The deeper I tumble down the rabbit hole of community development, the less I care about the social media marketing crowd, and the more interested I am in people who just do it without realizing how or why.

I’d like you to meet Whitney Moses, if you haven’t already.  (Chances are you have.)

Whitney Moses

Whitney is a massage therapist with a social life.

The social media numbers?  It’s unfair to talk about them since she could care less, but I’m going to anyway. She has over 1600 friends on Facebook, and is actually friends with every single one of them.  She keeps a close written account of her life for her inner circle of friends (400+ people) on Livejournal. And being still kinda new to Twitter, she’s rallied about 630 followers from her universe on there.  (It’s also worth adding that she and Amanda Palmer go way back.)

The only internet stats she does care about are her business reviews, since they’re critical to her livelihood.  Having changed office spaces several times in the last few years, she’s at the mercy of her clients to rebuild that pile from scratch every time.  The last move was a few months ago, and she’s up to 30 reviews on Yelp and a 5-star rating.

Whitney is active, both physically and socially.  She sings and dances regularly in the San Francisco club scene, and she monkeys around at the rock climbing gym whenever she has the chance.  She’s obsessed with the human body, and is usually enrolled in extra courses to expand her massage therapy offerings, even though she already has plenty of certifications.  Online, she reads as much as she can about what her friends are up to, comments on their stuff religiously, and sends them personal notes whenever she’s thinking of them.

People love her.  She’s smart, generous, compassionate, aware, engaged, fair, accessible, and joyful about life.   Whenever a friend needs something, she finds a way to make it happen for them.  Whenever she needs something, people run toward her in mobs, holding as much of it as they can carry.

When I started the Deviants Online series in the winter, Whitney was one of the first people I invited to speak at the workshop.  But when I asked her, she looked at me like I had three heads.  “Social Media Marketing” isn’t her subject.  She wouldn’t even consider herself a great example of how to “be awesome on the Internet.” That’s for other people to be experts on. She’s just being herself.

Exactly the point.

I’m still working on her, and will hopefully get her to start articulating her methods and philosophies soon.  But that’s not what’s going on right now.

Right now, she has a broken leg. Well… worse. A knee full of ripped ligaments. As of last Saturday, she’s injured and not allowed to walk, dance, or work for six months.  Our Whitney, the center of a massive community, is down. And without insurance.

I saw her last night.  She was laughing about it, but also clearly frustrated, and worried about how this is all going to play out.

I managed to wait until I left before I burst into tears.  I crumbled into an incoherent, snot-dripping wreck, mumbling onto the shoulder of another friend, “No.  We NEED her OUT there!”

It’s just six months. She’ll get through it. But the shock still has me dizzy: Whitney’s been a lighthouse of passion, activity, health, and engagement in my life for years.  I don’t think about it — I just stand up stronger because I know she’s there, and living with the grace and force and connection that I pretend I’ll someday attain. Seeing that threatened hit me like a fist to the gut.

No. We need her out there.

Fortunately, the whole “without insurance” thing is only a half-truth.  It’s true she’s probably facing $30,000 in medical bills and 6 months worth of lost wages, but there are also hundreds (maybe thousands) of people who are committed to helping her out.  The crowds are already organizing a central calendar to plan visits, transportation, and meals for her, and schemes for several fundraisers are already in the works.

She doesn’t have that kind of safety net because she’s a nice person.

She has that safety net because she has spent her entire life listening to and supporting the people around her, pursuing her dreams as honestly as possible, and including as many people as she can in them.

UPDATE!  Stuff You Can Do…

deviants online

I’m really excited, and really proud, of what’s starting to happen with Deviants Online.  Not familiar with it? No problem – here are the basics.

Deviants Online was started because, while there are plenty of social media resources for mainstream businesses, there just aren’t many (or any!) for us “deviants” – queer folk, artists, sex geeks, undergrounders, and others that don’t walk the straight and narrow. We wanted to create a way for us to network, learn from each other (and from guests who are experienced at handling the personal / professional / volunteer blend), teach each other, and talk about best practices for handling social media and online networking. Think – a Facebook tutorial for the queerly minded….a Twittering lesson for those who value their personal privacy but want to get the word out about their projects…ideas for blogging artists to get their work in front of more people…and other sexy things to do with Google.

While we’re having the workshops monthly in San Francisco, we wanted to make the conversations available to others who can’t attend, so we’re happy that we’ve got the edited recording of the December ’09 meeting up for your listening enjoyment. We give attendees a chance to chat “off record” and we edit out any mentions of identifying information that slip during the gathering, so what you’ll hear combines the amazing resources & information that come up during the discussion with a healthy respect and protection of personal privacy.

>> Listen to the first workshop here! <<

We’d love for you to join us in coming months – you can see a full schedule at the website. On January 12, Meitar “maymay” Moscovitz will be our featured guest for the next workshop. While we encourage donations to cover the cost of the meeting space, please don’t skip it if money’s an issue for you – we value your presence and energy far more than your money!

Any questions? Just ask…and please come check it out!

Oh hey, I haven’t blogged here in a month.  Why?  Because I’ve been way too busy with life!  To catch you up, here’s an Executive Summary of Exciting Things that are in my line of sight right now:

Social Media

by Harper Wray

Genderfork

I recently added a form that lets people tell me whatever’s on their mind about gender anonymously. Dozens of people pounced on it, and my little blog curation brain exploded.   We’ve now got an active talkative community, a constant feed of brilliant thoughts, an influx of new profiles, and a really nifty twitter stream.  I have a thousand things to say about all this — on anonymity and gender consciousness — but I’m still trying to collect my thoughts.

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Boffery

We showed up in Forbes.com, the Village Voice, a Fox News late show, and — somehow — Italy. A thousand people are knocking on our doors for beta invites right now, and we’re working our asses off to get the site into shape.  We’re also thrilled about bigger questions that this buzz has brought up in the communities around us: How do we currently talk about sexuality with our trusted friends, and where we want to take that conversation from here?

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Ventana

Cerado Ventana is evolving like crazy into something of endless potential.  BlogHer’s using it to make search widgets (so gorgeous!), Social Media Club is passing it around as a member directory, and, yes, we even got Barack Obama on board (well, okay, not him personally, but still). Inside scoop: we’re working on a new major iteration of the system which should be live within a month.  Expect another major influx of useful widgets and customizable iphone apps as soon as I can set that free.

Art

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Can I Sit With You, Too?

Hey, guess what? I’m in a book!  And the book happens to be fantastic — it’s full of stories of social awkardness in the grade school social scene… stories that are so absurd you know they have to be true.  Mine’s called “Will you go out me?”  (yep — i’m telling that one).  The proceeds benefit a special needs program that directly takes care of some of my favorite bloggers’ kids, so it’s extra-worth the cover price.  Go buy it. You’ll love it.  Swear.

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Mosaics not Mortagages

This one’s not mine, but it’s something I want you to know about.  My good friend, artist John T. Unger, is using the recession as a reason to get more creative.  He’s been designing his dream studio for about a decade and is finally ready to build it, but now can’t get a loan because the banks are too screwed up with the economy.  So instead, he’s selling gorgeous high-end custom mosaics to raise the funds.  If you know anyone who’d be interested in this shinyshiny art, please send them John’s way.

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Queer Open Mic

Hey hey hey — Queer Open Mic is THIS FRIDAY! Come play!  We went underground for a little while due to a loss of venue, but now we’re back and better than ever at Modern Times Bookstore (it’s perfect!). This Friday, we’re featuring Aimee Suzara, who rocks my socks. Sign-ups are at 7pm and show’s at 7:30. See you there!

Life

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::Stupid Grin::

I accidentally fell in love… but that’s all I’m gonna say about it… unless you get me out for dinner… in which case I’ll tell you everything.

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.

What color would you say my eyes are?

My driver’s license says “brown,” but it’s a lie. My mother taught me my eyes were “hazel,” but over the years I’ve learned that “hazel” just means “a hard color to describe in one word” and actually carries no consistency across faces. One of my close friends in high school gave up on trying to answer this question and just started calling me “the girl with kaleidescope eyes.” But let’s not cop out here. I’ll give you a hint: my eyes are green and amber with red flecks and brown highlights.

I make an effort to look people in the eye when I talk to them, and I’ve been noticing lately, that I’m not so alone in my kaledescopiness. I’m seeing my own eyes show up on more and more people, and more often than not on creative professionals — those rebellious independent folk who create their own careers and answer first to themselves. So I’m now asserting a theory: green/amber/red/brown kaleidescope eyes are a sign of a creative, ambitious individual who probably has issues with authority.

This theory will likely be proven absurd and fall by the wayside, as my silly theories often die. (For years, I’ve been trying to prove that everybody named Amy is a lesbian and that no one actually lives in Montana.) But, regardless, I am collecting evidence now. If you have some, please send it my way.

The Experiment…
People throw around a lot of names at conferences; sometimes you recognize them, sometimes you don’t. I went into my week at SXSWi 2007 with a mission: to write down every name that was dropped on me (see my pre-trip mission statement, Namedropping 2.0, for the back story and the rules).

The end result, in theory, would be a list of everyone who is Internet Famous in my spheres of interest as of SXSWi 2007. This is, of course, an oversimplification, an overdramatization, and a gross generalization, but hey, let’s look at the list anyway.

The Disclaimer…
This project was truly impossible and this list is incomplete. For many, many reasons I know I’ve left off significant people whose names were dropped at the conference. It’s really not on purpose — I just couldn’t keep up. So I invite you now to review the list and comment below with your own additions to it. Who is Internet Famous to you?

The Results…
Read the rest of this entry »

Kathy Sierra, one of the keynote speakers at SXSWi this year, is hiding in her home with the doors locked right now, cancelling events and fearing for her life. She’s been receiving rape and death threats from anonymous trolls in the blogosphere.

She writes…

‘Do not put these people on a pedestal. Do not let them get away with calling this “social commentary”, “protected speech”, or simply “criticism”. I would never be for censoring speech–these people can say all the misogynistic, vile, tasteless things they like–but we must preserve that line where words and images become threats of violence. Freedom of speech–however distasteful and rude the speech may be, is crucial. But when those words contain threats of harm or death, they can destroy a life.’

Read her post and pass it on. As danah boyd points out, we need to stand up in social solidarity. This is our community. We have a responsibility to protect our space and send a message: this kind of behavior is NOT okay.

“i donÂ’t have a hipster pda. the hipster rule of law requires that one must never declare oneself a hipster. paraleptical, yes. but i donÂ’t have a hipster pda; i have a bunch of 3 by 5Â’s held together with a clip.” –Alicia Dattner, Getting Shit Done: Productivity for Unprofessionals

Okay, so I don’t have a Hipster PDA (hPDA), either. I have an ultra-techie 1-year-out-of-date Palm OS Treo 650 phone. But that doesn’t make me any less fascinated with how people more creative than myself are organizing their lives with flare and attitude.The Hipster PDA is truly a beautiful thing. Merlin Mann (one of my heroes) popularized a cool renovation on David Allen’s Getting Things Done system which involves a handful of notecards, a paperclip, and your back pocket. Whoever said “getting effectively organized costs lots of money” has obviously never been introduced to this little miracle.I thought it stopped there. We all did. But oh, how wrong we were. I don’t think any of us saw the Hipster Shuffle coming…The formula is simple (in the true spirit of Hipster PDA culture): replace the paperclip with a new iPod shuffle, and dance all night long to the rhythm of true synthesized style and organization. The blog post that introduces the idea, and its corresponding youtube video, are absolutely hillarious.

JenkaSome people do work because they need money. Some people do work because they want to grow in a certain direction. And some people do work because it’s who they are. Meet Jenka. She is Identity. And in this culture, there’s a market for identity — a big one. She does work because it’s who she is. And she just recently started writing about it at social.creature. Check it out. She kicks it off by telling us how and why she became identity.

being a former russian immigrant, turned american resident, living in israel, and speaking russian, english, and hebrew fluently would consistently disorient people’s understanding of what my “identity” was and how they were supposed to be treating me. … this experience in israel is, in retrospect, where my understanding of identity comes from: just how mutable it really is, how much of it is a constructed performance, how important a role context plays in that performance, and how the process of choosing who to be is just that. … making a message that has to fit in, has to rebel, has to speak to the VIPs, to the underdogs, to the clever ones playing all sides, and is keepin’ it real the whole time is a practice i’ve been working on my whole life.

First of all, I love how she’s transformed being an other into being valuable. May we all sit up straight and learn this lesson. Second, she’s right. We choose who we are. Sometimes we just need a little help from someone who knows what she’s doing.

Let me tell you about a phenomenal woman named Sue Richards. Sue Richards lives in Canada. She started off on the “normal” life track — you know, go to school, get a job, be the best corporate monkey you can be… when suddenly, right smack dab in the middle of her default life, she realized she wanted to do so much more than sit at this boring desk. She threw her hands up in the air, screamed “SCREW THIS!” at the top of her Canadian lungs, and set out across the great land of “eh?” and “aboot” to do something phenomenal. Sue Richards became a social pioneer. Breast of CanadaA chunkful of fearless years later, she’s now the proud organizer of the multifaceted calendar project, Breast of Canada. On its sixth year of beauty, the Breast of Canada calendar is an incredible compilation of artistic photos and breast cancer awareness health information.Let me put it this way:

  1. You buy the calendar and hang it in your kitchen.
  2. You immediately have a fascinating conversation topic whenever someone comes over to visit, thus increasing your social prowess and reputation as a cultured, artistic, and interesting friend.
  3. You learn about and increase your awareness of breast health, body image, and general health.
  4. You feel good that the net proceeds of your purchase are going to help the Canadian Breast Cancer Network
  5. Every day you look at the calendar, you are reminded of the story of Sue Richards — the phenomenal woman who broke free of the daily grind to save the world one boob at a time.

Sold yet? Good. Now go buy your Christmas/Hannukah/Solstice/Yule/New Years gifts here: http://www.breastofcanada.com/order.phpI’ve got one. I’m also overexcited to get to January, just so I can start using it without looking too strange. Sue RichardsNow, back to Sue. Sue’s my hero for a lot of reasons. One is that she broke free of social restraint to do something phenomenal. Two is that she blogs in red satin gloves that stretch all the way up to her elbows. Three is that she runs an art collective. Four is that she tells the world about her menopause in a riveting must-read format. She is nothing short of outlandish, couragous, and fearless.Her other blogs include Calendar Girl, The Breast Views, and a local interest blog about her hometown, Guelph. I met Sue Richards at the Chéz Badgerbag Woolfcamp after the BlogHer ’06 conference. After bearing witness to her fearless presence, I bowed down before her and asked to be knighted a Breast Ambassador to the United States of America. She pulled out a four-foot long bejewelled sword with her red satin elbow-length gloves, tapped me on each shoulder with its razor-sharp blade, and blessed me. I moved mountains that day.