A recent Facebook-based conversation with Susan Mernit got me thinking about my place in feminism and technology.

I started to argue that “I’m not a feminist tech geek.” I play along with the male-dominated industry by adopting the behaviors of the men around me. I have a history of working on all-male teams and being treated as “one of them” rather than as “the woman.” You’ll find me in a button-down shirt, but you won’t find me in a dress. I expect the same respect and treatment as any man, and I nip any potentially sexist situation in the bud before it escalates. I have a firm handshake, I look people in the eye, I speak with confidence, and I refuse to be pidgeonholed by my gender.

And yeah, okay, I guess that could make me a feminist tech geek.

Argument lost.

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In my last post I talked about nonprofits using social media to reach their audiences — it’s inexpensive and effective. Unfortunately, I also know from personal experience that many people — especially in the nonprofit sector — don’t have time to sit down and learn the best strategies to leverage new technology. So let me lay out a few Cliffs Notes.

One of the cooler features of social media is that it allows you to keep an eye on what people are saying about you. If someone across the planet blogs about your organization, you can know about this almost instantaneously. If that blog post was favorable, you can jump right into the comments and thank them. If that blog post was unfavorable, you leap right into ‘damage control’ mode and address the complaint. If fact, you can do whatever you want with this feed of information once you’re receiving it. It’s kind of like a secret ninja move.

These are sometimes called “vanity feeds.” Here’s how to get them:

Technorati Feeds
Watch the blogs.

  1. Go to Technorati.com
  2. In the search box, type in your name or the name of your organization. If it’s more than one word, use quotation marks.
  3. The results that come up are what all of the publicly-indexed the blogs on the web are saying about you. Just above the search results, you should find a link that says “Subscribe.” Click it!
  4. What you’re looking at now is an RSS feed. You need to take the URL for this page and put it into an RSS reader, so you can be alerted when new things are added to it. If you’re not already using an RSS reader, go get an account with Google Reader and follow their instructions (it’s super easy).

Google Alerts
Watch the web.

  1. Go to Google.com/Alerts
  2. In the search box, type in your name or the name of your organization. If it’s more than one word, use quotation marks.
  3. Leave the search type drop-down at “Comprehensive,” unless you want to ignore some things and just focus on one area.
  4. Leave the “how often” at “once a day,” unless you really prefer otherwise.
  5. Type in your email address and hit “Create Alert.” You’ll get notifications of your presence on the web whenever it comes up.

Note: There’s some overlap between Google Alerts and Technorati — try both and see if you only feel like you need one of them after a few weeks. In my experience, Google Alerts will sometimes repeat the same alert over and over again, which can get annoying (and which is why I don’t recommend receiving Google Alerts “as it happens”). Technorati is a cleaner, more meaningful, and less invasive feed, but it also doesn’t cover the entire web.

Knowing about your reputation on the web is a key step in gaining control of it. But be careful not to get too addicted to watching these feeds… you still have other work to do.

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Beth Kanter (the heavyweight champion in getting technology into the hands of nonprofits) points out some new research to us today. Well, actually it’s more like a sneak preview of new research — which, of course, is even better.

The research shows us that large nonprofits are adopting social media more readily than Fortune 500 companies. They define social media as online video, blogging, social networking, podcasting, message boards, and wikis; and they also note that nonprofits are monitoring their reputation on the web more carefully than businesses are.

It makes perfect sense. Utilizing social media is an inexpensive and trust-driven way to reach lots of people. I hope awareness of how to use these tools effectively is also trickling down to the smaller nonprofits — the ones who need it the most.

You can download the four-page executive summary from UMass Dartmouth.

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I love Tara Hunt’s post today about Social Capital and Community Freeloaders. She dives into the nature of “favors from friends,” and writes:

“Now, I don’t want to reduce every interaction we human beings have with another person to being a transaction, but, in effect, it is. If I ask a friend for a favor, she is bound oblige. However, if I ask that same friend for ten favors, she may start to feel like I’ve depleted my “allowance” on my account with her. Of course, with different people, we have more leeway. With our close friends and family we have loads of Social Capital to withdraw from and as our relationships get more casual, the less influence and favor we carry with others.”

Basically, you have a bank account. The more Social Capital you’ve accumulated in that bank account, the more of a safety net you have when things get rough and you need help.

Tara breaks Social Capital transactions into a very nice table of deposits and withdrawals. “Performing a favor,” for example, is a deposit. ” Expecting that people come to your events when you don’t go to theirs,” on the other hand, is a clear example of a withdrawal.

I appreciate that she lists all of these deposits:

  • Asking for the first favor
  • Asking for a lateral introduction
  • Encouraging people to get involved in your projects.
  • Requesting simple advice.

It’s the second favor, the prestigious introductions, the unsolicited sales pitches, and the extensive advice that send hits to your Social Capital resources. But simple and friendly “I could use your help” shoulder-taps can actually strengthen a connection. They show someone that they’re important to you, and that you value what they have to offer.

Another fun read on this subject is Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time.

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Q: What’s red and giggles and completely screwed up the American economy in December, 1996?A: Tickle-Me-Elmo

Have I ever mentioned that I worked in toy stores before I started building websites? I did this on and off for more than five years, and it was probably the best education I could have ever received in marketing and consumerism. Toys, especially around the holiday season, don’t get marketed to the people who will spend money on them; they get marketed to the people who will ask for them as gifts. Why? Because it’s easy to say no to an advertisement; it’s hard to say no to someone you love dearly.

(Have you ever tried to get two children to leave a toy store without buying something for them first?)

But notch it up to Adult Land, and there are a few toys getting big attention this holiday season. They are…

The Amazon Kindle – a portable book reader that’s easy on the eyes and connects directly to the Amazon store from anywhere. Check it out:

Some grief has risen up in the blogosphere about the Kindle because, while it allows access to blogs, it allows certain ones, and you have to pay for them.

And people seem to have already forgotten that there’s a very similar competitor also available, the Sony Reader, which connects — you guessed it — to the Sony store.

Both devices hold more reading material than I would get through in a year, both weigh less than your average hardcover, and neither supports color (my guess is that’s the next generation).

But if the Internet has made you too A.D.D. to read books anymore, you might be more interested in this toy:

The Chumby – Kind of a cross between a computer, a television, a stereo, a stress-relieving squeezeball, and a picture frame. Take a look at the intro video to get a feel for what I’m talking about:

If this is your dream toy, you’ll want to keep an eye on the widget factory over at Chumby.com.

(Oh, and Mom? Please don’t buy me any of these. They’re kinda silly and I really don’t need them. Thanks.)

I wish you all a very merry Buy Nothing Day, filled with lots of exercise and blogging.

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I’m thankful that I can still pull out my New Hampshire plaid shirt and rock the farmer-girl look when green beans and sweet potatoes are hitting the table.

I’m thankful that two years ago, I spent my first Thanksgiving in San Francisco roaming the streets alone, seeing the holiday from a completely different perspective. I’m equally thankful that this year, I’ve had more turkey dinner invitations than I could say “yes” to. Much to my surprise, I’m attending four of them (one of which is being described online in mouth-watering detail). I’m thankful that this means I’ve made friends in this city, many of whom I’ve started calling “family.”

I’m thankful that my family of origin is healthy and safe and doing well. My mother, a minister, doesn’t have to work today. Neither does my step-father, a business owner. All five of their children are off in different cities sharing thanksgiving meals without them, and they are home, quiet, feeling immensely thankful to be home for once, and to be able to be quiet.

I lost a grandfather this year –a big man of few words who always carved the Thanksgiving turkey when I was growing up. I remember his large, calloused carpenter hands. They built things for us. They carried us. They were rocks.

I still have five living grandparents. Five. I have a lot to be thankful for. And somewhere in New Hampshire, there is an 8-year-old girl who thinks her Cousin Sarah is the most exciting person in the whole entire world, and I take that responsibility very seriously.

I’m thankful that I found the tech industry (or maybe that the tech industry found me). I spend every day in awe that there is a community and an economy that values all of my skills, embraces my independent style, and pays me well enough to live in this (expensive) beautiful fairytale land of a city. I accepted a position at a new firm yesterday. My gratitude and excitement are uncontainable.

And I’m thankful I didn’t wake up this morning with a Surfer Dude next to me. And I’m hopeful that if he figures out how to spell my last name and decides to google me, he’ll forgive me for my recounted perspective on our evening.

Please remember the pilgrims today, and vow to be much more sincere and respectful than our country’s origins teach us to be.

Cheers!

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This post concludes the three-part saga:

At the risk of being a real jerk to some poor, nice, innocent man on the Internet, I’m going to tell the truth:

THAT DATE SUCKED!

cbd-after1.jpg

First off, thank you to my twitter posse for watching the play-by-play and offering me escape routes when things went South. One of you offered to come pick me up, and another called me to pretend that her car had exploded and that she needed me–and only me–to come and rescue her right now. That was awesome. Fortunately, I didn’t need it. Surfer Dude got the hint and let me leave on my own free will.

But let’s back up. Things started off fine. Well, sort of.

CBD has this neat thing where they enable text messaging between parties 30 minutes before the date. He texted me first (10 points right there), and agreed to meet early (another 5 points). He was fabulous and charming in those few, brief text messages. Yay CrazyBlindDate!

A few minutes later, he showed up in a hat with a marijuana leaf on it, a glazed look in his eyes, and a slow voice. He then proceeded to forget the first few things I told him about myself. (minus 20 points)

But as we moved from pizza place to bar, he started talking, opened up, and became charming again (10 points!). Then he bought me a beer (5 points). A Chimay, actually (‘nuther 5 points).

But when the conversation shifted from “what do you do for a living?” to sexuality in San Francisco, and he became politely — and quite sincerely — homophobic (minus 50 points).

The clinching line was, “You know, I think it’s okay for women to be lesbians, but not for men to be gay. I used to think that was a sexist statement, but now I believe it’s just natural. See, lesbians turn men on, so that makes it okay.” (minus 100 points.)

And then, to solidify the logic: “Well, if gay men turned women on, I think more men would be gay. ‘Cuz men will do anything to have sex. I mean, with women. So men would be gay to have sex with women.” (Can we just drop an anvil on his head right now?)

Then we got personal, and such gems fell out of his mouth as “Have you ever tried to be feminine?(I’m wearing lipstick, eyeliner, and cleavage, you asshole) and “Maybe you could wear a wig next time…(I had stopped keeping track of points by now). He finished by reassuring me that I’m cute, even though it seems like I try not to be. (Gee, thanks.)

Then he reached out, stroked my arm, rubbed my ears, and offered to take me back to his place to watch horror movies so he could watch me squirm. (“Do I look like the squirmy type?” I asked. “Oh yeah,” he said.)

There were more comments, but frankly, I don’t think they’re appropriate for a public blog post.

The worst part was he was so kind in his misogyny. I actually felt bad for him. And he was sensitive to the fact that we were living on different planets. One of his sweetest statements, as he rubbed my wrist inappropriately, was “Isn’t it amazing how two people who are so different can get along so well?”

That was when I realized I was being far too polite, and it was time to go.

cbd-after2.jpg

When he offered to give me a ride home, I flat out lied to him and told him I had a friend nearby that I needed to visit. We hugged briefly and walked away in different directions. I waited until he wasn’t looking and then ducked into a store. Five minutes later, I saw him walk past the window: he had walked in the opposite direction of his car just to get away from me. Well, at least the date was a mutual failure.

But as lame as all of that was, I still think CrazyBlindDate is amazing. The website, at least. It’s wonderful. The people? Well, I guess you get what you get. Be prepared for some rotten apples. Or maybe, just put on your “every problem is an opportunity” hats, and see what you can learn from the situation.

For example, I learned that there ARE still idiots in the world. Somehow I had forgotten this.

(I wonder who I’ll get for my date for Friday night!)

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cbd-before.jpg

I’m meeting Surfer Dude in just over an hour. Reality is starting to sink in. This has the potential to be very strange.

(Fortunately, I’m still mostly entertained by the whole thing.)

Watch twitter — hopefully i’ll be able to send smoke signals from the ladies’ room!

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I usually try to keep my love life out of the public blogosphere, but this story just needs to be told. I have a date tomorrow night with a guy who is six feet tall and looks like a surfer dude. He enjoys talking about movies, society, philosophy, and politics, and is looking for someone mature and responsible. Sometimes he can get bored easily. Sometimes he smokes. He’s white, he’s college educated, and his religious beliefs are “Other.”

Crazy Blind Date - BetaI also know his first name and his age, and that’s about it. We’re meeting at 7pm at a bar in San Francisco. And no, a friend didn’t set us up… unless you want to call CrazyBlindDate.com a “friend”…

CrazyBlindDate.com was started by the folks who brought us OkCupid — the free social networking / test-taking / dating site that’s given the pay sites like Match.com and eHarmony a run for their money. And so far, I’m impressed.

The premise is simple: you tell them a few things about yourself, who you’re looking to meet, where you’re willing to travel, and when you’re willing to do that. Meanwhile, other people are on the site doing the same thing. The Internet Brain lines you up, makes a match where requirements coincide, and asks both parties to confirm the date after showing basic information about the other person. This includes very blurry pictures of each other, as a teaser. Once you say yes, you’re committed to it.

CBD - Blurry Pic

Thirty minutes before the date, they open a phone relay so that you can send text messages to each other via CrazyBlindDate’s central number (you don’t actually get to see the other person’s phone number). This helps with the “spotting each other in a crowded bar” issue. Once you find each other, you’re on your own. Then, after the date, you provide feedback for each other on the site. This helps in coordinating and verifying future crazy blind dates.

Blind dates are inherently sketchy-sounding. Blind dates without mutual friends involved, even more so. That’s why I’m excited about this site: they’re taking something that has massive screw-up potential, and handling it well.

My favorite thing about the site is that it stays focused. When you get there, they don’t start by asking for your login info; they start by asking what city you’d like to go on a date in (sorry — it’s only active for Austin, Boston, NYC, and SF Bay right now). They then walk you through a full dating wizard, convince you that yes, this really could work, and get you emotionally invested in the process. THEN, at the end, after you’ve already checked your schedule to make sure you can have a date tomorrow night, they suggest signing up to actually make it happen. It’s clean, friendly, American-buddy-style language that sets an encouraging tone and asserts some basic etiquette. There’s nothing extraneous thrown in to distract. Not even any ads. And the service is free.

Since the site is pretty new, it’s not overrun with a massive dating pool yet, and finding specific kinds of people at specific times can be hard. I didn’t specify age, gender, or any other personal details. I also set my region to cover most of San Francisco, and I listed wide time slots. That seemed to do it.

What does Surfer Dude know about me? He knows that I have a shaved head, I like to talk about technology and poetry, I’m really just testing out this website, and I’m not planning on sleeping with him (let’s just get that out of the way now!).

CBD- Status

The rest will come out over a beer tomorrow night.

Don’t worry, I’ll tell you all about it.

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Robert Scoble has a blog. Robert Scoble’s blog is kinda famous. Robert is kinda famous for his blog.

And by “kinda famous” I mean “very famous.”

Famous people tend to get sucked into the realm of “needing to stay famous.” Sometimes that means getting self-conscious and changing their style. And sometimes doing that is a mistake.

His post yesterday was brilliant:

“If you aren’t willing to look like an idiot in public (or, even, prove that you ARE one) you won’t be a really great blogger.

Lately I’ve found that I’ve started worrying about LOOKING like an idiot to all of you and it’s stilted my writing. I started worrying about getting a better “rank” (whatever the heck THAT means). And all the hubris-filled-bullpucky that goes along with this stuff.

If you asked me whether I wanted to be invited to an Apple or Google press conference I’d drool on the floor and say “yes, yes, yes.” Now that I’ve been? I really can’t understand why I thought that at one point. It was a major flaw in my thinking.

But I’ve been reading a lot of blogs lately. Who are the guys who I’d rather hang out with?

People who prove they are human.

Human beings make mistakes.

Human beings aren’t always smart. Even the smartest ones…”

He goes on, and ends with:

“In the meantime, if you worry about looking like an idiot you’ll never take risks and you’ll never explore yourself. More idiocy ahead! “

Robert Scoble, thank you for keeping it real.