The geek’s guide to child-proofing: how to keep your tech safe from baby

With the wisdom earned from six years’ of childraising, two destructive children and four or five figures’ worth of maimed technology, I’d like to weigh in on the neglected side of childproofing. Because once you’ve figured out how to keep your baby safe from your stuff, it’s time to figure out how to keep your stuff safe from baby.

Building your social media team

Developing an effective social media team requires more than finding the right box on the org chart or figuring out where that community moderator should sit. Here are the kinds of capabilities you need on your team.

Every Human Has Rights makes human rights personal

For the past two months, I've been part of the digital strategy team for The Elders, an extraordinary NGO that was launched last year by Richard Branson and Peter Gabriel. The vision is to convene a council of elders for the global village; the founding elders include Desmond Tutu, Aung San Suu Kyi, Mary Robinson and Kofi Annan.

As part of this work, I've been supporting the web team for Every Human Has Rights, a campaign to spread awareness and support for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This year is the sixtieth anniversary of UDHR, and being part of its celebration is a wonderful echo of one of the first pieces of work I did as a grad student at Harvard, thirteen years ago. (Ouch!) At that time I was a research assistant for Andrew Moravcsik, helping him research an article on international human rights regimes (PDF) that he published in time to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the UDHR.

Moravcsik's article focused particularly on the creation of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR), which, unlike the UNDHR, was designed to be an enforceable document that would give individuals the legal standing to pursue human rights issues in an international court of law. What the ECHR advanced was the idea of personal, individual-level responsibility for human rights advocacy; what it lost was the boldness and breadth of vision of the UDHR.

The EHHR project recognizes that online networks provide a way to have your human rights cake, and eat it too. EHHR is focusing on each of the core themes of the UN Declaration, a sweeping document that addresses basic rights in areas from religion to employement, and from freedom of expression to healthcare. But by asking people around the world to sign on personally — over the web — as supporters of that Declaration, it's reawakening the idea that each and every one of us has a role to play in supporting human rights.

And that role doesn't need to be limited to a courtroom. One of the key partners on the EHHR project is Witness, an online NGO that uses video and web technology to tackle human rights abuses around the world. Through EHHR and Witness's user-driven site, The Hub, anyone in the world can be an active advocate for human rights — a personal witness — by contributing a video or online story.

EHHR and Witness are just two pieces of a large and growing online ecosystem for supporting human rights worldwide. Global Voices Online gathers bloggers from around the world, including many who are writing under adverse — even life-threatening — conditions in their home countries. Ushahidi and the Tunisian Prison Map are putting human rights abuses in Kenya and Tunisia on the map (literally). The Martus project provides digital security tools to protect the effectiveness and safety of people working on the front lines of human rights protection.

The growing online human rights ecosystem of which EHHR is a part didn't exist when Moravcsik wrote his article. At the time, the courts were the best option — really, the only meaningful option — for individuals to engage in the public sphere of human rights. What made that interesting to Moravcsik was the way that human rights agreements allowed governments to dig themselves into structural commitments to human rights, with citizens serving as the hypothetical watchdogs.

Today there's a whole new set of tools to give those hypothetical watchdogs real teeth. But now, citizens don't have to wait to be invited into that role, nor do they have to find their way into a courtroom. They just have to pick up a cell phone, a camera, or a keyboard, and they can hold human rights violations accountable in the court of global public opinion.

The technologies are all there….all that's missing is the recognition of meaningful personal accountability for human rights. That's what EHHR puts back in the picture, by asking and every one of us to sign a personal commitment to the bold vision the UN set forth sixty years ago.

Of course, when the Declaration was written, most UN members would not have envisioned a world in which access to global communications could be virtually universal. Now that we have it, it's time to make human rights universal, too.

How your non-profit can earn revenue with Web 2.0: Part 5 – Product sales

What bake sales once were to PTAs, online storefronts are to today's non-profits. We're used to thinking about participants in non-profit web sites as members or supporters, people we are trying to reach with a message or mobilize around a campaign. But your online community members can also be customers — customers who may be delighted to spend their dollars in a way that supports their values and your work.

New look & feel, kind of almost there

The new and much improved look of my blog is based on the blog style template at Open Designs, created by fellow-Canadian Collin Grasley. Rob hacked it into WordPress-iness for me, a process that’s still being debugged. Open Designs is a very cool site that...

Target V.P. Michael Axelin on the seven components of successful innovation

Tonight’s symposium featured Michael Alexin, Oberlin College class of ’79, V.P. of Softlines Design and Product Development at Target. Yes, this is the man responsible for keeping me clothed during my last pregnancy, and even tougher, the post-pregnancy pre-weight loss months.

Michael’s work puts him at the heart of delivering on Target’s brand promise of “affordable design”, and he stressed that in this day and age, that comes down to the challenge of continuous innovation. He offered a nice summary of the seven key components of innovation:

  1. Observation: In focus groups, people often lack the clarity or expertise to articulate their needs. By observing people in various environments you can see what they may not see themselves. Tom Kelley in The Art of Innovation talks a lot about observation. Once you start observing carefully, all kinds of insights and opportunities can open up. Take example of elliptical machine: a GM guy noticed the elliptical path of his daughter’s runnning and wondered if you could capture that movement without the impact of running, and sold the idea to Precor, which has turned it into a profitable business. Observation helps you identify problems that need solutions, or white space. Opportunities for true innovation.
  2. Imagination: Example of iPod: imagining what it would look like to build a company arouund an MP3 player combined with a music sales service. Imagination is an intuitive process that generates a lot of ideas. In preschool, imagination treated as a skill that has to be nurtured. But that’s been lost in American culture, let alone American business. That’s something we have to find and nurture in colleagues and employees. Need to create space for imagination. Create “white space” — quiet time. Everything is going so fast, so how do you create time to allow ideas to spring forth. Need to create culture of idea acceptance not idea judgement.
  3. Brainstorming: Everyone says they brainstorm but it’s not part of an institution’s every day culture. Lots of companies love to go to an off-site…it may be fun, but it doesn’t last. A brainstorm generates a lot of ideas in a short time. The more open the process, the more likely that the next big idea will emerge. Guidelines for successful brainstorming:
    • Set ground rules: leave titles at door. Generate not judge ideas. Have fun.
    • Strong moderator who doesn’t dominate discussion.
    • Sharpen the focus by starting with a clear statement of the problem that isn’t too broad or narrow.
    • Go for quantity not quality. Encourage any thought.
    • Make the process visual. I work with 150 designers; they are visual not verbal. We encourage them to sketch their ideas and put them on the wall. Then as editing process we let everyone vote for their five favorite ideas.
  4. Creativity: Sheehy: creativity can be described as the letting go of cdrtainties. Embrace ambiguity and the unknown. Use originality to defeat habit. Defy convention to achieve greatness. Example: I.M. Pei’s pyramid for the Louvre entrance. Initially very controversial. Eventually it got built, and the juxtaposition of the modern and the ancient set the stage for a new approach to architecture of Paris — now the blend of old and new is almost their hallmark.
  5. Design. Design is the core of innovation. Success depends on having a funciton, and appeal. “What engineers were to the age of steam, and scientists were to the age of reason, designers will be to our age.” Designers are in demand because great design enhances and differentiates. Design must be functional. It’s the practical side. Kelly: Design is a way of life. Target: you don’t have to have a lot of money to have great design. Target gets a lot of credit for making great design accessible to consumer. Coincides with trend towards upscaling of America. Sometimes seems like we have the right to pursuit of life, liberty and pursuit of luxury. Design is a huge differentiator for Target in the marketplace. Key thing is the emotional connection that gets established with the Target brand.
  6. Simplicity: Schumacher: “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex… it takes a touch of genius to move in the opposite direction.”
  7. Speed: Consumers want the latest thing know. Need to react quickly to design, market and sales trends. Apparel is pretty low tech so you can’t speed it up that much. It’s about how quickly you make decisions. Process needs to be quick to react to change. Have to take away bureaucracy to get speed. We reward team members for speed. Bias towards action that encourages people to get it done and get it done fast.
  8. Collaboration:Even though one person often has that crackling electric idea, it’s really a team sport. One person may have the idea but it takes hundreds to implement and execute. ClearRx idea came from one woman who then brought it to Target. Hundreds of people involved from all parts of organization to make it live. Collaboration + shared focus = innovation.

Hmm. Somehow I ended up with eight. I’m hoping Michael will tell me which of these is the “bonus” component.

Love your leaks

How do you create a site that keeps people on your pages? By creating a site that's easy to leave.

Vancouver workshop: Web 2.0 and your organization

We're often approached by business and nonprofit organizations who are interested in tapping the power of the social web but don't know where to start, or how to get a feel for the possibilities. I'm delighted to be co-teaching a Hollyhock-in-Vancouver workshop next month that will be a great opportunity for Vancouver-based organizations to get smart about Web 2.0:

Web 2.0 and your organization 

Are you interested in how online communities like Flickr, MySpace, and YouTube can empower your members and customers to carry your message out into the world? Could your organization benefit from deeper collaboration among your team members, clients, partners or the public? Could better knowledge-sharing, stronger relationships and closer communications inside your organization and with your core supporters foster more efficiency, insight and effectiveness?

The latest generation of "Web 2.0" or social web strategies and tools offer powerful opportunities for organizations to improve the way they work, communicate their messages, empower others, and serve the public. In this workshop you will learn how the latest tools for online collaboration and community building can make your organization smarter and more effective.

This workshop is designed for communications strategists, marketing managers, and webmasters who are interested in how this evolution of the web can help evolve your organization's online strategy. We will give you the tools, knowledge, and most crucially, the vision for how your organization can use the web as a stronger agent of change. We’ll also cover the nuts-and-bolts, introducing the latest tools so that you know which options are most promising for your needs.

About the presenters: Jason Mogus is the CEO of Communicopia, which has helped progressive companies and non-profits communicate and collaborate via the web for 13 years. Jason is also the founder of Web of Change at Hollyhock. Alexandra Samuel, PhD (Harvard), is CEO of Social Signal, and is helping some of the web's most ambitious community ecosystems use the social web to support dialogue and collaboration.

This workshop is co-sponsored by the Hollyhock Leadership Institute, Web of Change, Social Signal, Communicopia, Social Tech Brewing, and Impacs.

To register:

Visit the Hollyhock site, call 800-933-6339 x232, or e-mail registration[at]