Clay Shirky Sheds Light on the Social Media Revolution at NTEN

Clay Shirky and Holly Ross (Executive Director of NTEN) at 09NTC
Clay Shirky and Holly Ross (Executive Director of NTEN) at 09NTC

I’m at the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) conference, commonly known as NTC (or this year, 09NTC). It is a phenomenal gathering of the brightest nonprofit folks who are using or interested in technology, from databases to mobile and everything in between.

Today’s keynote was Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. His summary of the book in 5 words: Coordinated Action Just Got Easier. (And the footnote: thus organizations have lost their monopoly on coordinating action, and therefore their role is changing.) His entertaining and enlighting presentations (see many on YouTube) include many examples of the implications of social media and the opportunities it presents.

John Fitch's early steamboat design
John Fitch's early steamboat design

One of the things I love most about his work are the illustrations of the major paradigm shift underway. I find that beyond the tactical education about this or that tool, this understanding is key to the health and success of the Jewish community. Today he gave the analogy of John Fitch’s invention of the steamboat. When Fitch started, he took the boat as we all knew it — powered by men rowing oars — and added a steam engine. Not particularly successful. Using the old model and adding steam was not a recipe for success. However, when he changed the model, the steam engine added tremendous value.

The same is true of our organizations. Take the same top-down organization and add technology. Doesn’t work. Working in alignment with the new, and still evolving marketplace requires rethinking our models and questioning some very basic assumptions about marketing, communication, education, and community building.

Thanks to Chad Norman for the Clay Shirky and Holly Ross (Exec Dir of NTEN) photo, and for the quotes below from his talk:

“The loss of control you fear is already in the past.”
“We’re not good at thinking fast. We are good at feeling fast.”
“Tools don’t get socially interesting until they get technologically boring.”
“Once one person solves the problem once, the problem stays solved for everybody.”
“The intention of users has more impact than the intention of the designers.”
“Each of us is simultaneously an individual person and a global publisher.”
“Start small and good, then make it bigger.”
“We spend more time figuring out whether something is a good idea than we would have just trying it.”
“Don’t hire consultants. Hire your own 23-year-olds.”
[It doesn’t work to] “Just take our organization and add some Internet.”
“It’s not just about delivering content to members, it’s about the convening power to help members discover each other.”
“Fail informatively – Fail like crazy.”

Want to hear what’s going on at 09NTC? Check out the Twitter Stream #09NTC.

How are you re-aligning your work? What are you noticing? What’s working, or not?

Jewish Organizations Using Twitter to Strengthen Relationships and Built Their Case

Twitter, the “microblogging” platform where users can post updates of 140 characters or less, in making inroads in the Jewish community. Many organizations are using this tool to open communication channels with their constituents, building relationships and in some cases making the case for funding through their regular posts.

I’ve written in the past about Twitter (IDF and Digital Intimacy). In this challenging economy, others are finding that with no fixed costs and just a bit of time, they can spread their message through a very networked and connected audience. Tapping into these viral networks is powerful. For example, yesterday Clay Shirky, NYU professor and author of Here Comes Everybody was a guest on NPR’s Talk of the Nation. When @TOTN (@ denotes a Twitter username, and TOTN is the username, standing for Talk of the Nation) tweeted that he would be the guest, 9 other people that I follow “retweeted” the message within one hour. In this way, not only the 2469 people who follow @TOTN got the message, but easily over 25,000 others did as well.

Below is a list of a few Jewish organizations using Twitter. If you are, please add your Twitter username in the comments so we can follow you. And please also share other Jewish organizations you’ve found on Twitter, or other organizations/people whom you think use the platform effectively, and why.


@URJ — Union for Reform Judaism Sample tweets:

Resources for congregations to learn and discuss the situation in Gaza:

Rabbi Eric Yoffie on the tragic loss of life in Mumbai: “Our grief deepens”:

@JStreetDotOrg — JStreet Sample tweets:

If you need help talking about Gaza, check out J Street’s FAQ:

We’re asking Obama’s new foreign policy team to prioritize Mid-East peace:

@JewishDaySchool — The Jewish Day School of Metropolitan Seattle Sample tweets:

WinterBreak is almost here! Enjoy the Seattle snow and check the JDS website for closing information should the need arise.

Check out the pics of Grandfriend’s Day at! Thank you to everyone for making this event so beautiful! Shabbat Shalom!

@PresenTense — PresenTense Sample tweets:

Visiting with Gesher City in Boston — they might have a job for you

Anyone want to rap CRMs? Specifically, CiviCRM and why we’re leaving Salesforce
Your favorites? Write a comment! And… come follow us at @DarimOnline

JSCA Professional Development

The Jewish Communal Service Association is a wonderful organization that offers support for Jewish communal professionals throughout North America. The JCSA has provided many networking and professional development opportunities in the past, and is currently assessing its offerings in order to serve the needs and interests of its members.

The JCSA has opened a survey to better understand the community’s professional development activities and interests. Your input is valuable, whether or not you have participated in any previous local or national JCSA events.

Take 5 minutes and answer the questions here. Thanks!

Your Turn To Brag. Come On, Really.

Reform Judaism magazine is planning an upcoming article on how Reform congregations are integrating cutting-edge technology in the service of community. We know if you’re reading this blog, and you’re a staff member, lay leader or active member of a congregation you’ve likely got something good going on. Tell us about it! NOW! Leave a comment (see “comments” link above) or email us at [email protected] and tell us your story, including links. We’ll pass along stories to the folks at the URJ, and/or you can copy them on your email at [email protected].

We have found that many congregations think what they’re doing isn’t so special — until they start to tell others about it, and eyes light up. It doesn’t even have to be fancy techie stuff. When Temple Israel Center really started sharing their web stats (a report to the board to show value, a report to staff to show their writing is really being read, and a report to members to illustrate how many people find the web site content valuable), it changed the conversation about the use of the web site in their congregation. And once they shared the practice with others via the Darim Online Learning Network, many other congregations adopted the valuable practice.

Are you doing anything with social networking? Online video or podcasting? Distance learning for adult education? Blogging? Have you restructured your e-newsletter recently? What products or services have you found most helpful? What’s been key to moving your work forward (adding staff, recruting volunteers, getting a budget, etc.)?

Consider it my Hanukkah present. Take 3 minutes and tell me your story.

Announcing the Winners of the Sukkah Contest in Second Life

Did you know there is a vibrant Jewish life in Second Life? (Pause: What is Second Life you might ask?)

Second Life is and internet-based 3D virtual world available by downloading an application by its developer, Linden Labs. Anyone can participate (they have a teen world that is protected for the younger set). “Residents” create an avatar, and can explore, meet other residents, socialize, participate in individual and group activities, and create and trade items and services with one another. Those who wish to participate in the commerce can pay a monthly fee for an “allowance” of Linden Dollars, and/or cash in real dollars for the Second Life currency.

View of the sukkah contest
View of the sukkah contest

Now, on to the Jewish life in Second Life. There is a synagogue, a yeshiva, a museum, Hebrew classes, Torah study, a mikvah, a Second Life Kotel, and much more. There is even a magazine about Jewish life in Second Life, cleverly named 2LifeMagazine (get it — Second Life / L’chaim?).

Beth Odets (that’s her avatar name – in real life, Beth Brown) created the synagogue in 2006 and convenes many holiday celebrations, candle lightings, sing alongs and other events in the Jewish neighborhood. Once again, she held a sukkah building contest in the courtyard outside the synagogue this year. Over the past few weeks participants have designed and built their sukkot, decorated them, added signs, and notecards you can take and “keep”, glasses of wine and slices of cake you can enjoy while visiting. You can stroll down “sukkah alley”, admiring the “handiwork” of the contestants, taking a seat in this one, viewing photos of families and ushpizin on the walls of another.

Here I am (my avatar) visiting a traditional sukkah in Second Life
Here I am (my avatar) visiting a traditional sukkah in Second Life

I toured 16 of them today, as the contest closed and the winners were announced. There were many stylish entries – some very traditional, some quite modern and unique. Many had music playing inside, birds chirping, and the fabric “swaying in the wind”.

Interested? Go to to download the application. A good internet connection and a decent video card are recommended. Even better, find friend who is experienced in Second Life to give you a tutorial. Or start by reading a bit about the Jewish community there in 2LifeMagazine.

New Pew Study Shows Importance of Internet/Cell Phone Use in Families

The Pew Internet and American Life Project has released a new study titled “Networked Families”. The report paints a picture of how “parents and spouses are using the internet and cell phones to create a new connectedness that builds on remote connections and shared internet experiences”. The majority of American families now are empowered with multiple tools, including desktop and laptop computers, cell phones, and broadband internet, which make possible a new type of connectedness. These patterns of connection within the family shed light on how families prioritize time, seek out and experience meaningful activities, and relate to both people and institutions.

Pew Internet & American Life Project, "Networked Families"
Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project, "Networked Families"

One interesting finding is that the majority of adults say that technology has enabled their family life today to be as close or closer than they remember their families being when they were growing up. While the technologies have perhaps increased time that adults spend at the office and/or working from home, the study reports that they have not had a negative impact on family closeness.

In fact, people say these new communication tools help them stay more connected to family and friends throughout the day, not just during “leisure” time. And approximately 25% of online adults report watching less TV as a result of their internet use. This is an important statistic, as internet use is more likely to be characterized by interaction (email, blogging or microblogging, recommending resources to others, signing up for events or purchasing goods, etc.) rather than passive observation (TV).

“There had been some fears that the Internet had been taking people away from each other,” said Barry Wellman, a sociology professor at the University of Toronto and one of the authors of the report, published by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. “We found just the opposite.” Wellman said families appreciated the innovations because “they know what each other is doing during the day.” This, he said, comports with his other research, which shows that technology “doesn’t cut back on their physical presence with each other. It has not cut down on their face time.

The report finds that “some 52% of internet users who live with a spouse and one or more children go online with another person at least a few times a week. Another 34% of such families have shared screen moments at least occasionally,” and “more than half of the parents (54%) who use the internet go online with another person a few times a week or more.”

These findings are important for our understanding of technology in Jewish life as well. Our missions are not just about getting people into the building or attending programs, they are also about impacting individuals and families, bringing (and strengthening) Jewish knowledge and practice in the home and the family. Thus, it’s critical that we understand how families are using technology, and that we are “there” when they are sharing information with one another, planning activities, and discussing important family matters.

How do you take advantage of this level of connectivity to bring your message and offering into the homes of your constituents? How have you observed the impact of such “connectivity” on your work?

I’ll leave you with two examples from my own life:

Story #1: Our 4 yr old son attends the synagogue’s preschool. The preschool has a blog (private, for parents only) and posts photos, stories and curricular info there. I read it in my Google Reader, and when there is something important (photo of our kid, a great story, request for volunteers for a field trip), I forward the link to my husband, and we often end up discussing it with our kids at the dinner table. This level of insight into our son’s experience would not be possible without the blog, and without both parents having connected on XYZ topic mid-afternoon, our dinner table conversation may not have been about the preschool, synagogue or Judaic content

Story #2: I’m on the AJWS email list. Prior to Passover, I received an email about a publication drawing connections between the conflict in Darfur and the Exodus story. I downloaded the PDF, emailed it to my husband and friends with whom we were having seder. We exchanged emails about how we would include it our seder. I then uploaded the PDF to the Kinkos website, ordered color print outs, picked them up on my way home, and included this valuable resource in our seder.

What are examples from your personal and/or professional life?

IT Staffing — How Do You Measure Up?

NTEN (The Nonprofit Technology Network) is an incredible organization that brings together staff of nonprofit organizations to use technology better. They offer a conference (this year, April 26-28, 2009 in San Francisco — come join us!), webinars, knowledge sharing, affinity groups, online discussions, discounts on software, and much more.

One of the most valuable services they provide is data of how organizations across the nonprofit sector are using technology. They conduct regular surveys and research, and publish regular reports which are available for free download on their web site. Samples of reports available include:

At Darim, we find that the Jewish community, in general, lags behind both similar for profit and non profit organizations in their use of Internet technologies, social media strategies and data management. There are wonderful notable exceptions, but Darim’s work focuses largely on helping Jewish orgs get a leg up on how they use these powerful tools.

While we often compare our work to other similar organizations in our community, it is important to step outside the Jewish community from time to time to see how our work and investments compare with other nonprofit organizations. Salaries and education of IT staff, how centralized or distributed the tasks are among staff, what ongoing training or professional development is offered, etc. The NTEN reports offer a window into the broader nonprofit community, showing the trends of both small and large organizations.

A new report on IT staffing is due in January and you’ll find a link to it here on JewPoint0!

Check out some other interesting articles and resources on IT staffing:

What is “marketing” and “communications”?

While many people think the word “marketing” refers to trying to sell something, it’s really much more beautiful than that. We can look at the Jewish community in 2 different ways. Commonly, we see institutions which are trying to get people to become members, attend events, and make donations. Through a different lens we see groups of people with common interests, needs and locations coming together to form communities. And as these communities grow, they need some structure to support their activities.

The mistake we make in thinking about marketing and communications is that we put the institution first, when we should be putting the individual, and the community needs first. It is a subtle but important difference. The exciting thing about “web 2.0” — both the technology tools and the culture evolving with it– is that it brings us back to the centrality of the community over the institution.

Our Learning Network session tomorrow for Darim member congregations is a first step in examining this shift. “Communications” are more than a standard issue bulletin and the phone tree. Communications today is about weaving together the community. It’s as much about listening and responding as it is about hawking your wares. If you are a member can can’t attend our session you can find useful resources and an archive of the webinar in Dirah. If you’re not yet a member of Darim you can learn more on our website.

Coming soon – some reading recommendations for rethinking your assumptions about marketing and communications. Stay tuned.