Sunday, 24 March 2013

CollaborAction: How Technology Can Help Organizing

This past week's CollaborAction conference was the latest offering of Maytree Foundation's Building Blocks initiative and was an impressive opportunity to network and learn with organizers in Toronto and from across Canada.  With so many meetings and conferences veering toward the snoozing-inspired where you attend for the networks amidst disappointingly substance-free content - I am happy to report that this was not the case on Wednesday!  

Indeed, one of the most engaging and content-heavy parts of the day was the breakout session delivered by Chris Cowperthwaite & Adel Boulazreg on the potential for data and technology in organizing people, volunteers and campaigns of all sorts.  Relevant to business, politics, marketing and community organizing alike - through real life, easy to understand stories and examples with NationBuilder, MailChimp and other tools, they clearly outlined how enterprise grade data, analytics and organizing applications are available at grassroots pricing for those interested in launching or scaling up a campaign for just about anything.  

CLICK HERE for Chris & Adel's slide's from the session for your review.  In future posts I will look to eventually compare and contrast tools like NationBuilder versus Blue State Digital and other applications with similar functionalities for use as a data-driven grassroots organizing platform.  

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Toronto's Best Magazine Service

Congrats to everybody who thought of their library card when reading this title!  For the grand annual price of $2 for a membership, it is astounding the range of topics and skills one can learn through the Toronto Public Library (TPL) system.

As a regular commuter between Scarborough, North York and downtown Toronto, I am one of the scores of people who routinely grapple with how best to optimize the mobile learning and productivity potential of the extended time spent traveling through our beloved subway corridors.  With so much time already devoted to writing about issues, working up applications and networking from my computer - I tend to prefer using my commute and 'in between' periods for reading physical pages and other tasks that do not involve staring at a digital screen.  

Which brings me to TPL.  Inspired to renew my previously dormant membership after attending an info session for a business development series later in the year, I stumbled across the magazine racks on my way out and decided to pick up an issue of Popular Science to go.  Fast forward to home that evening following the perfect bit sized commuter read and armed with the knowledge that you can return items to any branch - I immediately began thinking about the next day and that my schedule would take me within close proximity to the Agincourt, Don Mills, Wychwood and Pape branches.  That day would indeed have me take out a total of three magazines and return four, and in the process facilitate a markedly more enjoyable commute for the most minimal of added efforts.  While my rate of new issues read has since plateaued at about 1 every 2-3 days, I am thoroughly enjoying getting caught up on recent trends in data analytics, healthier living and how to mine an asteroid.  Ok so not all topics are immediately relevant to the day to day, but my brain is a little more active, my knowledge base is getting a little bit broader, and until we figure out a real way to address congestion and commute times in Toronto - my train reads are immeasurable more enjoyable.  

Walk in to any branch at any time of the day and you can see people young and old from all walks of life reading for leisure, doing their homework, participating in community group activities, applying for jobs and learning skills ranging from graphics design to english literacy, financial management and just about any other need where someone has offered their time to teach, facilitate or organize.  Far from the traditional perception of being a place to take out books, branches have modernized into full fledged community hubs central to the connectivity, learning and socioeconomic potential of their neighbourhoods.  In less than a month of reactivating my membership, the only thing I kick myself for is having taken so long to have recognized the value of this gem of a service right down the street!        

So what is your best $2 investment?

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Photos from Space

If you are like me, you are one of the hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers addicted to the daily updates from Canadian Astronaut Chrid Hadfield, NASA Commander of Expedition 35 currently orbiting Earth from the International Space Station.  In addition to the extraordinary contributions to science and human knowledge his team is making with each passing experiment, his brilliant use of popular digital media tools have forever transformed the way astronauts connect with dreamers and us mere Earth bound mortals.  

Of all his posts, my favourites have consistently been the 'nightly finale' photos of what he is looking down upon before going to bed at night.  They are stunning.  Below are a few recent ones ... to follow him online check him out on Twitter at @Cmdr_Hadfield

Monday, 4 March 2013

How to Write the Perfect Tweet

"How To Write The Perfect Tweet" - by Gerry Moran in the MarketingThink Blog ...

With only 140 characters in play, it seems pretty simple to write the perfect tweet! How hard can it really be when all you need is a few words to get your point across to your followers? Unfortunately, that is what many marketers and their management think how it works.

Perfection is not so easy to accomplish where there is so little room to work with. With limited real estate, your less than perfect tweet mistakes are magnified by your lack of skills and mistakes. Consequences can range from hurting your personal brand to leaving opportunity on the table by under-reaching or under-engaging with your current and potential audience!

To write the perfect tweet you need to connect your business goal you wish with your social content delivery. For instance, you may want to increase your thought leadership or drive awareness of your business.

3 Goals For Your Perfect Tweet

You likely will land on three social media goals for your tweets
  • Amplify - You need to amplify your story with tweets. 
  • Engage - You need people to read the tweet, click on it or pass the message on to others.
  • Convert - You need to have helped people enough with your great content that you contact you to do something. For instance, they might want to hire you to be their social media marketing coach!
Does Your Perfect Tweet Pass The Twitter Filter?

When you finally sit down to write your perfect tweet you need to make sure it passes through three key filters. Ask yourself this question before you hit that send button!
  • Is it interesting and readable?
  • Is it interesting enough to click?
  • Is it compelling and build to be retweeted?
 How To Write The Perfect Tweet Blueprint

Pew reports that adult usage of Twitter had doubled from 2011 to 2012, so “getting it write” is key to you maximizing Twitter’s potential.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

The Impossible

I recently saw The Impossible on the big screen and was entranced for the entire 114 minutes of screen time.  It was beautifully shot, expertly directed, well acted, and if I had one sour taste in my mouth after leaving the theatre it was that not nearly enough respect seems to have been given to Tom Holland for his portrayal of the character Lukas.  Upon its release and throughout this past awards season, the acting buzz surrounding this film has been focused exclusively on Naomi Watts.  Not wanting to take anything away from her who was great in a role that clearly involved an extraordinary amount of physical demands, but for me the performance that stole the entire show was Holland’s.  This young actor gave a deft performance and transcended an on screen role into meeting the emotional and urgency realities of the moment this film was trying to capture.

This film more than any I’ve watched this past year brought back a range of memories and emotions from a prior life.  At impact time zero of the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami in the Indian Ocean I had a day job in an office of the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care and was also working a few nights a week at a sports bar in downtown Toronto.  For what felt like an endless string of shifts at the bar I remember a sudden sluggishness in my work having crept in as I was utterly transfixed by the images on the television sets of a disaster whose impact, scale and eventual response made redundant our use of the word unprecedented.  I was overwhelmed with an immediate inspiration to get involved.  I didn’t know at the time whether that would entail getting on a plane, raising money from home or something else entirely – I just knew that I was going to find my way into some kind of helping operation. 

What I didn’t appreciate at the time was just how quickly that would occur.  Indeed within a couple of weeks I was in an e-mail exchange with Dr Manuel Carballo and his team in Geneva, Switzerland where I had the privilege of interning a couple years prior.  Dr Carballo is the Executive Director of the International Centre for Migration, Health and Development (formerly International Centre for Migration and Health – ICMH) and is a giant in the global health arena. Having run operations for the WHO in Bosnia during the Balkans crises, joining the civil rights movement in the United States, leading breastfeeding campaigns in the developing world against intense resistance from multinational formula producers, and teaming up with Dr Jonathan Mann and Daniel Tarantola in the now legendary former Global Programme on AIDS – his attention was now squarely focused on the health of vulnerable people displaced and affected by the Tsunami and the quality and efficiency of the international response mechanisms enacted to help them. 

At a moment of serendipity I began reaching out to him just as they were looking for another team member to help research these issues, evaluate what was happening on the ground and at headquarter and donor levels far away; and then write about real time status reports, lessons learned and how aid efforts can be better coordinated and improved upon going forward.  Within a few weeks I was packing my bags for a return to Geneva, and in less than a week upon arrival I was asked to look up the VISA requirements for Canadians traveling to the Maldives.  And so began two years of incredible professional experience, personal growth, and being touched by so many of the visceral images, herculean logistical challenges and random acts of kindness which The Impossible began to touch upon. 

For I imagine a host of reasons I haven’t yet found a way to adequately talk about some of these experiences since coming home in a way that is worthy of what they meant.  Perhaps it was too much happening in rapid fire succession, perhaps getting through it required more doing then thinking and reflecting, or perhaps there is another rationale all together.  All I know is that I am suddenly motivated to again write about this time and how some of its seminal moments continue to shape how I approach life and work back home in Toronto.  While I may do so in blogs and through other mediums, I am not necessarily writing for the purpose of putting  something out into the world as much as I am trying to still make sense out of events that were happening too fast to adequately do so at the time.