Archive for May, 2011

How 5 Non-Profits Are Innovating With Mobile

19 May

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Holly Ross is the executive director of NTEN: The Nonprofit Technology Network, where she helps her members put technology to use for social change. You can follow her on Twitter at @ntenhross and read the NTEN blog.

Even before that first cup of coffee, an increasing number of us are reaching for our mobile phones in the morning. That makes mobile the perfect fit for non-profits that want to capitalize on every and any moment an individual is inspired to act on behalf of a cause. 

While the Red Cross made text-to-give campaigns famous after the Haiti earthquake, there are a variety of additional opportunities to use mobile to engage your audience in a cause. In fact, it doesn’t take an expensive investment in a custom built application to make mobile work. Dozens of providers have emerged in the last several years to serve the non-profit market with off-the-shelf solutions for a variety of mobile needs.

Non-profits, both large and small, are using mobile to educate, activate, and engage audiences of all sizes. Here are five examples of non-profits rocking mobile for social good.

1. WNYC and NYT Bird Map

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As it turns out, you don’t have to head to the Bronx Zoo to find wildlife in New York City. In fact, over 355 bird species live or spend time in New York throughout the year. To highlight the avian side of the city, WNYC and The New York Times asked their listeners and readers to text BIRD to 30644 and share their favorite bird-watching spots.

Results are compiled in an online map. Hundreds of people have responded so far, with the Red Cardinal topping the list of most-spotted winged creatures.

2. California Teacher’s Association

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Wisconsin’s teachers may have been in the spotlight this February, but in California, where over 40,000 teachers have been laid off due to severe budget cuts, the California Teacher’s Association (CTA) is fighting to preserve teaching jobs and restore other education funding.

They are able to text their supporters and, when the supporter responds, automatically connect that supporter to their state legislator via a phone call. In the first few days of the campaign, hundreds of calls have been made because of the texts, saving CTA time and money compared to the traditional phone tree method.

3. Alliance for Climate Education

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Forget a string tied around a finger. If you want today’s teens to remember to do something, you need to text them. That’s what the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) is doing. When ACE visits a school to present an educational assembly, instead of encouraging the audience to silence their mobile phones, they ask the kids to take them out and text in a pledge — one thing they will do to make the environment better.

Students are also asked for their email addresses that are integrated directly into the organization’s database, allowing them to follow up with each student about their pledge in multiple ways. So far, over 90,000 students have texted pledges and the organization is looking to integrate mobile into other campaigns, including a Halloween haiku contest.

4. Planned Parenthood Federation of America

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Sexual health isn’t an issue most teenagers find easy to ask questions about, but having the right answers about it can change — and even save — lives.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) is making it even easier for teens who are looking for answers about delaying sex, birth control, STD prevention and treatment, emergency contraception, sexual orientation, pregnancy testing and abortion to get the information and services they need.

Spots on MTV and banners on the PPFA mobile site direct teens seeking support to text the organization with questions, which are answered by trained professionals who point to information and, in some cases, can book the teens for an appointment at their local clinic — all via text.

5. The Marine Mammal Center

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If you’ve ever visited San Francisco, chances are you went to Pier 39 and heard (if not saw) the famous sea lions. The Marine Mammal Center (MMC) wanted to capitalize on the popularity of the wildlife to educate a wider audience about their work to rescue and rehabilitate sick and injured marine mammals.

Using signs at the end of the pier, MMC offered new text subscribers a free seal ringtone. Subscribers got the ringtone, as well as an invitation to visit the nearby Marine Mammal Center. Since the campaign launched, they’ve recruited nearly 1,500 supporters to the cause.

The Future of Mobile and Social Good

While mobile is still a new strategy for the social sector, consumers are moving rapidly to this channel. “When people get online now, they are increasingly using their phone instead of a laptop or computer,” says Doug Plank, CEO of Mobilecause. “And when you look at the history of online giving, how quickly it was adopted by non-profits and donors, mobile is outpacing it. While mobile campaigns have begun to produce impressive results for causes on [their] own, it can be even more impressive as part of an integrated campaign that also includes email and even direct mail.”

“We know that the opportunistic timing of email and mail can boost response,” says Jessica Bosanko of M+R Strategic Services. “Non-profits are often seeing similar results with text messaging now — with supporters who are signing up for texts far outperforming the rest of the file, and strategically placed texts capable of increasing performance to email messages.” 

Michael Sabbat of Mobile Commons sees the sector getting smarter about how it uses mobile, bringing business intelligence to mobile strategies. “Organizations can be smarter about how they communicate with supporters. If the supporter uses the mobile web, they will be texted a link to donate. If the supporter doesn’t use the mobile web, they receive a phone number in their text. We’ve come a long way to know who the supporters are, so we are not just blindly sending everyone the same message.”

Has your non-profit embraced a mobile strategy? Share your experiences in the comments.

Disclosure: The PPFA is a member of NTEN

For more lists, how-tos and other resources on this topic, check out Mashable Explore!

Image courtesy of Flickr, Srdjan Stojiljkovic

More About: charity, Mobile 2.0, non-profit, nten, social good, social media, tech

For more Social Good coverage: Drops Support for IE6

19 May

WordPress Dashboard

As the Internet Explorer 6 Deathwatch continues, another web service — — has announced that it is ending support of the nearly decade-old web browser.

Citing “increasingly complex code trickery to make the WordPress dashboard work,” the company announced an end to IE6 support.

The dashboard will still load for IE6 users, it just won’t function very well. IE6 users will be alerted that their browser is outdated and given direct links to browser updates or to download an alternative browser via the Browse Happy website.

In addition to dropping IE6 support, has also rolled out some new features, including a revamped and redesigned dashboard and a new distraction-free writing mode.

These features — as well as the end-of-life for IE6 support — will make their way to self-hosted WordPress installs with WordPress 3.2. The beta version of WordPress 3.2 is available for download now and the final version is expected to land sometime in June., which hosts millions of websites, joins a long list of providers that have officially decided that enough is enough in regards to IE6. In March, Microsoft launched its own global campaign calling for the end of the browser.

More About: IE6, internet explorer,

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Google Wants to Kill the URL: Chrome 13 Lets Users Hide the Address Bar

19 May

Since Google's official unveiling of the Chrome Web Store six months ago, the company has been on a mission to redefine our perception of what constitutes an operating system, a browser and a program, blurring the lines between each. In Google's world, an OS is a browser and a program - one of those hefty pieces of compiled code we used to download or (gasp!) install from a CD - is now a Web app.

Indeed, even the tiniest, incremental changes point clearly in this direction as word comes that the next version of Google's Chrome browser will give users the ability to kill that final remnant of the fact that they're actually using the Web - the address bar.


According to independent technology news blog Conceivably Tech, the next version of Chrome - Chrome 13 - will give back 30 pixels of vertical screen space by getting rid of the address bar. More importantly, the browser will slide further into the background and out of plane view of the user.

Instead of showing a URL bar permanently, the user will have to double-click a tab to see a shortened version of the URL that is displayed with a hover effect, if you move the mouse pointer away from the field, the URL bar disappears. The feature has to be enabled via a flag in a recent Canary or nightly build version of Chrome 13. To activate teh hidden URL bar, users will also have to right-click a tab and select "Hide the toolbar"Besides killing the URL bar, the new feature also moves the tools menu, hides any extension and introduces new back/forward buttons.

The company made it more than clear at this year's Google I/O, the yearly Google developer conference, that Chrome would comprise a major focus for the company and that it will be much more than a "browser". In fact, it dedicated its second of two keynotes to the topic, pointing to the browser's more than 160 million active users and the variety of increased graphic and functional capabilities that take it beyond our standard expectations for browsers. In the same keynote, the company announced the soon-available Chromebook, which will center the user experience within Chrome.

With the address bar disappearing further into the background, Web apps will again take on an increased relevance, as users navigate by clicking on Web app icons, rather than typing in URLs - much as they are used to navigating OSX or Windows. In many ways, URLs are a holdover from a past time. Just as we don't type command line strings into a DOS window on a Windows machine very much if ever anymore, Google wants our Web experience to consist of point and click, not mistaken backslashes and misspelled domain names.



The United States of America Consumes 8 Percent Of World’s Olive Oil, Produces Just 0.1 Percent

19 May

It’s disappointing that in his speech earlier today, Barack Obama didn’t tackle America’s dangerous dependence on foreign olive oil:

It seems to me that the California Olive Oil Council needs to develop a more robust lobbying/pr effort to raise awareness on this front. I’m eager to offer my services!


Citizens in Flood Zone Build Homemade Levees to Protect Their Homes

19 May

All of that water pouring out of spillways and topping levees up and down the Mississippi River has to go somewhere, and many living in those areas prone to flooding have taken drastic action to keep from being inundated. In what could be called a testament to the human instinct to protect hearth and home, some in the disaster zone are holding out by taking civil engineering into their own hands, building makeshift levees to keep the rising waters at bay. Click through the gallery to see how far some homeowners have gone to protect their properties.

Click to launch the photo gallery

Many residents of low-lying areas can't rely on government infrastructure to protect their homes--in fact, in some cases it's the government that's flooding them. In an effort to spare population centers like New Orleans and Baton Rouge, the Army Corps of Engineers have opened the Mississippi's three major spillways--the Birds Point-New Madrid spillway in Missouri, the Morganza spillway near Morganza, La., and the Bonnet Carre just north of New Orleans--the first time all three have been opened up at the same time.

In other places, the overflowing Mississippi has left local rivers with no place to put their overflow. Floodwaters claimed their first victim today as a 69-year-old man was pulled form the waters by firefighters in Vicksburg, Miss., which is today buried beneath the levee-topping Yazoo river. The destruction in Vicksburg--where the water is expected to crest at 57.1 feet today--and along the Yazoo River (where the images in the gallery above were taken) is just a microcosm of the larger devastation stretching from the Great Lakes to the Gulf.


Secret Service Apologizes for Bashing Fox News on Twitter

19 May

The U.S. Secret Service is out with an apology Thursday after tweeting the following on its official account: “Had to monitor Fox for a story. Can’t. Deal. With. The. Blathering.”

NPR reports that a spokesman for the Secret Service, Edwin Donovan, put out a statement reading: “an employee with access to the Secret Service’s Twitter account, who mistakenly believed they were on their personal account, posted an unapproved and inappropriate tweet. … The tweet did not reflect the views of the U.S. Secret Service and it was immediately removed. We apologize for this mistake, and the user no longer has access to our official account.”

The tweet in question was widely retweeted and picked up by blogs before it was deleted.

This isn’t the first time an employee has tweeted something meant for friends’ eyes on an official account; Red Cross social media specialist Gloria Huang sent out a tweet about drinking from that organization’s account, and someone with access to the official Chrysler Twitter account, @ChryslerAutos, dropped an F-bomb on its followers.

Hot tip social media managers: When it comes to mixing work and play, use an entirely different browser for your personal Twitter account. You can never be too careful.

More About: fox news, social media, twitter, US-Secret-Service

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Cold, Lonely Planets More Common Than Sun-Like Stars

19 May

By Christopher Dombrowski, Ars Technica

Seems like every week astronomers find a new exoplanet, one that’s the biggest or the smallest or the hottest or most habitable. However, this week astronomers are announcing a truly unique and new class of exoplanets: Jupiter sized planets that are in extremely large orbits or completely unbound from a host star altogether. And there appear to be a lot of them, as these planets seem to be more common than main sequence stars.

Finding a planet that is not associated with a star is no easy task. In the new search, a team of researchers used a technique called gravitational microlensing. As you look at a background field of stars, if an object passes between you and one of the stars, there will be a temporary brightening of that star. This occurs as the gravity of the object bends light around itself, which acts as a lens for light from the background star, hence “gravitational lensing.” Microlensing occurs when the foreground object is too small to create measurable distortion of the background star and only a brightening is observed. This makes it an ideal detector for small, dim objects.

The mass of the lensing object determines the duration of the brightening event — the longer the duration, the more massive. A Jupiter-sized object would produce lensing event with a duration of around one day.

The odds of a microlensing event occurring are exceedingly small, as the lensing object has to line up exactly between you and the background star. To compensate, astronomers looked at 50 millions of stars over several years, which yielded 474 microlensing events. Out of those 474, 10 had durations of less than two days, consistent with a Jupiter mass object.

No host stars were observed within 10 astronomical units of the lensing object. Previous work from The Gemini Planet Imager had set limits of the population of Jupiter-sized planets in extended orbits. From that data, the astronomers were able to estimate that 75 percent of their observed planets were most likely not bound to a host star at all, and are instead loose within the galaxy.

By creating a galactic-mass density model that takes into account this new class of object, astronomers were able to predict how many of these unbound planets there might be. They found that there are ~1.8 times as many unbound Jupiter-sized object as there are main sequence stars in our galaxy.

This raises a number of questions. Did these planets from near a star only to be ejected from the system? And if they truly have never been bound to any stars, do these planets represent a new planetary formation process? In any case, these observations have discovered a whole new population of Jupiter-sized planets in the Milky Way, and there are a lot of them.

I wonder if these new planets are like our Jupiter and, like our Jupiter, have moons which are geologically active and warm. If so, these new planets may have significantly increased the number of places that life may exist.

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech [full-resolution image]

Citation: “Unbound or distant planetary mass population detected by gravitational microlensing.” The Microlensing Observations in Astrophysics (MOA) Collaboration and The Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment (OGLE) Collaboration. Nature, Vol. 473, Pg. 349–352, 19 May 2011. DOI: 10.1038/nature10092

Source: Ars Technica

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Lie, Still: The Return of Cake is a Liar

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Nothing says "I play video games" like a t-shirt with the words "I play video games" printed on it. But for those who prefer to define their gamerhood a little more subtly, Shirt.Woot is dusting off an old favorite: The Cake is a Liar, celebrating the original chapter in the gaming saga that has proven to be quite the gateway drug turning casual gamers into die-hards. Die-hard enough to wear a shirt about it, we hope.

As the O.G. companion prequel to our recent hit, The Cheese is a Liederkranz, this deceitful dessert became one of our all-time longest-running designs. But if you want it, take the leap quickly: this slice of cake isn't gonna hang around for 97 weeks. Get The Cake is a Liar now, during the limited time when it will be available, or forever hold your fork.