An Alltop Aha! moment

February 22, 2009 at 2:00 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Another case of not seeing beyond my non profit bubble.  Since it started I have been reading Alltop’s non profit agregator. It’s a great way to see the headlines of leading non profit bloggers.  Its much easier and more appealing than building my own RSS feeds on Bloglines, which I just haven’t been able to get into.

But what I did not realize is that Alltop is a feed agregator on more than 300 topics, not just non profits.  So I should also be reading the Women feed, and the social entrepreneur feed.

The feeds on  green blogs, start-ups, writing also look great!

Alltop was created by Guy Kawasaki, a longtime tech-business-guy and writer affiliated with Apple.   I had the aha! moment thanks to this article in Mediabistro:

Think of it as a digital magazine rack. If you went to a newsstand you would see racks of sports magazines, celebrity magazines, car magazines, wine magazines, and food magazines; we have our own virtual rack where we aggregate the Web sites and blogs of the top feeds for each of those topics, and we show the latest five headlines from each source. With Google, you ask Google questions like “How many people live in China,” with AllTop, you ask “How do I keep on top of what is happening in China?” So it’s a very different question.

Its one of these things that are so simple and useful that once you see it you wonder why it wasn’t created before.  So this means I have even more reading to do.

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some closing reflections on the Rwanda youth gathering and the digital divide

April 7, 2008 at 1:43 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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I am back in the US and missing Africa, what an amazing experience. This was my trip across the digital divide, which really ended up reinforcing how strong it still is.

I came back with one less suitcase, leaving behind a used lap top, a flash drive, two Flip videos, two digital recorders and a printer/scanner/copier. I am convinced that technology is what we rich country folks should lug over in our suitcases. I would have brought a bluetooth headset for Pastor John if I had known how much work he does on the phone while driving around the country in his green truck. His office is in his cell phone.

I shared my hotel with a bunch of Americans from Rick Warren’s Saddle Back Church, an evangelical mega-church in Southern California. After training 300 pastors, they were in town to officially certify that Rwanda is a “Purpose-driven Country”. Warren’s best-seller, A Purpose Driven Life is translated into Kinyarwandan and a lot of Rwandans have read the book. Anyhow, all the gung-ho Saddlebackers had brought a ton of soccer balls and Christian books.

The conference youth media team was earnest, an but as genius as they were, they faced a lot of obstacles. They watched me take notes on my lap top with amazement as my fingers flew over the keys… most of them type one finger at a time. I watched two of them work for thirty minutes on a paragraph for their blog to see the internet connection reload and lose their content. But they have made a cool photo diary.

A journalist from New Times, the Rwandan English paper, came to see what we were up to. He did several interviews, then went on his way. I asked him if he had an email address so we could send him our press updates, and he said he didn’t have one.

Finally on my last day in Kenya, I showed George, our media team leader this blog, and it literally took his computer 10 minutes to load it! This makes me really sad, because George is so tech-savvy, and he is going to edit all our video, but how can he do this with such a slow internet speed? He says he has a faster connection at home, especially at night when people are not using it. I have not posted pictures yet because even though the internet seemed pretty quick, uploading photos in Africa overwhelmed the internet connection even at my muzungu guest house.

So, my conclusion about communication for development is that it still must happen face to face. The Rwandan youth conference was a success because when you bring young people together, they have a good time. And what better way to build bridges across ethnic, geographic, economic and other divisions, then by spending a few days together singing, praying, talking about your country and learning from each other?

After spending a few days in Kenya before flying back, I have become convinced the young people of Kenya need their own summit. Like the rest of Kenya, I am afraid the power share of President Kibaki and Odinga is just too fragile — and there is so much at stake for this nation of 40 million people. The post-election violence in Kenya after Christmas was done largely by young men and broke along tribal lines. Now when I talk to Kenyans they mention their tribes in a way like I never heard before. These divisions are dangerous if they are allowed to settle. If I can round up $25,000 USD I will be planning a Kenyan youth peace summit and we will invite youth from across the country from different tribes…

And interview with David Sasaki of Rising Voices

March 10, 2008 at 12:56 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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David SasakiDavid Sasaki manages Rising Voices, a project of Global Voices, which starts community blogs with people around the world who are traditionally hard to reach because they live outside of capital cities and speak languages other than English. I caught up with him over breakfast this morning in New York before he heads off to South America to visit Chile, Argentina and Uruguay.

Everyday so many more blogs and websites are created, are we really reaching more people— especially people in the Global South?

Every month new people are being reached. But the language barrier is a huge issue, blogs are mainly being written in English. It also depends on a person’s social network, if their family or friends are going online. If you are not introduced to it this way you will never hear about it.

If you could give one technology tool to thousands of young people around the world, regardless of cost, what would it be?

I just saw the XO laptop [the $100 laptop], its really sturdy and easy to use. So I would give out something like the laptop but with a better user interface… or I would give out something like the I-phone.

What is a good website for someone who has just gotten online, who is not yet super web-literate?

It really depends on a regional basis. I work with a young woman from Bolivia who tells me she only goes to colorful websites, she hates the sleek modern ones with dark colors, which is something I would probably gravitate to. Clarity is really important. Information overload is bad.

Studies show that new users go online to use MSN chat, look at porn, dating sites, or play games. How do you make the web a tool for new users?

You can’t really see it is as competition. These things are important to people. It has to tie into the social media elements that make those activities attractive to people. You have to make it fun.

Do you ever run into situations where you worry that teaching about technology and blogging is western or colonialist?

Only Americans ask me that… I never tell people what they should write about. Rising Voices is enabling someone to communicate with a lot of people. It’s hard for me to see this through a colonial lens. What is colonialist about new media is language. If you are going online, after about three years you are going to want to learn English. Putting web content in local languages revolutionizes it for people. It’s also really important to translate local languages into English.

Have their been any unexpected outcomes in communities where you started blogs?

In Colombia I worked with 20 young people ages 14-25 to start a blog, and they were mostly writing about music and their personal interests. But one day the librarian asked them to interview this homeless guy, and when they did they found out that his parents had given all their land away to the town. After this the young people became very motivated around his life so they made a documentary movie about him. They got involved in the mesa de trabajadores, the community leaders committee, and had a dance to raise money to help fix up his shack and turn it into a house with plumbing.

So this is one story about young people helping this one 78-year-old guy. But as a result of the blog, the leaders of the community are taking the youth more seriously because they are representing their community online and internationally. In two months I saw the self-confidence of these young people go up. They became comfortable talking to the leaders in their community about their concerns.

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