Alphachimp scribes Paramore University

ABOVE: Diane Durand, Managing Director of Alphachimp Studio Inc. scribes for Josh ClarkParamore, the Digital Agency, presents bi-annual Paramore University events where friends of the agency learn from brilliant digital thinkers and doers about how to improve their digital marketing. In typical Paramore style, the events are fun, entertaining, informative, and savvy.
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Social Crisis, Social Mapping & Social Change

Social Mapping for Social Change from Alphachimp Studio Inc. on Vimeo.

This week at at the Graham Foundation in Chicago, PopTech brought together three speakers (and a smart audience in this city of news aggregators and social good organizations) for a special salon event on the current and future impact of social mapping tools.

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One Million Monkeys Typing


From Pop!Tech Blog:

The Theory: Given enough time, a hypothetical chimpanzee typing at random would, as part of its output, almost surely produce one of Shakespeare's plays (or any other text).lya Kreymerman and Nina Zito, creators of One Million Monkeys Typing, think so, too. On their new community story-telling site, members collaborate on writing a story (perhaps even a novel), without the pressure or obligation of ever completing the story by themselves.

Founded on the simple premise “read, write, publish”, the project encourages members to create new segments for “story trees”. Before beginning a new story, you must first contribute to a few existing stories. Once you’ve become part of the writing community, you receive permission (or in One Million Monkey terms, a “seed”) to start your own story tree.

The idea of one million monkeys typing is derived from the infinite monkey theorem. Community members are considered “monkeys,” with a designated number indicating the order in which they joined the site.

The Point: Web 2.0 tool for creating your own change


The Point brings together problems, people, and the pressure of collective action. The site allows users to create campaigns and encourage other people to join anonymously.

Using the principles of Gladwell's Tipping Point, once the number of members reaches a certain critical mass (10, 50, 2000) and action is triggered: a sale, a press release, a protest.

Campaigns are tools for people to organize a group action that occurs only when enough people join to make participation worthwhile. Campaigns can be used for any situation where people want safety in numbers, from planning a party to boycotting a corporation to saving chickens.

Check out the simple, clever animations used to demonstrate the types of people, the problems they want to tackle, and the resulting campaigns--that can use The Point to catalyze change.

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Make Something Happen.


The Point is a platform for group action, helping you make things happen that you couldn't accomplish alone.

The Melancholia of Social Networking

Even with the quantifiable explosion of social networking services--and the perceived multitude of ways to connect to other people--the feeling of isolation and disconnectedness continues to pervade our modern culture.

The disturbing results continue to be an increase in both depression and suicide.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports that an average of 19 million Americans suffer from depression. Of these suffers, over 30,000 will take there own lives, with almost 20,000 of these suicides are aged 15 to 34-years-old.

Every day, approximately 80 Americans take their own life, and 1,500 more attempt to do so.

Depression has, of course, many causes: economics, family history, neurobiology and microchemistry, physical or emotional trauma.

However, the most profound source seems to be a person's interpersonal relationship with their surroundings and the people around them.

More than half (55%) of all online American youths ages 12-17 use online social networking sites, according to a 2007 national survey of teenagers conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. So why is suicide among young people rising?

From Sense of belonging a key to suicide prevention
Wed Apr 2, 2008 3:13pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The rate of suicide among young people is triple what it was 50 years ago, and while it remains exceedingly rare for college students to kill themselves, it is always a tragedy -- and always preventable, according to a New York psychiatrist and authority on suicide.

Helping people who feel isolated to connect or reconnect with others is also important, he added. "Connection and a feeling of social belonging is I think the most important initial step in preventing suicide," Kahn said. "Once the person feels that sense of trust in belong to the community, they may be more receptive to suggestions that they seek help, if they haven't sought it already."

They can also look to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (, and the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention ( for information.

Nokia's Nanotech Morph

The future may be here already (and just not evenly distributed) but I want to know where to buy i!
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Why is Nokia always trying to outdo everyone with its fancy-schmancy concepts and designs? Why can't they just get in line and keep it simple?

We may never know the answer to those questions, but what we do know is that the company is presenting a new concept device called the Morph that would be right at home... in the year 3000. The unit is included in the MoMA's "Design and the Elastic Mind" exhibition catalog, and boasts the ability to stretch and flex to almost any shape a user could think of.

The nanotechnology-based device would deliver transparent electronics, self-cleaning surfaces, and the malleability to transform into any number of configurations. Of course, the actual technology required to put this together is years or even decades away, though Nokia expects to see some of these innovations making their way into high-end products within seven years. See the device doing its thing in some photos after the break. - I Am Kenyan

Via Ethan Zuckerman:

A new project by David Kobia and crew, encouraging Kenyans around the world to transcend their tribal identity and affirm their identity as Kenyans. An interesting response to the difficulties of keeping message boards sane during the crisis.
Kobia also coordinated, a site that integrates GoogleMaps and SMS for citizens to report incidences of Riots, Deaths, Property Damage, Government Forces, Civilians, Looting, Rape, Peace.

It also has a running timeline of events, making it a powerful tool to trace the violence. Unfortunately, with some much violence involving so many impoverished people, this can't begin to give transparency to the chaos.

Although I am a Southern, American, white, suburban kid, I was born in Kenya and have carried hope and romance for this beautiful, passionate piece of the earth in my heart.

Ready to Ware

Clothes That Look Hip and Track Your Vital Signs, Too
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De Rossi, who has worked on robotic skin and motion-capture tech for Darpa and the US National Institutes of Health, began exploring the idea of fabric as a data-collection medium 12 years ago. Most of his designs employ thin, pliable strands of conductive steel spun with cotton or polyester fibers into yarn. The Wealthy suit has nine electrodes and conductive leads woven in, yet the fabric looks and feels completely normal.

The challenge in incorporating sensors into clothing — even skin-tight unitards — is that the fabric shifts when the body moves, resulting in sloppy, irregular signals. To deal with this, De Rossi's team developed software algorithms to clean up the data, along with code to reconstruct the wearer's movements. These programs are the real genius behind the company's work.

"Even when you are sick, if you have something that doesn't look nice, you don't want to put it on."

Quick Primer on Graphs and Networks

The power and flexibility of a network--whether a simple group of casual neighbors or a complex next generation communication network--depends not just on the number of connections, but on the quality of the nodes, and more important, the type of nodes. Below is a fantastic intro to the concept of graphs and networks. It helps in understanding the a social graph and how it differs from a social network.

In Mathematics, a Graph is an abstraction for modeling relationships between things. It is no different from a Network, which is a more common term for describing the same thing. Graphs consists of nodes and edges, or things and the ways that things relate to each other. As it turns out, Graphs are very powerful modeling tools for modeling natural and man-made systems. Diverse things like the Web, power grids, economies and even cells can be represented and analyzed as networks.

Note: Images above are from the Visual Complexity Gallery

What is also remarkable is that a lot can be said about a graph by looking at its structure; and the evolution of the structure. For example, epidemiologists use graph structures to predict the spread of an epidemic. The very same model can be used to understand how wild fire spreads, as well as how to engineer a viral marketing campaign. The better we understand the structure of a system's graph, the more we can control it, predict it and analyze it.

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Open Facebook Sandwich

According to The Art of Unix Programming by Eric Steven Raymond, the rules of open-source development are simple:
  1. Let the source be open. Have no secrets. Make the code and the process that produces it public.
  2. Release early, release often.
  3. Reward contribution with praise.
In this case, Facebook deserves some praise: They released their Javascript library so that developers can embed apps in third-party web sites and have greater access the Facebook member and relationship information.

The implications for communities, networks, social enterprise and individuals is huge--access to one of the largest social networking platform in the world. It will be intriguing to see how Google's Open Social grows as a contender.

When Facebook first opened up its API in Fall of 2007, Worldchanging contributor, Jon Lebkowsky, observed that Google's collaboration with social network platforms to create Open Social:

Google's insight was that you could create a standard API that many social sites could adopt, so that developers could build applications to work across platforms. This would presumably stimulate innovations and make them more broadly available – great for users and second tier social networking sites, less great for Facebook (though in my opinion, anything that boosts social networking is good for anyone in that business).
Henry Blodget of Silicon Alley Insider sees the recent decision as another brilliant Facebook move but predicts that Facebook wants to resist going completely "open" and allowing members to export their information and relationships at will.
Facebook might lose its control over its core asset (the billions of relationships among its millions of members, a.k.a., the social graph). This move seems another smart step toward a hybrid strategy: Allow app makers (and Facebook) to extend social-graph functionality to the web, gather more app users, and recruit more members--but retain full control over the social graph itself.

MindMap WebApp:

From LifeHack's 11 Top New Web Apps of 2007:

bubblus Flash-based mindmap creator allows you to quickly and easily make effective, attractive mindmaps that can be exported as images or as HTML outlines, or shared with others who can add new items or draw new connections between existing ones. Sometimes clunky if your connection is slow or if the mindmaps get too large. But a fantastic Flash-enabled tool!

Cherry Blossoms: Mapping the City of Bombs

Discovered via the post "You Don't Understand Our Audience" by Dateline reporter John Hockenberry on
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Cherry Blossoms is a backpack that uses a small microcontroller and a GPS unit. Recent news of bombings in Iraq are downloaded to the unit every night, and their relative location to the center of the city are superimposed on a map of Boston. If the wearer walks in a space in Boston that correlates to a site of violence in Baghdad, the backpack detonates and releases a compressed air cloud of confetti, looking for all the world like smoke and shrapnel. Each piece of confetti is inscribed with the name of a civilian who died in the war, and the circumstances of their death.

Alyssa Wright began working on Cherry Blossoms last semester, wondering how to think about — and feel about — the civilian war deaths in Baghdad. Alyssa’s genius was in sacrificing herself. After all, it’s not an easy piece to perform. You don’t know when it’s going to blow. It’s shocking and loud, and one has no sense of how others will react. Of course, she won’t get hurt by the compressed air, but she might well be confused for a suicide bomber (or, more appropriately, a mooninite) and arrested.

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Rating the best social networks

Which social networking sites have the best balance of ease-of-use vs. available features? The British consumer magazine Computing Which? has ranked Bebo as the best social networks, ahead of rivals Facebook and MySpace. The Guardian writes:

Bebo and Facebook achieved the highest scores of 79% and 74% respectively, and were rated easier to use than MySpace and best for socialising. Bebo, which is used predominantly by the 13- to 24-year-old age group, is praised for working hard to encourage responsible networking. "Users can restrict who sees their information, and block users, and there's plenty of advice on security risks and how to avoid these," says the magazine.
Details that matter to new users include: ease of sign-up, length of process, ease of use, features, navigation, and speed of page loads. Of course, one of the major drivers is the number of friends the new user already has on the service!

Getting the Whole Spimey Backstory

As sensor technology becomes cheaper to deploy, and the metadata embedded therein and broadcast therefrom becomes richer and more detailed, we approach a time in which every tennis shoe and ham sandwich has its own backstory.

We can know whether the pig in the sandwich had a happy life, or, more important, if it was exposed to harmful bacteria or unethical farming practices.

In his book Shaping Things, Bruce Sterling makes much of the emerging product form tagged with his self-created neologism... spime.

These are "material instantiations of an immaterial system, digitally manufactured things from virtual plans." In layman's terms, these are objects that can be manufactured, tracked, interacted with and recycled through digital systems embedded in the object and the environment. Now, knowing a product's backstory is emerging as a core principle of commerce.

[Listen to Sterling's discription of spime here. Or watch the oddly unnerving interview segment, SpimeTime on]
Article Photo

Principle 1: The Backstory

As the public gains interest and personal investment in living more sustainably, knowing the backstory becomes increasingly important. Whether it's food, lifestyle products, building materials -- most everything in the designed or built environment -- a big part of making good choices involves knowing where things come from, what's inside them, and how they got to point of use. If we know the backstory as consumers, we can make good choices; and if businesses and designers know they'll have to tell the story of their product, they make sure it's a story someone would want to hear.

Changing the World is Not Enough

The Skoll Foundation, started by Jeff Skoll of Ebay, is focused on changing the game for social change and entrepreneurism.

In fact, the label "social entrepreneur" is the nom de guerre in the current war on poverty, disease, conflict and intolerance, with the long-time foot soldiers finally gaining popular acclaim.

Last year, the man who is oft cited as the prototype of the modern social entrepreneur was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize: Muhammad Yunus, founder and manager of Grameen Bank and its growing family of social venture businesses in Bangladesh.

Fast Company has dedicated entire issues to celebrating Social Capitalists who've used business savvy and social conscious to create successful ventures that reap an ROI tracked in the new gold standard of success: The Triple Bottom Line. Business school students are emailing their parents, declaring that they are going to take their $200,000 education and start a business selling eyeglasses to Haitians. Oh, and make a ton of money doing it.

Heck, even the Oscars were declared green this year! [details]

With all this good press, an very self-reflective and worried conversation is taking place on-line at the Skoll Foundation's project site, The Social Edge. Social entrepreneurs are having a moment of doubt as to the depth of this perceived global change.

As the topic itself becomes more popular, more mainstream, more Hollywood, will this spotlight yield practical leaders who can effectively leverage the emergent power of social media to mobilize decentralized activity in combination with true political will to lead change in policies and regulations on a global scale?

Changing the World is Not Enough
Is social entrepreneurship ready for the real challenge?
by Social Edge

As a social entrepreneur, I worry. Changing the world through the work of one social entrepreneur at a time is not good enough. Improving life for even one person is worthy. It changes the world…one heartbeat at a time. And sooner or later, as life for enough people is changed for the positive we will reach a tipping point beyond which the entire world will change itself into a better place. I believe this will happen, given time.

But what if it doesn’t happen soon enough? What if we don’t have the time it will take? What if the world tips the other way first? Some days, for every tip toward a better world there is an opposite and greater tip toward a horrific world. What if those days overpower the good days?

A new wilderness is engulfing us. How we see this forest for its trees and who leads us through it could make the difference between life and death for civilization as we know it.