It’s not easy taking something as simple as the UNICEF trick or treat donation box and making it evolve with technology but the people over at the United States Committee for UNICEF have managed to do just that. In 1950, the year of it’s inception, the program raised just $17 when a small group of kids in Philadelphia, PA walked their neighborhood asking for dimes and nickels instead of treats and candy on Halloween. That has grown to the massive participation today which has raised over $144 million for undernourished children.

The box has slowly evolved since it’s origins. In the 50′s, it was just an empty milk carton. In 2008 UNICEF introduced mobile phone text messaging, along with donation collections on MySpace and Facebook. Starting this year participants will have to opportunity to scan a QR code which will make the donation experience much more interactive. Not only are you able to donate through this web portal, but you can also upload a picture of yourself and create a digital costume which can be shared over the web. Depending on your donation amount, you are able to select from a number of digital costumes and photo effects.

So this year as you are out buying bags of candy for the children of your neighborhood, be sure to also download a QR code reader and do your part to help the less fortunate children in the world.

October 11, 2011 · Posted by in event, misc, web  

Kickstart Your Ideas

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sensu brush

If you’re not familiar with Kickstarter, it’s a pretty amazing thing. It’s basically a web site that allows creatives to pitch their ideas, and for people to support those ideas with monetary pledges.

This is just a little bit revolutionary. Years ago if you wanted to record an album, or produce a film, you had to raise enough money up front to rent studio time and equipment, and pay for any expenses like a crew or consumables out of your own pocket. Now you can pitch your idea, and if enough people believe in it, they become stakeholders in making it happen. As the artist, you get the money only if you have enough backers to reach the goal. What is the goal? It’s the dollar amount that you set. And that’s the tricky part… determining what to ask for. Ask for too much, and if you don’t get enough backers to reach the goal, you get nothing. Ask for too little, and if you didn’t properly estimate the cost of your project, you may end up funding a good chunk of it yourself. (There are fees taken out of the total by Kickstarter, transaction agents, etc.)

There are also rewards. If you back the Sensu Brush at the $25 level, you actually get one of them, with the knowledge that the final product will probably cost $5 to $10 more. This is a great way to get people to back your project. Determining rewards at the various levels is another way to convince people to back your project, and the folks behind the Sensu Brush have done a good job. They were hoping to get $7,500 and are currently at $37,412. So well over 1,000 people thought this would make an awesome product and were willing to put down some money to make it happen.


But as we in the marketing world know, having a great idea is only part of the battle. You also need to tell people about your great idea, and then execute your great idea. That “tell people” part is called marketing. I’ve seen a lot of projects on Kickstarter, and one of the things I like to see is a good video that clearly explains things. Add to that a good title, descriptive text, images/photos, and any relevant links, and you’ve come much closer to getting my money.

Maybe it’s not surprising that designers on Kickstarter are doing pretty good. They tend to get the marketing part of it. Take a look at the design category and see if you find something you’d be willing to back…

October 10, 2011 · Posted by in art, design, marketing, web  

A Week of Google+

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I’ve been using Google+ for a week now, and in case you haven’t heard about it (as it’s still invite-only, and they are limiting invites) Google+ is a pretty much a competitor to Facebook, and to a lesser extent, Twitter. Yup, there’s a new entry in the Social Networking World.
So how is it so far? I’m really liking it. Part of this may be because it’s not Facebook. Facebook has a lot of annoying features, and (here’s the honesty!) a lot of annoying people. I can say that because I may be one of them. ;) Facebook does have lists that you can put people into, and you can then view just the posts from people in those lists, but over the past few Facebook “upgrades” they’ve made lists harder to find, and harder to manage. In contrast, Google+ has “circles” which you can put people into. In fact, the circles are a primary feature of Google+, and you pretty much need to use them, unlike Facebook’s lists, which most people probably don’t even know exist.

The circles allow you to segment people into friends, family, acquaintances, work, etc. You can name them whatever you want, and people can’t see what circle you’ve placed them in. You can then share things just to specific circles. So if you’ve got a very small group of friends in one circle, you can post things that only they can see. (Of course, anything you post on the web can be republished elsewhere, without your permission, but that’s a social problem, not a technical problem.) People may put you in circles for one reason or another, but it’s more like “following” that “friending’ so you don’t need to approve a friendship or follow them back if you don’t want to. (And yes, you can block people too!)

One of the running jokes on Google+ is that all anyone talks about is Google+. I think that was true at first, but I’m seeing more and more people use it like they would Facebook, or any other “sharing” platform, though right now it does seem very tech-heavy, and I’m seeing more web-related things than cat-related things. I’m sure as they open up that will change a bit.
If you visit someone’s profile on Google+ it’s sort of like your wall on Facebook, except it’s the stuff you’ve posted, and not what other people have posted on your wall, so you won’t see goofy posts from your friends who installed some quiz application which them spammed your wall. That’s nice.

So far there are no applications in Google+, so for your FarmVille addicts, you’re out of luck… no games! There’s also not really any brands yet. Well, there are, but they are sort of cheating the system to do it. I’ve read that Google will be rolling out business profiles/pages, but haven’t yet. (It’s only been a week!) There are also no events, so if you want to create an event and invite people in your circles, you can’t really do that yet either.

Other features to note are “hangouts” which allow you to videochat with up to 10 people. From what I’ve been told, this is pretty much the first time this has been available without having to use expensive software. It’s all free, in your browser (with the help of a plugin.)

The desktop versus mobile experience differs a bit right now as far as everything you can see and do. If you’ve got an Android device I’ve heard a lot of good things about the client, and there’s a iOS app awaiting approval from Apple.

If you’re already on Google+ you can find my profile here.

July 7, 2011 · Posted by in social media, web  

Google has been getting a lot of press lately for the development of its new social venture – Google+. But the beastly company has been dipping its toes in other waters, too, including an online contest site. This is thanks to its acquisition of Slide, a social gaming company, and the reason the new site doesn’t really look like it belongs to Google.

Prizes.org launched this past weekend, and can best be describes as a social contest website. Basically, users create contests that involve solving some sort of problem, like answering a question or completing a particular task. The user then awards the best answer a cash prize that typically ranges from about $10-$50. The contests can be anything from naming a new restaurant or answering what the best dog food brand is.

You may remember Slide from the creation of Disco, another Google creation that lacks the Google look and feel. Disco is a group chat app for iPhone and Andriod.

So what do you think? Will you pay someone to help name your startup or to give you advice about the best vacation spot? Or will you be more the type of person to answer questions in hopes of winning the prize? Although I can’t see myself creating any contests, you might find me answering a question or two.

July 5, 2011 · Posted by in misc, social media, web  

When you think back to your grade school education, you probably have memories of large science books or overheads. Well, gone are the days of overhead projectors, now replaced by smartboards. And apparently, those hefty science books may be a thing of the past, too. McGraw-Hill just announced it’s first all-digital textbook for K-12. Sure, they want to turn around the trend of schools spending less on books these days, but it’s a smart move for kids whose lives are increasingly more digital.

If you give a child the option to read a chapter from a big biology textbook or read an ebook with animated video clips, I have the sneaking suspicion that the child would choose the digital option. There’s even the option to have digital conversations right alongside the text, similar to what the kids are accustomed to with Facebook. Polly Stansell, director of product development for McGraw-Hill, says, “We’re trying to meet students and teachers where they’re at digitally.”

A lesson from one of McGraw-Hill's digital textbooks, via Mashable

Now, this sounds really smart. Allowing students the chance to learn digitally since they live their lives digitally seems like a natural progression, right? But is there a negative side effect of being in front of a computer screen all day? Are we creating learners who are better multi-taskers or stimulus-addicts?

According to CNN, our digital lives may be giving us “popcorn brain.” Rather than choosing to spend time outside or enjoying a few moments with their children, people are choosing digital stimulus. Experts are speculating that our brains are now so used to the constant stimulation of digital multitasking that we basically can’t live functional lives offline. Normal life just moves too slowly for our digitally-addicted brains.

Why does this happen? Our brains are wired to like the fast-paced nature of technology. We feed off of the instantaneousness. In fact, being online stimulates the pleasure centers of the brain. So it’s no wonder we’re drawn to this digital lifestyle. However, if this “popcorn brain” goes on long enough, it can cause a physical change in our brains. Those who spend too much time online have less gray matter – the thinking part of the brain. That’s a serious issue. To cope, set time limits for your online life or reserve time in the evening that you’ll stay away from technology.

So what do you think? Is digital learning for students a good progression, or are we setting young people up for “popcorn brain” issues? Share your thoughts in the comments!

June 28, 2011 · Posted by in misc, web  

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