LinkedIn’s George Anders to Nomads: ‘Network with Affection’

Does that phrase startle you? It floored me the first time I heard it from Mara Zepeda, a thriving Portland, OR entrepreneur. From my big company days, I’d regarded networking as a pretty relentless, sterile exercise. Go to a conference, collect business cards. Call 20 “contacts” and be satisfied if anyone engages at all.

The comforts of a big company logo and a shared contact management system could keep me going  forever. Flying solo, however, that hard-nosed old system falls apart.

I found myself swapping favors with other strivers, hoping that time and trust would take us to a good place. We started with trifles like restaurant recommendations or a few minutes of editing advice on a blog post; eventually, we teamed up on everything from high-profile speaking engagements to a hike across the Grand Canyon. We owned up to our vulnerabilities and created opportunities for each other.

The result: friendships across America (and England!) that straddled work and our off-duty identities in ways I hadn’t expected.

Source: George Anders via LinkedIn Pulse

Data Matchmaker, Make Me a Match

Drilling for data is a massive undertaking that requires more than most nonprofits have. Outside experts can help but work cultures need to change. How can digital nomads be partners in this new data endeavor?

stanford-pacs-data-on-purpose-promise-pitfalls-february-2018
Josh Levy headlines with digital security at Data on Purpose, Feb 15-16, 2018

In a public event put on by Stanford PACS in October, Josh Levy, founder and director of Digital Security Exchange, brought attention to a deep data deficit in the social sector. He says matchmaking as a metaphor is useful for understanding what his platform does, but it actually works more like a knowledge exchange.

For Levy, getting nonprofits to sync their data practices with the rest of the world isn’t a top-down assumption of we know what’s best, but rather an affirmation of the value many nonprofits bring to the digital security enterprise. Too bad they can’t see it.

Levy says, “The fundamental data literacy that needs to happen just isn’t in place, and that’s no one’s fault. Nonprofits are under-resourced, they’re under capacity, they have too few people working on too many things, making not enough money. So very rarely will there arise organically this notion of what about data, [much less] coming up with a governance model for it.”

Compounding the issue is organizational paralysis. Little room for advancement results in top-heavy, risk-averse, innovation-poor environments where very few have the time to regroup or improve. Not good, considering at what pace the social sector hemorrhages data. That’s hard knocks for many whose careers depend on knowing more about the people they serve. But help is in sight.

When it comes to solving problems, no sector is perfect, but all sectors working together can come close. Nonprofits shouldn’t take Levy’s observations as a scathing rebuke, but rather a call to improve. I’m lucky to have worked with a few nonprofits that are leading in the cross-sector space. TechSoup in San Francisco brings tech solutions to social change agents at reduced rates. The organization registered its one millionth NGO in 2015, and continues to make an imprint on social investment with a virtual slew of professional solutions from tech partners like Microsoft and Adobe.

TechSoup is a powerhouse already, but imagine the potential with two or three million nonprofits under the same umbrella of tech standards and codes of ethics. Many see cross-sector partnerships as the future of corporate social responsibility. It makes sense, given the ethical standards and insights of many nonprofits. As a resource for the social sector, TechSoup can help forge the relationships that facilitate quality and timely data flows, and build a data culture that values diffuse reciprocity as part of a core stratagem in the war against wicked problems.

Then there’s WINGS, the global association based in São Paulo. As a proverbial “butterfly on the wall” for more than three years, I was able to engage with experts ranging from social investors and SROI practitioners, to community philanthropists and tech4good software developers. Listening in on conversations between the world’s smallest and largest philanthropic organizations offered perspectives on how experts in different sectors relate to and communicate with one another.

WINGS, a metanetwork of 20+ thousand philanthropic entities, serves as an information broker that also drives standardization. In 2014, we launched a Global Philanthropy Data Charter designed to unite the sector around data and global development. In 2017, WINGS and Foundation Center released a new version that includes guidance on how to engage in data-sharing practices. I’m excited to see where the project goes, and how strategic alliances fare as a critical success factor.

The Charter gives nonprofits a practical place to start with their data. Theoretically, inertia takes over from there. Levy likens data to a “gateway drug,” in that once it enters your life, you begin thinking about how to store it, name it, control it and share it. By working with consultants who specialize in this line of work, nonprofits are in a better position to partner with the tech companies that are ready to provide funding.

Drilling for data is a massive undertaking that requires time and well-coordinated resources. And that’s not all. Before beginning, everyone from the CEO to the mail clerk has to be in sync with how they handle and report their data. Outside experts can help with data transformations, but work cultures must change first.

Nonprofits are strange birds crunched by capacity issues that weigh heavily on the sector as a whole. Corporate envy drives expectations, despite typically low levels of investment in tech and human resources. Levy says, “People with a high level of technical skill don’t always know where to apply that skill.” He’s talking about the highly specialized private sector employees who bring the fuel to cross-sector initiatives, an example of what Giving Tuesday’s Asha Curran calls “sector generosity.”

What’s ironic, though, is how the vast majority of nonprofit workers — the social change agents who move the needle on the ground — are underappreciated and, as Levy suggests however implicitly, underused.

This is due to what Sean McDonald at Digital Public calls “governance in a loop.” First, I think the elephant in the room, the topic no one wants to talk about but everyone should, is the antiquated power structures that tether nonprofits. A topic for another time, but in short, the social sector should experiment more with democratized models of governance and communication in the workplace.

McDonald says, “Governance, when inclusive, participatory and meaningful, teaches people a huge amount about process and underlying economies. Right now, we have a lot of closed door decision making determining what was historically public policy. We need more people involved in making decisions that define our norms around our norms, particularly norms around social sector and public interest work.”

Governance in this context clearly applies to the workplace. If funder-driven nonprofits are hard-pressed to work with budgets not made for people, how can they adequately invest in their employees, much less their data?

Reimagining mission objectives is a start; no one organization can do everything or be everything to everyone all of the time. Yet, nonprofits often expect too much of themselves and their workers. No strategic plan should be implemented without a focus on partnerships (internal or external), especially for nonprofits whose funder-driven objectives take the lion share of the daily humdrum.

Social change isn’t limited to the social sector. Nonprofits should be willing to outsource their data needs, much like they would for editorial, social engagement or event planning. But how would they do it? Pro bono talent agencies like Taproot are invaluable, but pro bono can only go so far. To scale up, nonprofits should consider integrating talent-for-hire programs into their budgets and innovation portfolios. How can remote workers become full-time partners in this endeavor?

Cross-sector initiatives like Digital Security Exchange can gauge the value of a distributed workforce of data experts. Echoing Microsoft’s call for tech companies to be “medics in cyberspace,” nonprofits can call on a workforce of digital nomads to help them transform their data into business intelligence. Given the current scenario, matching experts-for-hire with nonprofits in need isn’t such a bad idea.

Artwork: Takashi Murakami

Why People Leave Facebook

This 2013 HuffPost article on why folks leave Facebook is strangely coercive and symptomatic of a sort of Stockholm syndrome that’s infested marketing for years.

hiatus

A “toxic shock” has resulted from the algorithmic infection proliferated by News Feed, Google Search and other neocolonialist forms of digital content curation. The simple fact that Facebook impairs the ability to obtain objective information and engage meaningfully is reason enough to keep the social network at arm’s length.

As of 2014, all HuffPost comments are on Facebook’s system. This implies a conflict of interest for editors who would promote opinions that portray the network in a bad light. A smart move by a social network in crisis control mode, managing how millions of left-leaning millennials learn and share about it.

Facebook founders have since come out against the social network, admitting to what many suspect: that Facebook is, as a hacker might say, designed to exploit a vulnerability in human psychology. But we’re here. What happens now?

Want to bypass the drama and create a stronger bond with your audience?

  1. Expand your reach to additional platforms;
  2. Facilitate and implement diversified content streams;
  3. Go deeper with your engagement;
  4. Start a podcast;
  5. Set up a listserv for each demographic or interest you serve; and
  6. Most importantly, be proactive, listen, and reciprocate.

More on Facebook’s house of cards here. Have your own story? Please share.

‘Silver Tsunami’ of Open Data Makes for Millennial Innovators

The number of fed, state and local civilian employees eligible for retirement has risen sharply. Meanwhile, new talent isn’t flocking to fill open government positions.

Massachusetts Comptroller Tom Shack suggests technology as a solution. “No one is going to hire their way out of the Silver Tsunami. We’re going to have to tech our way out of it.” Shack launched CTHRU, a cloud-based, open records platform that eliminates hundreds if not thousands of hours of work by his staff to access and share data. Rather than keep the state’s financial information locked in PDFs, individual computers, or in the customized, cumbersome, legacy finance systems, CTHRU shows payroll, budget, and spending data to anyone on a mobile device.

Shack understands the urgency of unearthing as much data as possible before employees with valuable institutional knowledge of programs retire from state service. Governments produce vast amounts of data. Of all the ways technology can reduce staff workloads, making data standardized and accessible in the cloud is one of the most impactful. Unlocking “tribal knowledge” trapped in employees’ minds and their computers opens up nearly endless avenues for process improvement.

With automated data flows, agencies can give the new workforce the empowerment of analyzing and learning from the data, not just the job of collecting and storing it.

Source: StateScoop

Kara Swisher’s News and Tech Scorecard One Year Into Trump

Recode’s Kara Swisher said last year that journalists needed to be tougher on serial liars in tech and politics. Last month, Swisher returned to Recode Media with Peter Kafka to grade whether the media lived up to that goal in 2017 — and the impact of the Silicon Valley companies whose platforms distribute most of their content.

Swisher is frustrated by the unwillingness of tech leaders to accept their share of responsibility in the media space, and not because they’re blind to the problem.

“I think they know that these platforms are being badly misused, and they don’t know what to do about it,” Swisher said. “I think it was a slow burn, a slow dawning on them. The penny dropped really lugubriously.”

On the new podcast, Swisher also shares why she’s more impressed by Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel than by his peers, why Silicon Valley isn’t thinking about AI’s potential for reinforcing bias, and why she’s tired of tech’s perpetual-victim mentality.

Source: Recode (podcast)

Clicker Games Provide a Futuristic Look at the Present

In Clicking Bad, once you’ve clicked your way to selling $20 of meth, you can buy a Storage Shed, which cooks a batch every five seconds — without requiring you to click at all. On the distribution side, you can acquire a Drug Mule, and eventually a Drug Van — just like that, you’ve moved from labor to management. Your scrappy start-up is on its way to becoming a corporate powerhouse.

Our society is allowing its wealth to concentrate in the holdings of a few companies like Apple and Facebook, because the games are playing us. And, unlike [another clicker game] Universal Paperclips, they often don’t look like games. They are decoratively skinned as social media, giving us a sense of connection to people we kinda, sorta know, or as infotainment platforms that make us informationally obese.

Source: Glenn Dixon via Pacific Standard

Break the Cyber-Utopian Myth

Who do you associate with online? In a brief video from 2010, internet activist Ethan Zuckerman argues that cultural barriers are preventing us from using the internet to tackle global issues. Flame wars be gone. On the danger of the “ideological echo chamber effect” on society by today’s mainstream social networks, Zuckerman says, “What you’re looking for is a conversation, not to win a fight.”

Source: The Guardian (video)

Toronto’s Data-Laden Quayside Raises Surveillance Concerns

Quayside, as the project is known, will be laden with sensors and cameras tracking everyone who lives, works or merely passes through the area. In what Sidewalk Labs calls a marriage of technology and urbanism, the resulting mass of data will be used to further shape and refine the new city.

But extending the surveillance powers of one of the world’s largest tech companies from the virtual world to the real one raises privacy concerns for many residents. Others caution that, when it comes to cities, data-driven decision making can be misguided and undemocratic.

Source: The Seattle Times

Decentralization: The Future of Online Social Networking

Social networking forms an important part of online activities of Web users. However, social networking sites present two problems. Firstly, these sites form information silos. Information on one site is not usable in the others. Secondly such sites do not allow users much control over how their personal information is disseminated, which results in potential privacy problems.

This paper presents how these problems can be solved by adopting a decentralized approach to online social networking. With this approach, users do not have to be bounded by a particular social networking service. This can provide the same or even higher level of user interaction as with many of the popular social networking sites we have today. It also allows users to have more control over their own data.

A decentralized social networking framework described is based on open technologies such as Linked Data [Berners-Lee 2006], Semantic Web ontologies, open single-signon identity systems, and access control.

Source: MIT