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Archive for the ‘The Big Idea’ Category

7/14/09 – A few days after I wrote this, I happened to read an editorial by Museums President David Hillenbrand (written one month ago) about the fight to keep arts funding. Though Mr. Hillenbrand easily trumps me with his years of experience and know-how, we’re not so far apart in our thinking.

Often, I think back to a time when my parents had a dream of restoring the Levoy Theatre, an old, decaying vaudeville house in my hometown of Millville, New Jersey, to its former glory. I was young and didn’t understand why. I’d roll my eyes whenever they passed by it saying, “There’s our place,” and talked about maybe passing it along to me one day.

My parents, try as they might, never saw their dream become a reality – at least for them. Perhaps they would be leading the charge today if they had known more about fundraising and grantwriting. Perhaps I could have done something if I were older at that time armed with the knowledge that I have now. In any case, as I’ve grown older and personally invested in the arts, I’ve realized now that what my parents wanted to do was not just for their own or our family’s benefit, but to bring something back to a community that was in decline as the glass factories disappeared.

Fortunately, though my parent’s dream for the community didn’t come true (for them), it has not died as a group of individuals came together 14 years ago to make preserving and restoring the venue a reality. What’s even more important is that my hometown’s main “drag” has now been transformed into an arts district – one that made this once non-believer from afar a believer.

Millville’s story reminds me a lot of Pittsburgh, the city I now call home. Once a thriving city, thanks to the steel industry, it too saw its decline as the work dried up and the factories closed. It was the arts, in my opinion, that have helped to transform the face of Pittsburgh from the place once known as “hell with the lid off” to “America’s Most Livable City.” Many organizations have contributed to this transformation, but the two most prominent cultural institutions that stick out in my mind are The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and Carnegie Museums.

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Do you have the answer?

Adam Zand (@NoOneYouKnow) commented on a previous post I made and suggested that we co-present a panel at PodCamp Pittsburgh 3 about how SM is a lot like high school. It didn’t happen due to Adam not being able to make it down from Boston and well, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to jump into my first PodCamp with a presentation.

I’ve been revisiting that ever since, when I see all of the tweets in my Twitter stream about “Top 50 Tweeters,” “Help me get to 5,000 followers!,” or “Who’s the hottest blogger?” – junk like that. Sadly, it really does seem that social media sites are progressing into popularity contests.

Why? I thought the purpose was to create relationships and share ideas, not make it about who has the most followers, comments, linkbacks, whathaveyou. True enough, there’s some vanity involved when we check out our Twitteranks, Twitter Grades, and utilize other web sites that tell us just how we measure up against our fellow social media users. It kind of reminds me of Snow White’s wicked stepmother who consulted that magic mirror to know she was still the fairest in the land. Is that really what we need to keep ourselves going?

There are incredibly smart people out there who are utilizing social media for great things, but why are only a few people called rockstars? Why can’t we all be rockstars?

What you’re doing is just as cool as what I’m doing. We might want different outcomes, but I’d like to think we could all be on the same social level, without trying to one-up each other. I don’t think, however, we can truly be social as a whole until we get rid of the labels and all of these self-serving motives (and yes, I know we all have self-serving interests in a sense) that do little more than try to inflate online social status.

I’d like to take a line that those High School Musical kids so cheesily, yet happily sing: “We’re all in this together.”

They have a point.

Do you agree? What are your thoughts on social media and popularity?

You can also feel free to email me your thoughts and I will post them in comments under anonymous or any way you’d like.

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This recent Dilbert comic made me laugh, but also made me wonder if many people believe that it’s true. We know that we’re spending more time online now than ever before, especially with the growth of social networking sites. In fact, it has been suggested that internet searches for porn have been overtaken by social networking.

We’re a plugged in society, ordering the internet-to-go with us now on laptops, PDAs, Blackberrys, iPhones (iPod Touches as well), and any other device that can catch a signal. Do you find it hard nowadays to go an hour without checking your email or Twitter stream. Admittedly, I know I do, as one who has been fully connected since the age of 12.

Still, my thoughts are trekking back to this comic strip. Do we value the internet more now than we do the outside world, and well, real people? Perhaps, but I’m going to make a case for those of us who have been interested in the Web 2.0 phenomenon.

Social networking, social media, web 2.0 – whatever you want to call it, is about creating community. It doesn’t come easy, however, as you have to be willing to invest a lot of time. (It can cost money, too, depending on your intentions). If you really dig deep you can meet many interesting people from all walks of life. But, the thing about the internet is you can be whoever you want to be, right? True, but I’ve found that for every person who isn’t always truthful, there’s dozens more who are as real as possible.

We all have different reasons behind our interest in social media. For some, it’s to make money. Others are communications or tech professionals who want to understand more about how SM can help grow their organizations. Still, some people just want a conversation – to find a group of people who have similar interests and share experiences.

We can have all of that with a click of a button and a few strokes on the keyboard.  What we’re seeing now, however, are things like tweet-ups, PodCamp and so many other meet-ups because people want to take these relationships offline. They’re not interested in hiding behind a computer screen. It’s a suggestion that relationships are very much real and meaningful to people offline as they are online.

So, here’s my answer: There are aspects of the internet that are interesting, but I think that what it ultimately does, in this day and age, is lead you to far more interesting people.

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It’s that time of year once again, where we gather together to eat ridiculous amounts of food and reflect on the things we are thankful for in our lives.

Well, here’s my little list:

Family

I’m thankful I have the opportunity to be with them again this year, after not seeing anyone since Christmas. It’s still pretty weird to know that when I’m back in NJ, it’s just to visit.

Friends

As it goes, friends have this amazing ability to get you through the best and worst of times in a way that your family members cannot. They always make life a little easier.

Opportunities

I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve had to develop both personally and professionally. I’m even more thankful to those who have been willing to give me a shot as I look to advance my career, and the possiblities that have yet to come.

YOU

I’m thankful that I’ve met some really awesome people through social media. Moving to Pittsburgh afforded me that opportunity and it’s something I never even thought possible. I am looking forward to meeting even more folks in the future.

It’s also important to remember those this holiday who are less fortunate and cannot count their blessings. Let us think of them and what we can do to help make their lives a little better.

As a side note –

The Macys Parade Rickrolled us all with the man, Rick Astley, himself. If that’s not an indication that social tools have such a profound impact, than I don’t know what is. It’s obvious he lipsynced, but it was still awesome.

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I don’t have much to say today other than the following:

1. Thanks to all who are stopping by and reading my little tribute to the writer formerly known as PittGirl and The Burgh Blog. I think it’s evident that we’re all pretty sad, but it is my sincere hope that people will just let it go and refrain from trying to uncover her identity. Sure, we have our times when it’s fun to guess, but at the end of the day the woman took a huge risk to allow us to peer into her mind every day and some things are just better left secret.

2. First PCPGH3 meet-up was tonight at the Firehouse Lounge. It looked like a good time was had by all and it was nice to put a few more faces to names. Hopefully, we’ll continue this next month (preferably some place with tons of heat, guys, as it will be mega cold) and have a few more come out. Blogfest 16 is this Friday, so if you’re in the Burgh and you like social media, come on down. Yes, it’s the same night as Light Up Night, but we can drink, yak, and then go watch fireworks.

3. I had my first donation for my little experiment. THANK YOU – you know who you are. I’m only $105 away from my fundraising goal. Won’t you help someone in need this holiday season?

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OK, can we make an effort to move on from this Motrin bitch fest? The online ads are being pulled and those in print will follow eventually. An apology has been issued and I’m sure the company is going to be much more careful. If this is what was wanted, congratulations, you’ve succeeded. Now what?

How are we going to harness all this power for good? There are far more important things in this world to worry about than a questionably offensive advertisement. Hell, I think (and there are others who’d agree with me) that there are far more offensive ads that have seen the light of day, yet I can’t seem to recall anyone really making a fuss over them.

I want to focus on something that is bigger than you, bigger than me, and bigger than all of the kerfuffle that is still plaguing the Twitter stream – people who don’t even have the luxury of engaging in this conversation because their worries are far less trivial. They worry about where they’re going to find the money for heat, warm winter clothing, whether they can have a Thanksgiving meal next week, or even afford Christmas gifts next month. They might sit behind an avatar online, but they’re in your neighborhood – on the other side of town, across the street, even next door. They are the people who matter most and I want to try an experiment. I want you to help me help them. I want us to help them together.

We know the economy is in a slump and people are tightening their wallets, which means many organizations are downsizing or looking for other cost-cutting measures. For nonprofit organizations that heavily depend on public and private donors, this could spell disaster.

The unfortunate aspect with a worsening economy is that the need for assistance has gone up, with those who may have never utilized help from charitable organizations finding themselves turning to them in desperation. The Salvation Army is just one example of organizations that are facing these issues right now.

I can speak from personal experience (disclosure: I worked for a TSA office briefly) that TSA, armed with a simple mission of “doing the most good,” is very much committed to making the world a better place and helping to ease the struggles that people face every day. Although its most famous fundraising tactic, the Red Kettle Campaign, doesn’t officially kick off until Nov. 27, it doesn’t mean that the organization doesn’t need your help now – many offices have already started to roll out the red kettles and bells early.

Locally, we’re seeing a shortfall (at least in my county) of at least $200,000 while need is increasing, and I’m sure if you looked at your own area offices, you’d see the same thing. Last year, I participated in the roll-out of a online initiative that would take the red kettle from the streets to the internet. I had my own kettle, but didn’t do much with it as there were so many distractions going on at the time.

I’m not giving up. It’s time to try this again.

I’d like to ask the community to put its power to good use and help me out. I’m starting small with a fundraising goal of $125, but would love to be able to give a much larger donation. As cliche as it sounds, every cent counts. You can even start your own!

If people can make noise about an ad, they can surely spare a dime or two  or fundraise to help those less fortunate … right?

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Life is crazy. We all know it. Sometimes, we spend half the time plotting our next escape from reality, even if only for a brief respite. If you ask me, there’s nothing better than taking a few moments to surround yourself with nature. You stop thinking and really begin to see – that even with the ugly, sometimes cruel nature of the world we live in, there is still beauty all around us.

Schenley Park
Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. – Rachel Carson

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