Using Social Media (vs. Being Used By) for Your Organization or Business

A few caveats regarding use of social networking. After reading the book referenced below, Social Media is Bullshit (B.J. Mendelsohn); I am coming to some evolving conclusions regarding the place of social media in a communication strategy for non-profits and small businesses (basically anyone not rich enough to drop dump trucks of dollars to purchase “preferred” advertising, etc. on these sites and media).

Social media companies are in business to sell advertising, and even more so to target advertising by aggregating (and often selling) information about their users. In other words, on most all of the social networking sites, YOU/WE are the product !!! … So, for the sake of privacy, we want to be careful what we hand to them.

Proliferation of these kinds of sites fragments the flow of information going out from our organizations, and fragments and erodes our control over information and lists of subscribers. Organizations and businesses need to keep control of our message, and our lists of subscribers!

  • If Facebook has my list of interested subscribers, they can take it away at any time — or use it to sell them junk, which may alienate them.
  • If we have a fragmentation of our communications, important things can get lost in the shuffle. People do not know whether to look on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, … or Where?

Once we ensure we are in control, then there are ways we can use social media sites — vs. them using us.

Probably the best overall policy for a business or organization is to seek to make our web sites a central focus for information and communication, keeping control of our own subscriber lists, and then syndicating information through RSS and social media. We should do this in such a manner that it reminds people that the authoritative source for information is our site. (Likely also the best place to “discuss” is our forums.)

When we do this our site becomes the “canonical,” “go to” source for information. With this established we can then choose to use social media in a targeted manner: we target the sites that are useful to getting our message out by feeding info to them that brings people back to us. People know that our site is the place to get the whole scoop — about which they learn via the feed.

I’m still sorting out the way to focus forums for discussion. These can be done on a web site, or through associated Forums. I think the chief objective here is to avoid the fragmentation of having our conversations spread out among Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. in such a manner that none achieves critical mass. (In many respects, the old LISTSERVs (like OAGC lists) work very well here — although threaded web forums are often easier to read!)


Social Media is Bullshit (B.J. Mendelsohn):
Social Media is Bullshit | St. Martin’s Press
Social Media is Bullshit book site
B.J. Mendelson’s Blog/Site

One good way to syndicate to social media from a WordPress based web site:
Jetpack plugin
“Integration with and automatic posting to your favorite social networks including Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Path, and LinkedIn.”


Using Ixquick metasearch with Konqueror

Ixquick metasearch is a European-based search aggregator that does not keep your data for 18 months (?!) as does Google … info here. I recommend you consider using Ixquick. (Automatic installation for Firefox is available at the home page.)

To use Ixquick metasearch with Konqueror:

Right-click on the icon at left of Konqueror search bar, choose “Select Search Engines,” and add a new search engine “Ixquick” with the following parameters:

  • Search URI:{@}
    OR use{@} for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS)
  • URI shortcut: ix … OR whatever you like

Be sure to check the boxes to left of Ixquick and “Enable Web Shortcuts” at top left.

You should now find the blue star for Ixquick available in your search box.

You can also search by entering ixq:search_term in the address box.

This still works in 2014!

Corporate “Personhood” gave us Citizens United, but can bite those who play with it.

I saw this fascinating article on Religion Dispatches.

My Business, Myself: Piercing the Corporate Veil: Conscience challenges to the ACA contraceptive coverage mandate may bring surprise risks to small business owners

It seems that the same foolish equating of corporations with persons which brought us Citizens United (to bankrupt our political process), may turn on those who assert it seeking a religious exemption for their businesses.

Can business owners assert that their free exercise is being burdened when the coverage mandate is imposed not on them, but on their business? Does the for-profit corporation or LLC have religious beliefs of its own? Does General Motors practice religion? If not, do smaller corporations exercise religion? Or are the small businesses really asserting the religious rights of their owners?

The article discusses how in cases where a corporation becomes an alter ego of it’s owners, the owners become liable for potentially unlimited damages and expenses.

I have long thought that we need a constitutional amendment that defines corporations much as did Justice John Marshall: as limited entities given a charter for some public good, a charter which is revocable should the purpose not be adequately met. It is ludicrous to consider that a corporation should have constitutional rights to “free speech.” It is even crazier to think of corporations as having religious rights and observances.

I’m all for individuals exercising their conscience. We should all have the opportunity to decline benefits with which we do not feel comfortable; but for a corporation to deny us the opportunity to choose how to do so is just wrong. When this is done due to the corporation being an alter ego of its owners, it is just as much an imposition of the few upon the many as Citizens United‘s “one dollar, one vote” is upon the democratic principle of one person, one vote. It is proof of how the godless nonperson corporations must be restrained by real persons.

Church Year Calendar A, ETC.

If you need an iCalendar (ICS) which you can import into your calendar for your computer, phone, or other device, here are what you seek:

You may need to right-click to download.
Year in file name is determined by Easter date included.
Events include Lessons from the Revised Common Lectionary, and Color
The Evangelical Lutheran Worship variations are used, if any.

Public Schools beat private in math instruction!


I found this article in the Education Policy Blog about a new study, and must share:
Are Private Schools Better Than Public Schools? New Book Says ‘No’

Teaching methods, teacher professional development, and other factors result in a better outcome in our public schools! And the favorable comparison applies not only to the charters, but to the bona fide private schools as well.

It is often assumed that private schools do a better job educating children than public schools, but a new book, “The Public School Advantage,” which is being published this week, shows this isn’t the case. Here’s a piece the authors, Christopher Lubienski, a professor in the Department of Educational Organization and Leadership at the College of Education at University of Illinois, and Sarah Theule Lubienski, professor of mathematics education in the College of Education at the University of Illinois.

We found that once we account for the fact that private schools serve families with more advantages associated with academic success—things like money and highly-educated parents—we find that public elementary schools are, on average, simply more effective at teaching mathematics. Indeed, demographic differences more than explain any apparent edge in the raw scores of private school students, and by the time they reach middle school, public school students score ahead of their demographically similar, private school peers, with differences ranging from a few weeks to a full grade level, depending on the type of private school.

A “Millennial” writes on why she remains in the Church

A “Millennial” writes on whey she remains in the Church, with far wider application than just to “Millennials.”

A Reluctant Millennial On The State of Church” By Meghan Florian, on the Religion Dispatches web site.

Check this out. It fits with what I’ve long maintained regarding the importance of community / koinonia.

Some key comments in the article:

Someone made me read Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together in college, and someone else suggested I think about seminary. So, even though I was (and am) a flaming liberal feminist, I stuck it out, and entered into a lifelong lover’s quarrel with God and the church.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together(and other writings) has been an influence in my life, and in the lives of many in the family of faith.

We’re not only supposed to be looking for Jesus, but being his presence for one another. People come and go from the church, but perhaps we were never supposed to “go to” church in the first place, because we are actually supposed to be the church. Those are different things.

I was just conversing yesterday with someone (older than myself, far beyond “Millennial” aged!), who persists in fellowship in a small, struggling congregation, despite many “warts” among her pastor and people of God. Why? She believes this stuff about being the Church — as she works on world hunger issues with Bread for the World.

Then there are the class and race issues which have bedeviled the Church in the U.S., as well as the ageless all-too-human tendency to try to create God in our own image, rather than allowing the New Creation of God to work in us.

Is it because your church’s Jesus doesn’t look like us? To that, my “millennial” answer is, “Well, duh.” Christians worship a homeless middle eastern guy as God. It should go without saying that he doesn’t look like most of the middle class North American young people this conversation is really about. It’s easy to leave church looking for, or to create, a community in which Jesus does look like us, though. That is the age old human problem from one generation to the next. We are always creating God in our own image, when it is supposed to be the other way around. We try to shape the church around our generation, instead of trying to be the hands and feet of Christ.

If you consider Tyler Tully’s article about the race and class dynamics of this conversation, what you might see is that we’re talking about a bunch of privileged white folks who expect that church, like everything else, is something they consume, rather than something they are called to create together. This, however, is not actually unique to “millennials.” It’s a perspective on church most of us learned by watching adults choose churches when we were children.

When we leave church we are not doing anything new. We are reenacting the story of modernity, the one where “man” is an island, where the individual is paramount, where free choice is an end in itself and self-sufficiency is God. When we say we don’t need institutions our actions imply we also believe we do not need each other. We’re not looking for Jesus, we’re looking for our own personal God. “We” in this instance isn’t “millennials”; it is, arguably, the human condition. Or, at the very least, a typical ideal among people in the United States today.

Another reflection says a lot about how we ought to include younger people in the life of the community. Having a “special” programs designed for certain groups of people (by others!) may not be the best approach. Being invited to participate in mission for and with others, in the context of the community (whatever its size or composition), might be the better way.

Instead of asking why some people leave, can we ask why some stay? And not just why they stay, but why they give their entire life over to the service of God and God’s people?
I have a hunch that part of it is that instead of being put in a box labeled “millennials” those of you who stayed felt included. Maybe someone asked you to teach the fourth grade Sunday school class when you were a high school student, and you got your first taste of mentoring and educating others. Maybe, instead of shoving you into a “singles” group, your church invited you to hang out with the babies and the middle aged folks and the old people, as if they hadn’t noticed (or didn’t care) that you were a twenty-something in skinny jeans. Maybe someone asked you to preach. Maybe someone brought you a casserole when you were sick—or asked you to make one for someone else.

It’s about the Community in Christ.

we stick around when we realize that we need each other, when we experience the support of the community in hard times, and when we are called upon to support others, as well. If we stay—all of us, young, old, and in between—we do have to learn that Jesus doesn’t look like us. He looks like all these other women and men around us, the ones who are sometimes harder to love, the ones who don’t always understand us, the ones who are going to mess this thing up just like we do.
… quoting Stanley Hauerwas, who says, “I don’t have any faith in myself of living a virtuous life; but if I am surrounded by other people who are also formed by the same commitments, then we’ve got a better chance.
We need one another to live up to the wonderful invitation we’ve been given.” If we are honest, many of us would probably prefer to do this thing alone if we could. You have to admit you need other people in order to have a reason to stick around when things get tough. You have to have faith in someone or something besides yourself.

That’s why I keep coming back … How about you?

I commend to you the entire article cited above, as well as the Religion Dispatches site, which has RSS, Facebook, Twitter, email subscriptions available. You might not agree with everything you read there, but it will keep you thinking … about matters of utmost importance.

Facebook Graph Search: Privacy nightmare is preventable

I saw this in the local Columbus DISPATCH, originally from Salon. While it is good to frequently audit your Facebook privacy setting (in light of their ever-changing settings), now is an especially opportune time.

You might also check out the function on Facebook to “Download a copy of your Facebook data” on the General Account Settings page.

Facebook Graph Search: Privacy nightmare is preventable if you change your settings

If Graph Search is a privacy nightmare, it’s sort of like the kind in which you find yourself out in public with no clothes on. The bad news is that what’s seen can’t be unseen. But the good news is that it won’t happen if you’re already dressed. That is, Graph Search won’t take any information that you had set to private (or “friends-only”) and turn it public. So if you don’t want strangers to see your profile’s naughty parts, you can go to your Facebook privacy settings right now and cover them up.

There’s an easy way and a hard way to do this. The (relatively) easy way is to click “limit past posts,” which will turn all of your old posts to “friends only” in a single swoop. But if you want some things to stay public, or to be visible to friends of friends, you’ll need to do it the hard way, which is to click “Use Activity Log” and go through all of your old posts one by one. Oh, and you’ll also want to double-check the privacy settings on your “About” page, which controls who can see the basic information on your profile.

Again, the basics are:

  1. Go to your privacy settings and check who can see your future posts and past posts.
  2. To hide individual posts or likes, click “Use Activity Log” and scroll down through your history, editing the privacy settings for each one as you go.
  3. To check who can see your profile information, go to the About page on your profile and click the “edit” button next to each category.

For those who want more details, Facebook has a couple of videos explaining the process, while Business Insider has a handy step-by-step guide. If it all sounds a little confusing, that’s because it is. But if you care at all about your privacy and aren’t ready to take the ultimate precaution, it’s worth the trouble to spend an hour or two doing it now in order to prevent future humiliation..

Business Insider has a handy step-by-step guide

Congrats Woodward Park MS Mock Trial Team

Congratulations to this year’s Woodward Park Middle School Mock Trial Team. Under the guidance of Mr. Matt Berkal, and several volunteers, they have again won the highest honors in the Ohio Middle School Mock Trial Showcase! I remember when Rosa and her team won this – team and individual honors – way back in the first years of Mr. Berkal’s tenure at WPMS. (I even recognize a couple of names as siblings of some of her classmates and team mates.)

Here is a link the the Northland News / This Week Northland story, Mock trial team shines at middle school showcase.

Effects of the High Stakes Testing Game

I saw this article today: “Testing is Killing Learning” in Salon, and it got me angry enough (again) to share. It’s a good summary of how the battle has gone, and the challenges ahead.

The author, Mary Elizabeth Williams, speaks of pep rallies for testing: “But the ultimate effect had a strangely ‘Hunger Games’ tang to it – a mood of forced, rah-rah reassurance to the terrified children going into the arena, cheered on by those too young to yet participate.”

That image is somewhat humorous – but deadly when it kills the joy of learning! The real challenge is the dumbing down of curriculum – by a program that is ostensibly to boost it! Th irony here is that when kids are exposed to “real” literature and the like they are more likely to be engaged – versus macerated snippets and all-too-often poorly written non-fiction. (N.B. There are non-fiction pieces, and primary sources, that can be quite enthralling.)

But teachers are far from the only ones who feel the effects of the high stakes testing game. My high school teacher friend Ariel says, “My honors English curriculum now contains only two books, instead of the 12 I used to teach. And very few short stories. It’s mostly nonfiction, because that’s what will be on the tests. Any books I teach outside of the curriculum will harm my students’ scores on the tests that evaluate them and my performance. Goodbye, ‘Lord of the Flies.’ Goodbye, ‘Macbeth.’ Goodbye, ‘A Separate Peace.’ Most good teachers are demoralized by the test, and horrified by what it is doing to education.”

And as we know the lower grades also lose valuable teaching time to test prep – as well as a distorted focus:

“Children are getting the message at a very young age that if you pick the right choice between several options you can be successful. That’s not the way to learn, especially creatively. That’s not experimenting or exploring or creating. We’re telling kids that that life is a series of hoops and that they need to start jumping through them very early.”

So who really benefits from all this? According to Diane Ravitch:

And it’s a system that, as Core Standards are being implemented around the country, seems built to fail. “All the passing ratings are going to go down about 30 percent this year; that’s what they’re predicting,” says author, advocate and education historian Diane Ravitch. “The dark view is that they want everybody to fail and they want people to say the public schools stink, so they can push for more vouchers and more charters. I can’t describe what’s going on without thinking that we’re in the process of destroying American public education.”

There is also mention of origins of this the “Texas Miracle,” which later evidence shows was a fraud.

So who really benefits from all this? (reprise):

Pearson Education ….

Ms. Williams mentions a principled retirement / resignation letter from New York teacher Gerald “Jerry” Conti. It’s sad to see. Perhaps he just got too ground down.

So we must continue to “fight the good fight.”

This article was originally titled “Common Core smacks of cyanide?” but it’s really about high stakes testing.