Category Archives: Opensource

The Real Driving Force Behind Social Media :: Might Surprise You

Previously, I mentioned the question I received during the HighEdWebDev conference. I was asked the always difficult question, “So, what’s next? What is the next thing on the horizon?” Again, if I knew (if any of us knew), we’d invest in it and reap the rewards. I did not have the answer, because I don’t know what is next.

It did remind me of something that I’ve thought about for a long time. The relatively unsung true driving force, in my opinion, of social media’s growth. Surely, the overall contributors are the users. But the initial force was (and continues to be) a relatively small group of young people that had an idea, a lot of curiosity, and the ability to write code.

The developers of the various open-source platforms would be excellent candidates for honors as The Real Driving Force Behind Social Media. Most were college students when they spawned their ideas.

I’m talking about the people that launched WordPress, LiveJournal and CivicSpace, for instance. Aside from Tim Berners-Lee, who did start it all, these people have been the agents of change: Matthew Mullenweg of WordPress, Brad Fitzpatrick of LiveJournal and Zack Rosen of CivicSpace Labs (blog) are the best examples.

Another is Drupal. and the remarkable story of then-student, Dries Buytaert. Continue reading


WordPress Widgets Are Cool :: Camp ASCCA Front Page Redesign

The front page of ASCCA’s site is going through a redesign.

…WordPress widgets allow for simple layout and content insertion on your Web site or blog

We’re trying to create a simpler, cleaner navigation layout that helps you find what you’re looking for on the site.

Check out the new look.

What we want to provide is a simple way for anyone to quickly update the front page with the latest information. The new tools we’re using – widgets – should allow this to work. And, the people adding the information don’t have to know much / any HTML coding to add the information to the page.

The ASCCA site is now a collection of WordPress blog installments. This allows the staff to use the rather simple (to use, at least) software to update the site. And widgets allow them to place new information ‘almost’ anywhere they want it in the blog’s template.

The Oscar Dunn Environmental Center now has their own site, separate from the ASCCA site. This was done to differentiate the Dunn Center from ASCCA as we continue to bring in non-disabled groups to use that facility. Now the Dunn Center staff can put up their own videos and audio. We haven’t yet fully shown all the center has to offer. This new site will help them illustrate the beauty and diverse offerings in ASCCA’s new multi-million dollar facility.

It really is quite amazing. People are always stunned when they first drive into ASCCA. Then, to see this amazing wildlife, nature and conference facility right on the Lake Martin shoreline .. well, it gets their attention. God bless Rotary International. They made the Dunn Center a reality.

Give us your feed back. Check out the new front page and critique away. Thanks.

Social Media Press Release via WordPress Installation and Structured Blogging

For some time now, I have wanted to create a process through which students may practice creating versions of this new-fangled social media press release concept.

thumbnail of SMPR release formatNow, I have it. Simple, yet functional.

For our fall classes, we have created a new site: The Loveliest Village Newsroom. This is part of a larger site where students will be posting news and feature stories they will write and produce (audio and video) during the semester. The Loveliest Village utilizes blogs, a wiki, Flickr, and is intended to provide experiential learning.

I am looking for some help with this project, if any of you are interested. A skilled coder/developer willing to help adapt the structured blogging plugin will be particularly useful. The version I have modified will work, but it can be more fully developed.

Our newsroom will utilize WordPress and various plugins, including: Structured Blogging, podPress, WP Notable, WP Print, WP Lightbox JS 2 and Ultimate Tag Warrior. All of those will combine to allow posting releases featuring the major elements of a social media release (PDF) similar to the one suggested by Todd Defren.

Using this WordPress implementation, the posting will still require the use of code. This file of HTML/CSS code is one example of how we will accomplish the format.

This zip file is the adaptation I made to the showcase-person.xml file within the structured blogging plugin.

Overall, this is a simple modification, but it allows us to practice (a) HTML, (b) CSS, (c) writing skills, and (d) creating social media releases.

I have two primary reasons for doing this. First, I want to have a process by which my students may practice the various principles we are studying – writing and production (HTML, CSS, graphics, layout). Second, I would like for them to have a leg up on understanding the social media release upon graduation. We are still blogging and commenting, by the way.

I’ll write more later. I hope to have some very exciting news to share later this week.

Update: After doing all of this, I went over to listen to the latest (Sept. 4) edition of Social Media Club’s Social Media Cast 0.2 with Shel Holtz (FIR), Chris Heuer and Brian Solis. In that podcast, the group discusses how some corporations are considering doing their releases through a blog due to the high costs associated with doing it at one of the major press release distribution services. So, this is quite interesting. I believe that a modified WordPress or MT site can accomplish this process. Of course, the blogs won’t have the reach that one gains from services like PRNewsire or Business Wire, but it does reach the search engines.

Given the Social Media Club’s work on developing standards for such releases, we will be watching their work with interest.

Todd Defren :: Social Media Press Release

San Francisco’s Todd Defren, SHIFT Communications, has a very interesting post which offers an opensource template for the new “Social Media Press Release.”

…always a pleasure to find new resources and ideas shared by thoughtful people, so Todd Defren’s template is appreciated…

This all stems from a conversation Todd had with Tom Foremski about how the press release has to adapt / change in this new social media environment.

I’ll share this example with my students as we’ll be practicing writing this very thing this semester. We have, of course, been practicing writing releases using the new tools and media for about two years. But, the template is a great new resource for ideas. Many thanks to Todd. A great job.

Check out his post and download the template. I think I’ll have my students create samples in a wiki over the coming weeks as an experiment.

PR Squared: The “Social Media Press Release” Debuts – Download the Template Today!

Side note: I almost met Tom Foremski on Monday. Unfortunately, he was not able to attend the conference (PDF) I visited. My loss. Everyone I’ve met through this blogging speaks well of Tom. Perhaps someday I will have the pleasure.

I was fortunate to meet Giovanni Rodriguez, Joseph Thornley and see Josh Hallett, once again. A pleasure to meet you, gentlemen – and to see Josh again, too.

YouTube, Google Video and ASCCA Video

This summmer we will be sharing a lot of videos as a part of our social media public relations project at Easter Seals Camp ASCCA. They will appear in our Camp ASCCA YouTube listings. Check them out to see how they’ll look.

Google Video will also play host to our videos. The idea is to expose our camp activities to a larger audience via these online video sharing communities.

And below you may watch the “Day at Camp ASCCA” video. Click the screen capture of the lil’ camper climbing into the treehouse, to your right (pop-up window). The video runs 10:00 and, my apologies, is only available as a highspeed / broadband download right now. The video is currently a huge MPG file. Look for a smaller download version of this one down the road.

Using available online social media video sharing sites and our own blog/site, Camp ASCCA should be able to present the most comprehensive record of all the activities available. Now this is one truly positive aspect of social media, blogs and vlogs (video blogs).

Like no time before, we are now able to provide an almost real time presentation of Camp ASCCA’s programming. Parents and caregivers, campers and counselors (present and past) may follow along and experience camp’s activities each day. Summer camps start in less than two weeks, so please make sure you come back often.

Cross-posted in the blog over at Easter Seals Camp ASCCA.

Seeking Suggestions :: Social Media for Promotion of Nonprofits

Social media will be incorporated into a summer project I’m working on for Easter Seals Camp ASCCA. I know you’ve seen me write about Camp ASCCA often, but this summer – get ready – you’ll see it a lot here and at the Camp ASCCA Web site.

I honestly believe that this will be the largest nonprofit use of social media (blogs, podcasts, video, forums and more) that has ever been attempted (aside from political sites and some national / international NPO sites). But, I can’t say that for certain until I do some more research. You can help, if you like. Do you know of any site for a nonprofit organization that has posted this much, this often and using online communication?

Below you will see an outline of what our plans are and how we seek to accomplish these tasks. I have abbreviated the plan as it is actually written out and is 12 pages – single-spaced – in a Word document. I’m still working on it, too.

Here, in a nutshell, is what we’re going to try. I’d love to receive your feedback, suggestions and criticisms.

ASCCA is a nonprofit organization and resources are limited. They have devoted two internships (paid) to the process. The students will receive free housing, meals and $1,000 per month (the same salary camp program staff receive). That, I believe, is a remarkable commitment.

Beyond that, ASCCA has invested in two multimedia computers, digital audio recorders, video recorders (straight to MPEG) and software. I am donating the use of a digital video camera, digital photo camera and a digital audio recorder, too. This should enable the interns to easily capture, and quickly edit, the content they capture. More on that below.

…this will be quite an experiment into social media for nonprofit organizations (NPOs) and we are excited about the potential…
  • Two interns will run the operation. Their work hours are quite different from other jobs. They will follow, essentially, the same day that all of the campers and staff do – 7:00 AM until 10:00 PM each day. The camps traditionally run from Sunday at Noon until Friday at Noon.
  • In an attempt to be realistic, I am seting an initial “minimum” number of blog postings at four per day. Actually, I believe it could be 8 or more per day.
  • Posts will be a combination of audio, video, photos and text.
    1. VIDEO: Our initial goal is to do short video pieces and they will be loaded up to our Google Video site and YouTube. These will highlight the program areas from lakefront and the pool to horseback riding and high adventure. We have over a dozen activity areas, so content will be widely avaialable.
    2. AUDIO: These will be short interviews with campers, parents, counselors and visitors. The length will not, I pray, go beyond 10 minutes each. These will be hosted on our servers and delivered through the WordPress Podpress plugin and iTunes.
    3. PHOTOS: Digital cameras will be used to capture dozens of photos each day. They will highlight four main areas: programs, camper/counselor relationships, barrier-free architecture incorporated into activities and cabin life. These will be hosted on our servers and in our Flickr Pro account.
    4. WRITING: These will be observations by the interns about Camp ASCCA and the experiences of the campers and staff. Visitors (fund raising) will also be highlighted. We want honest observations. ASCCA has always been about the reality of abilities – not focusing on the disabilities. We want to offer answers/solutions which allow people with disabilities to participate. We don’t want any “poor pitiful crippled children” stories. Those always irk me.

I realize that is a lot of uploading. Now the sad news. One of the limitations we have at a camp is our location. We have satellite web access. That means that uploading is essentially dial-up. Camp is 10 miles from the nearest highway. A squirrel on the phone line can cause havoc. We may actually drive into town for the uploading of the video, audio and photo files. The only alternative is to keep the phone lines running all night.

With few exceptions, opensource software will be used for all of these projects. We have a wiki (PmWiki), CRM (SugarCRM), calendars (30boxes and Google Calendar), forums and/or alumni database (phpBB), eLearning (Moodle), photo albums (Flickr and Gallery 2), video (Google Video and YouTube) along with WordPress blogs and plugins.

The students have already used much of the software and they have seen the rest of it in action.

New releases will be delivered via a blog newsroom setup to the state and southeastern publications serving our campers hometowns. Most of these are mid-sized to small publications and usually appreciate the content. High resolution photos will accompany the stories created by the interns. Where possible, audio actualities will be included and sent to their local radio stations. Small town radio still does radio news, you know.

I am not sure what, if any, value online press release delivery services could offer us, but we may try them. We’ll likely only use the free services, unless someone wants to spot us for free access to a paid service. That would be a blessing.

Contacts will be made to these local news organizations and offer them email notification of stories or RSS feeds. They’ll likely prefer the emails, as most of the releases will be specifically targeted by locality.

Side projects include populating the Moodle eLearning site to help expand ASCCA’s appeal to school teachers in the areas of environmental education.

Among our many goals are: considerable search engine placement and optimization, increased visibility in online social media communities, a rebirth of ASCCA’s regional media releases, active involvement with our primary audiences (people with disabilities, parents, caregivers, teachers, therapists/medical, other nonprofits and our alumni – campers, staff and volunteers).

Yes, we will be pitching – news outlets and bloggers. We will be commenting in other blogs and developing relationships with sites/blogs addressing disability issues.

We are also interested in online fundraising, but that will come down the road. We want to develop a strong respectable presence online, first.

OK, that is a brief (believe it or not) synopsis of what we’ll be doing this summer. What do you think? I’m reserving some comments I have until I hear from you.

Brendon Connelly and Sean McKay :: George Fox University Does Wikis Right :: Podcast

HEBC George Fox University is doing great things with wikis. Meet Brendon Connelly and Sean McKay. They can help you get started with wikis, too.

HigherEdBlogCon 2006

“A wiki is a collaborative web-based content management system in which all users can edit the web pages that are part of the site. Wikis provide a flexible and adaptive web-based environment for admissions (and other higher-ed) departments to develop knowledge bases and repositories of group experiences … Because of its nature, a wiki web site evolves over time and adapts to work with the content that its users contribute.”

Get the PDF presentation.

Brendon Connelly

George Fox University

Sean McKay

George Fox University

There is a screencast in “.mov” format available to compliment the PDF.

And, we have a podcast that I recorded with Sean and Brendon awhile ago. Sorry for the delay in sharing it, but – as with Nancy Prater’s podcast – I’ve experienced a computer crash and had to retreive and restore a great deal of information – plus, buy new software.

Now, this is not your usual podcast. The files were corrupted, but I could recover their voices. So, what you hear are their responses to my questions. I have tried to make it comprehensible. If you download their PDF file and read that, then listen to the podcast, I believe it can work for you. Think of these as audio notes on how they got into the wiki business at George Fox University.

The podcast link is below (23 minutes). Please visit Sean and Brendon’s presentation, too. Using Wikis to Facilitate Communication, Collaboration, and Knowledge Sharing Among Admissions and Administrative Personnel.