This is a question I ponder frequently. Have you focused on building a micro network and a nationwide network, or have you isolated yourself by walling off your garden?
I’m big on the idea of helping people and networking at a hyper local level. I also believe that your network is most effective if it also reaches far and wide – across borders of city, state, country and nation.
Think about it for a minute. If your network is made up of only your existing friends and family and a few existing coworkers, you have built a walled garden. What’s inside my be your own lovely garden, with prize-worthy flowers that are well tended, but any bad weather or difficult event can shake it up.
What happens if you move for an illness or a job? Have you built a network that will follow you? If your company is ready to expand, will you have the support outside of your existing world view to do so? What if the perfect job is a tweet or status update away and you miss it because your eyes aren’t open?
People often wall themselves off out of fear. Fear of change, fear of failure, fear of harm… there are a hundred different kinds of fear. Don’t let it rule you or your company. Add a gate to your garden and see who comes in. You’ll be surprised how it grows your network and where it takes you in life.
You may recall my project with several other smart, talented ladies: Strong Women in Tech. If you have been wondering how that is progressing, I’ll tell you right now that it has been stalled in implementation by one major element: the school system.
It may be a signifier that I am a little “kumbaya” at heart, but when I started this project I thought local and national schools would embrace the idea of strong female role models mentoring girls to stay in school and on a path to more involvement and possible future careers in science, math and technology. You know, those “hard” classes many assume girls aren’t into.
As it turns out, the schools do want to have mentoring in many cases, but there is much rampant paranoia out there these days and that has turned into a list of rules and regulations that has to be navigated in each district, and often, at each school as well. The red tape is astronomical. I’ve never seen so many road blocks to getting kids what they need to succeed in life, and I’m not just talking about Strong Women in Tech here, people.
The number of days kids spend out of school due to paranoia over everything from illness and vaccinations to school violence and weather is stunning. When are our kids even learning? Add to that the fact that many programs in arts and music (two things that help kids learn in other subjects like math and science) are cut, labs are under stocked, teachers are overworked, and logical thought is being supplanted by shortcuts (Everyday Math is an atrocity and an insult) and teaching to the test (MCAS, and the “all children left behind” mentality) and you wonder what we’ve become that we would choose to hold our kids back like this.
All ranting about the school system aside, I think that Strong Women in Tech is still an idea with legs (pun not intended). I have the support of a growing number of women who want to mentor at a local level in various areas, now I need to tap support from within school systems. Ladies: please offer up advice and ideas for surmounting this hurdle in the comments here or in the Ning group.
Today as I read through the top tech stories listed on Techmeme, I stumbled on a little nugget: an Adobe AIR social aggregator I hadn’t gotten my paws on yet! Called Skimmer, the AIR application aggregates users’ social streams from Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Bebo and Flickr into a a single continuous flow. And aside from a few stylistic complaints, I’m impressed.
The platform is attractive in its simplistic presentation. When scrolling through my stream on my Macbook Pro, the application reacted smoothly, and I’ve yet to experience any hiccups or delays in any functions. One of my biggest complaints with some AIR applications, such as Twitter platform Twhirl, is that they tend to be a little slow on the pick up and reaction time. No such issues here.
The platform allows you to work in a large-screen mode or in a “widget” mode, which shrinks down the feed to the bare necessities. Coming to my first issue with the platform, the smaller widget really isn’t what you’d call small. Though you can change the height of the window, the width is fixed. That wouldn’t be a big deal if the widget mode changed the size of each update displayed, but it doesn’t…and each update is sizable in display.
In fact, the whole platform, for all its clean simplicity, is a bit bulky in its presentation. There’s a lot of unused space that could be eliminated, making the platform more streamlined and aesthetically-appealing. For those of us with limited screen real estate, using every centimeter of space is crucial. Skimmer doesn’t have any skin or display options to change; if it did, I’d love it. But on a positive note, that’s my biggest gripe with the platform.
Moving right along, Skimmer allows users to update their various accounts from the platform…no suprise there. But unlike some platforms, where updating your status on a platform linked to multiple accounts doesn’t allow you to update each account differently, Skimmer lets you select which account to which your update will be posted. Or, if you like, you can post the same update to all accounts. Personally, my activity on Facebook is different than it is on Twitter or Youtube, so I like to update each individually, but to each his or her own. This feature earns a big check-plus from me.
Users can also filter their feeds easily, selecting which accounts they’d like to incorporate into their streams. Sometimes I just don’t care whether my friends are updating their Facebook profiles, or what they have to say. Uncheck Facebook from your stream directly the Skimmer application, and you’re set.
I particularly like that Skimmer renders pictures and videos uploaded to all the different services it supports right in the window. I won’t drop names, but I watched a particularly..unique..rendition of the Disney song “A Whole New World,” a YouTube post, right from Skimmer. If I’d had anything constructive to say, I could have commented on the video directly from Skimmer as well. Nice.
Continuing with more cool features, you can filter your stream down by keyword, friends, and platforms. Skimmer does display your friend avatars (or profile pictures, whichever you like), and next to the images are small little platform icons, indicating which platform the update is coming from.
I’ve just started using Skimmer, so I’m certainly not fully familiar with all of the platform’s features, but I will certainly continue using it. If you’re out there, nice folks at Skimmer, you’d have one very happy customer if you let me skin the thing or make the appearance a little less bulky. Pretty please?
UPDATE: Still, I guess Skimmer is really delivering on exactly what it claims to do. As far as viewing your social stream, the platform excels. But when it comes to communicating, such as sending messages on Twitter, the app is lacking. For instance, when I received a tweet from a friend, there was no indication that the entity in my feed was in any way different from the rest of the noise. Lucky I saw the tweet as it came in; otherwise, I would have had no clue that I’d been contacted.
Skimmer is just that. But, if the team over at Skimmer was to add in a bit of functionality that focuses on communication, such as differentiated postings so users can know when they’re being contacted, then we’d have a serious application on our hands. I think it is a contender against my partner Leslie’s preferred tool, Strands, or the tech crowd’s favorite, FriendFeed.
You may remember Social Media for Social Change from its debut last year in Boston – a debut I was proud to be a small part of. With its first event at the Harvard Club to benefit Jane Doe under its belt, where would Gradon Tripp and SM4SC go next? Why, New York City, of course.
It makes perfect sense to me that Gradon made the Big Apple the next stop in his 10 events for 10 charities goal for SM4SC. The city is full of need, and I imagine choosing the charity to focus on was a bigger challenge than the location for the event. Gradon settled on City Harvest, a New York food bank, hoping to help the rising number of the city’s hungry.
If you want to attend, you should go over to the SM4SC blog and check out the event page for New York City to sign up. The cost is minimal, goes to a good cause, and you get some serious bang for your buck in the big city, from music and drinks to auction prizes. Highly recommended for a way to go out on the town for less while also helping people in need.
The specific details are:
LOCATION: Roger Smith Hotel, 501 Lexington Ave, New York, NY
DATE: Friday, April 3, 2009
TIME: 7:00 – 10:00 PM
Online tickets: $45
Groups of 2 or more: $35 each
Any unsold tickets may be purchased in person on the night of the event for $50
Here’s what you get with your admission:
• Open bar from 7-8:30 (no, we really mean it)
* Free signature cocktail all night
* Live performances from Marissa Lerer and Walt Ribeiro
* A whole bunch of awesome auction prizes available for bid
* Awesome raffle giveaways and prizes
* Meet a bunch of people you didn’t know before (in real life anyway)
* And of course, the good karma of helping a New Yorker in need
If you can’t make it to the event, either because you have a previous engagement or live elsewhere, you can still help the cause. All you have to do is use the widget below and on the SM4SC site to donate something as small as a dollar or as large as Manhattan. I do hope you go though. You’ll get to meet Meg Fowler and Gradon Tripp (aka Twitter’s Cutest Cross Border Couple ™), you’ll get drinks and prizes and the gift of song and you’ll be having fun while helping feed the hungry – how can you go wrong?
Starting yesterday I will be running a series on Mashable that is all about one of my favorite topics: effecting social change in the real world using social media. You can see the first post in the series at this link.