Copying my notes live from the barcampnfp sessions. Apologies for brevity and typos…
Last week I was lucky to go to Paris for le web conference, which focused on the Internet of Things (IoT). This describes the shift to a time when all your devices are connected to the Internet, and talk to each other through machine to machine (m2m) communication.
This has been big for a while, although we maybe didn’t notice.
—Chris Heuer (@chrisheuer) December 6, 2012
And apparently it’s going to get a hell of a lot bigger…
Some of the many examples pitched were fitbit (tracks your activity), withings (connected bathroom scales) and SmartThings, which is a platform for connecting pretty much anything in your house to be controlled by a smartphone app – things like light switches, power sources or even knowing when someone opens your liquor cabinet…
I can see the use cases for some things like the fitbit, but am not entirely convinced that all the examples we saw were that useful (I’m looking at you iPad on a Segway) and seemed to be solutions looking for a problem.
— Johan Hallesby (@johanhal) December 5, 2012
For example, a live demo of showing how you can turn off a light switch in a home on the other side of the world using your phone, whilst a guy in the house looked on felt a bit pointless. The guy could quite easily just have turned the light off himself. I understand that it was a staged demo of the technology, but demo-ing something that’s not useful doesn’t’ really show any use in a product.
I was much more taken behind the idea of Ninja Blocks, which gave you connected objects and also an open API platform to enable you to program them to do whatever you wanted. They call it the API for atoms, which is much less scary than what Brain Solis talked about in his session when he mentioned the future of connectivity being around a Human API (although if you read his explanation of the term, it’s not as scary as it sounds and is a great read).
The story of Lockitron was pretty good too. They were rejected by Kickstarter and so decided to build their own crowdfunding platform, which enabled them to raise the small matter of $2.2 million! The lockitron works by putting the product over your house lock, and you can then use your smartphone to enter your house sans keys, or even allow other people to enter your house (great for Airbnb perhaps). They also released their crowdfunding app as an open source project so other kickstarter rejects can go their own way. Nice work.
And then there was the muse, a connected headband thingy that would monitor your brain waves. So you can control things with your mind, I hear you say? Well, kind of. The example given was of the Le web founder Loic writing an email and the fonts changing based on his brain activity. Changing fonts? Yes, that was my reaction.
Brain controlled fonts is not exactly earth shattering (no word on what brain waves made comic sans), but as this tech evolves it could be one to watch. Still, it has raised over $280,000 on indiegogo. Each to their own.
And I’ll let you be the judge of how ‘wearable’ or ‘cool’ it looks…
For some sharp contrast to all the new tech on show, Scott Harrison spoke about his story of founding charity:water. This was predictably brilliant. I’ve talked much about them in the past, so see Scott’s story in the unlikely event you’ve never heard of them. It was definitely good to see some charity involved in the conference, but the fact it was just one made it almost more annoying to see a succession of apps and stories about people making ‘cool’ technology or loads of money and not changing the world.
A speaker highlight who talked about ‘real’ (ish) things amongst all the future gazing was Ramon de Leon, a social media marketer for Domino’s. I suggest you follow him and take a look at the video of his talk, as he’s a pretty entertaining guy and I can’t do his enthusiasm justice in words. But maybe a picture helps.
I’ll leave the final word to Henri Seydoux, Founder and CEO of Parrot for adding some humour, common sense, and a quality franglais accent. He said we should be thinking in terms of “Things for the Internet, not the Internet of things”. In true stereotypical French style he then went on an extended simile about comparing “zings” to women, and how the things must be unique, like women, or you’ll get in trouble. But aside from some causal sexism, he was very good at cutting through the BS and where all this can add value.
“The things are like women, they want to be unique, the have to be beautiful, that’s like Things for the Internet” – Henri Seydoux #leweb
— Alex Barrera (@abarrera) December 6, 2012
At one point Loic even mocked him for having a notebook with him on stage, saying that it wasn’t very connected. To which he replied, quick as a flash,
“No it’s not connected, but it’s useful.”
Which seems a good place to end this post. As my colleague Lee said, “people are thinking – what can we do instead of what should we do”. That was my overall impression of all the Internet of things things we saw in Paris. Yes, the tech is undoubtedly impressive, but it’s not useful enough yet. I’m sure that one day it will, possibly fairly soon, and the price of all theses devices will drop so it’ll be easier to reach a mass market, but the killer application has yet to be built (imho). Nor has anyone built a killer IoT app that will change the world and do some good. We best try and make one that does then.
(All the sessions from le web are on YouTube, if any of this has made you want to learn more.)
Listening to the Guardian tech podcast a few months ago, I heard about a certain kickstarter project that sounded pretty interesting. Called makeymakey, some clever chaps had built a way of allowing you to connect pretty much anything to a PC, and use it to control your PC, using some crocodile clips and a little USB motherboard.
I was curious about the potential for this, so backed the project on kickstarter and received my kit a couple of weeks ago. Naturally my first thought was to bring it into the office to see what clever ideas we could come up with and apply to giving. Unfortunately, we didn’t come up with any especially great ideas (yet), although seeing David, our technical architect, using a banana as a joystick to play canabalt was a bit special:
(Incidentally, in my
MVT test of three fruits, bananas proved a more effective controller than apples or clementines. Test and learn. Test and learn.)
Anyway, the kit allows you to connect anything that conducts electricity to the board, and control the arrow keys, space bar and click. Unfortunately, we couldn’t make a donation on the site using just those keys, but maybe we’ll add shortcuts so you can…
But aside from donations on our website, could you think of any clever ways to use a makeymakey and apply it to giving and technology? I’m off to a Facebook hackathon tomorrow, and it would be a good time to try some of your ideas out…
For inspiration, here’s the video from the makers of makeymakey. Enjoy.
Last week I had the pleasure of dusting off my clicker, wearing smart jeans and shirt and obsessing over the tiniest alignments. Yes, it was presentation time. Having not been ‘on stage’ for about 6 months, it was nice to get back in the groove and share our most recent stats and advice at the IoF Events Fundraising conference. Peruse said slides below…
Back in October, I wrote about one of Facebook’s latest BETA features and how I was quite excited about its potential (see Grammar as a platform and sentences as a service – Facebook’s new open graph). After the open graph (or Timeline apps, as they’re known) went live in January earlier this year, there have been quite a few success stories of apps/products getting massive exposure and hockey stick shaped usage graphs as a result. Notable winners have been the Guardian and social media flavour of the month Pinterest.
Having seen their success and thought long and hard about how we could integrate, it was very exciting to hear from Facebook themselves a couple of weeks ago asking how our integration was going – as they were looking for some new apps to promote for a big European launch. Luckily, we were in the middle of working on the integration, so it was perfect timing. I say it was perfect timing, although it would have been better to not be releasing the new feature on the day of the demo – especially as one of the features we released was just an idea on Friday and live by the following Thursday. That’s by a long way the quickest turnaround of any product from inception to release I’ve ever been involved in. Even the tech guys at Facebook were impressed at our speed, *beams*.
Anyway, it was very exciting to be invited to Amsterdam last week to demo our new app. Cue excited tweet…
— Jonathan Waddingham (@jon_bedford) April 26, 2012
Essentially the new integration allows you to share messages on Facebook about “donating to a fundraising page” and “thanking a donor” in the newsfeed, ticker and on timeline. And it’s the aggregations I’m most excited about, showing on a timeline the friends people have sponsored, charities they’ve given to as well as how much they gave (if that’s public). See this blog post for more, but you get a flavour from the screenshot below. It’s interesting and tells you things you might not know or remember, that’s the key.
So anyway, as a result of this, we got a bunch of great coverage in places from The Next Web to the Telegraph, not to mention in Facebook’s Christian Hernandez’s keynote at the The Next Web conference (see video here). But my particular favourite headline was in T3: “JustGiving launches Facebook timeline widget to aid humanity“. Can’t say more than that.
I’m really excited to see how this works out for us, and will no doubt be banging on about the stats when it does (look forward to that), but it’s nice to get some coverage about our tech work for once. We’ve got a stellar development team and I think (naturally) that we do a lot of innovative work, but that is not always acknowledged in the sector.
Now I just need to get back to working on the next product to aid humanity…(!)
Way back in August 2009, I wrote a blog for Professional Fundraising (as it was known then) about how the newly released Facebook Connect (as it was known then) gave websites the ability to personalise content based on people’s Facebook data to an unprecedented level. I was really excited about how charities could personalise their campaigns with this integration, but it’s taken until this year to finally find something that does this, and does this really well.
Step forward Plan UK’s Tell your story campaign and take a bow. I came across the story via the excellent sofii website, a site anyone involved in fundraising should regularly check out. As with any rich personalised experience based on Facebook data, like Intel’s brilliant museum of me, you only really get a sense of what it’s like by trying the site yourself so I’m not going to explain how it works or what it does. Showing my Facebook friends, photos and data won’t have the same effect as seeing your own connections show up – that’s the point and the power of it. Still, here’s a video to give you a broad idea:
And at the risk of navel-gazing, I would like to quote my post from 2 1/2 years ago, as I think they’ve nailed exactly what I thought would be possible and powerful:
…it’s this personalisation that’s the point I want to make. We all know from DM experience that the more personal a campaign, the better the response rate. And for many people, data doesn’t get much more personal than what they share with their friends on Facebook…
Imagine how you could use that data in a campaign. How could you use someone’s personal photos and make it relevant to your charity’s goals or a story for a new campaign? Or, once someone is donating to you online, could you ask them to connect with Facebook so you could create a personalised thank-you video, including their name and address, showing how their donation has helped?
There is great scope for using this feature to create a rich, interactive experience and greater personalisation. The beauty is that you don’t have to ask people to enter any details, they just log in to Facebook, and you use things they’ve already shared.
Having spent the last year doing a lot of work on various Facebook integrations, I know that the technical effort required to get the data they’re using from Facebook isn’t actually that hard, but they are using it in a very clever way. And as with all these things, it’s the story not the tech that’s most interesting, and how they have used tech to tell such a compelling story is very impressive. I’ve talked a lot about digital storytelling in the past, and this is probably the best of the bunch I’ve seen thus far.
I recommend you head over to Sofii’s exhibit to read all the details and background to the campaign and doff your hat in acknowledgement of some great work. I look forward to reading the follow-up and seeing how the campaign went.
2010 was all about speaking and presentations for me (25 in all) but 2011 was meant to be the year of product; the year of doing, not talking (or not talking as much). So here’s a list of things my team of fab of fab developers, QA, UX and design shipped in the last 12 months:
- The catchily named IPDD (internet paperless Direct Debit), allowing any charity on JG to receive monthly direct debit donations
- Many unseen infrastructure improvements and bug fixes
- A new area to promote giving and a google maps mash-up to help find a charity
- Adding social sharing to one-off and monthly direct donation processes (here was the first tweet for this)
- Lots of tweaks to the JG account area to give better advice to fundraisers
- Log in to JG with Facebook
- New Facebook application to allow sponsors to donate without leaving Facebook, a first. Here’s how it works.
- Quite a few homepage updates, including adding Facebook and Twitter feed (finally – woo!)
- Much improved social sharing after you sponsor someone (‘social sponsorship’) and allowing people to leave their Facebook profile picture on a page. See the hashtag #justsponsored
- Update to Facebook app to allow people to make one-off or monthly donations on Facebook, and allow charities to add a donation tab to their Facebook pages. Another first!
- And finally, a new design and a few new features for fundraising pages.
Looking back at that, we’ve shipped a lot. And that was just my stream, not including epic projects like JustTextGiving, JustGiving for companies, tons of new API methods, improved in memory products and many more improvements for charities that the other product teams led by Lee and Jamie worked on. It’s safe to say we’ve shipped more this year than any other, and that’s because of a lot of hard work, talent and pain from our brilliant dev team.
I still managed to slip in a few presentations too, but only nine compared to last year’s 25. And for me personally, that was the best thing to look back at: the difference in building and releasing lots of new products. The doing has been really rewarding, and the talking has been even more so, as I’ve been talking about the results of what we’ve been doing: my favourite presentation of the year (yes it’s sad, but I do have a favourite) was packed with numbers and results from many of those products we released this year.
Another notable highlight from 2011 was MC-ing at the JustGiving awards for the second time, a massive privilege and one I’m already excited about doing once more in 2012. I have never been in awe in the presence of a 7 year old boy before, but sharing a stage with Charlie Simpson (who raised £210k for Haiti) was quite something.
(Oh, and I got married to the wonderful Sophie too. It’s safe to say that was the real highlight of the year, or of any year for that matter, so I should probably mention it despite this being about work).
Naturally, all of this is a product of teamwork from lots of very awesome people. So shout outs go to Pedro, Bala, Neil, Rob, David, Jamie, Lee, Ambica, Shashi, Will, Yael, James, Kai, and all the other great people I’ve had the pleasure of working with this year – thanks!
Hopefully 2012 will be as interesting (although I know it will be, as I’ve seen our product roadmap…)
On Tuesday this week I went to the London edition of F8, the “on tour” edition of Facebook’s flagship developer conference. I have to say (and I did say it), it was the most useful day at a conference I’ve ever had.
Despite spending a lot of time reading through the docs for the new open graph, there’s nothing quite like hearing it from the horse’s mouth. Not to mention seeing some of Facebook’s finest engineers live code on stage to show you how it all works.
The big topic of the day was how to use the BETA open graph, a new way to get your apps distributing content to Facebook’s ticker, newsfeed and timeline. It also gives you a hitherto unavailable level of control over how that content appears, is structured and linked. In absence of any personal imagination, I’ll copy their example:
The Open Graph allows apps to model user activities based on actions and objects. A running app may define the ability to “run” (action) a “route” (object). A reading app may define the ability to “read” (action) a “book” (object). A recipe app may define the ability to “cook” (action) to a “recipe” (object).
This is effectively a lesson in grammar. You get to define an action (verb) and an object (noun). But the really useful part is that you can then create aggregations of those verbs or nouns that appear on a user’s timeline (which, incidentally, I think is a really great feature).
So from a developer or website point of view, you need to think about what sentences make sense to people and whether they will be interesting enough to be clicked by that person’s Facebook friends. Because as with most Facebook integrations, you need to think both about how things work for your user, and your user’s friends. Ultimately, you want something posted to a newsfeed or ticker that is compelling enough to be clicked on and bring you some extra visits. It’s a bugbear of mine that people often focus on one of those audiences, but not always both.
I’ve spent a lot of this week trying to map out all the relevant objects and actions on JG and how they fit together in an almost database like structure, but as this is so abstract, it’s been easier to focus on the sentences we want people to share and what aggregations will be interesting to our audience and then work backwards.
So if you start with a description of what someone does on your site (like, I don’t know, sponsor a friend ) then you can work back and define the relevant objects and actions on Facebook. Once you get your head around this, it’s actually relatively straightforward to set up your mapping on Facebook and then add the relevant meta tags to refer to your custom objects, as per another example below:
<meta property=”og:type” content=”mydemoapp:recipe” />
<meta property=”og:title” content=”Stuffed Cookies” />
Once that’s all set up, you need to ask for permissions to publish actions at some point in a flow on Facebook or on your site. This is a one-time ask, and one reason why this is so good for content publishers is because it removes the barrier of asking to share (frictionless sharing is what Facebook call it). In the case of spotify, once you authorise the app, each song is shared without the user having to do anything. Whether that’s good for a user or not is another story (and I’ve been caught out a couple of times by spotify sharing dubious song choices…).
Finally, you can create aggregations of any combination of objects and actions to give your user something interesting to show on their timeline. For example, here’s the slightly random collection of music I didn’t realise I’d listened to on spotify in October until I looked on my timeline…
This is where you add some really interesting value, and make someone’s interaction with your app be a part of their social identity. These was a theme mentioned a couple of times on the day. It’s like those boxes you used to be able to put on your Facebook profile to show you liked something, except this is an opportunity to show the user something new, something different, something interesting that they didn’t know themselves – the launch partner apps show top playlists on spotify, or most-read authors on the Guardian, but the potential for this is really quite exciting.
Advertising – the scary/awesome bit
One last thing to add is that Facebook said you would be able to advertise to people who had taken custom actions related to custom objects in your app. So if you have listened to an artist on spotify, that information can be used to target you with an app. This is awesome in that you can advertise based on custom verbs and nouns you define, but scary in that the level of ad targeting Facebook can use has just upped a notch (and it was already more targeted than any other form of advertising already). Fast forward a bit, say an app shared that someone was “buying” something, an advertiser could then target that buyer in near real-time with another offer, and all that person’s friends could see they were in the process of buying something and suggest something else – a scary/cool type of social commerce…
And if you look at it another way, they have managed to build a way of allowing you to add rich customised content to their network, which adds value to their network, and then allow you to pay to advertise to people on their network, based on the content you’ve added! But that is the trade-off, nothing is ever for free. But as far as I’m concerned, the value you will get from integrating so deeply into Facebook is worth it, so why shouldn’t they get some value back too.
Ultimately, though, given that the open graph is in BETA, won’t be live until Timeline is released and the ticker is still new and bedding in, it’s difficult to say how this will pan out and how successful it will be. But I suspect we’re about to embark on a new wave of innovations on Facebook’s platform – one that will create tons of value for websites, app developers and publishers, not to mention Facebook themselves.
I don’t hear people talk about the semantic web much these days, but Facebook are about to release a platform where anyone can create a machine readable summary of not only their site, but what people are actually doing on their site in real time in a way that can be used to target those people with relevant ads or content. As TechCrunch memorably put it, “Share Buttons? Ha. Facebook Just Schooled The Internet. Again.”
More reactions from F8
This morning I went to a talk on disrupting philanthropy, where I heard Lucy Bernholz talk about how new technologies are changing the way we need to think about giving. She’s great, you should check out her blog, and follow her.
Organised by many fab people (including NCVO, Guardian Voluntary Sector Network, Big Society Network and more), I thought it was a really interesting morning – as much for the discussions afterwards as for the talk itself.
A lot was said about new technology and how powerful it can be, although Lucy’s caveat of “if you know how to use it” didn’t appear to be picked up by many people – but it’s a very important point. As much as I love new technology and applying it to the charity world (which I’m lucky to say is my day job) the technology in itself doesn’t change anything. It’s how people use it that counts, and how technology is designed to complement existing human behaviours and what we know about people who give to charity.
Much was made (in the questions after at least) about data, it’s importance and the fact it should be open. To be clear, I agree on both counts – and it was great to meet Chris Taggart, who’s responsible for using data very cleverly with opencharities. Data should be open, and it is important.
But data alone is not the be-all and end-all.
One question in particular was asked about how effective things like pie charts are in showing how much charities spend on admin or fundraising, for showing impact to grantmakers or individual donors. I think data in that context misses the point, or where the really valuable data is (which for me, is in social networks).
Any research or focus groups with *people who actually give to charities* will tell you that they want to know what happens to their money when they give. Somehow we’ve extrapolated from that fact that people want to know what percentage is spent on beneficiaries versus other things like admin or fundraising.
How did that happen? Aren’t we missing the point?
As a donor, I want to know what you’ve spent the money on so I can understand how I have helped. This isn’t about the data, its about the story of what a charity did with my money. This appears to be the same as what Lucy referred to as “impact investments”, which to me seems a posh way of describing a donation that is followed up with a story about how that donation has helped (I’m probably doing her a dis-service here, this is just my interpretation). Saying 80% of a donation goes to help beneficiaries is totally pointless unless you say what that 80% of my donation has actually done.
I think stories in the charity press about donors “being concerned about how money is spent” is a symptom of not being told how their donation has helped, and not a green light to start publishing ratios on fundraising spend vs admin spend in all fundraising material. If you could see what the money has done, you can innately understand, or at least appreciate, that costs were involved in making that thing happen.
And as much as I love navel gazing about new ways of giving, or sexing-up how we talk about giving, ultimately the point of all of this is just that: to tell people how they’ve helped and the demonstrate it. It’s the feedback loop.
To power that feedback, you tell a story. So what you need is content. I’ve talked before about charities and the art of digital storytelling, because new technology helps people tell stories, and stories are the essential ingredient here. Whether you’re a small or large charity, you can tell a story by having a Facebook page, sharing videos on YouTube or by tweeting. That technology is available to all.
Having said that, one good point raised was about whether new technology gives a voice to people who don’t have one :
I’d argue that this is one role of charities – being the people who give a voice to the silent, to empower the people who are neglected or who need help.
Anyway, back to the data point – sure, data can be part of a narrative, if it helps a story, but if one charity gives me a pie chart when I donate showing how much is spent on beneficiaries and another gives me a story of how a beneficiary has benefited, I know which one I’m more likely to become a long term supporter of.
So, how do we disrupt philanthropy?
Do what charities have always done, tell stories. Just do it in a new way. It doesn’t have to be complicated.
Here’s just one of many interesting tweets from the event, one making the point that data is usefulif it shows efficiency, but connection with the cause is just as, if not more, important.
The talk did cover other areas too, but these were the topics I was most interested in, so if you took something different from this morning, I’d love to hear it.