccabeats, male a capella group from Yeshiva University. The video Candlelight, a parody of teen heart-throb, Taio Cruz’s top 10 hit, Dynamite, and Mike Tompkin’s a cappella version of it. The Hanukkah version has racked up more than 2 million views on YouTube, earning the Maccabeats appearances on The Today Show, The Early Show, CNN.com and The Washington Post, among others. Candlelight includes lyrics about the Hanukkah story and traditions such as latkes and dreidel spinning. The video humorously depicts the Maccabeats reenacting aspects of the ancient Hanukkah story in makeshift gladiator costumes occasionally flash-forwarding to present day Yeshiva college buddies flipping latkes, studying Torah, and singing on camera, Brady Bunch-style. Simultaneously, another new Hanukkah video, by reggae rapper, super star, Matisyahu, attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors. Matisyahu’s song, Miracle, is a contemporary interpretation of Hanukkah, where in a dream sequence Matisyahu meets Antiochus, the King of the Greeks, and the father of Judah Maccabee (the hero of the Hanukkah story), also named (get this!) Matisyahu. At Shabbat services last week, I mentioned the viral videos and then many laughed and nodded in recognition of the achievement by OUR Maccabeats and Matisyahu. We’ve got communal pride because this caliber of media rarely emanates from the Jewish world, and when it does, Jews take notice. These videos have the perfect combination of ingredients — including high-quality talent and cinematography, great humor, a clear connection with popular culture, and a powerful story line that is authentic Jewish history. These guys took it to the next level by unashamedly expressing their Jewish pride by using fun costumes, humor, and symbolism to tell the Hanukkah story. We’re not just talking about playing dreidel, we’re talking about the pressure to assimilate, and the temptation of … well, "chocolate stuff". (Don’t know what I mean? Watch "Miracle"!) While they are surely educational, the approach isn’t shoving historical facts down your throat. I asked my 23 year old office manager, Seth, why he thought the videos were cool and he didn’t skip a beat in responding, “First off, they’re hilarious. They are a great example of the talent that comes from our Jewish community. Now that these videos are viral, not only within the Jewish community but everywhere, it gives us pride to be Jewish because Jews AND non-Jews are watching and loving these videos. Hanukkah has lost a lot of its religious meaning and understanding for many of us (young people) and these videos give us a different way to look at the holiday and put a modern spin on it. They highlight the Jewish people and bring attention, in a very good way, to our Jewish community.” For Seth and many other young Jews, these videos exceed their apparent entertainment value and become more meaningful because they have a clear educational purpose. They don’t just hover around the contemporary iconic Hanukkah symbols such as dreidles and Hanukkah menorahs. They tell the REAL historical story of Hanukkah. They serve as relevant and meaningful sources of Jewish education for this holiday that has lost much of its meaning having become a contemporary American Hallmark holiday. They employ the ultimate tools for reaching and impacting young lives – music and video – and then stream the content on YouTube, the most powerful platform for video sharing. It’s also a powerful place for expression, identity building, and discusComment on Maccabeats Videosion. A few comments on the videos are posted here – they are fascinating to browse to gain insight into youthScreen shot 2010-12-06 at 10.55.39 PM (and not-so-youth) culture today of both Jews and non-Jews. Timing is everything, and the chance of being exposed to anything by or about Jews is dramatically increased during the Hanukkah season. It is no coincidence that these 2 videos hit their rocket-like trajectory on the 3rd and 4th days of Hanukkah. Familiarity breeds popularity. In the case of the Maccabeats, their song Candlelight was a parody of one of the most popular songs in the country. Almost every kid in the country had already memorized Dynamite by Taio Cruz and only had to learn the new Hanukkah lyrics in the Maccabeats’ parody. Screen shot 2010-12-06 at 10.58.49 PMScreen shot 2010-12-06 at 10.57.43 PMSo let us rejoice for the blessing of these two incredible viral videos that have infused our Jewish lives with such excitement and pride during this holiday season. And let us contemplate a time when individuals in our Jewish community can achieve national recognition in between holidays, using the power of music, video, and genuine high-quality talent to not only entertain, but educate both Jewish and non-Jewish audiences about our Jewish rituals, values, and history. Rick Recht is the top touring artist in Jewish music, the Executive Director of Jewish Rock Radio, Executive Director of Songleader Boot Camp, and the JNF National Music Spokesman.

Wave in Review

By Deborah Fishman

An all-volunteer magazine put together by a geographically diverse, online community of young adults 22-40, PresenTense Magazine has always been a collaborative enterprise. As such, weve made ample use of many Google products, storing and sharing articles in Docs, communicating in Chat, and organizing and tracking article progress in Sites. Yet the lack of integration has made using all these tools in concert a challenge, and we are always interested in exploring better ways to perform these tasks.

For our tenth issue, PresenTense Magazine launched the Digital Issue the first-ever print magazine to be published entirely in Google’s new tool for collaboration, Google Wave. The platform allowed us to pioneer new horizons for journalism by seeking to address a key challenge for journalists today: how to collaborate in a digital age.

Google Wave enticed us with the ability to collaborate on all aspects of the magazine production in a single package, as well as offering several new and exciting features. For instance, playback allows users to review the sequence of changes and easily restore a document to a previous version. Two modes of engaging with waves edit and reply give greater flexibility in editing documents and leaving comments for writers. Since edits and replies are updated in real time, authors and editors can interact naturally, as if in an in-person conversation. Wave also includes the ability to add images, maps, videos, and other gadgets right in the collaboration space.

It was especially fitting that we set out to explore Google Wave for our Digital Issue, focused on the Digital Age and how it is affecting young Jewish community- and identity-building today. Google Wave allowed us to take advantage of the very digital trends and technologies we were discussing, to produce content to act as the starting place for a larger conversation. We found that, while rough around the edges as a pre-Beta product, Google Wave has some real potential for online collaboration.

Ready to embark on a whole new world of Wave discovery, we soon realized that our first hurdle was getting on Wave to begin with. A collaboration tool only works when your co-collaborators also have access. Each issue of PresenTense Magazine is the product of over 70 young Jews writers, editors, advisory committee members, and art team members who work together through the creative process, from the initial brainstorming phase through the final production. Wave invites are a scarce commodity, and for 70 contributors, you need an allocation strategy. Googles arbitrary approval process further baffled our editorial team.

Even with an approved Wave account, not all writers were as eager to ride the Wave as we had hoped. The great flexibility offered by the Wave platform belies the fact that Wave is to many unintuitive. It took significant effort for many writers and editors to learn such Wave basics as how to reply to a message, causing a great deal of frustration. Even those who persevered encountered a fair share of frustrations from frequent crashes, missing features, and various other unexplained occurrences. For those accustomed to working over e-mail and chat, the lack of integration with GMail meant many participants did not notice changes until days later.

Along the way we also came across some collaboration-enhancing perks. When posting in real-time, one author and a commenter discovered they were able to have a brief exchange of ideas inside the Wave and then delete all but what they wanted to preserve for others to see. Another pair of authors were able to “meet” each other and converse when they bumped into each other on their articles section contents page.

PresenTense Magazine is generally published as a glossy, in-print magazine. One of our defining features has been our full-color photographs and artwork, skillfully laid out alongside articles and other content. Wave does offer the ability to drag-and-drop images into an article, and you can even view them as a slideshow or one at a time as full-screen images. However, inside a blip the images appear as either small icons or full-size images taking up most of the page, and it’s not possible to wrap the surrounding text around them. The unsatisfying formatting was further complicated by Googles mysterious rules governing whether and how blips are indented, depending on where exactly one clicks and whether one selects edit or reply.

PresenTense Magazine is the foundation for a vibrant community. Over the past five years, our ten in-print issues have acted as a community organizing tool, bringing together hundreds of young Jews around the world with ideas and enthusiasm about the future of Jewish innovation. However, there are challenges inherent in grassroots work with young Jews spanning time zones around the world. The geographic distances involved provide the tremendous benefit of enabling us to incorporate different perspectives and start conversations that may never occur otherwise. But it can be difficult to find appropriate online collaboration tools that have all the functionality we need. We found a lot to like on Google Wave, and we look forward to future improvements to the medium.

Deborah Fishman is the Network Animator for the PresenTense Group, engaging and empowering the PresenTense community to explore issues facing the Jewish People. As the volunteer managing editor of PresenTense Magazine, Deborah has managed hundreds of volunteer writers, editors, and visionaries.
Lisa Colton, Founder and President of Darim Online, was a member of the advisory team for Presentense Magazine’s Digital issue.

10 for 2010: #2 UNFRIENDING and UNFOLLOWING

Anyone remember the Burger King campaign last year — defriend (or unfriend) 10 people on Facebook and we’ll give you a burger? Regardless of what you think of the campaign or Whoppers, their ad agency jumped on the beginning of a trend that is really coming to fruition in 2010. The Oxford English Dictionary even named “unfriend” a 2009 word of the year (along with “tweetup”).

As Facebook and Twitter have become so mainstream, and friending so casual, our rolls of friends and followers have grown extensive. Maybe too extensive. Just at that time when we’re trying to manage our precious time and sort through reams of content to find the gems, it is our own “friends” weighing us down. Dunbar proposed that any individual could really only have 150 stable social relationships at any given time. Others propose that with tools such as Facebook we can manage higher numbers. In a recent update, Facebook set the number of people to show up in your news feed to 250 (which you can change). While it may be true that our maximum number is far over Dunbar’s 150, many people are starting to approach their limit and are pruning their social network gardens.

There are two things you should be thinking about:

  1. How should I pare my friends and people I’m following to get the most bang for my social-media-hour-buck?
  2. How are other people making decisions about paring their lists, and how should I position myself to stay on the friends list of those I care about? (note: you may not care about all of them)

How you answer these questions will depend on your business, your brand, your audience, your goals, and how you have been using these tools. People want value (which can be information, insight, humor, etc.). People also want to be talked with, not talked at.

One of the challenges is that when you’ve mixed company in your friend or follower list, there’s not one clear value proposition. For example, family wants pics of your kids, college friends want to know what you’re reading, business colleagues want professional insights, customers/clients/members want meaty information and connection. You cannot please all of the people all of the time.

Some people have dealt with this by creating multiple profiles — in some cases with hard lines (members of the congregation can befriend a staff person here but not there), and in some cases much softer lines (e.g. I tweet about Jewish social media and innovation at @darimonline, and I tweet personally about kids, chickens, music and other things at @lisacolton) where you’re welcome to friend or follow in both places, but at least you know what you’re getting (or as the writer, what you’re giving) with greater specificity.

I predict that the next waves of functionality and privacy updates from Facebook and Twitter will offer greater control over sorting these groups (they’ve already begun), targeting content to this group or that, and being able to hide or categorize friends and followers with greater ease to create customized feeds (how cool would it be to login to Facebook at work and see only updates from professional colleagues, and get home and login to see updates only from friends and family?).

In the meantime, put these on your to-do list:

  1. Be educated about privacy and friend list categorization opportunities on Facebook. There’s more control there than you probably realize or use.
  2. Set up friend lists, and each time you accept a new friend, add them to a list. When you use your settings you’ll be able to count on knowing who’s getting what info. See a tutorial here.
  3. Be aware that the functionality, policies, and culture of these tools will continue to adapt and change, so adopt a nimble stance (modern “sea legs”) and keep educating yourself.
  4. Think about how you can talk with your community, not just talk at them. Experts suggest a ratio of 1:12 (or even 1:20) — for every one self-promoting post (“come to our young adults event Tues evening…”) you should add value 12 times. What value can you offer? What questions can you ask to tap into your community? What conversations are happening related to your work and how can you participate? And don’t forget to LISTEN.
  5. Discuss among staff how people are managing these issues. There may be creative ideas, and you may or may not want to have everyone on the same page and taking the same approach. Either way, staff should be aware of expectations as employees if they are engaging with members, prospects, board members or donors. You should consider drafting a social media policy or guidelines, or revisiting to existing policies. See info here from Wild Apricot and info here from Beth Kanter and sample policies here.

How are you identifying what your target audiences want to hear, learn and discuss? How are you thinking about what to post and/or tweet? Where are you adding value and growing your online community? How will you know if people and dropping out and why?

10 Blips On Your Radar for 2010: #1 MOBILE

In the coming days and weeks we’ll be sharing 10 things you should have on your radar screen for 2010. If you’re already on top of them – mazel tov. Share with us what you’re doing in the comments. If not, time to get hip to the new decade. Don’t put it off. This isn’t the future, it’s the present, so pay attention.

To kick us off, mobile mobile mobile. Everybody’s got a phone in their pocket, and increasingly it’s a pretty intelligent one. The iPhone, Blackberry, Android and others are taking over the market, and shaking up the status quo. Assume that people are looking for and engaging with you while on the go, not just while sitting at their desk.

Some things to know:

  1. Compose your emails for easy reading on a mobile device. Send a test and check it out on a Blackberry and iPhone. Some Blackberry users are reporting a lack of patience with graphic emails because it takes too much time to wade through. “Give me the bullet points and important information straight up and in brief” seems to be the attitude.
  2. Start learning about fundraising via mobile. I just made my first donation by text message to a radio show I love, This American Life, when I saw a tweet. $5 went on my AT&T bill. So easy! Check out http://www.mobilegiving.org/ to see how they do it. Sophist Productions has been hosting events (a UJA Young Leadership cocktail party, for example) where people “text to pledge” their donation, and pledges are projected on the wall. Yes, it is a new world. And it works. Read more here on text-to-give programs.
  3. Redesigning or tuning up your website? Make sure you’ve got a mobile friendly version. Check out a Google tool here to see what your web site can look like on a mobile browser. Beth Kanter iPhone-ized her blog with an easy $200 IPhone app tool. Learn about it here.
  4. Twitter was conceived of, and largely used as a mobile tool. Thus, don’t neglect this community when you are putting together a mobile strategy.

Want to learn more?

http://mobileactive.org/ is a great org with useful resources and a discussion list on how nonprofits are using mobile in their work.

http://www.mobilecommons.com/ offers services for marketing, advocacy and fundraising via mobile (and thanks to Mobile Commons for donating their services for our Boot Camps)

http://www.mobilecitizen.org/ has excellent resources for mobile use in education and nonprofits.

Great resources from Wild Apricot: Is Your Nonprofit Website Mobile-Friendly?

Examples of cool, mission-centric mobile uses from nonprofits, on Beth Kanter’s Blog