Proud to be Suba!

Hey, I’ve mentioned the support I’ve provided 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. I shared Eric’s  story about not being able to press the keyboard buttons earlier this month, and here’s Nancy’s story:

I am Nancy, I was born in Mfangano and raised in Kisumu City. All my life I familiarized myself with technology, everything around me was connected to the use of computers and other electric devises. After nine years of living in the City, I was to move back to Mfangano to work in the EK Center as a radio presenter. I was thrilled by the idea because I did not know what to expect in the Island since it was considered a remote place without any development. I knew life was going to be quite different and difficult especially on the communication part.

To my surprise, things were different from what I thought. As I got into EK Center, I was amazed at the sight of it, the different kinds of programs that were run in the center, especially the IT and Radio department. I was relieved, they had the programs I thought would be a problem, communications! The first thing I did was to sit next to a computer and opened my favorite site, I usually use for communicating with my friends and the rest of the world, ‘Twitter’! Later I was taken to the radio, and for the first time in my life, I was heard speaking on the radio. I never thought such a great thing could happen to Mfangano Island; It gives me more reason to be a Suba!  Connecting with my friends all over the world from this ‘remote’ Island sounds a dream, to be exact so unreal!

Nancy Sungu EK Radio Presenter

Nancy Sungu is a young girl, who is a radio presenter with the EK Community Youth Radio

10 women entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter

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Folks, my team and I have listened to many of the suggestions you’ve been sending our way, and we’ve compiled a list of 10 women entrepreneurs that you should follow on Twitter. These women really have their boots on the ground, and are doing good work. Please comment below to share your favorite women entrepreneurs.

Majora Carter

Majora Carter is an internationally renowned urban revitalization strategy consultant, real estate developer, and Peabody Award winning broadcaster. She’s responsible for the creation & successful implementation of numerous green-infrastructure projects, policies, and job training & placement systems.
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majoracarter

Heather Russell

Heather Russell told TechHub that she became an entrepreneur because “My parents are artists and writers and always had their own business. From ad agency to travel agency. I just grew up without a concept of working for someone else and to do your own thing, your own way.”//

heatherrussell

Aliza Sherman

Aliza Sherman helped pave the way for women online and in the Internet industry. She is a web and social mobile pioneer whose work helped shape the early new media industry. In addition to starting the first woman-owned Internet company in the early 90s, Cybergrrl, Inc., she’s been writing, speaking and consulting about social media since 2006 and social mobile marketing since 2010. She is also well known for her expertise on women’s technology and business issues.

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Natalia Oberti Noguera

Natalia Oberti Noguera is Founder and CEO of Pipeline Fellowship, an angel investing bootcamp for women that’s changing the face of angel investing and creating capital for women social entrepreneurs.
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natalia

Melinda Emerson

Melinda Emerson, known as SmallBizLady, has been a thriving entrepreneur for nearly 15 years and is an internationally known keynote speaker. A pioneer in social media marketing, she’s the creator and host of #Smallbizchat, the longest running live chat on Twitter for small business owners.
//

melindaemerson

Arianna Huffington

Arianna Huffington is the Chair, President, and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, a nationally syndicated columnist, and author of fourteen books. In May 2005, she launched The Huffington Post, a news and blog site that quickly became one of the most widely-read, linked to, and frequently-cited media brands on the Internet.
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arianna

Susan Wojcicki

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Susan Wojcicki is the CEO of YouTube. Previously, she was the Senior Vice President of Advertising & Commerce at Google. She oversaw the design, innovation and engineering of Google’s advertising, commerce, and measurement platform products, including AdWords, AdSense, DoubleClick, Offers, and Google Analytics.

 

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Marissa Mayer

Marissa Mayer is the current President and CEO of Yahoo! since July 2012. Previously, she was a long-time executive and key spokesperson for Google.
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marissa

Helene Gayle

Helene Gayle joined CARE USA as president and CEO in 2006. Prior to her current position, she was the director of the HIV, TB, and reproductive health program for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
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helene

Ellen Degeneres

Ellen DeGeneres is a stand-up comedian, television host, and actress. She starred in the popular sitcom Ellen from 1994 to 1998 and has hosted the syndicated talk show The Ellen DeGeneres Show since 2003, going on its 11th year.
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ellen

I Could Not Press the Computer Keyboard Buttons

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

 

Eric Omondi is a youth and is currently a volunteer in the EK FM Youth Radio, a project under EK Center

 

 

 

Why I’m a nerd and not a geek

I’m not going to wind up saying that being a nerd is better than being a geek. It’s just different and overlapping.

Craigpocketprotector

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.

comicbookguy

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.

Productivity Hacks: Get Out of the Way

collaborate-and-listenvanillaice

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.

GI Bill complaint system helps protect vets and families

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.”

hollysm1

“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:

http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/feedback.asp

http://www.militaryonesource.mil/voluntary-education?content_id=274604

for more info, check out:

http://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=2516

http://www.consumerfinance.gov/blog/new-feedback-system-for-gi-bill-and-tuition-assistance-recipients/

Things I Carry: A Nerd’s Survival Kit

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.

5 Great Martin Luther King Jr. Photos

“Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice” – Martin Luther King, Jr. This motivates most all of my public service and philanthropy and proceed.

Folks, been thinking a lot about MLK today, a real good man who was taken from us too soon. Here’s 5 great photos of him along with some of his best quotes that my team put together. Feel free to share your favorites too in the comments.

Microsoft Word - MLK08 Project Leader Flyer Fullsize.doc

mlk5

MLK4

Martin Luther King Jr. at March on Washington

MLK2.2

 

 

 

 

5 websites you should be glad exist

It’s a little hard to say, since most of my reading is via RSS feeds. But if I were to pick a few sites I couldn’t live without, I’d have to go with the following.

    1. Maybe Political Wire for best political summary.
      powire
    2. HuffPost for general news…
      huffpo
    3. Dilbert; Seriously, I lived the Dilbert life for nearly twenty years, often failing to learn what normal people learning growing up.dilbert
    4. Consumerist for updates on consumer reports.
      consumerist
    5. …and because I couldn’t resist, craigslist.cl

 

I’m keeping an eye out for new sites to follow in 2014. What sites are your favorite go-to websites? (And more on my favorite podcasts later…)

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