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3 Powerful Social Media Leaders of the Past

On the Internet we continue an old tradition of social media, pioneered in the Roman Republic. I look at the social media leaders in the past who were good at doing things. They really paved the way for what's happening today with technology. The Internet and social media have been a way to give a real voice to the voiceless and real power to the powerless. It's created a space for citizen journalism.

If we look back, we'll realize that there were many powerful social media leaders of the past, for example:luther

1. Julius Caesar was an early blogger, even though it was very low tech.

Looks to me that Julius Caesar was not only a blogger re: the conquest of Gaul, but he kinda invented journalism in its most literal sense.

2. It got a little better with Martin Luther, who decided to use an evolved form of the same network. He got pretty good, blogging on a church blog. Luther blogged his way to major religious and social change.

Of course Luther was assisted by this printing press thing – and this evolved in the Twitter revolution of 1688. He used the efforts of a nerd, a guy Johannes Gutenberg, to great effect. (Gutenberg got great stuff done, but it was Luther who got big stuff done.)

3. John Locke, the one who lived in 1688, not the John Locke in Lost. Good show, but you could only understand it if you knew a lot about quantum physics. I know a lot of you want to hear it more about quantum physics, but more later… Just be glad I'm not going on a Game of Thrones rant.

(I'd like to credit two books for much of this: Tom Standage's The Writing on the Wall and Jeff Jarvis' Gutenberg the Geek.)

You can't make change from the top down. The president's the most powerful person in the world, but not that powerful. What's powerful is when people in the trenches work together to get things done, and that's what makes a difference.

My deal is to try to get folks to work together. It's important to give a voice to people who never had one, and then to share their work. My stuff to date gives me a bit of a bully pulpit that I don't need for myself. However, I use it on a daily basis to get the word out on behalf other others.

My joke, occasionally tweeted, is that I retweet a lot because 1) it's good to share, and 2) it spares me the burden of original thought. Well, #2 has some truth to it, but #1 is the big deal for me.

Women doing STEM right

Hey, it's important to me to recognize folks doing really good work, especially those who don't usually get the recognition they deserve. My team and I have generated quite a few lists of women doing good work:

Recently, I asked my networks to contribute the women who impressed them, the folks in the STEM field who really have their boots on the ground. We got great responses, verified the women suggested, and have compiled a list (in no particular order) here:

1. Natasha Mohanty, Co-Founder, CTO, & VP of Technology at FEM inc.
Natasha joined FEM inc. from Google, where she was a lead engineer working on content recommendations and personalization for Google+ and Google News with a special emphasis on meeting the needs of women. Their efforts increased female engagement with Google+ by over 30%.

She has extensive experience in large-scale data mining to build user profiles through data. She received her A.B. from Mount Holyoke and M.S. in Computer Science from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. When not hacking for FEM inc., she works on projects to get more women and girls interested in tech.

2. Limor Fried, Founder of Adafruit Industries
Adafruit was founded in 2005 by MIT engineer, Limor "Ladyada" Fried. Her goal was to create the best place online for learning electronics and making the best designed products for makers of all ages and skill levels. Adafruit has grown to over 50 employees in the heart of NYC with a 15,000+ sq ft. factory.

Adafruit has expanded offerings to include tools, equipment and electronics that Limor personally selects, tests and approves before going in to the Adafruit store. Limor was the first female engineer on the cover of WIRED magazine and was awarded Entrepreneur magazine's Entrepreneur of the year.

3. Marianne Marck, Senior Vice President of Consumer Facing Technology at Starbucks
At Starbucks, Marianne leads the global retail and digital technology teams, the solution architecture and enterprise integration functions, and the technology teams for the China-Asia-Pacific region.

She joined Starbucks in 2011 as Vice President of Software Engineering, and led the enterprise software and application engineering function, including efforts for ERP, HRIS, web, mobile, enterprise QA, enterprise integration, and solution architecture. Prior to joining Starbucks, Marianne earned 22 years of tech experience developing solutions and platforms and building teams. Most recently at Blue Nile, she held the role of Senior Vice President of technology.

4. Bindu Reddy, CEO and Co-Founder of MyLikes
Before starting MyLikes, Bindu was at Google and oversaw product management for several products including Google Docs, Google Sites, Google Video and Blogger. When she first started at Google, Bindu was a Product Manager for AdWords, where she improved the AdWords bidding model by introducing Quality Based Bidding and Quality Score for keywords. She was also in charge of Google’s shopping engine – Google Product Search and designed and launched Google Base.

Before Google, Bindu founded AiYo – a shopping recommendations service. Earlier in her career, Bindu was the Director of Product Management at eLance and a Computational Biologist at Exelixis.

5. Edie Stern, a distinguished Engineer and Inventor at IBM
Edie has more than 100 patents to her name, and has been awarded the Kate Gleason Award for lifetime achievement. She received the award for the development of novel applications of new technologies. The 100 patents to her name represent her work in the worlds of telephony and the Internet, remote health monitoring, and digital media.

 6. Ellen Spertus, Research Scientist at Google & Computer Science Professor at Mills University

Ellen's areas of focus are in structured information retrieval, online communities, gender in computer science, and social effects of computing. She was a core engineer of App Inventor for Android, which enables computing novices to create mobile apps. and she co-authored a book on App Inventor.

Ellen has been working to bring more women into computing for decades now. In 1991, while studying computer science at MIT, she published a paper titled, "Why are there so few Female Computer Scientists." And Ellen tells girls: "I'm sorry to tell you that Hogwarts isn't real — but MIT is."

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Thanks to everyone who contributed, and please, keep 'em coming!

How Tech Can Turn a Community Into a Global Village

Folks, I received a really good letter from the Organic Health Response's IT Coordinator, Brian Mattah. He wrote about his experience with technology on Mfangano Island:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

I am Brian Mattah, a native of Mfangano Island, Kenya. I began working for the Organic Health Response (OHR) in January 2010, immediately after college. This was my first time deploying hands-on skills attained from school and all seemed new and interesting.

Aside from all career domains revolving around technological advances, it’s become absolutely inevitable for people, even in villages, to survive without internet. That’s why OHR thought it wise to incept the Ekialo Kiona Centre, to make Mfangano Island, Kenya a Global Village through our Cyber-VCT program. Once receiving voluntary counseling and testing with one of our HIV Counselors, anyone from the island has free and unlimited access to broadband internet, the first of it's kind in these rural communities.

In addition to running our Cyber lab, I had the opportunity to join Inveneo in 2012 to deploy a 90-km broadband link over Lake Victoria. Through this install I have been able to gain a greater level of expertise in networking, especially since the OHR Network is purely of Last Mile Design. It was amazing when EK Centre received internet services from Kisumu – a stretch of about 90 kilometers – to provide high speed wireless access in this remote location. The wireless network has eventually provided the solution and met everyone's needs by simply avoiding laying wire and fiber optic cables which are really expensive undertaking that can be environmentally demanding and requiring high maintenance.

In the course of deploying this network, I gained really important tips and had a hands-on trial on the Installations and configurations of network devices ranging from ubiquity's Rocket M5, NanoBridges, NanoStations, mikrotik routers, and Ethernet switches. Since then I have set up three more NanoBridges, a NanoStation and a mikrotik router. I have also gained vast knowledge in network administration and been able to monitor and troubleshoot connection hitches that have come up. Each day I continue to grow and learn new skills. It is what makes my job rewarding.ITlab_2 5 14 (3)

The craigslist Charitable Fund has continued to support our Cyber-VCT program, as well as the broadband internet that has opened up Mfangano as a global village. Ero kamano (thank you!)!

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Folks, Brian's doing real good work, and I'm happy to personally support the programs and the broadband Internet on Mfangano Island, in addition to the support from craigconnects and the craigslist charitable fund to make all of this possible. More updates to come…

Why Trustworthy News Should Matter More

factcheckWe're living in a society where trustworthy news should matter more than it seems to. As I've been saying, the press should be the immune system of democracy, and needs to fulfill that role again.

And just a reminder that factchecking efforts only have value, it's felt, if:

  • Misinformation is corrected, in a way that doesn't reinforce the lie.
  • Any involved news outlets are encouraged to avoid promoting misinformation.
  • Regular people, the broad citizenry, have the means to easily help media correct misinformation and encourage news outlets to restore factchecking.

More to come, and soon…

"Saving the World" DIY Style

People ask me how I go about figuring out what causes I really believe in and what's the most effective way to support those efforts. You can find a list of what I support specifically here. My general philosophy is to do some real good in the short run, while learning how to scale that up in the long run – to the entire planet in maybe twenty years. I'm also very committed to helping people from the bottom up, to give people a break that rarely get one, and to help give a voice to the voiceless.

When it comes to business success and money, know when enough is enough, which translates to a business model of doing well by doing good. I guess I've been real successful at that, and I've been told by a lot of startup people that this approach has influenced them.

So, in the short run, I've been doing what I can to help US veterans and military families, figuring that if someone will risk a bullet protecting me, I need to give back. Recently, people helped me understand that the family of an active service member serves the country while that service member is deployed, particularly in a war zone.

I've chosen groups to support, in government and in the nonprofit world, guided by considerations including:

  • Do they impact something I believe in?
  • Are they good at it?
  • Can I help them via serious social media consulting and engagement?
  • Can I learn from the experience how to use social media on a very large scale?
  • Just in case, does the nonprofit tell a really slick, heart-wrenching story? Have they been seriously vetted? (If not, substantial chance it's a scam.)

So, the themes here have to do with "social impact," probably mediated by social media, while watching out for compelling scams. (Sorry, but this is currently a huge problem in the nonprofit world.) For that reason, I engage with Charity Navigator,GuideStar, and GreatNonProfits.org. In particular, Charity Nav is making real progress measuring social impact, which is about how good an org is at serving its clients. Social media provides the tools that effective people use to work together to get stuff done. We're talking not only Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc, but also tools like spreadsheets used to rank "employee innovation" efforts.

Human history suggests that change begins from the networks of individuals who work together through the social media of their times, from Caesar and Cicero, to St Paul and Martin Luther, and John Locke and Tom Paine. Consider the UK Glorious Revolution which resulted in modern representative democracy, which I frequently call the Twitter Revolution of 1688. (A great history of pre-Internet social media isThe Writing on the Wall, by Tom Standage, who reminds us that "history retweets itself.") That history tells us that social media provides a set of tools which can effect real change. That history is one of democratization; the costs of those tools restricted them to the wealthy at first, but now the cost of entry is close to zero.

In the short term, my focus is normally on small orgs, since they can be more effective. However, I'm now working with a huge org, the Department of Veterans Affairs, around 360,000 people, and from that, I'm learning how to run large organizations – and large governments – effectively.

For the long term, I'm supporting efforts in the here and now that are fundamental to universal fairness; the intent is to give everyone a break, to treat everyone how you'd like to be treated.

One such effort involves figuring out how to get news that I can trust. I'm a news consumer, but for the past decade I've been getting training in media ethics and trust issues, as well as being shown how the news sausage is made. (It ain't pretty, particularly with all the disinfo being flung around.) The theme is that "the press is the immune system of democracy" and that a good ethical framework might lead some part of the press back to trustworthy behavior.

Another effort involves voting rights in the US. While the Declaration of Independence reminds us that we're all equal under the law, bad actors in politics can only survive if they stop certain groups of people from voting, and that ain't right.

It might occur to you that "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice," and that is another articulation of what my stuff's all about. You'd be right.

Photo: creative commons licensed (BY) flickr photo by USDAgov