Archive for The Point

Craig on Obama’s ‘Craigslist for Service’

As Craig Newmark notes in an article on Huffington Post, President-elect Barack Obama ran on a platform that included a call for a national “craigslist for service.” But as Newmark writes, he’d like craigslist itself used “only a metaphorical reference to the need for greater service to others, with the spirit and culture of trust of craigslist.”

Besides, notes Newmark, there are already many outlets for service and involvement, including some of the organizations and sites profiled in CauseWired. He lists five ways for Americans to get involved with a “craigslist for service,” and notes the value of the public pledge in encouraging others:

To make this really happen, people need to declare themselves publicly, to commitment to some form of service, and follow through. This is like the pledge system of the Clinton Global Initiative, or pledgebank.com, or thepoint.com. We’ll need something which scales to the tens of millions, which also plugs into the social networking tools people actually use.

He’s got a point: the best in social networking involves the abandonment of anonymity and the embrace of the self in a very public fashion. Clearly, Obama’s campaign tapped that next-stage, public Internet over the past two years – and there’s real value to leveraging what has been a political campaign into more of a national movement. As Newmark says: “I feel that we’re entering a new time of civic engagement, where people can help others out in small or big ways.”

‘People will do what matters’

Andrew Mason, founder and CEO of The Point, a for-profit online social activism platform, has written a brief manifesto for his company, he posted on Make Something Happen, the company’s blog. It’s quite good if stratospheric, and I particularly liked the first part:

People want a way to make a difference, but feel powerless to solve the problems that can’t be solved alone. Inaction stems from a pragmatic judgment that participating doesn’t matter. Not apathy. If we think there are too few people to achieve a goal, we don’t bother. If we think there are too many, we don’t bother. But if the conditions exist for individual participation to be meaningful, we will take action.

H/T to Joe Solomon at Social Actions.

That Start-Up Vision Thing

I found a remarkably honest post from the founder of The Point, Andrew Mason, over at GigaOm. The Point helps people start and run campaigns and is one of many growing platforms in the busy online social activism sector. Andrew’s post is a great one for any social entrepreneur to key in on, but I was struck by this bit of practical history:

In our case, we spent nine months developing extra features to accommodate our grand vision instead of focusing on what our users would really need. This cost us precious time, delaying our launch, originally planned for June 2007, to November of that year. Even after launch, the costs lingered — maintaining the extraneous features was a time-consuming distraction from improving the parts of The Point that people were actually using.

Thankfully, we caught on to what I call the curse of “vision overload” — when you put your vision ahead of your users — and quickly reversed course. This month we’re delivering a major upgrade to The Point, our first release in months, and we’ve actually cut more features than we’ve added. While arguably less grand, it adheres to the critical success maxim of KISS, or “Keep it Simple, Stupid!” All founders face an inherent conflict between their most ambitious visions and the practicalities of execution. Below I explain how The Point addressed this uncomfortable compromise, and how you can learn to KISS, too.

Read the rest, it’s great. In the sector I’ve written about in CauseWired, sometimes the vision is so strong – the desire for change so palpable – that driven founders can’t help but to add features and try every new idea and partnership that comes along. After all, they’re trying to change the world. But as Andrew points out, a little tunnel-vision can be a good thing indeed.