Archive for May, 2009

Digidave talks about Spot.us and fundraising

27 May 2009

Here’s Dave Cohn aka Digidave talking about fundraising and Spot.us. Keywords are “transparency, immediacy, and control” (for the donor, that is). Towards the end of the video (btw Dave, are you suffering from bad bed hair, or is that a hat you’ve got on?!) Dave puts a couple of questions on the table for me. I’ve got a day full of fundraising meetings (okay, that’s somehow completely if ironically appropriate), so I’ll get this up now and get a response up later today…Thanks Dave!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

(BTW Dave – it’s “May-mon-ih-dees.” Maimonides. Greek for Hebrew.)

more about “Viddler.com – Conversation with Steve…“, posted with vodpod

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26 May 2009

I spent the summer of 1971 working as a maintenance guy at Camp Takajo, a summer camp for wealthy east coast kids. My high school friend John’s father owned the place at that point, and helped me get the gig (I didn’t want to be a camp counselor, looking back at it now, because the kids reminded me of a me I didn’t much care for at the time).

My daily routine involved hauling the garbage to the town dump in a 56 Dodge dump truck (it dumptruckkinda looked like this: nothing like learning how to drive a stick and double clutch at the same time), brushing the tennis courts, cleaning out the storm drains, mopping the dining hall kitchen floor after all three meals – you know, maintenance. After hours, we got to canoe on the lake (there’s really nothing like the sound of a loon at twilight), or swim, or hang out, or head into town for beer.

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Sontag, reconsidered

25 May 2009

Two ways metaphor can be of use during times of ill-health.

Own the metaphor/metaphor as social force.

Sontag wrote about how the dominant cultural ideology imposes meaning onto disease, transforming it – and the patient – into a cultural object. But it’s also more than possible for the patient to be the creative subject, actively deploying metaphor as a weapon or tool in his/her own self-definition of health and its absence. One step beyond that: when politics intersects with individual trouble, c.f. here C Wright Mills and how individual  troubles turn into public issues, metaphor can be a social force, too.

Manage the ultimate life paradox through creative metaphor.

Sontag and Cousins were so right in approaching ill-health and disease with as wide ranging and clearheaded insight as possible, even if that means looking foolish or departing from convention (or conventional authority, bound up in the drama of the white coat). But even the most benign of health troubles carries with it another layer of meaning, a confrontation with which I think is ultimately unavoidable: that being the fact of our own mortality. And that seems to me to inhabit a land that can best be given shape and contour through metaphor, rather than its absence.

Sontag, Cousins

24 May 2009

The past few days I’ve been thinking about 2 books, Susan Sontag’s Illness as Metaphor, and Norman Cousin’s Anatomy of an Illness (As Perceived by the Patient). I remember reading Sontag’s book when it was published back in the 70s; of all her work, this one has stayed with me over the years. I was more puzzled by why my memory jumped to Cousin’s book; if I read it when it came out in the early 80s it didn’t make as deep an impression as Sontag’s – but here it was, neurons firing in their mysterious way, surfacing the title. I’ve wandered around the Intertubes to remind myself what each of these books were about, and the more I’ve read, the more it begins to make sense. Read the rest of this entry »

Friday Dog Days 22May09

22 May 2009

Sparse posting the past few days. I’ve had my head down getting ready for a trip back to B-town and DC after the holiday weekend (plus all the usual stuff). Should have time next week to get back into the swing.

But it’s Friday and that means it’s time for another pic of my favorite canine, Mingus the Super Dog. Here he is in one of his Mingus the Super Dog relaxingmost popular poses: happily lounging after a nice long walk, which we did this AM before I sat down in front of the keyboard. It remains a question of who actually walks whom.

I’m off to a doc’s appointment soon  – may be more to say on the flip. Meanwhile, have a great weekend all. Take a moment to remember those who gave their lives. And enjoy yours.

Coming up: a conversation with Dave Cohn

17 May 2009

spotusAbout a month ago Dave Cohn of Spot.us responded to a post I’d put up here that wondered how he and his sidekick Kara were doing, and particularly whether and how they were encouraging people who donated money to a specific “pitch” to also make a donation to the organization. He wrote back to say that they’d been thinking a lot about this question in slightly different terms:

Are we a platform that puts weight on the reporters to fund themselves – assuming that most donors are one-time givers.Or are we a community site that is going to try and create a dynamic relationship with our audience and give them more than the single project. More and more – we are trying to become the second.

Good questions for anyone who’s going to push the practice of crowdfunding forward. It’s also a question we deal with all the time at Mother Jones, and so I was especially interested to see how Dave and Spot.us approach it, literally with fresh eyes.

So I asked Dave if he’d be up for talking about the fundraising end of things with me – and that’s what we’ll be doing over the next few days. Keep an eye out for it, and once it gets going, join the conversation. (PS – Dave is threatening to respond via video, which means I may be making the jump into that medium too. . . uh oh, moving pictures…)

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A big smushy kiss to Mother Jones, and thinking about success, however modest.

15 May 2009

smushykissI’ve written posts about some other organizations since I started Maimonides Ladder, so I thought this might be an okay time to say a few words about the Mother Ship, my employer. It also happens that I sent in an application today for a scholarship to attend this summer’s Stanford Publishing Course (at $3950 plus food and lodging, it’s not as if this non profit lifer has the cash to plunk down for a week down on The Farm – and MoJo definitely doesn’t, either).  As part of the application, they asked for a 1000 words describing how Mother Jones “is innovating to create, promote or deliver content for a digital future.”

Hmmm. I swallowed some happy pills (trust me, it’s not all sweetness and light, and the future is looking simultaneously thrilling and terrifying), and this is part of what I wrote (with my commenting function switching on):

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Friday dog days 15May09

15 May 2009

Looks to me like Mingus the Super Dog is in serious dog heaven here. Days like these remind me why I left the east coast a long time ago to brave wildfires, earthquakes, and affluenza in the hills of Marin. They don’t call Fairfax “Mayberry on Acid” for nothing. Mingus had a special treat today: a walk along Corte Madera creek down in the tidal mixing zone – a whole new neighborhood to sniff out. One. Happy. Dog.

Mingus in dog heaven

Mingus in dog heaven

A report on “saving the news” that’s worth a read

12 May 2009

Confession: I was ready to not like the new report from Free Press on “Saving the News:  Toward a National Journalism Strategy.” Yeesh: a national journalism strategy, when we can barely figure out how to use Twitter? Seemed a bit presumptuous.

The first sentence of the report didn’t help, either:”Journalism is a public good.” Really? Britney? Octomom? Glenn Beck? Public goods? Double yeesh.

Sure enough after that boldly wrong-headed statement, the Free Press guys = Victor Pickard, Josh Stearns, and Craig Aaron – pulled back, and hard. After that, they made it quite clear they were talking about something a wee bit more specific, aka “quality journalism” –  you know, stuff with facts and thinking.

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CIR takes on California

8 May 2009

For about six months in 1994, I worked with then-Executive Director Rick Tulsky as the director of development for the Center for Investigative Reporting, here in San Francisco. CIR had just been awarded a pretty good sized “capacity building” grant from the MacArthur Foundation, and Tulsky hired me to help build the organization. Well, things didn’t quite work out that way, Tulsky (who’s a terrific investigative reporter, and came to CIR from the Philadelphia Inquirer) moved on, and so did I.

Before I did that, though, I saw how CIR’s fundraising worked: besides a relatively small individual donor base (and a couple of important major donors) at that time most of the foundation fundraising they did was organized around film or video projects they were working on, usually in conjunction with WGBH’s Frontline. [Over the years, CIR and Mother Jones have collaborated on a number of stories.]

They did some great work, but that always seemed like a tough way to fund an organization, project by project.

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