Posted on February 13th, 2014 by craigconnects
Folks, I've been doing some monetary support for the computer center at Mfangano Island, and have recently received a few updates from people who have been using the center. I wanted to share their stories with you. Here's Eric's story:
It was in June 7th, 2010 that I first joined Ekialo Kiona Center. Though I had been living on Mfangano Island for a long time, I had never used nor handled a computer before. When I heard that becoming an EK member would give me the opportunity to learn and use computers, I got excited and joined the club. All people who join the free community cyber-cafe (with onsite Voluntary HIV counseling and testing) through biannual HIV testing receive free unlimited access to the Internet. Even though I had never known my HIV status before and feared the process (and of course knowing my status) I decided to go through the process, just to get chance to touch a computer.
It was not easy for me in the IT room! Just touching the keyboard was so strange to me. In fact I believed that the ‘Wazungus’ (white people) were the people who knew and can handle these gadgets. At first I feared I could damage the computer so I did not want touch it. But anyway, I got the opportunity that I could not leave to pass. It took me only three months to know everything about the computer: handling the keyboard, writing, accessing information, and using the internet, among others.
I can remember an incident when I received my first email message from my friend Graham Tattersall, who I had met some years back. I yelled so loud that it made a lot of noise in the IT room and I had to be sent out for more than thirty minutes before being allowed in again. I didn’t believe I could get a mail from that far. It is marvelous; technology has changed my life and the lives of many people like on Mfangano Island.
That is the power of technology through EK Center on Mfangano Island and its environment. Thanks to those who have made this a reality.
Eric Omondi is a youth and is currently a volunteer in the EK FM Youth Radio, a project under EK Center
Posted on February 7th, 2014 by Craig Newmark
I'm not going to wind up saying that being a nerd is better than being a geek. It's just different and overlapping.
I'm pretty much old school. I was brought up during the Eisenhower administration and I fulfill the 50's or early 60's version of the nerd cliché. Y'know, the plastic pocket protector and all that. I was very much into sci fi and fantasy at that time – back then sci fi and fantasy were mostly books and very little media.
A nerd was an outcast type, one who might be very knowledgeable with engineering, and eventually computers. Generally someone with little social skills, something that kind of caused one's own ostracism. Again, this is kind of a 50's perspective on the whole thing.
These days, a geek is someone with a fascination of some aspect of pop culture, often related to sci fi or fantasy, and they might get really good at what their focus is. If their focus is computers, they'll get really good at it like a nerd with the same focus. Yes, I'm using one common definition of "geek" which I hope is fair.
The meaning of "nerd," I guess, has shifted and conflated with "geek," but nerd is something pejorative. Geekdom is more socially acceptable, far as I can tell. This has come about in the last 20 years, but that's just my take from what I've observed from living through it. There's a podcast/TV show called the Nerdist, it's been a podcast for a while and became a TV show sometime last year. It goes to show how nerds have become more mainstream.
The term nerd's meaning was getting fairly diluted in that time frame, over the last 20 years, and depending on who you talk to, nerd and geek may mean the same thing. The Japanese term of Otaku is related, but more toward the geek side with more social isolation.
Again, I don't think one is better than the other, and again, I'm using a relatively narrow definition of nerd. The Simpson version of Comic Book Guy is a very realistic parody of the real thing.
The original nerd was an outsider, though, a geek or a nerd in the modern sense is not so much an outsider, that kind of behavior is now accepted and sometimes glorified. Like, on the Simpsons, the comic book guy is classic geek, but as recent pop culture shows, it's become more socially acceptable. Comic Book Guy recently met Mrs. Comic Book Woman. The episode is very funny, and even moving from a narrow point of view.
Sometimes the old school nerd thing is about getting stuff done. Old school nerd is linked with technology, engineering, and math, while modern day nerd is linked more with pop cultural obsession . This is speculative on my part, based on experience, and there will be people with other opinions.
I identify as a nerd, and in my case, it's 50's styles, as that's when I grew up.
Posted on February 5th, 2014 by Craig Newmark
Okay, I'm implicitly preceding this with "Hire people who are smarter than you," then "Delegate." Maybe that's cheating, but I figure that 1) it's a cliché, nowadays, and 2) people who're going to do it have done it already.
So, the hard part is knowing when to let go.
It's hard to let go, but I did that for craigslist in 2000, after people helped me understand that as a manager, I suck. One smart decision was to hire Jim Buckmaster to manage the company, to hire people, and then I got out of the way.
To maintain my commitment, that included board membership and also committing to customer service work – the latter only as long as I live.
Sometimes I get the urge to do a little coding, but I suppress that, mentioning it only to put the scare on our tech team. (They're directed to distract me with shiny gadgets to deflect any interest I ever have in doing programming.)
Bottom line: craigslist, led by Jim, gets far more done than I ever could if I was in the way.
Several years ago, I realized that I got in my own way when it comes to my public service and philanthropy stuff. For around ten years, at that point, I'd been helping a lot of groups, mostly regarding social networking. I figured I needed help getting my act together, and asked a non-profit pro, Susan Nesbitt, to list the maybe twenty or thirty groups I'd helped. Turns out that it was much closer to a hundred groups.
So, I enlisted a project manager and communications guy, Jonathan Bernstein, with whom I'd already been working. To help with traditional, old-school communications, we got another guy, Bruce Bonafede, and to help build the website and social media, we enlisted Rad Campaign, working mostly with Allyson Kapin and Justyn Hintze.
My deal is that smart project management and communications enable me to get way more done than I can get done on my own.
First thing, we created craigconnects.org, which is the best name we could figure. (I like "craigsthing" but, well, you know…)
craigconnects focuses on areas of big concern to me, with the ultimate theme of helping groups which effectively give a voice to the voiceless. To me, another way of saying that is that "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."
Currently, my biggest projects involve support for military families and veterans, then helping journalists find ways to rediscover trustworthy journalism. I expect voting rights issues to surge this year, since despite what the Declaration of Independence says about equal rights, some politicians have built strategies around stopping people from voting.
Turns out that starting things off, getting smart people to do their thing, and getting outta the way is effective in frightening ways.
My deal is that I loosely express what I'm interested in, maybe draft a few ideas. Then the team takes over, and does a much better job than I ever could.
It's scary and scarier, since my team has been picking up my interests, taking my words and posting better stuff than I can write. They're also pushing me outside my comfort zone, which is key to productivity. As a nerd, I'm passionate about understatement, which is often a bad idea.
To see this accelerating in the last month or so, check out my blog and note entries in support of the CrowdRise Holiday Challenge and support for veterans, and so on.
Having a really good team is a "force multiplier," which leaves me free to quietly get stuff done. I'm learning what it takes to become even more productive, but that's for another time.
Posted on February 3rd, 2014 by Craig Newmark
A team of gov't orgs, including Veterans Affairs, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Defense, and Education are working together to help vets and military families regarding the GI Bill and other programs.
There's been SOME REPORTS OF abuse by some education orgs regarding this, so they've built "a new online student complaint system where service members, veterans, and their families can report negative experiences at education institutions and training programs administering the Post-9/11 GI Bill, DoD Military Tuition Assistance, and other military-related education benefit programs."
"Students can submit a complaint if they believe their school is failing to follow the Principles of Excellence, (i.e. unfair recruiting practices, credit transfer or change in degree requirements) through the centralized online reporting system accessed via the Department of Defense and GI Bill websites. When feedback is received, agencies will contact the school on behalf of the student and work toward a resolution. Complaints and their resolution will be forwarded to the Federal Trade Commission Consumer Sentinel Network, accessible by over 650 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies for use in enhancing and coordinating law enforcement investigations."
The CFPB is Liz Warren's old shop, created to protect the US public from bad actors among banks, etc. Neither they nor VA get enough credit for what they do.
You can find the feedback system at:
for more info, check out:
Posted on January 24th, 2014 by Craig Newmark
An older photo of me with the Note II, I've upgraded to the III since…
To make sense of the following, consider that I identify as 1. nerd, fifties-style, and 2. customer service rep for over eighteen years. While customer service comes first, my time is also spent in public service and philanthropy, quietly for the most part. For me, all that means I need a lean and effective set of tools.
(Yes, this is obsessive, and it's been each and every day for all of the nineteen years, but I really am a nerd, and that's how we roll.)
Maybe eighty percent of my work can be done with a good, large smartphone. I'm using a Samsung Galaxy Note III, which gets the job done. It helps that I can use alternate on-screen keyboards, making typing much easier. What really helps are keyboards where you can swipe across the keyboard to type, like Swype and SwiftKey.
Home screen widgets also make my life easier, particularly my calendar, but also weather, and wifi, and 4G signal strength.
The Chrome browser syncs up with my desktop and notebook systems, easing my work burden a great deal.
With the shutdown of Google Reader, well, I've been trying out Feedly: So far, so good.
I also read a lot of books, maybe eight per month, and the large screen is good for my eyes. Using the Kindle app, but it's growing problematic. (I've read around 700 books, mostly science fiction. See comment about 1. being a nerd, and 2. how we roll.)
This kind of phone is really a handheld computer/communicator, and that will be an increasing reality as its software evolves. Maybe in a few years a good phone will be the only system we have, automatically connecting wirelessly to larger screens and keyboards.
Speaking of larger screens and keyboards, sometimes I really need that, as well as some specific software. When I travel, my solution is a MacBook Pro Retina 13". In my home office, I use the MacBook.
Stuff evolves, and my watch is becoming more useful. Through my life, a watch has been the only bling I wear, though I added a wedding ring last year. However, I'm now donning a Pebble watch, which combines a nice looking analog watch with extra function. It functions as a little smartwatch with caller id and text messages, which has proven unexpectedly useful. (For older readers, it's the Dick Tracy kind of deal, you'd see me interacting with my watch. That's no longer a sign of eccentricity… I think.)
My deal really does involve the smallest set of tools needed to get the job done, wherever I am. It'll be interesting to see how the phone might supplant notebook and desktop usage, and to see how watches and other wearable computing gadgets evolve.
Less is more, but whatever tools I use, the job's gotta get done. After all, a nerd's gotta do what a nerd's gotta do.