Monthly Archives: May 2009

Happy birthday Gruffalo!

I couldn’t resist sharing this clip of Julia Donaldson and her husband singing Happy Birthday to the Gruffalo. A bright spot on a dull winter’s day.

The fearsome but loveable Gruffalo turned 10 years old in March. There are monster celebrations at the official website, as well as loads of other fun.

Don’t get tempted to search for Gruffalo on YouTube – there are 94 results: moms and pops reading to their children, live performances, interviews with the author, and an Iron Maiden song – huh!

On a more grown-up note, I first discovered the anniversary by chance through a video on the Guardian website from the Hay literary festival: “Julia Donaldson talks about her monster creation The Gruffalo” (26 May 2009). On an adjacent page, Robert McCrum takes a more rarified tack reaching back to the 17th century, see “The giant of modern literature? It has to be The Gruffalo”.

Any excuse to finish up early, I’m off to read a book to my daughter. Perhaps another of Donaldson’s picture books – which I don’t find burdensome to read over and over and over – like “Sharing a shell” or “Room on the Broom”.

Facebook – straight from the horses mouth

The most common question that came up yesterday at a presentation I gave to the Comms2Comms network in Wellington was about how to set up a Facebook presence for a community organisation.

There was barely a mention of any other social networks. For good reason. Facebook is nearly always in the top five most visited websites in New Zealand. In the week ending 23 May, Facebook trailed third behind Google and TradeMe in the Hitwise statistics. 3.37% of all NZ internet traffic headed to Facebook. The next mostly highly visited social network is Bebo, at 15th most popular.

To find out how to get started I went straight to the horses mouth. Facebook itself produces useful resources:

Randi Zuckerberg, Facebook’s Marketing Director recently gave some tips and insights from the inside. On 13 May 2009 he presented a 45 minute NTEN webinar on Using Facebook Pages for Social Good”. He and a colleague covered the basics, with lots of time devoted to answering questions from the audience. I listened to a recording so I didn’t get to ask one myself.

Randi concluded by saying they can’t give any universal answers. With 250 million people signed up, things tend to ebb and flow. “The the only way for you to find out what works is to get on there.”

Beth Kanter posted notes summarising the webinar and lists about 20 useful guides and articles about using Facebook. Plus many readers chipped in their own thoughts. See her blog post “So you want a Facebook Fan Page for Your Nonprofit? Here’s the Scoop!”

On CommunityNet Aotearoa, the Social Networking Guide has straight forward guides to setting up Bebo, Facebook and MySpace pages. There’s lots of other news, links and guides.

A search for Facebook on the groupings blog brings up many posts about Facebook and other social networks, including some New Zealand examples. It’s a great place to share your own experiences.

This is just the tip of the Facebook iceberg in terms of guidance, opinions, etc. If pressed, I’d say the best way to learn is by doing.

BTW: The notes and presentation from my talk are now online: “A toe in the water… {revisited}: Comms2Comms presentation”.

A toe in the water… {revisted}: Comms2Comms presentation

At the Comms2Comms network meeting in Wellington on 27 May 2009 I made a presentation on “A toe in the water”. The focus is on using social media for good causes.

My talk was a follow-up to an article published in Foresee Communications “Fundraising in New Zealand”, called “A Toe in the Water: using social networks for good causes” in September 2008.

See my blog post about the presentation: “Facebook – straight from the horses mouth”.

Websites mentioned

ConnectingUp 08 conferences: 2008 in Brisbane, 2009 in Sydney
CommunityNet Aotearoa website
CommunityCentral network
Forest & Bird blog
Sounz on YouTube
Hitwise – website statistics
World Internet Project, NZ report, AUT
WFF Climate Action Witness on flickr
End child poverty in New Zealand by 2020 – Facebook cause
WiserEarth network
Intrepid Volunteer Challenge – Ning networking site
Ning, social networking platform
Downtown Community Ministry on twitter
flickr Creative Commons photos
Give a little gifting website
Oxfam – website, YouTube, Facebook, flickr and twitter
Sharing Foundation
Beth Kanter interviewed about online fundraising, 27 January 2007.
Social Innovation Camp, on Ning

Other resources

Examples, exemplars

Giving Good Poke: Personal, Socially Networked Fundraising wiki – Beth Kanter
Using Metrics To Harvest Insights About Your Social Media Strategy (16 Jan 2009) – Beth Kanter

Talks and webinars

ConnectingUp 08 keynote presentations, including Bill Strathmann, Network for Good; and Beth Kanter
NTEN/TechSoup Global Webinar Series: Social Media and Storytelling – free online webinars, Jan-Feb 2009

Garage give-away – cancelled

Apologies to anyone who turned up at 1pm on Saturday expecting to find a treasure trove. I cancelled the garage give-away I wrote about last week (see “Garage give-away – 1pm 16 May 2009”). Sorry I didn’t have time to put up a notice.

My decision hinged on the difficulty of advertising a real world event without the time or money to make it a success. Also, as I was giving stuff away I didn’t really want to pay to find people to give stuff to.

Nonetheless I’ve almost given away everything on my list (see the garage give-away page). Almost everything found a home through one online means or another.

This is how things unfolded….

A regular blog reader David Cross, whose work I’ve written about before (see “Downtown Community Ministry now on Facebook”), suggested I drop stuff off at the Island Bay Presbyterian Church (IBPC) which ran a garage sale on 16 May. I did just that. Salving my agnostic conscience and hopefully helping out the IBPC’s appeal for funds to support the work of the Presbyterian Church of Myanmar.

I’ve used Wellington Freecycle within the rules, ie advertising a series of single items. It’s been amazingly successful… a box of paint pots was grabbed seven minutes after the offer went up, and about six people wanted the juicer.

An early vintage Phil & Teds mountain buggy, which I thought would be consigned to the scrap heap, was also taken. It had a bent clasp which meant it was rejected by the recycling shed at the southern landfill – they only accept things that work.  I hope the new owners can truly wear it out.

Of all the interaction on Freecycle, only one exchange has gone awry. Maybe Monica didn’t get my message – whatever, the table is still sitting where I said it would be. Uncollected. Forlorn.

A chat with my neighbour, one of the few methods of passing on surpluses used since time immemorial, solved the puzzle of what to do with six rusty painter’s brackets and a couple of open bags of instancrete. Gone.

Being grandiloquent about freecycle is so tempting and I’m restraining an urge to rave on about Robert Puttman’s theories of social capital, or again raising Clay Shirky’s theories of how the Internet is lowering the barrier to people self-organising. I won’t. Instead I’ll simply say – cheers to the folk who helped us give stuff to each other.

PS We’ve still got a student study table; small, folding side table in green; and a bookcase to find homes for. Any takers?

So many ways to skin a cat presentation

My presentation to the Connecting Up 09 conference, 12 May, Sydney, Australia. I talk about the process of bringing CommunityCentral into life, with a focus on how we user stories helped bridge the gap between the project and our developers.

Below is the presentation I made (plus there is also a copy publicly available on SlideShare), plus some links to other conference related material, including some blog posts I wrote.

Blog posts and other material

“Privacy concerns raised at Connecting Up 09 conference”, 12 May 2009
“Type quietly please – from Connecting Up conference, Sydney”, published on Groupings blog, 13 May 2009
“So many ways to skin a cat presentation”, 13 May 2009
Flickr photos of my trip to Sydney – cua09 conference photoset

“What are people saying about me online?” article

This article was submitted to the Not for profit management magazine July 2008 issue.

Right now a supporter could be writing on the internet about your cause or organisation. The chances are you won’t even know it.

There are many, many ways this happens. Personal fundraising websites, blogs, microblogging, discussions forum and comments on articles are some of the ways people can say their say.

A keen supporter running a marathon can easily collect funds on your organisation’s behalf. The appeal for funds is just one part of what they’re doing. Before running the 42.195 km they’ll tell their story why your work is important.

It’s good to know what people are saying about you. Taking things a step further, organisations can reach out to supporters as a way of building their constituency.

You might think this means a lot of time needs in front of a computer searching bebo and facebook, but that is not necessarily the case. Many strategies raised at the Connecting Up 08 conference, held in Brisbane 19-20 May 2008, pointed to low stress ways of using online tools to benefit not for profit organisations.

Start by watching

Conference keynote presenter Beth Kanter, a professional blogger from Boston, watches what community and voluntary organisations are doing online. She’s had to develop some effective techniques to stay informed, but not be swamped.

She let it slip that she has a few thousand friends on facebook and on she has hundreds followers. On her authoritative blog Beth gets tonnes of feedback and heady conversation sometimes flows over several days.

From these different websites Beth has created a virtual network of people, many working in IT and communications roles within not-for-profit organisations. The beauty of the network is that people are openly talking and sharing information about their work. Beth provokes conversation, and dips in from time-to-time by asking direct questions. People also volunteer information about projects and ideas.

On whatever scale might be appropriate, this type of networking is available to anybody or any organisation. It’s a way of connecting that the internet uniquely enables.

Beth recommends three steps for organisations wanting to use new online tools:

1. Start by listening.
Get online and search out places where people maybe talking about your organisation. This maybe popular websites such as daily newspapers or auction sites, or it could be individual bloggers. You can automate listening to some by using Google Alerts, or signing up to feeds from social bookmarks and blogs.

2. When you’re ready, join the conversation.
Start simply by making a comment. But as you begin to see the benefits of conversing, dig deeper by watching what other people say in response to your comments. Keep a track of responses and add your own.

3. Finally, experiment.
Beth recommends starting with a blog, but you could also start with an individual profile on a social networking website. The best rule of thumb is use to trial and error as there is replacement for hands-on experience (see the article on TechSoup listed below).

Some other hints

When I wandered around the Connecting Up conference, at times people had glazed looks in their eyes as they tried to cope with the sheer volume of opportunities online. One person I spoke said she’d heard people say, “this is all too much” about a hundred times.

Stuart Jones, who offers IT training in a small community centre in Milang, South Australia, is very aware of this. That’s why he ran a workshop at the conference on how to avoid being swamped (see side box for more details).

“If you think there is just too much to take in, don’t panic,” Stuart says. “Technology should be enjoyed, and even more importantly… you should enjoy learning about it.”

Beth Kanter talked about personal discipline. Just dip into facebook when you’ve finished a big piece of work. Or designate Friday for flickr and Tuesday for twitter.

Assigning someone the role technology scout within an organisation was suggested. Rather than someone who fixes printers and helps with software problems, the scout’s role is to explore emerging technologies and suggest what could work for your group. (See the Webguide article listed below.)

Members of a team or organisation may agree to share around the task of exploring new online tools. Each week schedule a report back on the usefulness of tools to specific organisational goals. There is a danger of licensing unproductive surfing unless you set boundaries.

Even a small amount of time can be useful. While running an online community or network may take 20 or more hours a week, to listen in on what’s being said about your organisation takes as little as 10 minutes a day.

The newness of what is happening online can’t hide the fact that people are all too human. From time to time, there’ll be stuff raised you don’t want to hear. Should I turn a blind eye or is it better to know what’s being said?

It’s not easy being open to the world wide web and accepting everyone’s point of view. But hearing what people have to say – the good, bad and ugly – and connecting with supporters, can help you achieve more than you might otherwise be able to.

CISA (now called Connecting Up Australia) sponsored Stephen to attend the Connecting Up 08 conference.

Box 1: The fritz and sauce method for dealing with the information flood

On the shores of Lake Alexandrina 75km south of Adelaide they serve pretty good fritz and sauce (a South Australian delicacy consisting of fried luncheon sausage and sauce encased in fresh, white bread). Although this dish wasn’t on the Connecting Up 08 conference menu, Stuart Jones, the IT support and training officer at Milang Old School House Community Centre (MOSHCC), served up some advice on how the Centre deals with the flood of information online.

During his workshop Stuart shared his personal favourites from the many ways MOSHCC stays on top:

  1. Listen to podcasts to keep on top of technology changes. Favourite shows include “This Week in Tech”, “net@nite” on, and the “Buzz Report” (
  2. To keep track of social networks, rss and multimedia media try the Flock web browser (
  3. Keep reading, or listening, let it soak into the back of your brain. Even if you don’t know yet, it may come in handy, but it also introduces you to those ideas behind where all this stuff is going.
  4. The key thing is, to quote Leo Laporte, host of “This Week In Tech” on
  5. “There is an old way of thinking that you have to somehow keep up. That is really what is getting in your way: you can’t, give up, release, let go. However if you bathe in this stream of information you get plenty. Wade through this stream without holding on…the key is not worrying about missing something.”

MOSHCC website and Stuart’s new blog Fritz and Sauce

Box 2: What’s twitter all about?

On you can send micro messages (140 characters or less) to let people know what you’re doing, or ask questions, or crack a joke. Beth Kanter describes twitter as a giant cocktail party. People can follow your micro messages on the internet or even by sms text messages.

According to Eddie Harran from Brisbane, “Twitter is my “brain trust” – a source of collaborative intelligence where everyone is on a level playing field. Utilised effectively, it can help one connect with others, discuss ideas, and share knowledge.”

Useful links

“Technology scout – an asset for every organisation”, Webguide NZ
“Eight secrets for effective online networking”, TechSoup
Beth Kanter’s blog
Connecting Up 08 conference papers and resources