400K Photo Views and Counting

At some point today, I will pass 400,000 views on my photography blog. Not bad for an amateur hack who has never been formally trained as a photographer!

I hope you don’t mind, but I’d like to celebrate by sharing my 10 favorite pictures from the past five years. Given it’s a Friday wrapping up a long holiday week, I figured, “Why not?” Here we go!

1) The Eiffel Tower

I took this beauty in late November of 2009. It was drizzling, and I had to take a slow capture to get the light to glow like this. Fortunately the rain didn’t mess up lens too badly, and the shot turned out quite nicely! Taken with a Nikon D-90.

The Eiffel Tower

2) The First Presidential Tweet

I had the honor of attending the first presidential town hall, which was moderated by Twitter Co-Founder Jack Dorsey. Somehow, I ended up in the first row on the side, and took this shot of Obama typing out the first presidential tweet. Taken with my Nikon, this shot has Jack reflected in the computer screen. It still gets used frequently in Obama blog posts across the web!
The First Presidential Tweet

3) The Devil’s Horns

The centerpiece of the W Trail in Chilean Patagonia, the Devil’s Horns are viewed here from across Lake Pehoe at sunrise. This trail kicked my ass and is legendary for trying experienced hikers who attempt its courses in three or five days. Taken with the Nikon. The Devil's Horns Across Lago Pehoe

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Some Truths About Crowdsourcing

Geoff Livingston (@geoffliving) at the Nationals

In today’s online world, the term crowdsourcing gets bandied about quite a bit. It’s the most difficult and visible form of community-based social engagement. For companies and nonprofits alike it has become a nirvana-like state to attain.

Yet, much of today’s conversations deal with fleeting uses of “crowdsourcing,” such as asking questions of Twitter communities. There are also plenty of interesting articles about benefits and the possible impact of sustainable crowdsourcing (as well as the tools to do it) but I find that the pragmatic how-to experience is missing.

The issue with the resulting lack of information is that most folks have no idea how difficult sustained crowdsourcing can be. I’ve had a couple of turns at it myself with major projects, one I would call very successful, the other average. Both required a ton of work and management that afterwards made me feel contemporary thinking can use some more depth.

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Just based on my own experiences, here are some lessons (some obvious) that you don’t see in contemporary discussions about crowdsourcing ideas, innovation and change:

1) The crowd has to care, and they have to be made into heroes. The latter part is well documented (rewarding active community members), but the prior isn’t. In my mind, crowdsourcing is the last stage of a well-thought out social media strategy (UNLESS you are having a contest with a notable purse as a reward).

The managing party must understand its subject matter AND the community’s inherent interest in that topic. The crowdsourced effort serves both parties. Otherwise you will crowdsource little to nothing. Or worse, you’ll be evangelizing to get people to participate.

2) While the crowd craves freedom, it desperately needs structure. People need to be told how to participate and the rules of engagement. These rules have to be clear, empowering of the crowd, and directive in their end result.

Believe me, I’ve tried it the other way, but your crowdsourcing effort needs to be well structured (See Beth Kanter’s discussion of Chase’s Community giving contest design). A recent crowdsourcing effort made me realize how much more simplified our process needed to get for the future.

3) Rules need to be enforced or adapted. Issues come all the time because people invariably do what they want, the rules be damned. The organization needs to either enforce them, or publicly change them and show why they are amending them. Then you have to be ready to deal with the haters.

For citizengulf, I threw out a day-time yoga event because it wondered too far away from the mission/purpose as well as the event style, and it competed with another event in the same city. No was the obvious answer. And as a result, I got plenty of email telling me I was an a-hole. So be it.

4) You’ll need to invest a lot of management resources. If you think social media is time consuming, try crowdsourcing. It involves grassroots customer service and handholding like you cannot imagine (I was amazed). You may publish a lot of information, but you need to be present for your community if you expect them to be present for you. Crowdsourcing innovation does not mean outsourcing human resources, just the innovation. And even then you may end up refining it like Cisco had to with its I-Prize innovation contest.

There are other issues, such as managing the idea market so that popularity doesn’t trump quality. Another is ensuring that while the crowd may want a result, that the business or nonprofit mission maintains its integrity.

I am not the biggest fan of Pepsi Refresh (I still struggle with understanding how this is impacting society and the incredible amount of Vote for Me #pepsirefresh spam it creates). That being said, I admire the hell out of Pepsi Refresh from a communicator’s perspective. It’s incredible that they can maintain interest, and handle the amount of issues that continually come up with their contest. From first hand conversations with their team, it is clear how hard they have worked, and continue to work to keep this contest going and to support their winners. The sustained energy is simply impressive.

The well discussed benefits of crowdsourcing are amazing, but going in with eyes wide open about the task at hand is critical. First hand experience and research about crowdsourcing are also helpful. It’s my intent to continue this conversation with best practices for causes from a tactical management standpoint via a by-lined article on Mashable. Stay tuned.

Thank You, #CitizenGulf

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Yesterday’s national day of CitizenGulf events ranged from the first Social Media Club event in Fredericksburg, VA to a big get together in Honolulu, Hawaii. With tickets starting at $10 a pop, it looks like 400 people came together and raised roughly $10,000 (preliminary estimate) benefiting at least eight children of fishing families in the Catholic Charities of New Orleans After School Program.

Considering that this whole effort is volunteer based on literally no budget and named after a hashtag, I am just stunned. Two months ago, four of us were heading down to the Gulf on a fact finding mission with no idea about what we would find. And two months later we had this incredible day of action, thanks to you.

Next week I’ll provide a post mortem analysis of what did and did not work about the campaign from my perspective. Today and this weekend are all about cherishing the action so many of us have taken towards a positive, mindful result after the oil spill. With BP and Obama responsible for and promising everything, and often falling short, this is not the easiest cause to take on, but a very important one. Taking mindful steps — instead of staying angry and letting the Gulf suffer — are acts of compassion.

There are so many of us who participated, from the more than 750 people who tweeted to the more than 400 people who attended our 20 events. Jeff Dolan even made a tribute music video! I know of at least 60 blog posts written about the Day of Action. It’s impossible to thank everyone, so please forgive me if I’ve forgotten you.

First, let me thank Dan Morrison and May Yu of Citizen Effect, and Jill Foster of LiveYourTalk. It’s amazing how far this crazy little trip went. And Dan, did you think the fajitas at Lauriol Plaza would turn into this?

Eric Johnson at El Studio deserves a huge thanks for designing our Posterous blog, and for his work migrating the site. Thank you to my long term cohort on cause based action Andy Sternberg for his hard work and running the LA event.

Thank you to Sloane Berrent and Taylor Davidson for letting us co-promote with Gulf Coast Benefits. I can’t wait to see what you do next. And a huge thanks to Social Media Club co-founders Kristie Wells and Chris Heuer for believing in CitizenGulf and making it an official Club event.

Thank you to David Bazea and Citrix Online for donating your organizing software and phone services. Michael Ivey, thank you for donating RT2Give set-up. And thanks to iShake for donating proceeds from iPhone application sales.

I want to give a special thanks to a few city captains who just took CitizenGulf on and made it theirs. Gloria Bell (Philly), Kami Huyse and Grace Rodriguez (Houston), Richard Laermer (who helped me co-organize NYC), Heidi Massey (Chicago), and last, but not least Andi Narvaez (DC, our top fundraiser). Each of these cities raised $1000 or more! Also, I owe a personal thank you to Kelly Mitchell (Honolulu), Todd Van Hoosear (Boston), Alex de Carvalho (Miami), Heather Coleman (Fredericksburg), and “Calamity Jen,” Jennifer Navarete, and Colleen Pence (San Antonio) for organizing their cities! Thank you to all of our other city organizers for going the distance.

And finally, as co-organizer of the New York City event, I’d like to thank my committee of outreach kings and queens. Thank you to Damien Basile, Anna Curran, Erica Grigg (Carbon Outreach), Nicole D’Alonzo, Howard Greenstein, and our special guest Eric Proulx! CitizenGulf would not have been the same with New York!

Again, if I missed you, please forgive me. Thanks so much!

Citizen Effect will continue the CitizenGulf Project. You can create your own initiative to benefit Gulf kids, or you can still give if you’d like. Here’s the donation page.

Don’t Believe the BP Hype!

How The Hell Are We Supposed Feed Our Kids Now

Let’s be frank, lots of people are helping with #citizengulf and it’s awesome. There are so many people spreading the word, I can’t even begin to thank them. But this is not Haiti, in large part because of BP’s responsibility for causing the oil spill, and its moral and legal obligation to clean up the mess.

Many people express this to me, “Why should I help? It’s BP’s fault!”

But as we have seen over and over again, BP continues to promise fully responsible actions, only to have its actions completely contradict its PR and messaging. Consider the most recent lies that have been exposed this week:

1) The oil is not gone from the Gulf waters. In fact, University of Georgia scientists have done a study showing that 70-79% of the oil remains in the water. Now we see the role dispersants have played in this Dantean nightmare.

2) Phytoplankton, the base element of the fishing food chain, have been poisoned by this oil. This means the entire Gulf food supply has been affected and will have crude oil poisoning to contend with.

This continued public lying (and the co-signing of this behavior by the Obama Administration) should tell all of us one thing: BP will abandon its responsibility to clean up the Gulf at the first opportunity. The Gulf cannot count on BP or the federal government to resolve this situation.

Any of us would be furious if our homes and livelihoods were treated in such a fashion. In fact, many of us who do not live in the Gulf are angered by the public hucksterism we are being offered by BP and the Obama Administration. But what can we do about it? Plenty, and as my trip to the Gulf convinced me, this hurricane ravaged region definitely needs our help.

The citizengulf program was designed to provide easy, mindful actions to affect change, specifically, by using education to provide fishing families new opportunities for a brighter, more sustainable future. I hope you’ll join us on August 25 as we take a day of action together by attending an event, donating or voting.

Beyond the citizengulf program, there are more mindful actions: Write your elected officials and tell them to stand up to big oil and large corporations ruining our country, live a better sustainable life, and restore ethics to the communications profession. Want more? The AARP offers six ways you can make a difference for the Gulf.

No , it’s not Haiti. But it’s happening in our own back yard at the hands of corrupt oil company with the federal government cosigning it. Whatever you do, friends, I encourage you not to sit this one out. In my mind, it’s a civic duty. Take mindful action and say no to BP.

10 Reasons to Attend a #CitizenGulf Event

Oil Boom Workers
Oil boom workers

The CitizenGulf meet-ups are less than two weeks away, and you’re probably wondering whether to attend. Here are 10 good reasons to join your local Social Media Club for a Gulf Coast Benefit on August 25.

1) It’s the last party of the summer! Come on out and join your online friends for a good time that does good, too!

2) You like New Orleans, and want to relive a little of that Bourbon Street fun.

3) Help fishing families affected by the oil spill like Kerry’s and this little girl.

4) Attend in memory of Hurricane Katrina, and all the lives it took five years ago on August 28.

5) Don’t believe in BP? Neither do we. Show up and make a statement to the oil company that its PR messages to help the Gulf and its citizens recover are not enough.

6) Similarly, make a statement to the Obama Administration that more needs to be done.

7) The Gulf had just started to get back on its feet after Katrina and Rita. Now the oil spill happens. Let’s finish the Gulf recovery.

8) Your $10 cover fee (and any additional donations) goes directly to the Citizen Effect citizengulf program, funding Catholic charities of New Orleans After School Assembly Program for the 2010-2011 school year.

9) You believe educating children is the way to build stronger communities.

10) Your cover charge is tax deductible because Citizen Effect is a 501c3.

So what are you waiting for? Come on out and have a good time while doing some good, too!