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"The Baroque Cycle": The Moment I Realized History RTs Itself

Around ten years ago, I read this historical fiction trilogy by a really influential science fiction writer, Neal Stephenson.
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At that point I had relinquished all management control of the site I started, was doing pretty intense customer service, and I was thinking about what it all meant.

My nerdly take is that The Baroque Cycle's about the invention of the modern world, in the social normalization of attitudes and inventions including:

  • The Enlightenment perspective
  • Scientific method
  • Calculus as a possible "system of the world"
  • Representative democracy
  • Revolution via social media

It influenced the way I think about my own creation, and to cut to the chase…

Baroque Cycle helped me understand how "history retweets itself," how people use social media to get big things done. Over time, human social contracts evolve via punctuated equilibrium wherein things slowly get better.

Improvements are not continuous, though. Normally, things are in balance, equilibrium, until we hit some kind of tipping point, which punctuate the flow of history. That's something I learned from Victor Hugo, as often paraphrased: "Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come."

Until recently, the cost of getting your idea out there was very high; you needed your own printing press, or maybe TV station.

However, the Internet changes all that.

The way I look ahead and plan was substantially altered. My focus is not only getting stuff done in the here and now, but I'm considering what I learn and how it affects stuff in the long term (twenty years) and the longer term (two hundred years.) The work done by the historical figures in the trilogy are still playing out today.

(Yes, I'm writing in a far more nerdly manner than I've written in years, and to be clear, I'm going old-school nerd here.)

Okay, specifically, Baroque Cycle helped me understand a lot about the way people and history work. For example, I finally began to understand the ways that social media has been used, throughout history, to change the social contract and how we govern ourselves.

Specifically, I realized that people including John Locke (not the LOST guy) and others used blogging to effect the Glorious Revolution of 1688. It was (relatively) bloodless and short, and least compared to the preceding Civil Wars and for that matter, compared to the Wars of the Roses, etc.

The books helped me understand how the Glorious Revolution led to bloggers including Ben Franklin and Tom Paine, who helped create American independence and our own form of representative democracy. Then, I realized how Martin Luther blogged his way to major religious and social change. 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; Gutenberg also learned about venture capitalists the hard way. check out Jeff Jarvis' "Gutenberg the Geek.")

Then Robert Wright helped me understand how Saint Paul used the social media of his time to get the word out regarding Christianity.

More recently, The Writing on the Wall by Thomas Standage documents all of this, from the Roman Republic through now. (Spoiler: 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.)

The deal is that The Baroque Cycle helped me get this on a gut level, and that's inspired all of my subsequent efforts.

In Stephenson's book we see how people, working together, separately, and sometimes in competition, how they created major tipping points which came together in a perfect storm to create the modern world. (Sorry to invoke the cliche.)

Added to this, I think I finally understood what a latter-day Martin Luther meant by "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." My take is that he was talking about what the books teach.

So, ten years ago I started to internalize all this and to figure out what to do about it, acknowledging that, well, I'm a nerd. Helping along a global tipping point is not in the nerd job description, which requires a lot of charisma, energy, and a lot of intuition to understand of the way people work.

However, the nature of the Internet suggests we're not looking at the "strong man theory of history" anymore. Real and massive change will come from people who learn to lead by example, through their ideas, and from some intuitive knowledge of how to move ahead with ideas whose time has come.

I love The Baroque Cycle and recommend everything by Stephenson. However, it's way more important to act on what it depicts, and my deal is to try 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, inspired by the actions depicted by Stephenson.

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That's not altruistic as I view it. I guess it's just a reflection of the abnormal social affect and dysfunction of myself and sometimes of my nerdly peers.

After all, a nerd's gotta do what a nerd's gotta do.

The #HolidayChallenge is in Full Swing

Hey, the CrowdRise Holiday Challenge that I'm funding with the Huffington Post has really taken off.

It began on Monday, November 18, and over $173k has been raised in less than a week, since the challenge started – this is huge.

Joining me in raising money for charities this holiday season are several actors/actresses and comedians (hey, maybe I can give them some career advice), such as Edward Norton (Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust), Sean Penn (J/P Haitian Relief Organization), Ian Somerhalder (Ian Somerhalder Foundation), Sophia Bush (The Nature Conservancy), Jason Bateman (City Year), Kristen Bell (Epath.org), Olivia Wilde (Artists for Peace and Justice), Christy Turlington (Every Mother Counts), Eliza Dushku (THRIVEGulu), Brittany Snow (Love Is Louder), Will Ferrell (Cancer for College), Seth Rogen (Hilarity for Charity), and  Conan O’Brien (Children’s Hospital Los Angeles).

(Speaking of Conan, his recent TV bit cited my LinkedIn following, and this is my attempt to help him out…folks, even a pity follow will do…follow Conan?)

CrowdRise is an effective way to help out nonprofit groups, and I'm excited we already have more than 500 charities and counting coming together this holiday season to raise a lot of money for nonprofits getting the job done.

It's not too late to get started. You can sign your nonprofit up by clicking here. And if you're an individual who wants to participate and support your favorite causes, you can choose an org to support, and join their team!

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Lately, I've been asked if orgs can participate if they're outside the US. I asked the good folks at CrowdRise about it and they said that their site's only set up right now for US-based 501c3's right now, so unfortunately, no. But they hope to change that soon, and told me that it's on the roadmap. You can read the rest of the Challenge rules here.

Just a reminder that:

    • The team that raises the most during the Challenge wins a $100k donation for their charity.
    • Second place gets $40k.
    • Third gets $20k.
    • Another $40k+ in cash prizes, and lots of HuffPost prizes will be given throughout the campaign.
    • Even if you don't win a grand prize, you get to keep the money you raise.
    • The Challenge ends on Thursday, January 9th at 11:59:59am EST.

Make sure to get your constituents and followers on social media talking about the Holiday Challenge, the more people who know about it, the more chances you have to raise money for your cause. Join the conversation using the hashtag, #HolidayChallenge, on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, and Instagram.

And don't forget that CrowdRise has created a toolkit for you to get the most out of the #HolidayChallenge, with tips, strategies, and a calendar that outlines all the Bonus Challenges.

How's your team doing so far?

Typhoon Haiyan Disaster Resources

Hey folks, the Philippines could use a lot of help right now.  Super Typhoon Haiyan is the strongest storm to ever make landfall. A total of 9.5 million people across the Philippines were affected when Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the Philippines on Friday, according to the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The disaster has left an estimated 2.5 million people in need of emergency food assistance according to the World Food Program.

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There are a lot of really good orgs and people who are helping out.

If you're able to help out, folks, this is really important as lots of people are in need. What resources have you found to be useful?

 

Help Give Away $200K for the Holidays

Hey, I've teamed up with CrowdRise and the Huffington Post to host a Holiday Challenge over on CrowdRise to help nonprofits raise a lot of money this season. As they say – here's how it's going down.

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The Holiday Challenge will work similar to the #VetsChallenge that I sponsored over the summer, but this time, any charity is able to sign up. Over $200,000 will be given to nonprofits throughout the challenge. Last year over $1,000,000.00 was raised for charities. You can sign up here.

Update: Joining me in raising money for charities this holiday season are several actors/actresses and comedians (hey, maybe I can give them some career advice), such as Edward Norton (Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust), Sean Penn (J/P Haitian Relief Organization), Ian Somerhalder (Ian Somerhalder Foundation), Sophia Bush (The Nature Conservancy), Jason Bateman (City Year), Kristen Bell (Epath.org), Olivia Wilde (Artists for Peace and Justice), Christy Turlington (Every Mother Counts), Eliza Dushku (THRIVEGulu), Brittany Snow (Love Is Louder), Will Ferrell (Cancer for College), Seth Rogen (Hilarity for Charity), and  Conan O’Brien (Children’s Hospital Los Angeles).

(Speaking of Conan, his recent TV bit cited my LinkedIn following, and this is my attempt to help him out…folks, even a pity follow will do…follow Conan?)

A few important details:

  •  The Holiday Challenge runs through January 9th at 11:59:59am EST (folks, these last seconds could be important, as last time we had a photo finish).
  • There are 3 grand prizes -
  • 1st place wins $100,000
  • 2nd place wins $40,000
  • 3rd place wins $20,000
  • Another $40,000 will be given away in cash and prizes through Bonus Challenges weekly.
  • The Huffington Post's also giving away lots of other prizes designed to get some great exposure for your cause (like RTs from HuffPo and #FollowFridays from Ariana Huffington, etc.).
  • This is a win-win for all orgs that participate – Even if you don't win a grand prize, you get to keep all the money that your Team raises.
  • Check out the charity toolkit here.

There are more than 400 teams signed up so far, and each one has a chance at winning some money for their cause. You can click here to sign up and create your fundraising page. It takes less than 21 seconds to set up your page. And, they've created a Challenge Toolkit that gives you a Calendar of all of the challenges, plus tips and strategies to raise more money, template emails to send out to your supporters, and lots of really good ideas.

This will really help your charity, and I'm ready to help good orgs who really have their boots on the ground. Are you ready to begin your year-end fundraising with me?

Top 10 Veterans Orgs to Follow on Twitter

Hey,  Veterans Day is Monday, and there are some good orgs who really have their boots on the ground.

Okay, a while back, my wife (then fiance) asked me why I only did my normal level of support for veterans and military families on Memorial Day. My blurt was that "for me, every day's Memorial Day." And I feel the same way about Veterans Day.

Here are ten veterans orgs that you should be following on Twitter. They have important things to say, and are working hard for military families and veterans' rights. The list is in no particular order.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of American, @IAVA


iavaSwords to Plowshares, @vetshelpingvets


swordsplowsharesBob Woodruff Foundation, @Stand4Heroes


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Blue Star Families, @BlueStarFamily


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National Military Family Association, @military_family


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Returning Veterans Project, @ReturnVeterans


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The SF Veteran Success Center, @SF_VSC


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Operation Homefront, @Op_Homefront


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Warrior Canine Connection, @WarriorCanineCn


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Luke's Wings, @LukesWingsUSA


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I figure that we should support and thank Americans who risk taking a bullet to protect us, and that means also looking after their families. Just seems right… Happy Veterans Day, folks.