Alexandra Samuel's blog

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Change status: Facebooking and Twittering for a new world

Would you be a more effective agent for social, economic or political change if you could see the progress we're all making as a movement?

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Best practices for non-profits using web 2.0

Just how much should you fear the Social Signal vendetta of the week™? Not that much, it turns out: no sooner had I written my tirade against LinkedIn Answers than I spent the evening answering them. The key to my change-of-heart? The discovery of a groundbreaking technology known as cutting and pasting. Sure, I'd rather have pulled my LinkedIn Answer with the miracle of RSS, but this is a decent plan B.

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This week's vendetta: user-driven sites without user-driven feeds

Vendetta of the WeekSo you really, really, really want people to contribute to your new, grassroots, user-driven site? If you want to invite my content in, you'd better let me get it out.

That means offering per-user RSS feeds for all user-contributed content. (If you're new to RSS, check out our site for an intro.) If I'm adding content to your site, I need an easy way to suck the content back out for republishing on my site. (In fact, my site now consists pretty much exclusively of the content I'm posting on other sites, including this one, and then re-aggregating back onto my own site.)

A useful cautionary tale in this regard is LinkedIn. LinkedIn Answers rely on users to contribute questions AND answers to create a great (and very useful) repository of advice and referrals on just about every business topic imaginable. We often encourage folks to participate actively in LinkedIn as a way of raising their professional profile. But I'm rethinking the wisdom of that advice now that I see there's no outbound RSS feed for my own LinkedIn answers. If I'm going to make LinkedIn the go-to place for my contributions of professional intelligence, I expect to be able to republish the answers I'm writing on my own blog.

And LinkedIn should make it easy for me to do so, for three reasons:

  1. By making it easy for bloggers to republish their LinkedIn answers on their own blogs, LinkedIn encourages bloggers to contribute more actively, which will help them build up high quality content.
  2. By making it easy for people to subscribe to answers that come from their favorite experts, LinkedIn increases the returns to becoming a top LinkedIn expert, which again encourages high quality contributions.
  3. By making it easy for people to republish their answers -- possibly as teasers that link back to the full answer on LinkedIn -- LinkedIn could get a ton of topic-specific inbound links, which would bring in lots of visitors directly from blogs AND boost LinkedIn's Google juice on topical Google searches.

If you're creating a user-driven site of your own, keep LinkedIn's example in mind. Seize the opportunity LinkedIn is missing by making it easy for your users to get content out -- recognizing that's the best way to bring content in.

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Project management and workflow with Basecamp

How can online collaboration tools like Basecamp support effective project management? That's one of the questions that came up at the values-based project management session I attended at Web of Change, led by Rob Purdie of Important Projects.

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Rob Purdie on values-based project management

This year's Web of Change conference included a session with Rob Purdie of Import

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Love your leaks

Helping your community do what they want to online - even outside your website

How do you create a site that keeps people on your pages? By creating a site that's easy to leave.

Traditional web design often focused on keeping people on a site by reducing the number of exit points: with few or no external links, the logic goes, people will stay longer.

It doesn't work that way. The Internet is designed for hyperlinks, lateral exploration, serendipitous discovery. When you cut off exit routes, you're cutting off your site's circulation, and you're creating a stagnant site.

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Searching sustainably at happyfrog

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Toronto workshop: Web 2.0 and Your Organization

Web 2.0 and Your Organization
July 24 & 25th, 2007
Centre for Social Innovation
215 Spadina Avenue, Toronto

Web 2.0 and your organizationHow can your organization use social media tools to deepen your relationships with supporters, reach new audiences and raise more money? More than twenty people discovered the power of social media tools like blogs and wikis through a workshop I co-taught with Jason Mogus on Web 2.0 and Your Organization. Jason and I had so much fun teaching that March workshop in Vancouver, and got such a positive response from participants, that we will be offering the same workshop in Toronto this summer.

Here's the skinny:

Are you interested in how online communities like Flickr, MySpace, and YouTube can empower your members and customers to carry your message out into the world? Could your organization benefit from deeper collaboration among your team members, clients, partners or the public? Could better knowledge-sharing, stronger relationships and closer communications inside your organization and with your core supporters foster more efficiency, insight and effectiveness?

The latest generation of "Web 2.0" or social web strategies and tools offer powerful opportunities for organizations to improve the way they work, communicate their messages, empower others, and serve the public. In this workshop you will learn how the latest tools for online collaboration and community building can make your organization smarter and more effective.

This workshop is designed for communications strategists, marketing managers, and webmasters who are interested in how this evolution of the web can help evolve your organization's online strategy. We will give you the tools, knowledge, and most crucially, the vision for how your organization can use the web as a stronger agent of change. We’ll also cover the nuts-and-bolts, introducing the latest tools so that you know which options are most promising for your needs.

This workshop will take place from 6pm to 9pm on July 24th, and from 9am to 5pm (with lunch break) on July 25th.

Follow this link to register today -- space is limited.

For more information, please contact Or download our leaflet (PDF, 1 MB).


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The true meaning of Facebook

Have you been thinking about how the dramatic rise of Facebook -- and most recently, Facebook's move to open the platform to other developers -- affects your organization or your work? Then mosey on over to the discussion that's currently unfolding on the Facebook Developers Group (sorry, folks, that's a Facebook internal page -- yet another reason to join Facebook now).

There's a lively debate about whether Facebook is a developer's worst nightmare (because Facebook or Facebook developers will scoop whatever you come up with elsewhere) or dream scenario (because Facebook can extend your community and provide a route to viral growth). The same possibilities should concern anyone undertaking a social networking or social media project; after all, why invest in an online community if Facebook is going to knock you out of the game?

That's the half-empty way of looking at Facebook. For people seeking to build online communities -- particularly in the non-profit sector, where resources are limited -- the half-full perspective sees it as a low-cost-to-free way of rapidly connecting with a far larger audience than you could readily bring to an external site. That's why we've been encouraging clients, colleagues and friends to consider how Facebook can complement or enhance their own social networks or online communities.

And -- as the developer debate suggests -- there is a potential risk to ignoring the Facebook phenomenon. Facebook is here, and as a relatively low-barrier development environment, is going to offer an ever-expanding range of features to your supporters, friends or customers. Offer those features yourself, and it can strengthen rather than compete with your community efforts.

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Supporting non-profit innovation through NetSquared: a Drupal module for Newscloud

Rob and I are spending the next two days at NetSquared, in the company of 21 outstanding teams working on projects that harness social media tools for social change. We met many of these folks for the first time yesterday, in a pre-conference session that brought the projects together for an afternoon of collaborative idea-sharing and relationship building, and we were incredibly impressed by the commitment and creativity that these folks are bringing to their respective projects.

Social Signal on...

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Work Smarter with Evernote

Get more out of Evernote with Alexandra Samuel's great new ebook, the first in the Harvard Business Press Work Smarter with Social Media series!

Available on Amazon, iTunes and HBR.

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