Archive for Twitter

CauseWired Alaskans Pick, Click and Give to Charity

Socially-conscious social media is working up north: Alaskans have taken to the Pick. Click. Give. campaign, which is leveraging platforms from Facebook and Twitter to YouTube and Causecast to draw attention to and explain the Permanent Fund Charitable Contributions Program. The program began officially in 2009 to allow Alaskans to donate a portion of their PFD to qualifying Alaska nonprofits of their choice while they filed online for their PFD. An underlying goal is to encourage individual philanthropy in Alaska. Here’s a Q&A on the program with my friend Aliza Sherman, a veteran digital guru and co-founder of the social media firm Conversify! in Alaska, and Jordan Marshall, initiatives & special projects manager for the Rasmuson Foundation and project manager for Pick. Click. Give.

1. Last year, Pick. Click. Give. raised more than half a million dollars for Alaskan nonprofits – how did it work and how was it unique to Alaska?

ALIZA: The entire Pick. Click. Give. awareness campaign is based on something inherently unique to Alaska: our Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) or the annual payment each Alaskan receives as part of a pay out to share in the state’s oil and gas profits. No other state provides a similar fund or payment to citizens of their state.

The overarching goal of the Pick. Click. Give. campaign is to draw attention to and explain the Permanent Fund Charitable Contributions Program. The program began officially in 2009 to allow Alaskans to donate a portion of their PFD to qualifying Alaska nonprofits of their choice while they filed online for their PFD. An underlying goal is to encourage individual philanthropy in Alaska.

Additionally, through social media, the Pick. Click. Give. campaign is working to give exposure to the program and motivate Alaskans to participate and to encourage their friends, family and followers to participate as well.

The previous year (2008) was spent assessing Alaska nonprofits based on a number of criteria to ensure that they qualify for the program as well as to set up the technical aspects of adding a list and way for Alaskans to check the organizations on that list they wished to support with an amount of their choice. Read the rest of this entry »

At Clinton Confab of Heavy-Hitters, Amplification and Distribution Comes from Below

bill clinton

Putting the imperative issue of civil rights and justice around the world for women and children front and center at this year’s Clinton Global Initiative required intense coordination between CGI and the Obama Administration – starting of course with the world’s foremost power couple.

But it also relied on some special sauce that was both unpredictable and incredibly effective: the distribution, discussion and amplification of social media.

This year’s CGI, which brought together more than 1,200 movers and shakers in New York in the cause of social change and international development, became a virtual boombox empowering women…and it’s a two part-story that reaches from the motorcades and presidential suites to digital alleyways of Twitter and blogland.

First, the top-down power messaging.

Fighting abuse and human trafficking of women and children is the signature issue for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who declared in her closing address: “we will put women at the heart of our efforts.”

Her husband, former President Clinton put the theme out front on the meeting’s first day: “Women perform 66 percent of the world’s work, and produce 50 percent of the food, yet earn only 10 percent of the income and own 1 percent of the property. Whether the issue is improving education in the developing world, or fighting global climate change, or addressing nearly any other challenge we face, empowering women is a critical part of the equation.”

And President Obama tied the work of his late mother in microfinance to the “spirit of the Clinton Global Initiative” and work empowering women and assisting children. His Administration was omnipresent at CGI, which coincides each year with the opening of the U.N. General Assembly. Besides Secretary Clinton, speakers included Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, economic adviser Larry Summers, and senior adviser Valerie Jarrett.

One of the highlights was a peppery panel the first day, hosted by Diane Sawyer of ABC News, featuring Melanne Verveer, the State Department’s Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, Zainab Salbi, founder and CEO of Women for Women International, and Edna Adan, director and founder of the Edna Adan Maternity and Teaching Hospital in East Africa, along with the head of the World Bank and CEOs of ExxonMobil and Goldman Sachs. And the panel brought about one electrifing moment: when Salbi challenged ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson’s statement that funding isn’t the problem – a fairly typical assertion these days. Retorted Salbi, whose organization provides women survivors of war, civil strife and other conflicts with the tools and resources to move from crisis and poverty to stability and self-sufficiency:

But women still get very small, women and girls, get so very small, minuscule amount of funding…One cent of every development dollar, less than one cent goes to girls. So when you look at the larger scope of development money and how much is being invested in so many other things, women and girls get the least amount of funding. Money is not the problem in terms of if it’s available, but the political decision to say we need to invest much more in girls and women is not fully there yet.

You sensed some “shareholder value” vs. “humanity’s needs” tension on the panel, and indeed throughout this year’s CGI – where perhaps the corporate titans are taken for the infallible gurus of finance they were before the recession. Blogger Emily Davila at beyondprofit captured the panel’s vibe, the classic CGI combination of corporate powerhouses with practitioners:

On one hand, the unprecedented high-level private sector participation means that the women’s agenda has gone mainstream; real change will not happen if only women are talking to each other. On the other hand, the panel would not have succeeded if it hadn’t had two women from the trenches who could keep the discussion grounded in the life and death realities many women face.

Those life and death realities were emphasized in a news conference with Secretary Solis, who vowed that the Labor Department would pursue companies with slave labor in their supply chains, and Ambassador Verveer, who said that “modern-day slavery is a global scourge – no country is immune.”

Verveer and Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, who monitors human trafficking or the Obama Administration, clearly positioned the State Department as a new activist player on the issue. Indeed, Verveer wondered aloud if civil rights for women around the world hadn’t reached a “tipping point.”

If it has, the combination of star power on display at CGI and the bottom-up effect of social networking are playing complementary roles to U.S. government policy – a rare moment when an administration’s policy is in near-total sync with NGO and grassroots activists.

Star power also played a role. Film star Julia Ormond, who founded the Alliance to Stop Slavery and End Trafficking at CGI two years ago, said that “meeting with victims and hearing their story just seals the deal.” And singer Ricky Martin made it personal – and advanced the storyline – during a shutter-clcking appearance in a special session, well-captured by Ari Melber in his Nation blog:

When Ricky Martin took the stage at the Clinton Global Initiative on Thursday, he did not sing, or dance, or even flash his trademark grin. Following the same stage directions as dozens of other celebrities who dropped by Clinton’s 5th annual global summit, from Brad Pitt to Bono to Jessica Alba, Martin struck a somber note while discussing the fight against human trafficking.

“I feel that my heart is going to come out of my mouth,” he said, recounting his sadness for the “millions of children that didn’t make it.” Martin was followed by testimony from a woman who, along with her two children, was kidnapped and held for four years of forced labor.

Martin made his remarks in what an interesting venue for Twitter reach. His own tweets – “on the CGI it’ll b my honor 2 present heroes tht r doing gr8 thinx agnst human trffckng.will xchange ideas n learn what else needs 2 b done!” – reached more than 338,000 followers.

But the Twitter king – actor Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) – was also making the CGI scene with his wife, Demi Moore (@mrskutcher); he has a Twitter-leading 3.6 million followers, whilst she pitches short messages to 2.1 million more. The couple tweeted their commitment:

Hubby & I have started The Demi and Ashton Foundation or The DNA Foundation as we like 2 call it. We’re ready 2 help bring an end 2 slavery

And Kutcher sent his followers to the live CGI video stream for the plenary on human trafficking. He also found time to tweak a more senior delegate to the meeting:

Listening to John Glenn mock the social web because he doesn’t understand it. I wonder if people mocked his space program.

Meanwhile, Moore introduced her followers to the nation’s leading journalistic voice on the issue:

Sitting in listening 2 a panel speak on investing in Women & Girls at CGI. In Nick Kristoff’s words Women are the solution not the problem!

Celebrity tweets clearly go to a rather broad audience, but I think they help to reinforce a potential cultural shift in how we view sex trafficking and women’s civil rights. Repetition from the likes of an A-list TMZ-type couple can puncture the social permafrost around a difficult issue like this, and deliver it to the mainstream.

Besides, there’s a core audience for information from CGI that is not celebrity-obsessed: writers, analysts and bloggers who work in and around the “social sector” year-round. To a large degree, they carry a lot of the heavy baggage for CGI in terms of disseminating and discussing ideas and innovation with a wider audience.

It’s this group that sent a couple of dozen correspondents (including me and my CauseWired partner Susan Carey Dempsey) into the chaotic and tightly-controlled CGI press pool – a large-scale operation that is understandably focused primarily on the video and still cameras, there to capture the bigshots and stars. And it’s this group that now uses blogs, Facebook, and Twitter to spread some of the bigger thoughts and developments to an activist group beyond the (occasionally oppressive) Sheraton press room. And you could see a the big theme of women and girls sprouting everywhere you looked.

For instance, tweets with both the #cgi09 hashtag and “girls” appeared more than 200 times over the last week, #cgi09 and “women” was tweeted more than 450 times, and #cg09i and trafficking more than150 times. This doesn’t include the celebrities, who tend to use Twitter more as a broadcast medium and don’t tend to use the hashtags to organize the conversation.

Relatively small numbers – #cgi09 never “trended” into the top ten of Twitter tags – yet the audience for international development and human rights was paying attention around the virtual network. And that’s important for an issue that’s just arriving at its moment, getting its wider organizing chops together under a new Administration with an activist State Department.

That’s important to an undertaking like CGI, I think. Despite its success and the billions committed to helping people around the world, building a network to carry its causes onward – even at smaller scale – is crucial to getting beyond the limitations of one organization, however large and high-powered. Upwards of 30,000 people watched the proceedings via the live stream, which CGI made available this year as a widget anyone could use on their own sites to carry the proceedings.

It isn’t about making the power brokers haul out their iPhones and tweet from the inner circle. As Bill Clinton said in his summation: “Twitter. That’s a funny word.” But he still got the importance of distributing the discussion; he said CGI generated 80 tweets per hour, and that the social network – inside and outside the hall – is heling to power the bottom of the innovation pyramid.

Chat Catcher

The Clinton Global Initiative Loosens Its Digital Tie

Midtown Manhattan is in virtual lock-down, as motorcades shut streets and security agents create instant frozen zones to protect the heads of state here in New York for the United Nations General Assembly. Cabs are worthless hulks of immobile yellow metal. Buses are very nearly short-stay hotel rooms. And the commuter trains and subways run under extra vigilance, under reputed threat from terrorist explosions.

Here at the Sheraton, security is as tight as the bedsheets in the presidential suite upstairs – President Barack Obama is due this afternoon to help kick off the 5th annual Clinton Global Initiative, the massive who’s who gathering of heads of state, movie stars, philanthropists and corporate titans (if any can be said to exist in 2009).

Yet the word here in the blogger and media bunker a couple of floors below the CEOs and Nobel types is that Bill Clinton’s dizzying annual confab of development and do-gooderism is more “open” than before.

Oh, not in the most obvious ways: you generally still have to be somebody of serious accomplishment or pony up for a large-scale commitment to the developing world or domestic poverty to get a delegate’s badge. At CGI, Brad Pitt’s the leading voice on New Orleans. And that’s no accident – star power drives this show, which is all about bringing attention to the world’s problems. That is succeeds wildly nearly nine years after President Clinton left office is testament to both his contacts and continued energy – and to the people who make this thing run. Super Bowls have fewer moving parts.

So yes, it’s very much a top-down affair from a messaging standpoint. What President Obama says, what Bill Clinton highlights, what Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Ashton Kutcher promote, what Al Gore,  Queen Rania and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton comment upon – those items will drive the headlines and the video spots on cable TV.

Yet that summation would ignore a trend that’s as plain as the code on the CGI webcast of the sessions: a Twitter app that allows anyone to ask questions of the participants. It’s a small foot in the door, I think, for a conference that ranks with Davos in high octane policy-making and is unsurpassed in attendance by heads of state from around the world.

This year, you also sense that the Tweetstream – and its ubiquitous #cgi09 tag – isn’t limited to a handful of symbolic tweets from the movie stars and the constant updates from bloggers; many of the delegates are posting as well from their iPhones and Blackberries. Then too, bloggers are now allowed access to some of the smaller speciality sessions – like ‘The Infrastructure of Human Dignity: Protecting the Most Vulnerable’ on Thursday – that we used to have to watch closed-circuit television to listen in on. And last night, President Clinton hosted another late-night roundtable with bloggers; I couldn’t make it this year, but was at last year’s and it’s generally a free-wheeling session on an incredible variety of serious policy topics. This year’s CGI is also streaming video outside the Sheraton more completely than in year’s past – an overt attempt to carry the conversation beyond the hotel walls.

This will never be Bar Camp or Netroots Nation. It’s not exactly the barbarian’s storming the gates, either. Yet despite the wall of hard-nosed security on the way in, CGI is opening up. And given the importance of this gathering to social entrepreneurship and international development, that opening may encourage more bottom-up involvement.

Why Seth Godin Is Wrong (Updated)

Online marketing guru Seth Godin takes aim at nonprofits in a widely-quoted blog post “The problem with non” today, a diatribe of sorts that repeats a meme that’s been active in American philanthropy circles for at least a decade: nonprofits are afraid of change.

And it’s true, of course – at least on the surface. Most organization, especially large ones, do not race to take risks. But Godin’s piece is both simplistic and under-reported. Sure, it’s easy to say – as he does – that “non-profits, in my experience, abhor change.” Yet in my experience, they hate a change a lot less than failure – and they also hate change less than vast swaths of the corporate world (Wall Street and big insurance leap to mind).

It’s dismissive at the extreme to lob this kind of question: “When was the last time you had an interaction with a non-profit (there’s that word again) that blew you away?” Besides, Godin’s “success” metrics are wacky:

Take a look at the top 100 twitter users in terms of followers. Remember, this is a free tool, one that people use to focus attention and galvanize action. What? None of them are non-profits. Not one as far as I can tell. Is the work you’re doing not important enough to follow, or is it (and I’m betting it is) paralysis in decision making in the face of change? Is there too much bureaucracy or too much fear to tell a compelling story in a transparent way?

[snip]

If you spend any time reading marketing blogs, you’ll find thousands of case studies of small (and large) innovative businesses that are shaking things up and making things happen. And not enough of these stories are about non-profits. If your non-profit isn’t acting with as much energy and guts as it takes to get funded in Silicon Valley or featured on Digg, then you’re failing in your duty to make change.

Twitter followers? Digg counts? Pitching Silicon Valley VC’s? It doesn’t ring true. Sure, passion and the willingness to take risks matter – but I don’t think a simplistic techno-capitalist argument can be spread across the vastness of 501c3-land.

For one, I’m impressed every week by the work of nonprofits – work that does indeed, blow me away. And for another, there is some risk-taking out there – more and more capital directed toward experimentation – and some terrific advances in story-telling, organizing, fundraising, and activism. My book spent much 200 pages covering those stories. You want Twitter? Social change bloggers often dominate the serious discussion of social media’s impact.

This comment is particularly wrong-headed: “The only reason not to turn this over to hordes of crowds eager to help you is that it means giving up total control and bureaucracy.”

Undoubtedly, control and bureaucracy can be big problems with nonprofits, large and small. But does anyone now living believe that the most philanthropic nation in the history of the world should devolve its nonprofit and service sector into a crowd-sourced cyberlibertarian throw of the dice at utopia? Yes, $300 billion annually is less than 2% of GDP – but it’s a vital 2% for those who rely on the services and support that nonprofits provide.

I don’t – and I preach digital change to nonprofits every day. Change ain’t easy when the world keeps moving and you have the keep the lights on – ask the President.

Besides, nonprofits are way, way down the list of sectors that really abhor change. Wall Street, big insurance, government – now they really hate change. More nonprofits need to adapt, to experiment, to take risks, to embrace change. But they need to keep on providing services while they’re doing it.

I think the “non” in Seth’s post relates to its own currency frankly – it’s an old bromide that’s getting kinda stale.

UPDATE: Wow, lots of discussion in several interesting places. Let’s start with comments here. Seth responds to my post, and argues:

My point about VCs wasn’t that non profits should be raising money from them. It’s that we expect ‘real’ companies to be innovative risk takers, but somewhere along the way, the status quo for non profits has become to be boring.

And Seth’s basic point – that nonprofits accept a state of stasis too often (which I also agree with and have worked on for a decade) – won some positive comments, including Brad Rourke’s:

Seth’s description of the board meeting with the silent leaders felt eerily similar to meetings I have been in, where an uncomfortable proposition — perhaps as simple as “let’s eat our own dog food” — gets killed through inertia.

But others accused Seth of not tasting his own cooking – here’s Hildy Gottlieb:

I read the title and prepared to agree with Seth Godin on his post. Instead I laughed out loud. Why? Because Seth Godin is not on Twitter! He has a blog so he can blast out, but no way for readers to comment – no way for Mr. Godin to participate in the “social” part of social media.

And Sheva Nerad argued (persuasively, I think) that consumer marketing rules simply aren’t the same for nonprofits:

Godin’s rant about nonprofits completely ignores history of nonprofit institutions as petitioners as well as change agents. There is a different kind of risk taking involved when you’re marketing a luxury item, and social change is, alas, a luxury. NGOs have to be diplomats.

Further, says Kevin Williams, nonprofits (especially community-based organizations) have to adapt to survive, even if the pace isn’t always what we’d like it to be:

I work for a non profit and we embrace change. In face we have to in order to keep our advocates happy. The point that Mr. Godin missed is that non profits are constantly in the community talking and interacting with their advocates and donors. That’s where the real “change” happens.

Lots of other interesting comments – please read them and post your own. Elsewhere, some interesting commentary. At Beth Kanter’s place, there’s a great conversation around this – read all the comments and jump in – and here’s Beth’s take:

Change is hard for people and for people who work in nonprofits. Social media can also inspire timidness.  Seth’s painted a untrue picture of ALL nonprofits as deer frozen in the headlights. While there are many examples of nonprofits embracing social media and getting results with only a fraction of Ashton Kutcher’s Twitter followers – there are organizations that are not engaging.  If anything, Godin has got the attention of those who work in the nonprofit sector and are engaged in the social media conversation.  Whether or not that is only a small percentage of the nonprofit field or not remains to be seen.

Sean Stannard-Stockton did a special post on the controversy with lots of links, and takes the thoughtful middle road in judging the merits of the argument:

…we’ve come full circle. Tom, Beth and Seth are all right in my mind. Change is hard. Too many nonprofits (and philanthropists!) find change scary and by hunkering down instead of accepting uncertainty, they are wasting an opportunity to make a difference. Wasting an opportunity in the social sector means more people in poverty, fewer children with access to education, a quickly deteriorating environment. Seth is right to be pissed off.

But all is not lost! We are in the early stages of a technology and demographically driven Second Great Wave of Philanthropy. Books like Tom’s document the ways that more and more social change agents are getting comfortable with change and embracing new approaches.

Seth’s post was cranky, but he’s right. The work of nonprofits is too important for them to become paralyzed with fear.

Tom’s post was right as well. Everyone hates changes, not just nonprofits. And every day, more and more nonprofits are learning to overcome fear and more capital is being devoted to experimentation.

Geoff Livingston says Godin didn’t delve deeply enough before broadly characterizing nonprofits, and offers some examples of innovation:

My response to this is when was the last time Seth Godin did actual work in the field? Because I work with both nonprofit and commercial entities, and I can tell you which sector is getting it faster: Nonprofits. Much faster. If Seth did actual field work — instead of promoting his personal brand and ideas — he might have practical experience to cite in his lament. Instead, we have an uninformed opinion.

Consider the Humane Society’s efforts or LiveStrong’s or Live Earth’s and the National Wildlife Federation. These are all big brands that I’ve talked to in the past two weeks! Then there’s the CDC actively engaging to combat H1N1.

In any case, the conversation’s a worthy one. Sean’s right when he says that “we need to get comfortable with discomfort.” The blog/Twitter argument is a good one, so it’s fair to recognize Godin’s spark. As Beth says (in comments, above): “Anyway, he got us all blogging, twittering, and Facebooking about it …” Exactly. Thanks, Seth!

Social Media Fatigue? Sure – But It’s All Good

To anyone who’s worked in direct fundraising, “churn” isn’t exactly a new concept. Indeed, losing members of any list comes with the territory of appealing for money to support causes. Yet when users leave social networks it seems somehow different than opting out of an email list. That’s because the investment of personal time and informational capital is much higher than signing up for an e-blast. You’ve made “friends” or garnered “followers.” You’ve created an identity. You’re part of an interconnected network sharing not only your favorite causes, but your likes and dislikes, the books you’re reading, the music you like, the movies you love.

When someone signs off from Facebook – someone who’s been pretty active and involved – it feels like the person’s disappeared. When an active Twitterer leaves, there’s a void; a channel of information with a real person behind it has gone dark.

And then there’s the hype factor. Facebook and Twitter have been deservedly promoted as the largest (Facebook) and the coolest (Twitter) social networks ever launched, the new Microsoft and Apple, harbingers of vast societal change. Yet the inevitable “is that all there is?” factor was always heading down the highway. You knew there’d be a backlash, particularly against two private corporations that assumed such important societal positions. Virginia Heffernan’s column in last Sunday’s Times was the roadside flare for that head-on collision, taking on the anecdotal surge in Facebook farewells among the writer’s friends:

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold. Facebook, the online social grid, could not command loyalty forever. If you ask around, as I did, you’ll find quitters. One person shut down her account because she disliked how nosy it made her. Another thought the scene had turned desperate. A third feared stalkers. A fourth believed his privacy was compromised. A fifth disappeared without a word.

Ask around, and you’d find quitters on Twitter too. And among some of the next rung sites like Digg, Ning and Mahalo. And among bloggers, Flickr photo-sharers, YouTube videographers, and various people-powered networks of all shapes and sizes. Churn happens. Time is limited. Life intervenes. As Heffernan (I writer I admire) says later in the piece: “Many seem to have just lost their appetite for it: they just stopped wanting to look at other people’s photos and résumés and updates, or have their own subject to scrutiny.”

Exactly. Yet as my friend, venture capitalist Fred Wilson, responded on his blog: “…churn is part of online media, particularly social media. People come and go. Some stick around, some don’t. These stories about quitters are true of course, but they miss the big picture. More and more people are using these services every day.” And then Fred posts the latest Comscore numbers for Facebook and Twitter. About 52 million people visited to super-hyped Twitter in July, makiing it the 47th most popular site on the Web – an incredible growth story that continues. And an whopping 370 million visited Facebook. As Fred says: “Facebook is a global juggernaut. It is the fourth most popular website in the world after Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo!”

So if Aunt Sally and that boy you dated back in college drop from site on Facebook – and that social entrepreneur tires of Twitter – it’s interesting from a personal standpoint. But the sheer size and continued growth of the largest social media properties makes them ever more important on the social commons, in my view – particularly as they continue to be places of experimentation and innovation in fundraising and philanthropy.

Tweeting the Pandemic

The very word “pandemic” can sow panic, activating dystopian nightmares of mob rule and societal breakdown keyed to cultural memories of movies like Outbreak and 28 Days. As the swine flu epidemic kills scores of people in Mexico and leaps borders and oceans in this modern transcontinental age with alarming ease, it’s tempting to bite down hard on the urge for news and an emotional response short of mass hysteria.

And while Twitter and social networks can satisfy the hunger for information with amazing speed, it’ll be interesting to see what role they play in either feeding or tamping down societal panic. In other words, will Twitter and Facebook and all the other forms of sharing links (and fear) assist our global society in dealing with a kind of virality none of us wants to see expanded.

In the early stages of what threatens to be a major worldwide health challenge, the flow of information from my “follows” at Twitter beats any other amalgamation tool. The death toll postings, news of new outbreaks, and government warnings and policies hit my own Twitter stream faster than they do my email inbox, and from a much wider variety of sources. The #swineflu hashtag is a seriously central spigot for information – it took my, for instance, to a Google map created by “niman,” described as a biomedical researcher from Pittsburgh, which seems to be the most complete, up-to-date graphical tracker of the outbreak I can find.

But the #swineflu hashtag is also a virtual spinal tap into the core of societal fear over the kind of pandemic we’ve always been warned about – the one without a cure that jumps species and borders and threatens civil society. Spend some time the hashtag on the pandemic (of course it’s number one) and you’ll peer into that fearful “group soul” – or rather, the fearful group soul of early adopters and techno geeks. Some try to undersell the danger, with playful (hopeful?) references to “hangnails” and government over-reaction and having a good excuse to skip work. But I also sense in some of the joking a rather wishful urge for gallows humor, as if a few good tweets can make it all go away. “More people are currently sick from eating bad alfalfa sprouts than from the #swineflu,” is one such tweet. And yet the WHO and the White House and the EU aren’t freaked out about alfalfa sprouts.

Yet others are far more serious, and the near-instant access to statistics and information about the epidemic clearly forces what is already a well-informed crowd to pay attention to seriously dark news. Here’s one such tweet: “up to 149 deaths in mexico city from #swineflu. That’s .09% fatality. But geez. Its going up so fast! Last nite was .05% fatality.”

One aspect of this pandemic-related information flow is crystal clear – in times of crisis, people turn to their governments for guidance and assistance. The US government’s PandemicFlu site is cited in hundreds of Twitter posts, blog posts, and Facebook feeds and clearly, some wired civil servants are working overtime to keep the official view as up to date as possible.

Clearly, we don’t yet know how bad this pandemic will be – and pandemic it is, with news of cases in Scotland and Spain to go along with Mexico, the U.S and Canada – but I for one find some comfort in a personalized flow of information that didn’t exist a few years ago. After the disasters like Hurricane Katrina and the San Diego wildfires (among others) it became clear that online networks would carry more of the societal weight during times of crisis, that they hold the potential for drawing citizens together to help. This is a new kind of crisis an along with the health warnings and news, we’ll be following the performance of social media in providing information … and in calming fear.

UPDATE: Via Andy Carvin, here’s Wikia’s flu wiki, by Jimmy Wales.

UPDATE II: The Google map has real accuracy problems, and wasn’t created by the Google team. I posted on it @techPresident.

Tanzania Twitterwall: Now That’s Donor Involvement!


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Originally uploaded by Epic Change

Brilliant job by the folks at Epic Change in following up on their successful Tweetsgiving fundraising campaign to build a school classroom in Tanzania via Twitter. The Tweetsgiving team raised over $11,000 in just 48 hours from 336 contributors – and Epic Change found a great way to say “thanks” and keep donors interested in the cause. When the classroom was painted, students from the school in Arusha put the Twitter handles of all the donors on the wall – and then uploaded the pics to Flickr. And yeah, there I am. Kind of gives new meaning to the term Twitter “follower,” as I’ll be following the progress of this school. An authentic donor connection in the CauseWired world.