June 2006

Monthly Archive

A way for the President and law-makers to gauge public opinion?

Posted by on 27 Jun 2006 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

Social networks like Friendster and Orkut, if they are popular enough and have a large enough base of users, could be a mechanism for the President and law-makers to gauge public opinion on a particular issue.

How much more of a democracy would we live in if the people we have elected actually have their finger on the pulse of their constituents’ opinions and wishes. This increased transparency would undoubtedly help these officials make better, more informed decisions.

I am not quite sure how this would work but perhaps there could be questionnaires for users to fill out, or hot topic issues could be highlighted, somehow inviting people to lodge their opinion for a position on that issue. 

A contextual advertising network for charity?

Posted by on 27 Jun 2006 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

In addition to Google’s AdSense network there are a number of other competing networks, including Yahoo Publisher Network, Kanoodle BrightAds, etc. It would be great to see a competitor to AdSense where all of the proceeds went to charity. I’m imagining a network called AdsForGood or something like that. The company that operated the network could just take enough of the ad revenue to cover their operating costs and all of the rest would go to charity (including the site publisher’s portion).

Write editorials

Posted by on 25 Jun 2006 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

Some years ago my wife submitted an editorial to our local newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal. It spoke out against the plan for a company headquarters building to be erected in our neighborhood right along the lake which would have necessitated the demolition of the neighborhood of houses, including the one we were renting.

Her editorial was published in its entirety (it was quite a long article). In the end, the corporation gave in and decided to build their building elsewhere. I’m sure my wife’s article was at least partially responsible. Unfortunately the neighborhood still got bulldozed. But at least there isn’t some monstrous building right on the lakefront.

The point of this is that editorials in the newspaper, also known as op-ed (opinion-editorial) pieces, can make a difference. If you care about something and you don’t feel the issue has the visibility it deserves, then write to your newspaper. Craft a well thought-out op-ed piece. In fact, I think we should all be doing this sort of thing once a year, not just as a one-off.

One thing that really bothers me about New Zealand (which is where we live now) is that catalytic converters are not required by law. So, in the name of the Almighty Dollar, every imported used car gets their catalytic converter snipped off and resold overseas. Consequently when you drive on the motorway you choke on disgusting polluted air from the cars ahead of you. I find this appalling; a law should be passed to prevent this from continuing.

That is just the sort of thing one can write an editorial about. And if not you, then who?

So I guess I had better get started on that article. ;-)

Donating your ad revenue to charity

Posted by on 20 Jun 2006 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

I would like to see all the contextual advertising networks like Google AdSense, YPN (Yahoo Publishing Network), Chitika, etc. have an option where, instead of getting a check or electronic payment to your bank account, you could donate your revenue earnings directly to a charity of your choice.

Does anybody know if an ad network is offering that already? Do you know any bloggers who donate their AdSense revenue to charity? I am thinking of putting AdSense ads on my blogs, this one included, and donating the ad proceeds to charity.

A social network for facilitating positive change?

Posted by on 20 Jun 2006 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

You may have read recently in the news about how Orkut, a social network website offered by Google, is being used by drug dealers and other nasties to facilitate illegal transactions. Google has supposedly been working with law enforcement in Brazil to clamp down on these things, which is a good thing.

I wonder if an Orkut or a LinkedIn could become a social network for good? LinkedIn is a wonderful network for finding a job, or finding a prospective employee, or making new business contacts. It would be great if that service or Orkut could cater to people who want to make a difference in the world, helping them to find other people who want to make a difference in a similar sort of way, so that they could collaborate together?

Orkut, LinkedIn, you guys listening? 

Stopping Japan from bribing small member nations of the International Whaling Commission

Posted by on 18 Jun 2006 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

Japan has been trying to seize control of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) for a while, but this year they just might get their way. They’ve been busily buying votes, chasing after small poor developing countries like the Marshall Islands and offering them aid in exchange for support at the IWC. How evil. Shame on you Japan!

My idea is this: someone with deep pockets like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation or the Google Foundation should counter with a bigger, ongoing aid payment to these countries, with the condition that they will never allow themselves to be bribed again by Japan.

Helping Project Red with their web presence

Posted by on 18 Jun 2006 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

In looking at Blog Red and Join Red for my last blog post, I realized quite quickly how bad of shape their web presence is. For example:

  • Their product pages all have the same title tag “(RED)” with no keywords in it (check it out)
  • Their home page (the page of their site that’s given the most weight in the search engines) has no indexable content on it. Not even the word “AIDS”.
  • Their blog isn’t at all optimized for the search engines either.

I assist nonprofits like the Carter Center and the Foresight Institute, and I think I’ve just found one more organization I (and my company Netconcepts) should help. I’m going to contact the folks at Red and offer to lend them a hand, pro bono (pun intended!)

My Yahoo! “red”

Posted by on 18 Jun 2006 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

For those of you not familiar with lead singer of U2, Bono’s “Product Red,” it is a wonderful charitable initiative to help fight AIDS in Africa. (More about “Red” from the BBC and from Blog Red.)

Bono has already signed up some stellar brands as partners, including American Express, Gap, Converse and Giorgio Armani. American Express offers cardholders a no-fee “Red” American Express card (yes, the color of the card is red); every time you make a purchase with it a small part of the transaction fee gets donated to the Global Fund to Fight Aids, TB and Malaria. Armani ”Red” sunglasses will sport a small “Red” logo on the side of the frame, and part of the money you spend on the sunglasses gets donated to “Red”. Gap will sell “Red” branded T-shirts.

I would love to see Yahoo! participate in “Red”. Perhaps they could have a “red” version of My Yahoo! with some red color to it. Every banner ad or search ad you click on when you are logged into My Yahoo! sees some of the proceeds that Yahoo! receives from that click donated to the Global Fund. I am a My Yahoo! user and I would love to have a “red” version of My Yahoo. Yahoo users would love to know they can each help make a small difference in the fight against AIDS in Africa. So Yahoo!, whaddya say?

An unsolved mysteries wiki?

Posted by on 18 Jun 2006 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

Every once in a while I enjoy watching an episode of Unsolved Mysteries. I have yet to recognize any of the evil-doers portrayed in the show, but I just find it particularly fascinating to watch how they tracked down the ones aired on previous episodes.

I was also reading in a newspaper not too long ago about some old unsolved mysteries; police cases that were never solved, and how there is a network of people trying to identify unidentified victims and track down the culpruits many years, even decades later. It is amazing how somebody could dedicate hundreds of hours of their time to an unsolved mystery that they have no connection with. I can’t remember where I read the article (USA Today, NY Times or whatever), but you may wish to browse through some other articles on this same theme here).

I wonder if it makes sense to have an Unsolved Crimes wiki, where such justice-seeking do-gooders and others around the world could contribute information about cases, tips, requests for help, etc. I imagine it being much more than just a huge side-of-the-milkcarton “Have You Seen This Person?” list, but a place for collaboration and problem solving. Is this a good idea?

Donating domain names to charity

Posted by on 16 Jun 2006 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

A lot of people own multiple domain names and never end up using them all. Or their plans change and they no longer want their domain. Eventually you might let your domains expire. When that happens, domainers or MFA (Made For AdSense) site operators snap up the domains and stick porn or spam on those URLs, capitalizing on the type-in traffic and pre-existing inlinks.

Instead of just holding on to that domain that you don’t intend to use or let it expire and fall into the hands of a filthy spammer, consider donating that domain to a worthy cause. But how might that work?

You could find a charity that fits with the topic of your domain name and offer it it to them. What I would like to see is an organization that accepted unwanted domain names and resold them, giving the full proceeds to charity. A domain “dog pound” of sorts. That way, even if the domain name is of no interest to any charities, the charity of your choice could still profit from that domain name by getting the proceeds from the sale of it.

So a charitable domain name aftermarket is what I am thinking. What do you think?

Making a pro-democracy Chinese search engine?

Posted by on 16 Jun 2006 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

I feel really bad for the Chinese people. They don’t have the right to learn about or practice Falun Gong, or learn about democratic forms of government, join democratic organizations, or anything like that. They can’t even search Google for “falun gong.” If they do, they won’t be taken to any search results, but they might get a knock on the door and a jail sentence.

I have been wondering how you get access to an unfiltered search engine from within the “Great Firewall of China.” Could there be a way to provide a “tunnel” for users to gain access in some sort of encrypted way to a safe, democratic search engine? Perhaps access could be through peer-to-peer, or zombies, or some other method? Could websites or blogs serve as proxies, allowing Chinese residents to bounce their queries off those websites into Google.com and back? If that could happen, how would you obfuscate those queries so the Chinese don’t detect these outlawed “illegal” queries?

Google Base as a global repository for lesson plans?

Posted by on 16 Jun 2006 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

Google has high hopes for their Google Base as you can glean from articles like this one.

Perhaps it will be an eBay killer. Perhaps not. In any event, it is a great repository for product information, classified ads, recipes and so on.

I would love to see Google Base used widely for the dissemination of lesson plans, where teachers would share their lesson plans with other teachers from around the world.

I think Google should not only encourage this, but also launch a program to facilitate it. At a minimum there should be a category called “Lesson Plans”, because a search doesn’t return anything useful. And Google should seek out teachers like they sought out video content for Google Video.

The AIDS Quilt in Google Maps?

Posted by on 15 Jun 2006 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

It would be great to see an online version of the AIDS Quilt with a Google Maps-like interface with smooth panning around the Quilt. There is a Java-based viewer but it isn’t loading for me (perhaps it doesn’t work on the Safari browser). They should also allow people to add a “virtual” panel.

Google Maps-based mashups seem to be all the rage, ever since HousingMaps started it all. Even Google has gotten into it, applying their Google Maps interface to other things besides world geography, including the surface of the moon and the surface of Mars. Perhaps Google Inc. would be happy to repurpose their maps interface for the AIDS Quilt? 

A Human Rights Hotspots badge/sticker for webmasters?

Posted by on 09 Jun 2006 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

I’m surprised by how so many countries like Myanmar (Burma) get away with so many human rights abuses without much international scrutiny. Why isn’t the media exposing these violations on a continual basis? We, as citizens of the free world, should be outraged and demanding action of our governments against these perpetrators of evil.

So where is the global uproar? I’m guessing that part of the reason why there is no uproar is because most people are in the dark that these things are even occurring.

Organizations like Human Rights Watch and The Carter Center have a pretty good handle on the world’s troublespots where human rights violations are rampant. But not the average citizen. For example, which countries in Africa are rife with human rights violations? I don’t know, do you?

Contrast that with the ‘War on Terror’, which is hugely visible in the news and on websites. You can even have a real-time display of the current Homeland Security threat level on your website or on your PC or on your Mac. (Talk about feeding the paranoia!)

Wouldn’t it help raise awareness of human rights violations if there were a “Human Rights Violation Watch” badge/sticker for blogs and websites that showed the current human rights hotspots in the world? A slick way of presenting the data might be as a “tag cloud” or “buzz cloud” (see example buzzcloud below).

Charitable Commons: a possible extension to Creative Commons?

Posted by on 09 Jun 2006 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

Some of the more forward thinking copyright owners are slapping Creative Commons licenses on their content, allowing reuse and remixing of their content by others. The copyright owner may even allow use for commercial purposes. That’s great!

But there are countless copyright owners who have not released their works to the public domain or the Creative Commons. Perhaps some of these copyright owners would be more receptive to “some rights reserved” if it was under the condition that the use be restricted to charitable purposes (i.e. charities would be allowed to use the content; or the proceeds would have to be donated to charity).

What do you all think? Larry Lessig, feel free to chime in here. :-)

Encouraging kids to remix thought-provoking documentaries

Posted by on 09 Jun 2006 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

As I mentioned in my last post, I loved The Corporation. My daughter Chloe did too. She wants to be a director, and watching The Corporation really inspired her to make her own documentary to educate children and adults alike to some of the problems of the world. It would be fantastic if directors/producers of The Corporation, An Inconvenient Truth, Supersize Me, The Indigo Evolution, Baraka, Koyaanisqatsi and other documentary films could be persuaded to put a Creative Commons license on the film, allowing re-mixing by students for class projects in their film, social studies, government, economics, etc. courses. The issues exposed in a documentary will ‘sink in’ much more for kids if they get to work with it. Kinesthetic learning beats passive viewing any day.

Wielding PageRank to googlebomb evil corporations

Posted by on 09 Jun 2006 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

An organization with a super-high PageRank (like the W3C for example) wields an awfully big stick. They can Google bomb somebody they didn’t like, causing a page of their own choosing to rocket to the top of the search results in Google, Yahoo, MSN and Ask. Imagine if a do-gooder had that kind of power. It was clear to me after watching the excellent documentary The Corporation that there are a lot of evil corporations out there that are flying under the radar. Hardly anybody knows of their evil deeds. Perhaps a website could be started and then a bunch of websites with high PageRank could all decide to link to that site, in effect “donating” to this armory of PageRank. Maybe this “armory” could get up to a PageRank 8 or 9. Then it ATTACKS! exposing wrongdoers by driving exposés up to near the top of the results for searches on those wrongdoers own company/brand name!

Bloggers putting third-world villages onto the Web

Posted by on 08 Jun 2006 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

Yesterday’s inspiring Rocketboom episode featured an interview with Jon Rawlinson who created the Nata Village blog to help raise money for the people of Nata, a small village in Botswana. It got me thinking…

What if a network of bloggers was formed to do this on a grander scale — putting thousands of poor third-world villages online so that those better off can experience who the people of the villages are and how they live. And the villages could then receive donations directly from those visitors.

Is this a good idea? If so, who would be a good person to ask to organize such a network?

I’m on a mission!

Posted by on 08 Jun 2006 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

The idea for starting this blog came to me one night when my brain was brimming with ideas for changing the world for the better in various ways (environmental, social, health, etc.). I kept trying to fall asleep, yet for two and a half hours I kept getting up over and over again, jotting down idea after idea. It occurred to me that nothing will come of any of these ideas unless I share them. How better to share them with the world and invite discussion than to blog about them! But I didn’t feel that my personal blog was the right venue. A new blog was required — this blog! Of course I don’t have a monopoly on (hopefully) good ideas — this should be a group blog. Want to be contributor?