How the Red Cross is using Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, RSS and in their disaster response efforts

Kudos to whoever at the Red Cross came up with the approach of setting up this website (and the executive who approved it) to support their efforts to meet the massive needs resulting from the tornadoes and floods in the Midwest. Because the Red Cross, like lots of organizations, has been at least experimenting with social media, someone within the organization had the mindset to pull together the tools necessary to quickly launch a website that is rich in new-media features. In doing so, they are providing a simple model to others of how online networking and conversational community building tools can be combined almost instantly* to support large-scale communication efforts.

Here’s a run-down of how the Red Cross is using a wide array of social and conversational media tools.

1. A Website running on WordPress: They’re calling it an Online Newsroom, but you’ll recognize it as a blog. Who cares what it’s called. is a robust (free, fast and stable) platform for setting up a site in a situation like this. (In the days after Katrina, when they couldn’t publish a paper or bring up their regular website, the Times Picayune used a blog — I think it was running of Movable Type — to keep its readers (and the world) informed. I suggested at the time that their blog deserved a Pulitzer and fortunately, the Pulitzer judges later agreed.)

2. Flickr: The Red Cross has a Flickr account and has created a set for photos from the disaster area. (Helpful advice for those running it — use captions and comments to point back to the weblog.)

3. Google Maps Mashups: A simple “My Maps” interface for a national map showing where the Red Cross is responding to disasters.

4. RSS: The Red Cross is using FeedBurner to offer state-by-state RSS feeds of disaster-related posts. For example, here is the feed for Iowa. And here is a full-feed of posts from the entire region.The list of state feeds can be found in the right-hand column of the blog.

5. The Red Cross is using to create slide shows like his one related to Indiana flood damage. (As they are using Flickr, they could have used the slide-show embed feature from that service, as well.)

6. YouTube: The Red Cross has a YouTube account and yesterday used it to host a video that it embedded in the flood blog.

7. Twitter: You can follow @RedCross on Twitter to be notified of any breaking news that has been posted on the blog. This can allow people to follow the updates via text-messaging. (The account now is being used primarily to announce things posted online — I’d be thinking of it as a means to communicate with people trying to gather news on their cell-phones who may not be able to click through to a website.)

Sidenote: Here’s something on which they need to do a better job. The Red Cross buries the location where bloggers can pick up code to add a donation banner to their blogs. And they have no banners with disaster-specific messages. If you’d like to contribute, click here.

*While these tools can be pulled together instantly, from experience with such projects at Hammock, we’ve learned it’s better if you plan ahead when integrating several different services. Things like tagging, use of APIs, and nuanced features on the services can be fully utilized if you think through how the services can be used in different scenarios.

Do you really want to send (or receive) that e-mail?

The Important Part: Despite the fact most people have only been using e-mail for the past 15 years, it has become a dominant channel of business communication — and definitely the most mis-used. A couple of interesting thoughts on e-mail have hit my radar in the past 24 hours. First, this check-list from Seth Godin with some practical (and humorous) considerations you should take before hitting that send button. Second, (via a Twitter ‘tweet’ from Steve Rubel) I saw these blog posts by Luis Suarez, a knowledge management expert at IBM, who is 14 weeks into an experiment of giving up business e-mail.

The Take Away: E-mail is not going away anytime soon, but the people who used e-mail before you ever heard of it are moving onto other methods of staying in touch with one-another. Some of this is generational – Facebook and text-messaging trump e-mail for those under 24. Some of this is frustration(al?) – an effort to reduce the noise-level that has resulted from spam and the ease some people have with hitting the send button. Your not going to moving on from e-mail anytime soon, but the next few years will see a significant evolution in how you use and manage e-mail.

Categories: business, facebook, internet, twitterTags: , , ,

Should eWeek be banned from Work?

In a really transparent link-baiting, page-view inflating scheme, is running a slide-show-ish “editorial” feature titled, “Should Facebook be Banned from Work?” (I hate doing it, but as a service to you, dear reader, here’s the link.)

Obviously, I think it would be ridiculous to ban Facebook from work. I prefer to ban from work employees who aren’t productive and responsible. If employees are productive, they’ll discover how to use anything productive that Facebook enables — and learn how to manage the noise.

What I’d rather see banned from work are editorial features that make the reader click through 12 pages (or more, if you count the ads popping up along the way). The “page-view” metric is the reason publishers do this, but it’s a nightmare user experience and I’m sure any analysis of site traffic would show that people rarely click through more than 2-3 pages. On this one, I didn’t get past the second frame.

Also what I’d like to see banned (and I thought it was) are the types of embedded-in-editorial link-ads that appear on the eWeek website. The type that send Paul Conley over the edge.

For anyone the least bit “web-savvy,” eWeek is a much bigger time waste than Facebook.

Audio Post: Interview with Patrick Ruffini on lessons (so far) from 2008 presidential campaign online strategies

[This is also being posted at Hammock Inc.’s Custom Media Craft weblog.]

It’s been a while since I’ve made an “audio post” to a blog (I’m more “video” these days). However, some recent blog posts and Twitter comments by online political strategy consultant (and analyst) Patrick Ruffini inspired me to dust-off the Skype account and Audio Hijack software and give him a call. Ruffini works with GOP candidates, but in this interview we talk about his indepth tracking of the online campaigns of all the candidates in both parties. While the 16 minute audio focuses heavily on the historical significance of the online fundraising by the Obama campaign (see this article in the Washington Post), I also asked Patrick to discuss his thoughts on the current role of blogs in presidential news coverage (vs. 2004) — and, more recently, Twitter.

Download MP3

Life in the age of transparency

I’ll let the professional journalism-watchers figure out the historical significance of Michael Arrington’s post on TechCrunch about the closure of Edgeio. Explaining what’s taking place is too complex for me to tackle today. It’s like a wheel within a wheel — except the wheels are made of glass.


“Edgeio, a company I co-founded in 2005, had a final board meeting this evening and made the decision to shut down operations of the company. We are putting it into the TechCrunch DeadPool.