At the Crossroads of Media, Culture and Technology

Social Media for Non-Profits Returns to Seattle April 28th

Social Media for Non-Profits Executive Director

Ritu Sharma Executive Director. Photo courtesy of SM4NP

Social Media 4 Non-Profits (SM4NP) has been traveling for the past three years, visiting 40 cities to bring world class social media know-how to Seattle next week:


Monday April 28th

9:00 am – 4:30pm

Seattle University

This young start-up is trying to disrupt the non-profit world out of its old communication strategies and take it into the digital world. We caught up with Ritu Sharma, SM4NP Executive Director,  to discuss non-profits, entrepreneurship and a few words of advice for taking your non-profit digital.


How did you get the idea to start this?

I was organizing social media monitoring and measuring conferences in the for-profit sector very similar to the current SM4NP series and I met with Darian, my cofounder and partner. He shared with me the feedback that he was receiving about his book and the need for more social media-related content. He had approached me about doing a couple book release events and we decided to launch a social media for nonprofits concert series followed by book launch receptions to promote the book. Social Media for Nonprofits (SM4NP) was started three years ago to address the gap in the nonprofit sector of quality and accessible training dedicated to leveraging social media for social good. There were several organizations providing social media training at the time as a single session or track but not an entire conference dedicated to an immersive experience for nonprofit organizations to learn about different social media platforms, or to connect and network with other professionals in the same space.

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Rise of the “Storytelling App”

“Your Photos Deserve Better”.

This is the declaration of the homepage of and their assumption is that wherever your photos have lived up until this point, it’s not nearly as good. Here’s the thing: I completely agree. If you haven’t heard of Exposure, or Storehouse, or Steller – fear not. These hip names represent some of the latest players in the world of multimedia storytelling.

Some point back to the beautiful and award-winning piece by the New York Times called “Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek” as the moment when the public’s eyes were opened to the world of a more complex, visually stunning and immersive way to present stories to the public.

No matter its inception, a new way to share your content is emerging and I recently had the chance to take two of the most popular new platforms for a spin: Storehouse and Exposure. (I’ve also dabbled with Steller, a free iPhone app that you can read about here.)

Exposure: MY SAMPLE

Exposure App Screenshot

Here’s what I love about Exposure. When used correctly, you will not be able to pull yourself away from a story. Take for example, Josh Trujilio’s coverage of the devastating Oso landslide. My wife and I were glued to these images and instantly felt a sense of closeness to the story that we hadn’t felt in reading the coverage elsewhere online.

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Viral Video: World’s Toughest Job

Flip the Media Viral Video Graphic

It’s been just three days since Cardstore has released its “World’s Toughest Job” video, laying out requirements and qualifications that at first seem absurd. The “job” has received rave reviews from viewers across professions. If you are still not following and wondering about the toughest job, then here is a quick review of the ad released by Cardstore ahead of the Mother’s day! Watch it first, then read on.

As you can see, the company posted online a fake job posting and interviewed candidates via video calling. The interviewer explains some of the requirements of this tough job which demands mobility and exertion seven days a week with no breaks and holidays. When you thought things couldn’t get any more worse – or any more hilarious – the interviewer adds that the company will pay nothing to the candidate who is expected to meet the extraordinary demands. Toward the end when the interviewer reveals that there are billions of people doing this job out in the world and are known as ‘MOMS’, the audience is left with a brief smile.

The confident interviewer, confused and surprised candidates, and the crisp script beautifully bring out the idea that we often forget to value the contributions and sacrifices that moms make throughout their lives to protect and guide us. She is the only one who loves us unconditionally and is the source of steely strength. After watching the ad, each requirement  (Constantly working, always on the feet, 24X7, no scheduled break, financial management and culinary skills) described by the interviewer to describe the job made more sense to me.

Cardstore couldn’t have asked for more perfect timing for tagging Chelsea Clinton as Director of Operations (aka mom to be). The campaign has definitely engaged mothers by asking  them to add more content to the job description on company’s blog. Enthusiastic moms are posting images of their little ones in different moods and giving thumbs up to the idea of #World’sToughestJob. 

The advertisers picked up a simple idea and creatively infused the message and brand name, which will have a high recall value for a long time. The video  has already recorded more than 3 million views.

Cardstore has definitely nailed it with its amazing, unique & touching take on the world’s most beautiful and toughest role: Mothers!

How Far Will You Go to Protect Your Privacy? How Much Can You Protect?

It gets your attention. Heartbleed logo, by Codenomicon

It gets your attention.
Heartbleed logo, by Codenomicon

If you’re concerned about security or just sick to death of hearing about the notorious Heartbleed bug, you may want to shut out the internet’s pervasive Heartbleed noise.

But perhaps you shouldn’t. It’s a catalyst for a long-overdue discussion about what it means to be a part of the virtual world, what this means for the open source community and who we trust.

At times like this, those of us who were feeling a little behind with the state our online security game have been busy. Some sources estimate that more than a third of us do not have password protection on their mobile devices. Other estimates put that figure much higher. If you haven’t been concerned about the issue (is your password “Password”, like so many other people out there?), now is the time to take stock: Find a better way to protect yourself and stop leaving a digital key under your virtual front-door mat.

My own personal productivity has taken a hit since last week’s news about the Heartbleed bug. I’ve been busy changing passwords, of course, but I’m also revisiting my personal online security infrastructure. And if the figures regarding weak passwords – and no passwords at all – are correct, many of the people reading this should do the same.

Of course that’s what has so many of us chewing nails. It’s a pain to step away from the seductive power of our online tools for a few minutes – or several hours – to evaluate how we use those tools and how our use of them is making us vulnerable. It’s also difficult for most of to find the time to do so because of our perhaps not-so seductive work and/or school obligations. Hackers happily exploit this fact of modern life.

How did we get here?

By this time, most tech-savvy readers know that Heartbleed is not a virus, created deliberately to entrap unwary netizens. Rather it’s a coding error in the OpenSSL cryptographic software library, an inadvertent omission by one of the open source programmers who contributed to the free software that is ubiquitous in much of the corporate world. Robin Seggelmann , the German Ph.D. student and programmer whose error gave us the Heartbleed bug, was working on improving the security of the system at the time. The ball that he dropped – a failure to validate a variable – was not caught by the code reviewer who certified his code. It’s the type of error that’s easy to make, but supremely difficult to spot. It did not create a functional error, but merely created a vulnerability for someone with the imagination, the technical ability, and the will to exploit a system weakness. Therein lies a one of the glaring weaknesses of today’s complex systems: we don’t know what we don’t know.

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Viral Video: The Best April Fools Prank

Flip the Media Viral Video Graphic

Although we are now well into April, this beautifully executed class prank continues to garner views. Why? Perhaps because it shows respect and an easy camaraderie in the macroeconomics class where this all happened – and how easy is camaraderie to find in macroeconomics? No professors were harmed in the making of this video.


ZunZuneo: Social Media Falls Into the Wrong Hands

Zunzuneo logo

Zunzuneo logo

Well, that was nice – those few years we thought we could reach out over the internet to connect authentically.

Heady with the success of the Arab Spring, and  the galvanizing role of Facebook in organizing the Ukrainian protest group EuroMaidan, netizens the world over justifiably may have been feeling that social media is the tool of the masses. The recent flap over the USAID’s (United States Agency on International Aid) blunder with the social media platform ZunZuneo in Cuba shows that things have just gotten more complicated.

A powerful tool is bound to be co-opted for use by other forces than “ordinary” citizenry at some point. Social media’s successes in helping large, anonymous groups to effectively find sympathizers and quickly organize is clearly too great not to tempt larger organizations with their own agendas. Yes, it’s true that commercial interests are using social media with resounding success. But it is in their interest to communicate honestly about who and what they are and what they are selling.

Turns out, USAID saw the potential of Twitter and sought to harness it for its own purposes in Cuba, although USAID offers a humanitarian spin on the creation of the Twitter-like ZunZuneo.

Cuban slang for a hummingbird’s tweet, ZunZuneo was a social media platform developed by third-party contractors and distributed to the Cuban public via an SMS text blast in 2009. The microblogging site, which enabled users to accumulate followers and ostensibly exchange information about such everyday topics as weather and music was popular until its demise (following USAID withdrawal of funding) in 2012. The site reportedly had 68,000 users.

It is now known, however, that the real purpose of Zunzuneo was to “renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society.”

The effect of the operation has been far different to what its originators – whoever they are – must have intended.

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Your Next Position: Information Architect, UX Architect or UX Designer?

Digital Careers Graphic

(Graphic: Hanns-Peter Nagel)

A few years ago, I wrote a post for Flip the Media on how to become a Content Strategist—and soon became one. In this position, I get to work with and learn from other digital media professionals. I recently collaborated on a complex website re-launch with Eric Ranelletti, an Information Architect who, confusingly, also identified himself as a UX Architect. “About five years ago, people started talking about user experience (UX) in addition to information architecture (IA),” explains Ranelletti. “It denotes that there is more to structuring the experience for users than simply manipulating content. Wireframes are not just fonts and boxes; anytime something is put on paper and identified, it becomes an expression of ideas that should be explored and evolved.”

And then there is the close cousin to IA/UX Architect, the UX Designer. Jeroen Bet has ample IA experience, but his role as User Experience Designer at Expedia is “much more visual,” although he does consider the hierarchy of information. The role of a UX Designer goes beyond designing individual interfaces, argues Bet—it’s about making the user experience as seamless as possible. “A coupon has to be applied to the price of a hotel. But how does the customer get a coupon? What happens if the coupon has expired? A UX Designer thinks about the whole process and thinks of opportunities where the company can add value for the customer.”

The three job titles are part of a continuum of functional roles. Continue reading

Viral Video: Live In-Flight Entertainment – the Lion King

The time between getting on a plane and take-off is usually the time to mindlessly kill some zombies or crush some candy. Passengers on a flight from Brisbane to Sydney (hopefully) put down their smartphones when the cast of the Australian Lion King burst out into an impromptu performance of “The Circle of Life”. If you like the Lion King or not, this just sounds like pure fun.

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Flip the Media Viral Video Graphic