My Article in Searcher Magazine

November 8, 2008 § Leave a comment

I’m published! W00t!

I worked on an article about nonprofit technology over the summer, and it was just published in this month’s Searcher Magazine. Searcher is a great industry rag for database and information professionals. I devour every issue when it arrives.

The full article is only available in print or if you pay for it online. Your local library might have access to it through its electronic resources. The list of online resources that I cite is available here, if you want to check that out.

Thanks to everyone who helped out, particularly to: Marnie Webb from TechSoup, Larry Halff from Ma.gnolia, and the folks at Community Voice Mail who gave me the tour of their office on Second Life.

I’m really happy to promote all of the organiziations and the movement for social change on the Internet in my own small way.

Making Heads or Tails of It

September 29, 2008 § Leave a comment

I have been trying to educate myself about mortgage backed securities and commercial paper within last two weeks, as I indicated in my earlier post about the information resources I have been collecting that best explain the economic crisis.

By far the best resource that I have found so far is the Planet Money blog and podcast from NPR. Thier stories are featured on some of the regular programs, like All Things Considered and Morning Edition, but the podcast through iTunes has a few nuggets that I haven’t heard anywhere else, so its worth downloading.

The contributing journalists to this effort offer down-to-earth easily understandable break downs for the average listener who doesn’t have a degree in finance or economics.

I need to understand this stuff for my job, and as a citizen I see it as a responsibility. The journalists here clearly see it as their job to educate the public on how some incredibly important decisions might impact our world and our day-to-day life for generations. They do a great job.

Oh, and I was thrilled tonight to find that they also have a Twitter feed.

Information Resources for the Economic Crisis

September 21, 2008 § Leave a comment

At work this week, I was asked to interpret how the current economic crisis might impact the bottom line of fundraising at the University of Chicago. I thus began to compile the best information resources to help translate what is happening.

So far, the best resource I have found yet is the Planet Money blog from NPR. Here they are compiling their best stories about the crisis. It all started with the story on This American Life: The Giant Pool of Money. Totally worth the $.95 for the download.

Other good resources include

I’m sure that there will be others emergin in the next days and weeks. I’m particularly interested in gathering anything that speaks to fundraising and philanthropy. If you have others to share, I welcome your comments. Thanks!

Magnolia Featured Linker

July 30, 2008 § Leave a comment

I’m such a geek and so excited that my favorite social bookmarking site has invited me to be a featured linker. My friend, Larry, is the founder of Magnolia, and he emailed me last week to see if I was interested. I was thrilled!

It may be a little thing, but I truly love this gem of a web tool. I have virtually met such nice and intelligent people there, discovered some very interesting links, and have been able to share a few of my own. I am happy to evangelize and spread the word about Magnolia. And if being a featured linker introduces me to yet more interesting folks, lucky me!

So, for the uninitiated, check it out, add me as a contact if you like, join some groups and discussions, and see what remarkable resources you find there!

The Reliability of Resources

June 22, 2008 § Leave a comment

Guy Kawasaki tweeted this question today:

Is the Internet a Source of Information or Misinformation?

With a link to this post on Trueomors about how people think that information found through research on the Internet is not reliable, citing Wikipedia as the prime example. People are saying that children’s heads are being filled with untruths and propaganda, and that Wikipedia is inherently bad because anyone can submit content.

Here is my response:  Pashaw!

Yes, I admit that the content of Wikipedia must be regarded with scrutiny and care, but no more so than any other research reference. Misinformation is also printed in books. If people are trained to research with discernment and a critical eye, they know that they can’t rely on the accuracy of any one resource.  You should always use more than one search engine when doing Internet research, and you should always use more than one encyclopedia. Once you’ve gathered those references, you should then look for the primary sources that are often referenced in citations. This might even require going to the library and — gasp — looking at books!

The Internet simply makes some commonly used resources more easily available than they ever have been. No longer do you have to go to the library to use the encyclopedias there, or the card catalog (remember those?). Wearing your PJs and bunny slippers, you can research your paper from the privacy of your own home. If I were a lazy college student, I might be tempted not to verify my sources and simply rely on Wikipedia as my sole source. But then I wouldn’t expect to get a good grade.

The point I’m trying to make is that whether it’s Wikipedia or a reference in a book, any research worth his or her salt must confirm any information with more than one reference.

The thing that I like about Wikipedia is exactly what makes it problematic. I really love the concept of user-contributed content. It’s kind of a utopian idea, even if it isn’t executed in reality how it is conceived in it’s ideals.  I like to be optimistic, but I’m not naive. I’ve heard about the people who will sabotage McCain’s or Obama’s or Clinton’s Wikipedia pages. I know there are unscrupulous people out there who want to push their own agendas rather than contribute to the integrity of available information on the Internet.

This has been the challenge of the Internet all along: How to manage the onslaught of available information. How do you separate the wheat from the chaff?  The answer is this: The same way researchers always have since libraries existed. You use the best research methods and tool available to find all the information you can about your subject, not relying on just one method or resource. Once you have gathered all of your data, then you analyse it, verifying your sources.

Think of it! If we provide better research training to people when they’re in college, when they come across bad information on Wikipedia perhaps they’ll be inclined to fix the citation, thus contributing to the integrity of that resource. Perhaps then Wikipedia will have a better reputation.

Tech Words

June 2, 2008 § Leave a comment

I was thinking today that it would be really nice if some of these new online tools would write up better descriptions of what their tools do and how to use them. I appreciate that the real strength of the developers is writing code, not English prose, so some things really get lost in translation. Perhaps the tools are not created for neophytes like myself, but I don’t think so.

I’ve been learning some new words over the last few days, so I’ve decided to start making a list of the ones that I think are most important for tech novices out there to understand. For now, its just a brainstorm I’m doing in Wordie, and I’ll work on a full-fledge glossary of terms later on.

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing the Reference category at InFomentation.