Showing posts with label BlogCatalog. Show all posts
Showing posts with label BlogCatalog. Show all posts

Friday, October 16

Spotting Trends: Seven Myths About Blogging


Today at BlogWorld New Media Expo 2009 in Las Vegas, BlogCatalog will release excerpts from a research study “An Analysis of the Blogosphere: Its Present & Future Impact,” which was conducted by SPECTRUM Brand Strategy Group, LLC (SBSG). The finding are based on a compilation of interviews with influential bloggers; a quantitative survey of BlogCatalog members; and a qualitative discussion moderated by the SBSG research team.

“What we have found is that many of the standing theories embraced by social media experts are not necessarily based on the experience represented by the majority of independent bloggers,” said Tony Berkman, president of BlogCatalog. “In some cases, the SBSG study seems to suggest that many social media experts are isolating themselves from the greater population of the blogosphere.”

Seven Trends In Social Media Related To Blogging

1. Who are bloggers? While many people speculate younger audiences dominate blog authorship, the reality is that they are dominated by “digital immigrants” (Generation X and Baby Boomers). “Digital natives” (Generation Y and younger) are still exploring how they might best use blogs.

2. Will Generation Y follow these leaders? While there is an educator/student relationship, there is also an increasing divide between A-list “digital immigrants” and the greater population of the bloggers, especially younger content creators. As A-list bloggers have become less accessible, the majority of newer bloggers are looking for better solutions and different connections.

3. Do A-list bloggers have better insights? There is no correlation between A-list bloggers providing better insights
than novice or undiscovered bloggers. In fact, as A-list bloggers become more comfortable and complacent with some tactics, the study suggests new, novice, and undiscovered bloggers tend to take more risks that lead to innovation.

4. Is new media replacing traditional media? The vast majority of bloggers have no intention of becoming citizen journalists. It is more likely that content creators, citizen journalists, and journalists will become increasingly interdependent and not competitive with each other.

5. Can people trust blogs? Among bloggers, trusting other bloggers is not an issue. As readers, bloggers are
generally more suspicious of corporate blogs and traditional media than of other bloggers, even those who remain anonymous. There is also an increasing need for more human oversight over algorithms in discovering quality content.

6. How do bloggers measure success? Bloggers clearly and consistently identify their content as opinion communication and the authors aim to receive recognition and readerships. While corporations are interested in measuring a return on investment, most bloggers are more concerned about affirmation and engagement.

7. Will micro-blogging and social networks replace blogs? Most bloggers see micro-blogging and blogging as an interdependent activity, with micro-blogging, especially Twitter, being used to market blog content. They change where the discussion takes place, but thought leadership occurs on blogs.

There are more conversation topics to be found in excerpts being released today. There are additional points to be found in the full study, which is still being compiled.

Additional Points of Interest At BlogWorld

BlogCatalog is also handing out information on two upcoming Bloggers Unite events in November — Veterans Day: Who Will Stand on Nov. 11 and Bloggers Unite: Fight for Preemies on Nov. 17. Please save the dates and dedicate a blog post for both important causes.

If you are attending BlogWorld and have questions about either event, look for me Friday morning or Saturday afternoon, after I finish my class at UNLV. Or, look for our communication manager Hadley Thom, who will also be frequenting the BlogCatalog booth between sessions.

Who wouldn't be with Clive Berkman passing out special treats for attendees. He cooked the chocolate at my home last night; I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, September 8

Recognizing Literacy: A Student Success Story

As seen through the eyes of people who can read.

In 1990, Tommy Gray could not fill out a job application, draw money out of his bank account, or purchase groceries without easily identifiable pictures. Today, he can accomplish all these tasks that most take for granted. In fact, Tommy not only reads and writes, but actively supports the program that continues to teach him how to read — Computer Assisted Literacy in Libraries (C.A.L.L.).

“When you learn one word, it’s like someone giving you a hundred dollars and saying you don’t have to pay it back,” Tommy said. “It makes you that happy.”

A recent recipient of the Nevada Literacy Coalition’s “Outstanding Student Award,” Tommy has appeared in newspaper articles promoting the program, regularly attends C.A.L.L. support network meetings, and frequently teaches others how reading will not only help them secure a job but change their lives. He is one of several hundred students benefited by Southern Nevada Literacy Coalition member programs.

As seen through the eyes of those who cannot.*

In 1990, Ypzzu Htay, Las Vegas, vpilf mpy goaa out a kpn sqqaovayopm, ftse zpmru piy pg jod nsml svvpimy, pt qitvjsdr htpvrtord eoyjpiy rsdoau ofrmyogsnar qovittrd. Ypfsu, jr vsm svvqzqaqsa saa tatst tssas tast zqst tsat aqt atsmtta. In asvt, Tqzzy mqt qmay ttsas sma wtqtts, mut svtqvtay suqqqtts tat qtqatsz tast vqmtqmuts tq ttsva aqz aqw tq ttsa — Vqzquttt Sssqstta Aqtttsvy qm Aqmtstqts (C.A.L.L.).

“Watm yqu atstm qmt wqta, qt’s aqat sqztqmt aqvqma yqu s aumatta aqaasts sma ssyqma yqu aqm’t asvt tq qsy qt msva,” Tqzzy ssqa. “Qt zsats yqu tast asqqy.”

A ttvtmt ttvqqqtmt qa tat Nevada Aqtttsvy Vqsaqtqqm’s “Qutstsmaqma Stuatmt Swsta,” Tqzzy ass sqqtstta in mtwsqsqtt sttqvats qtqzqtqma tat qtqatsz, ttauastay stttmas C.A.L.L.suqqqtt mttwqta ztttqmas, sma attqutmtay ttsvats qtatts aqw ttsaqma wqaa mqt qmay ataq tatz stvutt s aqm mut vasmat tatqt aqvts. At qs qmt qa stvttsa aumatta stuatmts mtmtaqtta my Squtattm Nevada Aqtttsvy Vqsaqtqqm ztzmtt qtqatszs.

*Based upon readers tested at CASA Skill Level A or ESL 2, as presented in the Southern Nevada Literacy Day Dinner by Copywrite, Ink., circa 1999

As seen through the eyes of those who want to make a difference.

Please visit and read a few posts from the hundreds being submitted by bloggers at BloggersUnite.org or search for more than 250,000 posts that have already been published today. A special thanks to the Price Group, Great Advertising, Clever Ads, APPLE Partnership, the City of Henderson, and other sponsors for their early support.

Wednesday, September 2

Uniting People: International Literacy Day


"Teaching children and adults to read, write, and comprehend is not only our essential duty and investment in America's future; it is also an act of love." — John Corcoran

If you are unfamiliar with the name, John Corcoran is an extraordinary man who graduated from high school and college to go on to become a secondary school teacher before becoming a businessman. What makes his particular story extraordinary is that Corcoran never learned to read. You can read his entire story here.

"It was not uncommon for me to find almost half of my students unable to read past a third-grade level. I couldn't teach them to read, but I could help them learn as I had learned." — Corcoran

I had the pleasure of meeting Corcoran while serving on the board of the Southern Nevada Literacy Coalition, which was a leading coalition comprised of literacy providers and business communicators. He was humble, almost soft-spoken, but extremely articulate in presenting his story as well as how many children and adults masterfully hide their inability to read.

"For all those teaching years, I avoided facing the real problem in their lives and my own, revealing one of the shortcomings of progressive education." — Corcoran

While some progress is being made in the United States, the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) estimates one child in four grows up not knowing how to read and more than 40 percent of adults only possess level one reading skills (which makes them marginally functional). Illiteracy can also be directly linked to crime, health care costs, and poverty.

"The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure." — United States Department of Justice

While not reporting on the tiered literacy system, the United Nations estimates 776 million adults lack even minimum literacy skills worldwide. And, according to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), it is widely held that in modern societies "literacy skills are fundamental to informed decision-making, personal empowerment, active and passive participation in local and global social community." (Stromquist, 2005, p. 12)

This Sept. 8, in recognition of International Literacy Day, which was established by UNESCO, thousands of bloggers are joining BloggersUnite.org and the APPLE Partnership in cooperation with Barnes & Noble; BlogCatalog.com; the City of Henderson (Nevada); Copywrite, Ink.; FedEx; PBS&J; and Wal-Mart to dedicate a post, instant message, or news release related to International Literacy Day.

The APPLE Partnership, along with its sponsors, was chosen in part for its ability to provide a worthwhile example of how communities can develop public-private partnerships to improve literacy, but there are other examples around the world. On Sept. 8, we're dedicating several posts that speak to the issue of literacy. We hope you join us with the intent to help people who can read appreciate the severity of the challenge and guide them toward supporting programs that make a difference locally and globally.

"In this era of widening disparities, literacy brings not only greater self-esteem but also opportunities to those who have been disenfranchised, marginalized and neglected: neo-literates acquire greater capacity and skills to raise their income levels, build sustainable livelihoods, gain access to health and educational services, and engage in the public arena." — Ko├»chiro Matsuura, director-general of UNESCO

Monday, May 18

Sharing Quietly: Bloggers Unite For Hunger And Hope


In Fernley, Nevada, the Fernley High School National Honor Society hosted a spaghetti dinner that allowed families to enjoy a meal for free or with an optional donation. Sixty families were served, and $300 donated to Heifer International.

In Elizabethtown, Kentucky, 70 students hosted a “llama mama” picnic, which capped off a series of events to raise money for Heifer International. They raised $3,270, which was matched by an unnamed donor. It's enough money to benefit 25 families.

In Kearney, Nebraska, a local third grade elementary class became inspired by "Beatrice's Goat," which is based on a true story. They raised almost $900 to help families purchase farm animals, like goats, with Heifer International.

Small contributions add up to surprising results.

They might never know of each other's donations, but all they all understand a common cause with Heifer International and programs like it. The same can be said for approximately 10,000 bloggers who shared stories, contributed funds, and encouraged programs with Bloggers Unite: Hunger and Hope, a joint initiative to raise awareness about world hunger and the hope provided by various organizations.

First Place.Bloggers Unite for Hunger and Hope At Home by Sarah Andrews. Although she serves as communication director for Meals on Wheels, the story about her grandfather who was homeless between the ages 10 to 17, is personal.

Second PlaceBeyond Feeding The Hungry: SAME Cafe of Denver by Karen Degroot Carter. In addition to sharing an inspirational story about the SAME Cafe, she reminds her readers that world hunger is always closer than we think.

Third PlaceWhy Mia Farrow Isn't The Only Hungry One from the Share Yoga blog. The post provides some insights, and then goes on to define karma yoga and the purpose of selfless service.

These three and thousands of other blogs — So there we were, Tripletly Blessed And Loving It, Ben Spark, Caffeinated Traveller, A Writer's Words, An Editor's Eye, Double Latte Mama's Blog, and Popview — were all among those that dedicated space to the issue of world hunger and means to make a difference. And while each shared their unique perspectives, thousands helped introduce hundreds of thousands to Heifer International.

Generosity has a surprising way of connecting people.

According to Nielsen, Heifer International received ten times the awareness on April 29 during its Pass On The Gift campaign. Does it make a difference? Watch the interview with Elizabeth Bintliff on "The Colbert Report."

Who's to say what contribution is too small or how far it might go? One post? One day? One dollar? One pig? If we all thought in "can't," then maybe goats would have never arrived in Zambia and pigs will still be needed in Tanzania. Fortunately, someone thought "can" and created the connections that make it happen.

For the students mentioned above, they've taken their first steps toward a lifelong legacy of giving. For the bloggers we've highlighted here, their stories can inspire for months. And for people like Lyell (pictured above) who can count on one time support, they have an opportunity to improve lives for generations. It just goes to show that generosity doesn't come in sizes as much as it comes in unseen connections.

"Real generosity is doing something nice for someone who will never find out." — Frank A. Clark

Wednesday, April 29

Blogging For Hope: Hunger And Hope


Scientific American recently published an article that asks a question designed to strike at the heart of everything we know: Could food shortages bring down civilization? The article, by Lester R. Brown, included three key concepts, before calling for a massive and rapid intervention.

• Food scarcity and the resulting higher food prices are pushing poor countries into chaos.
• “Failed states” that export disease, terrorism, illicit drugs, weapons and refugees.
• Water shortages, soil losses, and rising temperatures from global warming that impact food production.

"As the world’s food security unravels, a dangerous politics of food scarcity is coming into play: individual countries acting in their narrowly defined self-interest are actually worsening the plight of the many," he wrote. "The trend began in 2007, when leading wheat-exporting countries such as Russia and Argentina limited or banned their exports, in hopes of increasing locally available food supplies and thereby bringing down food prices domestically."

John Holmes, writing for the UN Chronicle, cites an earlier date. He pinpoints that food prices began to rise in 2004 while production increased at a pace slower than demand. The result? According to Bread for the World, 963 million people across the world are hungry and 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes daily — one child every five seconds.

There Are Big Calls To Action, But Change Happens Small.

When the fact and figures become so immensely staggering, people tend to tune out and shut off. After all, what can one person possibly do to change the world? How could helping one person matter, when it fails to help the nearly one billion who need help now? How will talking or writing or posting about any specific world problem possibly help? How indeed.

One of the greatest lessons I ever learned from working and volunteering in the nonprofit sector was that people tend to contribute less when the tasks seem overwhelming. (The same can be said in the private sector too). So much so, the outcome results in characteristics similar to depression, except en masse.

It's not uncommon for people feel sad, guilty, or avoid taking any action because "doing anything is too much effort" or "nothing one person can do has any impact." It's just not true. Change happens in small, sometimes unnoticeable ways.

Heifer International Makes A Difference.

And sometimes it is noticed. Heifer International has more than 180 projects that make a difference all over the world. In fact , since 1944, Heifer International has helped communities learn to become self-sufficient by raising animals that provide direct benefits such as milk, eggs, wool, fertilizer, as well as indirect benefits that increase family incomes for better housing, nutrition, health care, and schools.

It's more than a hand out, it's a direct and sustainable hand up. And its those small successes that make all the difference. Here are just a few from BloggersUnite.org and BlogCatalog.com bloggers. They contributed more than 10,000 individual posts and actions (and counting).

Wednesday, April 8

Uniting People: Bloggers Unite For Hunger & Hope


With each passing second, one person will die of hunger. Every fourth second, that person will be a child. In fact, hunger accounts for almost 60 percent of all deaths in the world, making starvation the single greatest killer on the planet.

There is no need to discover a cure. There is no scientific breakthrough waiting to be discovered. And yet, they die.

On April 29, thousands of bloggers will call for change. Not only will they call for change, but they will call for change that provides long-term solutions that reduce starvation and lifts people out of extreme poverty. You too can be part of it.

Unite For Hunger & Hope on April 29

BlogCatalog, Bloggers Unite, Copywrite, Ink., and Heifer International have partnered to launch a social awareness campaign that asks everyone talk about world hunger on April 29 and point people toward solutions. While bloggers from around the world will provide the cornerstone of the campaign, a blog is not required to make a difference.

"With the new BloggersUnite platform, people don't need a blog to join or make a difference," says Antony Berkman, president of BlogCatalog. "They only have to want to make a difference. Do they want to? I don't know, but I sincerely hope so with all my heart."

Using BloggersUnite.org as an event coordination page, Unite For Hunger & Hope provides bloggers and social network members an opportunity to join the campaign. Once they do, they can join the event, post about the event, talk about event, share the event with friends, add badges to their blogs or network pages, and find informational resources (that are currently in development). While any organization that provides solutions to solve world hunger is appropriate, Heifer International, currently celebrating its Pass On The Gift campaign, is one best practice example.

What makes Heifer International stand out as a best practice? It doesn't feed people for a day. It teaches them for life. Specifically, this global non-profit provides sustainable solutions to end hunger and poverty by providing livestock and agricultural training to improve lives.

"Heifer International is thrilled to be a part of Bloggers Unite for Hunger and Hope," said Tom Peterson, senior director of Heifer International. "Bloggers Unite for Hunger and Hope is a great way to harness the power of the Internet, and it coincides with our Pass on the Gift campaign.”

The Pass on the Gift campaign is a month-long celebration that allows participants to get involved and work together to end hunger. With an entire month of stories highlighted from around the world, Heifer International will share dozens of examples and ceremonies that anyone can write, post, or share on April 29 posts.

Already this month, Heifer International took Manhattan, brought attention to the plight of small farmers, and inspired people to host awareness-generating local events with something as simple as a pizza party. But all of this doesn't have to end with 30 days if enough people highlight any of these programs on April 29.

"BlogCatalog members have been responsible for generating hundreds of thousands of posts on topics that range from AIDS to human rights," says Berkman. "Now, when you combine that with social networks, it sends a very powerful message to the media and world leaders that hunger is not only something we can address, but it's something we can solve. There is no need to wait for a cure. With organizations like Heifer International, we only need to help them increase the number of people they touch every day."

Since 1944, Heifer International has helped communities learn to become self-sufficient by raising animals that provide direct benefits such as milk, eggs, wool, fertilizer, as well as indirect benefits that increase family incomes for better housing, nutrition, health care, and schools. For more information, visit its site.

Since 2007, BlogCatalog’s Bloggers Unite initiative has evolved from the first blogger-driven social awareness campaign initiative into a self-sustaining social awareness network. More than 190,000 bloggers interact on BlogCatalog.com every day and provide the foundation for BloggersUnite.org. But their efforts do not stop with two social networks for bloggers. Many of them work together with friends and family on social networks ranging from Twitter and Facebook to Digg and Bedo.

So what do you think? Is hunger worth writing, talking, and doing something about? You can start right here today.

Tuesday, March 17

Playing Favorites: BloggersUnite.org

Although I was unable to attend SXSW this year, I was able to send a small piece along in my place. (For those that don't know, the SXSW Interactive Festival features five days of panel content and parties, simultaneously with film and music festivals in Austin, Texas.)



My small piece was a quick and quirky animated video that illustrates the history of BloggersUnite.org, which started as a BlogCatalog initiative two years ago. But more than that, it demonstrates how ideas are made real via the Internet.

Simply put, one person has an idea, shares it with others, and then each person uses their unique experiences to play a role in making it a reality. Over time, other participants become involved, engaged, and lend a little of themselves to the overall project or program or social network. When that happens, the realities often turn out better than anyone expected.

As a side note, there was another takeaway for me. After the avatars used in the piece became distorted across several video editing programs, I turned to Keynote for the first time. Other than having to export the project more than a dozen times before the audio bed synced, Apple's presentation software turned out to be a surprisingly versatile tool in getting the job done.

It's amazing what can be accomplished with one Apple program and a little coffee during the course of one evening from concept to creation. Keynote certainly helped me rethink what's possible from a presentation program. You can find the best quality presentation on our site through June 30.

Wednesday, March 4

Changing The World: BloggersUnite.org


"How can we bring bloggers together to do good?" — Antony Berkman, BlogCatalog.com

In early 2007, it seemed like a simple enough question posed to his business partner Angelica Alaniz, designer Oscar Tijerina, and programmer Daniel Tijerina. So, within a week, the BlogCatalog team created a landing page, encouraging bloggers to support classroom supplies for students though the Omidyar Network-supported DonorsChoose.org.

"We asked BlogCatalog members to take a day off from writing about Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, and focus their posts on doing good to support education," says Berkman. "The initial challenge didn't attract much attention at first. A few people were interested, and I was almost ready to give up until this one guy in Las Vegas asked me for a news release to include on his business giving blog."

There was only on problem with the request. Berkman didn't have a news release. So that one guy from Las Vegas volunteered to write it, rewrite it for the blog, and distribute it to several key publications and blogs with the hope it might gain some traction.

The coverage quickly helped propel what would become the first social network-driven social awareness campaign on the Internet. DonorsChoose.org benefited from ten times the awareness online and more than 1,000 students directly benefited from the donations received.

"Coming together is a beginning." — Henry Ford

"It was really very overwhelming to see hundreds of bloggers come together and all write about how we could improve education and why people might support DonorsChoose.org," says Berkman. "We also learned a lot from the first initiative, especially that BlogCatalog had become an international social network for bloggers so we had to think globally."

One year later, after Bloggers Unite continued to grow with each increasingly successful campaign, Bloggers Unite for Human Rights became the new benchmark for success. The campaign generated 1.2 million posts that raised awareness, provided varied calls to action, increased attention on Amnesty International, and caught the attention of Veronica De La Cruz, Internet correspondent for CNN's flagship morning news program.

"Keeping together is progress." — Henry Ford

"While every campaign had been increasingly successful, the two and half minute segment on CNN was defining moment," said Berkman. "When you asked members who would have posts ready in the morning for consideration on CNN, it was nothing less than extraordinary watching bloggers move from doubt to disbelief to exuberance."

The successes were not without some sour notes. Because Bloggers Unite was designed to raise awareness for underserved causes, some critics thought Bloggers Unite didn't do enough. They felt Bloggers Unite didn't go far enough in creating sustainable engagement with specific causes, never considering that many participants stayed on with the benefiting nonprofit organization.

"Sometimes it's challenging in that our goal has always been to make it about the bloggers and the organizations we benefit," said Berkman. "So if that means talking more about the cause than ourselves or the results we achieve, so be it."

"Working together is success." — Henry Ford

What the critics didn't know was that BlogCatalog was already working on the evolution of Bloggers Unite, taking the initiative and transforming it into a social network that all online and offline charitable events could benefit from. Since the network allows any member to submit local, national, and international events, Berkman says he never has to say "no" to organizations again.

“The new network changed the dynamic of Bloggers Unite,” said Berkman. ”While we’ll still coordinate three major underserved social awareness campaigns through BlogCatalog every year, BloggersUnite members can now submit and support their causes as well.”

The new network solves another challenges too. BlogCatalog members had been previously split on how many campaigns might be too few or too many. The new network allows bloggers and other social networks to promote as many events as they want while BlogCatalog, combined with Bloggers Unite will still be home base for three initiatives every year.

Can we change the world in 90 days?

As 90 days is the ideal amount of time to launch a fully integrated social awareness campaign, it became a question that I used to ask frequently up until last year. After what started as writing a simple release became developing communication plans that provided enough guidance and freedom for Bloggers Unite, the answer has become all too apparent. Yes, we can.

For me, one of the unique aspects of the new Bloggers Unite network is the ability for bloggers and non-bloggers to raise awareness globally online while taking action locally. It's also one of the reasons Copywrite, Ink. asked BlogCatalog members and a few friends on Twitter to offer six to 12 local events to serve as our initial examples. Here are ten events recently added to the 37 different events currently available (in chronological order) to serve as inspiration for other nonprofit organizations.

Ten Local Events Highlighted At BloggersUnite.org

March 14. San Antonio, Texas | Be A Shavee
The world's largest volunteer-driven fundraising event for childhood cancer research invites thousands of volunteers to shave their heads in solidarity of children with cancer, while requesting donations of support from friends and family.

April 6. Puerta de Tierra, San Juan, Puerto Rico | Marcha Por Los Bebes
The Puerto Rico March of Dimes chapter will march for babies, an event that raises money to support programs in the community that will help moms have healthy full-term pregnancies.

April 11. Frederick, Maryland | Run For Congo Women
Run For Congo Women, hosted by Women For Women International, will provide direct assistance through sponsorships that will help women and children pay for food, medicine, and other lifesaving needs.

April 19. Las Vegas, Nevada | 2009 AIDS Walk Las Vegas
Aid for AIDS of Nevada will lead the AIDS Walk, which consists of individual walkers and walk teams to raise funds for critical services and elevate public awareness. The AIDS walk is supported by many organizations and celebrities, including Penn & Teller.

April 29. Portland, Oregon | The Pet Effect Fundraising Luncheon
The Delta Society will host a free fundraising luncheon (no minimum or maximum donation) to raise funds for therapy animal programs and their handlers, which makes a difference by providing a human-animal bond.

May 2. Twin Cities, Minnesota | Twin Cities Walk for Parkinson's Disease
The Parkinson Association of Minnesota (PAM) will walk to improve the lives of those affected by Parkinson's disease, through fundraising, community building, advocacy, and increasing public awareness.

May 2. Atlanta, Georgia | The Arthritis Walk Atlanta
The Atlanta chapter of the Arthritis Foundation will participate in the annual nationwide event to help improve the lives of the 46 million men, women and children doctor-diagnosed with arthritis.

May 3. Boston, Massachusetts | 2009 Walk For Hunger
More than 40,000 supporters will take part in Project Bread’s Walk for Hunger, where walkers of all ages participate in an event dedicated to feeding hungry people. Project Bread served 43.4 million meals last year.

June 19-21. Vancouver, Canada | The Ride To Conquer Cancer
Cyclists will bike for two days from Vancouver to Seattle. Funds will benefit BC Cancer Foundation to support breakthrough research and enhancements to care at BC Cancer Agency, throughout British Columbia.

June 24. Edinburgh, Scotland, UK | The Moon Walk Edinburgh
More than 12,000 women and men will walk the streets of Edinburgh in their decorated bras to raise money and awareness for the fight against breast cancer.

We'll be adding art, badges, and topic guides as each local event date nears as well as participating in several international event days throughout the year.

What can you do? Join BloggersUnite.org and then choose as many or as few campaigns as you want to help. Once you're a member, you can also add and manage local events in your community, national events close to your heart, or designated international event days that touch lives all over the world. The network makes it easy to upload materials to help and a link to the specific event page. And naturally, we're always happy to answer questions.

All that remains to be asked is whether you really want to change the world? I know I have, and still do.

Wednesday, February 4

Tracking Topics: Tweetfeed Adds Value To Twitter


Twitter, the real-time short messaging service that works over multiple networks and devices, continues to grow exponentially, increasing its membership from 500,000 in Dec. 2007 to 4.43 million in Dec. 2008. Membership is not the only area Twitter has grown. So has the number of tools.

There were approximately 60 tools noted by Mashable's Palin Ningthoujam in Sept. 2007. He added 140 in May 2008. One of my favorite Twitter term and tool lists was compiled by Shannon Yelland at SiteMasher.

While it's not complete, the color coding and short definitions make for an easy novice scan. (She includes Celebrity Tweet, which helps people stalk celebrities, presumably those verified as real.) Webdisortion also sports a good list too, and includes Tweetfeed.

What is Tweetfeed and why does it add value to Twitter?

Tweetfeed is one of the newer applications that allows people to create customized search term feeds, and track those topics in real time. What makes it stand out from Twitter's native topic search engine, in addition to presentation options, are the search operators.

Feeds can be generated based on exact phrases, either or phrases, from specific dates, by attitude, sent to or from specific people, and within a certain proximity, among others. There are sixteen operators, assuming you count some basics such as hashtags (#) or attitudes (which is basically a smile or frown search).

We used it a few days ago to help capture a conversation between Shel Israel and Scott Monty. It proved more useful than toggling back and forth between the two in order to find the start of their conversation on Twitter's native search engine. It also made it easier to capture portions of the conversation that occurred hours apart.

Tweetfeed is also "Share This" enabled, allows for custom CSS presentation, and Web analytics. (The combination of features, along with larger type, makes it ideal for "Twitter walls" that are becoming more common at conferences.) The customization features add flexibility.

What are some potential applications for Tweetfeed?

1. Social Media Monitoring. You create a custom search on your name and/or your company and add it to your bookmark service. Like every other tracking application, this is probably the most common usage.

2. Information Sourcing. You can track topics to help you identify people with similar interests or stay up-to-date on content being sourced and linked to by people on Twitter. It could also be used to help determine what is the most popular discussion point around a certain topic.

3. Presentation Augmentation. "Twitter walls," which have become especially common at social media conferences, can be customized with conference colors and brands. The feeds can be customized beyond hashtags and include the presenters or topics relevant to the presentation.

4. Comparative Models. As illustrated by one of the examples, Tweetfeed tracked McCain and Obama in single feed, which could have been later analyzed for compare frequency, attitude, tone, or even topical content between them.

5. Sharing Content. Since it's "Share This" enabled, sharing a link is easy. The "Share This" feature publishes the feed link with your account name and the name of the feed (you can edit it before posting as long as you save as a draft).

There are several more possibilities, but these five capture enough for an introduction. Of course, this is not to say Tweetfeed is perfect. Like most beta services, Tweetfeed has some setbacks, including: frequent login prompts, a missing feed delete option (you can edit a feed), and the lack of RSS. However, these issues might be corrected in the near future.

What else is there to know about Tweetfeed?

Although still in beta, Tweetfeed was recently acquired by our friends at BlogCatalog. BlogCalalog has a solid track record as a member-driven social network for bloggers. It's safe to assume that public feedback will be read. Some requests have already been met.

"I looked at it as a tool that bloggers could use to help them track hot topics," Antony Berkman, president of BlogCatalog, told me. "Twitter is great in that tends to capture the pulse of the Internet. Tweetfeed makes it easier to manage that information around topics, people, and companies."

The acquisition may bring new life to Tweetfeed. Given its potential uses, it may have never received the attention it deserved.

Simple tips for success: follow your fans on Twitter
• TweetFeed - customizable page that displays Twitter activity
Taking the time to turn out tweets using Twitter

Monday, November 10

Communicating Need: Bloggers Unite For Refugees


In Iraq, it’s people like 29-year-old television producer Alaa, who covered the trial of Saddam Hussein and was then forced to flee his country and escape to Stockholm, Sweden. He is one of the more fortunate. More than 2 million Iraqis have left Iraq since 2003 and more than 1.6 million are still displaced in their own country with fears that the United States will pull out too soon.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, it’s the tens of thousands of men, women, and children, some 50,000 of which were even forced to flee refugee camps before they were leveled. Almost none of them has basic needs like food, clean water, or blankets.

In Thailand and Laos, it’s Hmong and Laotian refugees who fled and hid from the government of Laos, which had previously captured them, sent them to jail, or sometimes killed them. Some still struggle after more than 20 years, even if they themselves survived.

All over the world, it’s the estimated 40 million who are not only living without a home, but without a country — many of whom live with the fear of persecution because of race, religion, nationality, or political opinion.

“They beat me every time I made a mistake. They beat me with their hands and feet. They beat me with metal bars …” said Awng Seng, who ran away from the military in Myanmar and became a slave in Thailand. “They would throw pieces of chain at me ... there would be blood all over.”

And others — unlike Seng or Alaa or Lopez Lomong (a refugee who went on to make the U.S. Olympic team) — are people without homes, voices, or even hope. Their stories will never be told.

Bloggers Unite For Refugees: The Butterfly Effect

Almost every time Bloggers Unite encourages bloggers to take action and blog for good based upon input from 150,000 BlogCatalog members around the world, some people surface to question the validity of such calls for action — asking what good it does to ask people to post. Inevitably, a few even take it further and suggest that when people write about a cause, somehow that it endows bloggers with a false sense of making a contribution where more direct and tangible contributions are needed.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Awareness is always the first step toward change; the second is acceptance and the third is action. And often times, what starts as a simple post has an effect that eventually touches hundreds, thousands, or millions of lives in ways that can never be counted or imagined. But even if it only touches one, who are we to dismiss the impact?

“Who helps a cause they have never heard about?” asks Antony Berkman, president of BlogCatalog.com. “The measure isn’t about the length of a post or even the number of posts … it's in the ability to reach people who have never considered the subjects that bloggers want to write about. I say let them.”

Berkman is right. No single person can be asked to save the world any more than one person at a time. And as long as some cause marketers continue to communicate tasks that are devoid of choice, overcomplicated in execution, or seemingly uphill or impossible, they leave the people they touch not inspired but feeling defeated in that they can never give enough.

On the contrary, throughout history, it has always been when individuals move against the majority of complicity that action takes hold. We saw it last year in America when the Senate passed the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act, a crucial first step in addressing the needs of millions of Iraqi refugees. We saw it earlier this year when Bloggers Unite and Amnesty International brought attention and inspired action across several Human Rights issues.

And, we see it now from those who write letters to the Prime Minister of Malaysia, asking him to assist the more than 70,000 refugees from Myanmar. Or, perhaps, we can see it now by making a small donation to Refugees International, which is currently focused on the DR Congo. Or perhaps, we can see it today as more than 12,000 bloggers (and counting) make the individual choice to lend their voice and bring awareness to the plight of refugees.

It is in these ways that individual volunteer awareness and action makes a difference. The alternative is silence. Does it work? It works, even if it only works one person at a time.

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Monday, October 20

Blogging Right: Bloggers Unite


About six months ago, BlogCatalog members, together with Amnesty International USA and Copywrite, Ink., asked bloggers from around the world to Blog for Human Rights. On May 15, they did.

Although BlogCatalog has been the epicenter for several such events, no one expected what happened next. By 6 a.m., CNN had tracked 1.2 million blog posts ranging from heartfelt posts about Darfur to Myanmar. And then?

If you read some critics, it lost momentum.

I suppose you could make the case if you read a recent report from a United Nations official that 40,000 more civilians have been displaced in Darfur. Or perhaps, you might conclude it indirectly touched a team of Brazilian footballers who are now playing in charity matches to raise funds for the cyclone victims in Myanmar, which left 138,000 people dead or missing.

Or maybe it's simpler than all that. Maybe people who never thought about Amnesty International USA before thought about it on May 15. Or maybe the additional coverage from CNN gave people who never think about human rights their first thought about human rights.

Or maybe, for some, these thoughts turned into actions with some joining Amnesty International, some raising money for places like Darfur and Myanmar, and some simply being impacted by stories from around the Web.

If you read some participants, it was just a beginning.

First Place — Montessori Students and the Amman Imman Project

Second Place — I My Me by Id it is

Third Place — Identity Check by Anok

Seven more blogs that made an impact: Nardeeisms; Lord I Want To Be Whole; DrowseyMonkey; One Cool Site: WordPress Bogging Tips; Clio and Me; Pedestrian Observer GB; Blog De Lengua Espanola.

Or maybe one good day deserves another.

Shortly after Bloggers Unite exposed human rights to millions of people and inspired thousands into action, Refugees United contacted BlogCatalog and set a date for a related cause with a very specific mission. Refugees United provides refugees with an anonymous forum to reconnect with missing family members anywhere in the world. As a new service on the Internet, no one knows anything about this organization. You can learn more here.

Bloggers Unite For Refugees on Nov. 10

On Nov. 10, thousands of bloggers will join together again. This time to make a tangible difference by writing about the plight of people like the 40,000 new refugees in Darfur, the thousands still struggling in Myanmar, or several million you can find almost anywhere in the world. Some might even write about the thousands of people who remain displaced in Houston, Texas.

The choice is yours. The impact is permanent. The outcome is measurable, just not in the way we might expect.

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Thursday, May 15

Working With Bloggers: On Being The Dog


Every time I teach social media, I always reference a cartoon once used in a PowerPoint presentation by Gary Gerdemann, director of account services for Peritus Public Relations. The cartoon features two dogs on the Internet with a hilarious caption.

“On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”

I felt a little like that yesterday, shortly after Veronica De La Cruz, Internet correspondent for CNN's flagship morning news program, American Morning, emailed me, asking which was the best number to reach me. As fate would have it, I was scheduled for a teleconference/online presentation with a major bankcard merchant services client and had to ask for an hour.

De La Cruz didn’t have an hour, but was still very interested in doing a segment on Bloggers Unite For Human Rights. So we did the next best thing. We emailed each other while I was on the teleconference.

I answered all of her questions and provided the most relevant links, like the Bloggers Unite page and Facebook event, where many bloggers are listing their entries for the campaign. And then she asked for a few bloggers who I knew were participating.

Well, you know how it goes. I’ve been tracking all the bloggers who said they would post today, but you never really know until they do. I needed something concrete, like a commitment. So I quickly posted a request on Twitter and BlogCatalog.

“On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”

Since most who follow me on Twitter do know me, none thought twice. On BlogCatalog, which has approximately 150,000 members, that is not always the case. So while those who know me knew I wasn’t joking, a few members took me to task, saying my request was a “self-gratuitous” hoax. Eesh!

And that is the way it was for about an hour. De La Cruz on email, a major client on a telephone conference call, the online presentation on one browser, and a social network drama on the other browser, where I was being called a liar.

Thanks goodness I know enough bloggers! I sorted a list of twenty bloggers who were committed to posting or had already posted on the subject. I was able to source six mini-biographies and put them at the top. It wasn’t the best-written link list I’ve ever put together, but the job got done.

I started early this morning to finish my own post and then checked the discussion thread…

“It is now 9:56 am est. Did anybody see any of their blogs on CNN …” asked one doubting blogger.

As most journalists and public relations professionals know, there are no guarantees with the news. It’s easy to be bumped by anything "breaking" and several stories were bumped today. For awhile, I thought the Bloggers Unite segment might be bumped too as we were scanned the DVR for the segment.

Thank goodness for an email “ding.” I had missed another e-mail from De La Cruz. While it rarely happens, she had sent me a heads up on the airtime. That was enough for some bloggers, like Kevin, who pens Pointless Banter to find the clip.

His post, Never Again, was one of two blogs featured as an example. He wrote about the atrocities in Durfar. The other, was William McCamment’s Dead Rooster, which touched on the human rights issues in Myanmar. Both have subsequently posted the clip.

“On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”

Huh. While the cartoon is still funny, there is another lesson to be learned about social media. Sometimes, on the Internet, nobody knows you’re NOT a dog, which is why I always teach that the source, not the medium, is what has credibility.

Special thanks to Veronica De La Cruz, CNN, BlogCatalog, Amnesty International USA, and all those bloggers who worked so hard to put their posts up early this morning. I really appreciate it.

So what’s next for Bloggers Unite? In the next few weeks, BlogCatalog and Copywrite, Ink., in cooperation with Amnesty International USA, will be selecting some posts for recognition. After these posts are announced, I will be profiling three of them right here on Copywrite, Ink.

It’s become an important part of Bloggers Unite not just because one good deed deserves another, but because it places weight behind the effort, ensuring that Bloggers Unite For Human Rights is not just a flash in the pan. It's something we could all think about more often.

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Wednesday, April 16

Blogging For Rights: BlogCatalog.com


“The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government.” — Thomas Jefferson

About a year ago, Antony Berkman, president of BlogCatalog.com, had an idea. He noted the media attention other social networks received were often based on raising investment capital.

He decided to do something else. He wanted to raise social capital instead.

“We had yet to see an online social community come together to raise funds for a good cause,” said Berkman. “So we saw it as an opportunity to empower and recognize bloggers who collectively focus their blogs for good.”

While Berkman says he wasn’t sure the first campaign would succeed — one that raised funds that directly benefited more than 1,000 students across the United States — he is happy to find Bloggers Unite has come full circle. One year and four campaigns later, BlogCatalog members hopes to inspire again.

This time, on May 15, bloggers are being asked to tackle a topic selected by members — Bloggers Unite For Human Rights. Although no one knew it a few months ago, the timing for a human rights social awareness campaign couldn’t be better. This year is the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

For most of us, human rights — life, liberty, justice, and freedom of expression — seem so commonplace that they are taken for granted. Yet, all over the world and sometimes just out of sight in our own backyards, human rights are tread with utter disregard. This is a great opportunity to speak out for those who cannot.

In Durfar, Sudan, women and children are raped and brutally attacked by government forces and militia. In South America, human trafficking continues to be increasing concern. In Zimbabwe, journalists are being arrested. And all over the world, censorship, from the Internet to everything, is becoming the rule and not the exception.

What can you do about it? Bloggers Unite For Human Rights.

Dedicate a post on any issue related to Human Rights this May 15 and encourage others to do the same. You can find several badges to display on your blog or submit new badges to Bloggers Unite.

Copywrite, Ink. will be recognizing several top bloggers who join the campaign and list their posts on the Bloggers Unite Discussion Group on May 15. Please give it some thought and consider how ten, one hundred, ten thousand, or tens of thousands can make a difference.

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Wednesday, March 5

Adding Data Portability: BlogCatalog


Just days after beating MyBlogLog out of the gate with its Social Dashboard feature, BlogCatalog has moved forward to launch SocialStream, an RSS feed enabled widget that makes “lifestreaming” data portable. The widget makes it possible for BlogCatalog members to share their activity on BlogCatalog and 12 other social networks anywhere they want.

“Any network we add to our Dashboard feature can be added to the SocialStream widget,” says Antony Berkman, president of BlogCatalog.com. “It’s the next step toward putting people in more control of their data.”

Data portability is considered by many to be the next step in the evolution of social networks. While social networks have largely succeeded in helping bring people together based upon shared interests, each requires additional time to manage and update. Jimmy Guterman, editorial director of O’Reilly’s Radar Group, recently made note of this in his Social Graph Foo Report.

“So much about social networks and the next generation has been enveloped in hype … that overpromising in the short term on the data portability front could have severe public relations ramifications,” he wrote. “Data portability has to be real, not merely allowing someone to access information from social network B while inside social network A.”

The BlogCatalog widget is a step in true data portability because it takes a concept some people, like me, have been experimenting with on platforms like Tumblr and allowing bloggers to customize the content of the widget and place it virtually anywhere they want —on a Web site, blog, or even another social network that allows the addition of widgets.

Practicalities In Portable Data.

One of the tangible benefits of a social network RSS feed is that activities across social networks can now add content value to the blog. With the widget, bloggers can share discussions on other social networks; their readers can also subscribe to the widget.

At the same time, it answers some of the questions being asked by people like Lewis Green, who recently noted how much time he invests in social networks rather then his or other blogs, and David Recordon, who recently wrote about the growing challenge of social network fatigue.

By installing the widget, assuming you want to share some or all of your social network activities, people who read your blog receive updates from Amazon Wishlists, BlogCatalog, Delicious, Digg, Facebook, Flickr, Last.fm, Multiply, MySpace, Sphinn, StumbleUpon, Twitter, and YouTube.

Berkman says they will continue to add more social networks. Originally, the BlogCatalog Dashboard started with connections to nine social networks. It now includes 12. Berkman said what is most exciting for him and his development team is to assist bloggers in helping their material become viral.

“It will help friends and blog readers find out if you Digg an article so they can Digg it too,” says Berkman. “This makes it easier to navigate the Web and increases the likelihood that something will go viral because it appears wherever people share their widget.”

The widget also solves a challenge for bloggers with multiple blogs. Many of them would invest hours of time writing about their social activities on several blogs. The widget can be installed on all of their blogs, which would allow them to write a post on one blog, include the link on a social network like Twitter, and then seed their post across all of their blogs via the widget.

What’s next? It’s hard to say. Speed to market has never been an issue for a fast-moving social network like BlogCatalog. To give just one small example: Despite working with BlogCatalog as a communication consultant, I found out the BlogCatalog team was launching the SocialStream widget just a few hours prior to the announcement.

It didn’t even have a name when I received the call. That is an amazing contrast to something that many companies would have discussed for months. Fortunately, several years of political experience has made rapid response a second nature skill set. Only political campaign teams move as fast.

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Friday, February 22

Blogging For Kindness: My Den


Sometimes the old saying that “children are a reflection of their parents” holds some truth. At least that seems to be the case for Dan, a hobby blogger who writes My Den.

After learning about the Bloggers Unite social awareness campaign Acts of Kindness, which asked bloggers from around the world to perform an act of kindness and share a post, picture, or video about it, Dan turned to his daughter. They set out to do something together.

“One of the first considerations when I got involved in Bloggers Unite: Acts of Kindness, was to involve my daughter in the campaign,” says Dan. “I wanted to inculcate a sense of compassion for the less fortunate, especially important, to me anyway, in a society almost obsessed with materialistic wealth.”

Dan, who says he is innately thrifty, had an idea. Why not find something that could benefit the environment and the less fortunate. Together, that’s what they did. After borrowing a van from a friend, they visited 100 to 120 households over a three-day period, asking neighbors for their recyclables.

Once collected, the recyclables raised almost $200; enough money to buy rice, canned food, beverages, and milk powder (and one Barbie doll, a Christmas gift for a 9-year-old girl). Although Dan posted about what they did, like many bloggers, their gift remains anonymous.

“Our donations, like many others, were anonymous and were left at the collection boxes located at a major supermarket chain,” says Dan. “I was at a loss as to who to donate the money to until my daughter saw a television commercial about The Boys’ Brigade Sharity Gift Box project.”

The Boys’ Brigade’s mission is to bring cheer to the less fortunate by collecting food items and fulfilling Christmas wishes through The Boys’ Brigade Sharity Gift Box. The gift items reach out to more than 3,000 individuals at 180 organizations in Singapore.

But more than that, Dan and his daughter have since committed to do at least one social project together every month. In January, they visited a seniors facility for a day, bringing food along with their kindness. All of it began with social media. Dan began participating in Bloggers Unite shortly after getting involved with Blog Action Day, another program inspired by previous BlogCatalog campaigns.

“Participation in the last Blog Action Day as a platform for change impressed me tremendously,” said Dan. “Bloggers Unite: Acts of Kindness was my first with BlogCatalog, and I am more than willing to participate in future campaigns, having seen the benefits and ability to do some good.”

Dan joined BlogCatalog approximately six months ago, but has been blogging for almost two years. My Den, which focuses on his love for literature, was his first hobby blog. He also publishes Third Rock From The Sun, which is an environmental awareness blog, and Freebies & Stuff, which reviews free software, desktop utilities, and Web services.

“My Den has definitely gone through many changes since I first started it,” says Dan. “It was a platform for my involvement in joining social campaigns and as my main blog to strike friendships with fellow bloggers. One of the posts that I’ve always derived tremendous satisfaction from was the first publication of a short story that I had written — A Live Unlive — which talks about the plight of the mentally ill.”

It’s an interesting story. One that touches on a subject easily overlooked, but so are a lot of things, like recycling, making a small donation, or sharing an act of kindness with your daughter. It’s nice to know some people don’t overlook these things. People like Dan. Congratulations again!

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Wednesday, February 20

Making Friends: Social Networks, Much Like Life


Discussions about what constitutes online “friendship” abound about places like Twitter, Facebook, BlogCatalog, whatever.

Some people, it seems, are criticizing groups of friends that develop over time as if they are somehow an exclusive club, which Geoff Livingston rebutted yesterday. Ho hum. As if social media doesn’t somehow mirror real life. It’s mostly the same.

It’s much ado about nothing. Friends are what you make them.

At least that is what I’m going to say next week when I speak about social networks at the Recruiting Roadshow. Social networks are just like any face-to-face network, with two distinctions that don’t add up too much.

The two distinctions between online and offline friends.

The first is simple. Online friends are those people you happened to meet in a "public" online setting before you met them in person. That might seem like a fairly thin distinction, but it holds up.

You might notice that I add emphasis to “public. “ I did because I’ve been introduced to people through email long before I met them in person, and nobody would ever think to give them the “online friend” moniker.

Second, online friendships tend to “seem” more fragile than face-to-face friendships. But that’s not really true either. People follow the same social patterns in life that they do online.

They get a new job, make friends at work, leave the job, and never look back with the exception of staying in touch with one or two people, maybe. They join an association, become involved, make friends, drop out, and never look back with the exception of staying in touch with one or two people, maybe. Where's the difference?

There isn't one, but I do appreciate that fickle friendships are new for most people. It’s not so new to me. I live in a city with such a high transient rate that the chances my son will retain even one friend from kindergarten through the sixth grade is zero.

People move in and out and around Las Vegas at an extremely high rate. There are very, very few constants. So few that making new friends all the time is part of survival in this city. However, much like online, it also makes new friendships commonplace, and even replaceable to the growing number of people who live here.

There are degrees of friendships online, much like life.

Maybe you know the drill and maybe you do not. But if you attend a luncheon, especially as a speaker, people will ask for your business card. Giving them one is not all that different than “friending them back” on a social network.

The only thing that seems to stand in the way of connecting online for some people is the word “friend,” because that tends to be the term that many social networks employ as the connection designation. As a result, people really over think the term. Get over it.

“It’s annoying when total strangers ask to be your ‘friend’ on a network because they just want a lot of ‘friends’ in their network,” some bloggers have told me. But really, what’s the difference between these people and those that work a room at a conference with a fist full of business cards? Do you withhold your card? Probably not.

This really isn’t that hard to sort out. There are connections, associates, colleagues, friends, best friends, and any number of designations if you’re so inclined to put headers over the people you know. So what if Twitter calls it “followers” and BlogCatalog calls it “friends?” It doesn’t mean beans, except for what you bring to the table.

BlogCatalog adds a new layer of friends via the Social Dashboard.

Andy Beard and Charles McKeever were among the first bloggers to write about it, but BlogCatalog added a layer between “friends.” You see, while many social networks talk about convergence, BlogCatalog went ahead and did it.

"The Social Dashboard will help bloggers streamline networking and stay up to date with friends," said Antony Berkman, president of BlogCatalog. "Bloggers tell us they enjoy making friends on BlogCatalog and then connecting with those friends on other networks. Social Dashboard will make it easier while making member profile pages more dynamic."

The new tool allows friends to share activities with other friends across BlogCatalog and nine other social networks: Delicious, Digg, Facebook, Flickr, Last.fm, MySpace, StumbleUpon, Twitter, and YouTube. It’s easy to operate. All you have to do is subscribe to any friend's feed and all their activities appear on your Dashboard (unless they set change their privacy settings).

What's interesting about the Dashboard beyond the write ups I linked to is that from all your “friends” on BlogCatalog, you subscribe to some not all. Voila. A new layer of connection is created. Those you know; those you follow. That’s not the intent per se, but it does help keep the noise down.

The real deal about friends, online or off.

The real confusion about friendship, online and off, has nothing to do with any of this, of course. Anytime I read about people trying to figure out online friendships, they often start defining qualities that constitute friendship.

Are they nuts? Real friendships are mutually unconditional. There is no definition or expectation. And if you even have one friend like that, then you have more than most.

As for me, I treat online connections much like life. Sometimes it pays to take a chance on a stranger because you really never know whether they will become a real friend unless you give them a chance. Then again, maybe I’m biased because many of my “online friendships” have become “friendships” anyway.

The bottom line is that you can pretend online is somehow different than offline, but the reality is that it is no difference. It only “feels” different because the written word or being center stage has a different impact than casual face-to-face conversations.

It’s the very reason we sometimes feel connected to our favor authors, musicians, actors, whatever. We might feel connected, but they really don’t know us and we really don’t know them. Not really. Then again, we don’t really know the people we think we know anyway. Online, it’s just more obvious.

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Friday, February 15

Blogging For Kindness: Original Me Tees

Not all blogs are cut from the same cloth. Original Me Tees is a good example.

Nathania Johnson, an online marketing consultant, uses the Original Me Tees blog as a promotional tool for her online T-shirt store. The idea originated as an extension of a Caf├ęPress store, which she recently switched to another online print on demand service called Printfection, where you can see her designs.

”The idea is that people dress to express themselves,” says Johnson. “And while we all have differences, we can connect through common threads.”

One common thread for bloggers last year was the Bloggers Unite social awareness campaign Acts of Kindness. It asked bloggers from around the world to perform an act of kindness and share a post, picture, or video about it. The campaign interested Johnson because it gave her a strong idea — wearing compassion.

“It was something I really wanted to put time into,” she said. “It’s a great way to contribute to the blogosphere and the world in general.”

Johnson’s post was one of several recognized by judges after she submitted it for contest consideration. Rather than perform an act of kindness specific to the campaign, she highlighted several charities that she frequently contributes to, suggesting that readers “try on one of these charities to see if it fits in with your personal wardrobe.”

“I felt like mentioning all of the non-profits because I was contributing to them,” Johnson said. “Otherwise, I tend not to talk about any specific monetary donations to charities. For me it’s a spiritual thing. It just feels a bit self-gratuitous.”

Johnson is not alone in feeling that way. Several bloggers said they struggled with the last campaign because they were writing about themselves as opposed to a subject. For many, it was only after people left comments or expressed that they were inspired to contribute an act of kindness that the bloggers understood how sharing kindness tends to spread.

In addition to mentioning several charities, Johnson highlighted several simple acts of kindness beyond supporting non-profits — everyday things you can do to “accessorize” giving. Just three examples include: allowing others to go first, giving up the better parking spot, and being generous and sincere with compliments. Providing options was extremely important to her.

“Everyone is different,” says Johnson. “While supporting Brad Pitt's project to rebuild the 9th Ward of New Orleans might appeal to one person, building wells for villages in the Central African Republic might resonate strongly with someone else.”

She says she views blogging the same way. Shee always considered BlogCatalog best for metabloggers — people who blog about blogging — but she sees Bloggers Unite as a great way to trend in new directions. Expanding niches would certainly benefit the blogger network, Johnson said.

“I've only participated in Bloggers Unite one time so far, but I would participate again if they keep it non-political,” she said. “I used to be quite active with my account for my classic movie blog. There are a lot of good conversations that happen on BlogCatalog.”

Johnson said she is a bit less active since losing her classic movie blog, after her hosting service had a server crash. And, until recently, she hadn’t even found the time to update her other two. In addition blogging for companies where she works, she is actively involved with photography and Improv, and spends as much time with her family as she can.

“I have a wonderful husband, two fantastic kids, and two cute cats,” She said. And a big heart. Congrats again Nathania!

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Friday, February 8

Blogging For Kindness: Ark Of Hope For Children


Last November, I had the pleasure of getting to know the Corbett family through Bloggers Unite, a social awareness campaign spearheaded by BlogCatalog.

The Corbetts are raising 10 children, five of which were adopted from the foster care system (there are 13 family members in all). They are planning to adopt more children as their vision, Ark Of Hope For Children, becomes a reality.

The Ark Of Hope For Children is a planned mini-community that will include 3-6 single family homes on 80 acres of land to provide a nurturing environment for up to 32 children currently sheltered by the Florida foster care system. Even so, the Corbetts are not inwardly focused. They invest time helping others as well.

In fact, their contribution to their community was a perfect match for the last Bloggers Unite campaign, focused on Acts of Kindness, which asked bloggers from around the world to perform an act of kindness and share a post, picture, or video about it. The Corbetts submitted a post about a large-scale event they hosted to help those in need around the holidays.

”My family has always volunteered at Gainesville, Florida’s Bread of The Mighty Food Bank,” said Blair Corbett, who wrote the post. “As the holiday season was approaching several years ago, we were informed of a six story building of welfare recipients that was often overlooked because they weren’t quite homeless.”

Rather than sit on the sidelines, the Corbetts adopted the building six years ago. This year, the family and eight volunteers organized a holiday meal for more than 80 people. The meal, consisting of purchased food from local food banks and supermarkets, included everything you might imagine: six turkeys, 10 pounds of ham, lasagnas, 30 pounds of mashed potatoes (real), ten pounds of stuffing, corn, beans, angel food cakes, Jello, and sweet tea.

“We pre-organized as many volunteers as possible to help cook the food, but our guest kitchen chefs became ill, which left all of the cooking to Verna [his wife] and my family,” says Corbett. “Fortunately, the manager and two employees of a local fast food restaurant pre-cooked some food at their location, which was a blessing.”

The sudden outbreak of bronchitis in their community wasn’t the only challenge, but the Corbetts continued to rely on faith. When the shortage of help became overbearing, they paused to pray. When the front door latch of their fully-loaded van broke at the last minute, they rigged up a rope to keep the door shut. When the electricity suddenly went out in the 6-story building, they spent hours trying to find the right breakers.

Yet, for every problem, Corbett says their “mess became their message.” No matter what, you have to be grateful for what you have. And on Dec. 23, they had each other.

“I learned to appreciate life early, after losing my father when I was 12, and my stepfather when I was 18,” says Corbett. “I began following Christ in my mid 30s. Sure, many of our kids are physically or mentally challenged, it has been an uphill climb for our family as we continue to work toward building the first of six foster homes, and it was a tough decision to leave the normal workplace in 2000 to work full time for Ark of Hope. But if you live humbly and unselfishly, I believe you will live in lavish riches that will last for eternity.”

Sometimes those riches are like those experienced by the residents that night. They knew someone cared enough to serve them and listen, even if it was for a short time. The gift was beneficial to the family too, he said. His children, ranging in ages 3 to 24, learned valuable lessons about the joy of service and from prayer requests.

Some residents asked for prayers to have health problems alleviated. Some asked to be reunited with family, whom they had not seen in some time. Most were simply thankful for the food and people to share it with. The Corbett's granddaughter, Krystal, was grateful for the stuffed animals some residents slipped beside her during her nap. And the Corbetts were thankful they could share their story.

“Both my wife and I love taking part in Bloggers Unite because it's an opportunity to write about something we do that has the potential to multiply our efforts,” says Corbett. “Every day, there is something you can do. No matter how small, you can make a difference. We envision the power of Bloggers Unite to be something that will get a lot more people caring about and for others.”

In addition to organizing, cooking, and serving the meal, the Corbett family distributed more than 2,000 pounds of dry goods to the residents afterward.

Update: Recently, Miss Marion County USA joined with the Corbetts to help raise funds. For more information about their efforts, visit Ark Of Hope For Children.

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Tuesday, January 22

Blogging For Kindness: Mental Stimulation


“The world, Rich, needs more togetherness,” she said. “More healing. And I feel Bloggers Unite brings people closer together.”

Simply stated, but inspired.

Dee Graham (a.k.a Iriegal) is one of those bloggers, like many I have met through BlogCatalog’s Bloggers Unite social awareness campaigns, who turns blogging stereotypes inside out and upside down. And maybe that’s because there is no “them.”

You see, Graham was diagnosed with cancer in 2003. But she seldom has time to allow this fact to shed a dour shadow on her life. Instead, she says, she chooses to live life rather than allowing her life to live her. It’s just one of many reasons that she opened a computer repair business last year.

“It was a big step, but I love what I do. I love the freedom of being in charge of my own destiny,” she says, and that includes blogging. “I can’t see myself not blogging. I love to write and I love the connection with people.”

In fact, blending these two passions is what has since led her to create not one, but five different blogs. A Fe Mi Page Dis Iyah to share her love of Jamaica. Time to Eat Mon to share a surprising variety of Jamaican drinks, dishes, and recipes. Postal Jokes to cover an endless assortment of postal humor that touches every corner of the globe. Dark Child where she explores news, politics, celebrities, and everyday life within the African American community. And Mental Stimulation, which she considers her personal blog and where her second place blog post appeared.

As part of the Bloggers Unite campaign, which this time asked bloggers from around the world to perform an act of kindness and share a post, picture, or video about it, Graham added on to her 10-year volunteer commitment at a local youth center and decided to visit the senior center.

“I know how lonely it can be during the holidays, especially for the seniors with no family in our community,” Graham said. “I started working with Gladys and she appreciated our time together so much that I decided to stay the week.”

For an entire week, Graham served meals and spent time with Gladys, a 72-year-old woman who sometimes lives at the neighboring senior living center and gets lonely now that her children are older and busy with their own lives. Most of the time, they played hearts or spades, but Graham made a small grocery shopping trip for her as well.

“She was really proud of her children. Her daughter is a nurse and her son is in the military,” Graham said. “Oh, she beat me, by the way.”

For her inspiring account of her service, which was accompanied by a photo taken by the receptionist at the senior center, Graham will receive a 1/2-page advertisement in Blogger & Podcaster magazine. However, Graham never intended to win.

“I’ve been a member of BlogCatalog since August and they’ve become a new family,” she says. “That is what I can truly say about BlogCatalog for me. Family. It is a part of my daily life. Much like doing things for people.”

You don’t have to do big things, she adds. Just small acts of kindness that help your community. But this is no surprise coming from a woman as persevering as Graham.

Her passion for writing grew out of using it to heal after a painful divorce almost five years ago. Her passion for people was made evident in October, when she wrote about her daughter for the first time. Her daughter has autism, which keeps them apart much longer than they would like.

“She is my heart,” say Graham. “It was the happiest time for me in a long time.”

Simply stated, but inspired. Or perhaps better stated, if I am using it correctly, “One Love” as they say in Jamaica.

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