Do we need those “stinking badges”?

Maybe you are familiar with idea of badging. Foursquare uses badging as a gaming tool – go to certain businesses with a defined frequency and you can “unlock” badges. For example you can become the “mayor” of a business by checking in through foursquare so many times. Some badges are quirky and fun like the “Last Degree” badge given to the first person to check into the North Pole. Tech conventions like SXSW use badges to engage attendees at events.

Badging goes back further than foursquare though. Considered the specialization of badges in scouting. Scouts are awarded badges for learning a skill (first aid, camping, lifesaving) or for personal development and leadership (family life, personal management).

Even further than that, the military uses badges to show rank and special honors.

But, now the idea “badging” is entering the education and business worlds. I posted earlier this semester about MIT’s annoucement of its open courseware platform – MITx. While programs like MITx offer free education they don’t offer a formal degree to students. One of the proposed “alternative credentialing” for these types of programs is badging. Badging would be the “proof” to employers that a student passed or mastered a program or skill.

The question is – will employers see value in these badges? What is their worth? Will the business model be a disrupter?

And will/how will badges be introduced in the business world? Admittedly, I know very little on this subject but I think it’s and interesting discussion and I believe in some industries that this type of system is already in place. Will business industries begin to use badging as a form of continuing education? For example, could there be professional badging system for specialized skills in social media marketing? SEO/analytics?

“Open Badges for Lifelong Learning” discusses Mozilla’s Open Badges project, and outlines some interesting ideas around the value of badges including motivation, identity building, community building, and promoting innovation.

The framework for this system includes:

  • defining the badges
  • measuring/assessing the badge skills
  • creating the infrastructure that supports the badge earning experience


What is Mozilla’s Open Badges project? (2011). Retrieved April 28 from:


Online giving: Is your $260K donation out there?

In a previous post I mentioned how I use tools like Google Alerts, Google Reader, and Twitter to gather research for my white paper. (This strategy is almost too effective as I get new and interesting information daily which means my paper is continuously changing.)

Blackbaud is an online fundraising software company who provides subscribers and followers with all kinds of reports around online giving. Their report on Internet and Multichannel Fundraising outlines the growing importance of online giving. Why? Online giving helps NPOs attract and retain new donors. Some statistics are illustrated in the infographics below. More first time donors are making contributions online. And, these online donors tend be younger and have a higher median income. Potentially, this means long term contributors willing to give more money – one reported online donation was $260,000.

Interestingly, the article also notes the importance of online giving combined with direct mail as way of retaining donors.


Barry, F. Why Online Donors are Worth More than Offline Donors. Retrieved on April 25 from

Thinking Globili

This summer Cincinnati is hosting the World Choir Games.  367 choirs from 48 countries are registered to compete downtown this July.

I imagine for those coming from non-English speaking countries this could feel a little like an episode of The Amazing Race trying to navigate through the language and culture of a foreign country.

In an effort to make Cincinnati more accessible to our guests, city officials are partnering with a company called Globili which provides a communication platform that translates static signs, posters, and even menus into over 50 languages using a cell phone or a smart phone.

“We really want businesses and government and everyone to adopt it and use it, so when people are here everything they pick up–whether it’s an ad, whether it’s a poster, whether it’s a menu, whether it’s directions–they can use their phone to understand what that sign says.”

Sounds like a great idea, though I am curious to know more about the technology they use.  From the image, it appears they use QR codes.  This makes me wonder what kind of data they are able to collect on users.  Which countries are they from?  Which signs translated most frequently and into what languages?

Interesting idea though!  I will have to make my way down to Fountain Square this summer to inspect these first hand!

Experiental fundraising: creating an emotional connection to a cause

In researching my semester project, I was fortunate enough to speak with Todd Levy, a Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Global Cloud whose online fundraising software – Donor Drive – provides non-profit organizations with the technology and donor data they need to create successful fundraising campaigns.

Todd explained to me that when it comes to online fundraising, he sees a lot of success driven by experiential fundraising campaigns.  These types of programs integrate an event – usually physical, though virtual events could be on the horizon – with fundraising.

One of the nonprofits who partners with Donor Drive is the Children’s Miracle Network.

Children’s Miracle Network Dance Marathon

“This generation more than any other generation needs to feel impact. They need to feel an emotional touchstone to what they’re doing.” – Zac Johnson, head of Youth Marketing at Children’s Miracle Network (Global Cloud Donor Drive, 2012)

Global Cloud Donor Drive partners with the Children’s Miracle Network to provide online fundraising software and social media integration.  Children’s Miracle Network drives online donations with live events like Dance Marathons to engage fundraisers an fulfill that emotional need to participate.

Children’s Miracle Network Dance Marathons are held on 150 college campuses across the country and raise $10 million annually and over $50 million to date for 175 children’s hospitals with 100% of the donations staying local.  Over the past three years, the Dance Marathon program has grown 80%.

Dance Marathon Conference 2011 from CMN Hospitals on Vimeo.

Why it works

The Dance Marathon event provides student fundraisers with a sense of community and shared purpose.  The partnership with Donor Drive, an online fundraising software provider complements the event by providing social media integration that helps to drive enthusiasm for the cause as well as donations with an easy and user friendly interface and customer service support.


Global Cloud Donor Drive. (2012, March 30). Engaging Millennial Participants. Retrieved April 10, 2012, from

“Lessing” is more – and other presentation advice from the masters

–Here’s to making Seth proud and OUR presentations less sucky!

On his website,, Garr Reynolds provides practical presentation tips for preparing and delivering a presentation as well as creating slides.

While preparing for a presentation, Reynolds recommends to:

Keep it Simple

He provides the example of producer, David Belasco who insisted that the core message of his plays should be able to be written on the back of a business card.

Tell a story – (my personal favorite)

If you want people to remember what you say, you have to make it personal/relevant to them. Stories are more interesting.

Show confidence

Reynold’s advice isn’t ground breaking but it is true. Practice – a lot. A well rehearsed presentation using an actual computer and projector – simulating the real presentation – can eliviate a fear of the unknown.

Deliver effectively

An effective presenter should have a strong start, maintain eye contact with audience members and be passionate about the material. Podiums tend to create a barrier with the audience and feel impersonal.

When it comes to length, keep it short not long. A high school English teacher once advised a speech “should be long enough to cover the subject, but short enough to keep it interesting.” (insert outdated metaphor to women’s clothing)

Reynolds also provides practical advise for creating slides such as limiting animations and using photographs of real people to create a more polished presentation and better connect with the audience.

Design for impact

I’m always particulary self concious of my PowerPoint formatting and design, so this advice is appreciated. Color, fonts, layout..I am very interested in learning how to create a more visually appealing presentation. The general advice from today’s readings is to keep slides clean, neat, and simple and to use design elements like color and font to highlight information.

Paulina Maldinato (sp?) recommends the following in her video “How to Design an Effective Presentation” which I plan to keep in mind as I create my presentation:

  • 8 seconds. The amount of time a single slide holds the audience’s attention
  • 6/6 rule. Standard rule of six lines per slide with no more than six words
  • Sans serifs fonts. Helvetica is the Holy Grail of sans serif fonts – but I can’t find out where/how to download it? (Anyone know? Is it free?). My runners up are Arial, Calibri, and Tahoma.
  • Reverse text. Use contrast to draw attention to specific words/phrases with this technique.
  • 150 dpi. The resolution of any image used in the presentaton.

Layering technology with storytelling

Both Reynolds and Porter suggest sketching and outline, narrative, or storyboard prior to producing a slide deck or recording a video.

Lessing uses pictures, video, simple words and emphatic fonts. He layers technology to emphasize points. Another good example is in his TED Talk on creativity and user generated content. He also uses the story telling technique which in addition to an interesting topic create a really compelling and motivating presentation.

I found Lessing to be a very powerful presenter conveying expertise, passion, and authority and effectively using presentation tools to highlight key points during his speech. Though I’m not sure that my 8 minute Prezi recording will reach TED talk influence, I can say that Lessing’s speech will be in the back of my mind as I prepare my own presentation.


How to design an effective presentation. (2009) Retrieved April 12, 2012 from

Larry Lessig on laws that choke creativity. (2007, March) Retrieved April 13, 2012 from

Lessing, L. (2005) The “Lessig Method” of presentation. Retrieved April 13, 2012 from

Porter, J., Sullivan, P., and Johnson-Eilola, J. (2008). Professional writing online 3.0. Pearson/A.B. Longman.

Reynolds, G. (2005) Presentation tips. Retrieved April 12, 2012 from

Seth Godin image courtesy of

Absolute Power(point)

After participating in a mildly torturous group PowerPoint presentation of my own this week, I appreciate Tufte’s irreverent attitude toward the presentation medium.

PowerPoints allow speakers to pretend that they are giving a real talk and audiences to pretend they are listening.”

Tufte argues that Powerpoint removes the conversational element out of presentations. In my world,  presenting is pretty Powerpoint-centric.  However, Powerpoint forces the audience to become consumers of information as a presenter churns through slide after slide. Ironically, presenters are now forced figure out how to make their Powerpoint presentations more engaging to the audience. Perhaps the first way to do this could be to reduce the focus on the slides and redirect it to the exchange of information.

First, do no harm

Some of Tufte’s complaints against Powerpoint include:

  • It’s not useful for sharing statistical, analytical information.
  • It’s presenter centered – not audience or content centered. The format of PPTs relies on many sequential slides with small amounts of information on each slide. Stacking information makes it difficult to convey context and relationships to an audience.
  • It’s easy to misrepresent information. Presenting words is difficult because the Powerpoint format forces presenters to use short, incomplete statements and slogans. In certain situations chunked words and data work – other times they don’t. But Tuft points out, the presentation of the content should not be limited by the technology.
  • Clutter. Tufte refers to items like “chartjunk.” If I had a nickel for every time I heard, “The information looks good, but can you make it look prettier?” The rub for me is conveying information in a clean and direct manner while also trying to make it visually “entertaining.”

Tufte stance is that PowerPoint works for about 20% of people. It forces the bottom 10% to organize themselves, and to be prepared with presentation points. For the top 10%, those with exceptional presentation skills already, PowerPoint doesn’t hurt.

Personally, I think that Powerpoint can provide a false sense of security for an inexperienced presenter who creates a PowerPoint deck instead of a presentation.

Try a better metaphor

“A better metaphor for presentations is good teaching.”

Focus on explaining material with credibility and authority. I’m also a big fan of the storytelling metaphor for presentations. A professional workshop geared around presenting as teaching or presenting as storytelling would be far more compelling and useful than one on how to present using PowerPoint.

And while presentation tools like Powerpoint help you prepare and organize inforamation, they can’t inherently make you an engaging and interesting speaker. That takes practice. (I’m the first to admit I could use more.)

After reading Tufte’s chapter, and evaluating my own history with PowerPoint, I think this final presentation might be a good opportunity to explore a new kind of presentation tool.

(Hey there, Prezi)


Tufte, E. R. (2006). The cognitive style of PowerPoint: pitching out corrupts within (2nd ed.). Cheshire, Conn.: Graphics Press.

Font, Color, and Layout: A Beginner’s Guide to Design

I don’t know about the rest of you, but although I greatly admire/covet the skill of design, I have zero formal training in it.

Great format and design can add emphasis to information and provide a tone for your message.

Call out quotes:

Use fonts, color, and layout to provide visual interest and guide a reader through the material. (Check out Adobe Kuler for visually pleasing color combos).

For today’s post I wanted to pass along an interesting – and timely – article from LifeHacker* on document design.  

Check it out for some great tips as you prepare your research paper!

*Subscribe to Lifehacker on Twitter for awesome everyday tips on how to do everything better, faster, and easier.


Lifehacker. A Non-Designer’s Guide to Typefaces and Layout. Retrieved on April 9, 2012 from:

You might be a Slacktivist…

…if you’ve ever put one of these on your car.

(image courtesy of

…or worn one of these.

(image courtesy of

slactivism (ˈslæktɪˌvɪzəm) — n

the public proclaiming of one’s political beliefs through activities that require little effort or commitment

Since the general theme of the class’ posts this week seems to be infographics, I thought this one was an interesting follow up to my earlier post on mobile donors.

(image courtesy of

On one hand-

I think that the chain reaction of events that social media capable of putting into action is incredible. Take the statistics on Red Cross mobile donations after the Haiti earthquake, or the awareness that Kony 2012 brought about in a matter of hours. The ability to incite action and awareness so immediately is fascinating.

Supporting a cause through social media also fills our desire to be part of something. And, social media makes it easy to participate, and to define ourselves to our friends/followers. Requesting a donation via text utilizes a medium that is already part of daily life to facilitate a charitable action. Campaigns like these succeed because they seem to follow an 80/20 principle. Do 80% of the work for your audience, and ask them to do just 20%.

Does social media make us more informed by providing access to more information than ever? Is it creating more positive social change than ever before?

Then again, I also wonder-

Does social media and technology also make us lazier?

Does it cause groupthink?

Are slacktivists really informed about the causes they support?

After its hugely successful viral campaign a few weeks ago, the credibility of Invisible Children, the non-profit behind Kony 2012, was questioned.

The Pew Research I posted about yesterday reports that few mobile donors actively follow up on the uses of their donations.

What do you think?

Random research tip: If you are not already, follow your topic or related organizations on Twitter. Like Google Alerts, is another way to bring information to you. I search Twitter by keywords and trending topics for information as well.


Fox, Z. (2012, April 3). Mashable. Retrieved April 4, 2012, from Why ‘Slacktivists’ Are More Active Than You Think [INFOGRAPHIC]:

slactivism. Retrieved April 6, 2012, from

Who are mobile donors?

Source: Real Time Charitable Giving: Why mobile phone users texted millions of dollars in aid to Haiti earthquake relief and how they got their friends to do the same

This is a study done by Pew Institute Research, a non-partisan think tank who maintains a strict code of ethics for their research.

The study measures mobile donations as part of the disaster relief efforts after the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

Some of the key findings of this study include –

  • More than half of text donors who were first time donors with Haiti subsequently contributed to additional disaster relief causes.
  • Mobile giving is immediate.  Most mobile users donate immediately without doing additional research.
  • Most text donors heard about the mobile donation program via TV or word of mouth.
  • Most text donors did not follow up on the reconstruction efforts after their donation
  • Email, online, in-person, and text are the most popular ways to donate; phone calls and voicemails are the least preferred methods of communication.
  • Text donor are more tech savvy than the average American:
    • 24% own readers
    • 23% use Twitter
    • 83% use social networking
    • 74% use phone for internet
  • Text donors are similar to national average American in civic/social participation
  • Mobile givers are younger – 30% between ages 18-29, and more racially/ethnically diverse
    • Whites only 51% of text donors
    • African Americans 17% text donors

This study shows that while text donors more tech savvy on average, they are not necessarily more politically charged/active than the average American.  Mobile donors are either impulsive – or prefer to do their own research before committing to a donation.  While most mobile donors believe they are positively impacting the world, they do not proactively follow up on the efforts of the donation/cause.

The research is valuable to me because it shows the demographics and motivations of mobile donors.


Smith, A. (2012). Real time charitable giving: why mobile phone users texted millions of dollars in aid to Haiti earthquake relief and how they got their friends to do the same. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

Historical evidence that social networking promotes creativity

This Toyota commercial uses the common misconception that social networking makes us less social.

Is this true? How is technology changing both the networking medium and its environment?

The 99% article The Social Networks of Emily Dickinson, Paul Gauguin & Charlotte Bronte highlights a study of three of history’s most famous introverts. The study finds that during spikes in creativity, the density of the creator’s social network was much higher than during uncreative periods. The results of the study also support Surowiecki’s theory of Wisdom of Crowds to:

  • Keep your ties loose.
  • Expose yourself to diverse sources
  • Make groups that range across hierarchies.

Technology changes the medium of communication and its immediacy, but the need for that same connection and idea sharing that Dickensen, Gaugin and Bronte wanted still exists and is being served, just in different ways and with more avenues for interaction, collaboration, and connection.

Imagine how social networking would change how these creators communicated:

Would Charlotte blog ideas for upcoming novels?

Would Emily tweet lines of poetry?


Sawyer, K.The Social Networks of Emily Dickinson, Paul Gauguin & Charlotte Bronte. Retrieved on April 4, 2012 from

Wikipedia. The Wisdom of Crowds. Retrieved on April 4. 2012 from