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Introducing our new Chief Operating Officer: Pravin Pillay

Pravin Pillay

If we've seemed a little more delighted then usual when you've spoken to us in the last few weeks, we can finally tell you why:

We're pleased to announce that Pravin Pillay has joined our team as Social Signal's new Chief Operating Officer.

Pravin holds an MBA from McGill University, and has a long record of success bringing together innovative interdisciplinary teams – from artists to engineers – and helping organizations consolidate and enhance their business capacity.

Does his name ring a bell? That may well be from his work with non-profits, businesses and government agencies for positive social change:

  • Pravin was the first director of development with Médecins Sans Frontières, working with their international team to establish the organization in Canada.
  • He served as the director of special projects for the federal agency Youth Service Canada, partnering with businesses, organizations, institutions and agencies to help young people overcome barriers to rewarding careers.
  • As the first executive director of the Rediscovery International Foundation, he developed sound, lasting business practices to advance the organization's mission: drawing on the strength of indigenous cultures to empower youth around the world.

Pravin's high-tech background that dates back to his first experiences programming a classic Commodore PET computer. From one of his early jobs working with British Telecom's mainframes, to advising tech firms navigating the transition from garage-based startup to full-fledged businesses, he's had a healthy respect for both the transformative power and the limitations of technology. His reflections on the meaning and future of identity in an online world were featured in the 2003 film Avatara, the first feature-length machinima documentary.

He also maintains a thriving artistic practice – informed by his social and political activism – that has spanned a wide range of installations, performances, talks, symposia and articles.

In short, Pravin brings the best of the worlds of business strategy, activism, non-profit organizing and the arts. We're confident that we'll benefit every bit as much as our clients will from his proven role as a proven catalyst for change, growth and success, as he helps us enhance and expand our business capacity. And he's a mensch.

All of which means he's absolutely ideal for the critical role of managing Social Signal's rapid growth and honing our entrepreneurial edge, while keeping us true to our purpose: helping you use the power of online community to change the world.

We can't wait to have you meet him.

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Discovering Second Life

We've recently started exploring Second Life, a virtual world that constitutes an exciting, immersive form of online community.

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Now blogging at Civic Minded

I’m pleased to announce that I’ve begun blogging at Corante’s Civic Minded blog, your guide to the political impact of the web. My inaugural post begins like this:

When I worked in a Member of Parliament’s office back in the early 1990s, our office – like those of our colleagues – was inundated with an unending stream of petitions, pre-printed form letters, faxes and actual mail. Sifting through it all took up a huge amount of time (and incurred more than a little staff resentment).

These communications varied wildly in impact. We often took the effort required by a particular medium as a rough proxy for the level of sender’s depth of feeling and commitment. A personally written letter, for instance, carried a lot more weight than a lowly mass-printed postcard, which was maybe a little more significant than a petition.

And if a tangible, paper-based petition is unlikely to soften the flinty hearts in the corridors of power, you can how much hope their electronic kin have. Point-and-click protest is so easy to do – and for that reason, just as easy to ignore in the face of so many competing demands for attention.

So my heart usually sinks whenever I receive yet another appeal to go sign yet another e-petition. With a very few exceptions (such as the petition to change Canadian Alliance Leader Stockwell Day’s first name to “Doris” in 2000), and despite the hopes of their sponsors, they almost always wrap up without making a dent in public policy.

But now British Prime Minister Tony Blair seems interested in rescuing the lowly e-petition from irrelevance. Earlier this month, his office launched a remarkable experiment with online petitions.

You can read the rest of the post here.

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Turning Words into Deeds: A response to Knight Foundation's 21st Century News Challenge

Exploring widgets as lightweight website gateways to connection and real-world participation

What makes for a transformative media moment: a moment when an individual reads, watches or hears a news story and is galvanized to take action on an issue? Social Signal hopes to offer a new answer to that question with the WIDget, a tool that will turn words into deeds by marrying web-savvy media outlets with the latest nonprofit volunteer and donation opportunities.

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Passing the Hat: a cold weather campaign at

It's true -- all this snow is really very pretty. But it's also pretty darned cold, especially if you're living outside.

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Podcast Episode #1: From Org Charts to Sitemaps - How organizational structure affects web strategy and implementation

Does your organizational structure support web innovation or inhibit it? Learn how to make the most of your own team's structure from the web strategists at two very different nonprofits: Corrie Frasier, Online Communications Manager for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Jed Miller, Director of Internet programs for the American Civil Liberties Union.

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Vancouver joins the conversation on

Someone at City Hall is listening to at least one corner of the blogging world.

Over at, the online community we built with Vancity, user Scott Robarts recently asked why the city is cutting down the trees on Granville Street:

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Are you blogging? Business is listening.

Corporations start to recognize importance of monitoring social media for impact to their business

Dr. Joyce Brothers once said that listening, not imitation, may be the sincerest form of flattery. If so, bloggers should be feeling mighty flattered these days.

One of the faster-growing areas of public relations these days is blog monitoring. The Web 2.0 equivalent of a clipping service, blog monitoring services scour the Internet's blogs for mentions of a client, client's competitor, or keywords suggesting an issue important to a competitor.

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The netroots are coming to Second Life


RootsCamp - a series of gatherings for progressive Americans and members of the "netroots" to discuss and debrief on the U.S. midterm elections - won't just be happening in San Francisco, New York City, Bloomington, Washington DC and Columbus.

The first of the planned conferences won't even be happening anywhere you can find on a map.

Instead, it will kick off on Better World Island... deep in the heart of the avatar-based Second Life virtual world.

The conversation launches at 1 p.m. Pacific Standard Time on Wednesday, November 8, and runs through November 14. It's an unconference (wha'?), open to anyone who meets the exacting criteria:

Attendees must give a demo, a session, or help with one, or otherwise volunteer / contribute in some way to support the event. All presentations are scheduled the day they happen. Prepare in advance, but come early to get a slot on the wall. The people present at the event will select the demos or presentations they want to see.

If you're politically minded and you've been dying to learn more about the Second Life weirdness you've been hearing so much about, this is a great way to dip your toe in the virtual waters. And if you're progressive and a SL veteran with something to share about the election campain, well, you've probably already signed up.

For more info, visit the RootsCamp Second Life site. And see you there!

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Could have been the forums, might have been the blogs: make your online community a party

Scaling enjoyment in your online community is your best growth and success strategy

If you've been online for a while, you've probably seen them: would-be online communities that echo with emptiness.

John Gladding at A List Apart offers a handy metaphor: hosting a party where nobody comes. (Dammit... must I relive high school again?!) And he uses that metaphor to offer some solid advice – pitched particularly at people operating forums, but useful for the rest of us, too.

Among his best tips:

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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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