Friday, November 30, 2012

Climb for Change Launches First Online Fundraising Site for Charity Climbs

Working with non-profit organizations, I am familiar with what a challenge online fundraising and e-commerce can be for an organization that doesn't have the specialization or budget to launch such services. I was really excited to learn today that a friend's organization, Climb For Change, had recently launched the first online platform to help support people climbing a mountain, trekking, or hiking for charity. I thought I'd share more on their efforts from their press release:

Climb For Change campaign sites make fundraising for a cause easier, more engaging, fun and successful because they're catered specifically to people and teams wanting to raise money for charity using climbing, trekking, hiking or adventures to do so. Thousands of people worldwide challenge themselves with fundraising climbs each year. Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro for charity for example is particularly effective, with teams often raising money in the $100,000 to $500,000 range. This is impressive fundraising, but does take a lot of time, resources and the right tools. Enter Climb For Change.

"People want to have their own story and brand represented on their campaign site," says Chantal Schauch, VP and co-founder of Climb For Change. "They want more than the simple mass market fundraising pages and don't have the time or money to spend on a custom fundraising website."

"We developed the platform based on our own experience doing charity climbs up Mt. Kilimanjaro and Pico de Orizaba," says co-founder and president Mike Schauch. "We realized a need - a story and fundraising hub for people climbing for a cause."

Founded by the Schauchs - the husband and wife duo from Vancouver, Canada - the Climb For Change community started in 2010, and has since shared resources, tips and stories inspired by thousands of charity climbs and adventures from around the world.

With the new online fundraising tool for climbers now available, campaigns that have already signed on include Mount Kilimanjaro charity climbs by two American climbing teams for the American Foundation For Children with Aids, an Aconcagua charity climb for the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, and a Canadian fundraising campaign supporting the education of Himalayan Children in Nepal.

The Climb For Change fundraising platform is ideal for charity climbs raising a minimum of $2,500 for US, Canadian or UK registered charities. Visit Climb For Change Campaigns to start a fundraising campaign.

For more info visit Climb For Change.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Interested in Starting Canadian Chapter of the Internet Society?

Over the past couple years I have been interested in starting a Canadian and/or an Ontario Chapter of the Internet Society.

The Internet Society is an international, non-profit organization devoted to making the "Internet for everyone".  They do this through chapter work promoting standards (e.g. IPV6), facilitating global access particularly in developing countries, advising and arguing for policy that supports the open nature of the Internet, and other related work.

Currently, the Internet Society is reaching out to Canadians to help organize a national chapter and/or provincial chapters - currently there is only a Quebec chapter. 

If you are interested in helping start any of these chapters Internet Society, you can start by becoming a member. It's free and quick to do.

The Internet Society also has a short survey that they are asking interested Canadians to fill out as expressions of interest. 

Please consider joining and filling out the short survey before Dec 16, 2012 to help get chapters here.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Note to Location-Based Services - You Suck!

I moved to a new neighbourhood a few weeks ago and I'm directionally challenged at the best of times. So when I found myself lost a couple nights ago in a strange part of town (all the Danforth is strange) I thought it'd be location-based services to the rescue. How wrong I was. Four separate location-based services let me down.

Yes, I could have easily asked someone for directions, but the lesson drilled into my from childhood has me reluctant to talk to strangers - and I was determined dammit to use my mobile device (after all this is my research area)!

I was headed to a pick up a package from the Canada Post at a new Shoppers Drug Mart. I knew the major intersection - Danforth and Pape - so I got out at the correct subway station. But as I walked to where I thought the Shoppers would be, I was checking my mobile device and walked past the store without knowing it. Mobile device usage and walking is probably almost as bad as texting and driving, but so far I haven't had too serious of accidents (aside from walking into a few posts and dog poo). I should learn my lesson though.

After walking for over 20 minutes and not noticing that I had come to the Shoppers yet, I finally looked up from my mobile device and figured out that I had no idea where I was.

So I figured my trusty, new mobile device would help me! How wrong I was...

First, I tried Google Navigation. It correctly determined my location and even the direction I was headed (which was helpful as I was walking the opposite direction than I thought I was), but it couldn't help me locate the store. As I never considered that I had passed it without noticing, I figured something more odd had occurred.

So I tried Google Local they could locate where I was but didn't have any Shoppers locations listed as near me when I searched. (In hindsight, the two Google apps probably use much of the same back-end so a failure in one is bound to be the same in another.)

Starting to get desperate, I tried Foursquare. I mostly use Foursquare for their geosocial networking functionality, so I haven't really tried their newish "Explore" functionality. There was no point in trying it though. Foursquare also correctly located me but insisted that the nearest Shoppers Drug Mart was about an hour public transit ride away. No other Shoppers Drug Mart came up in a search of their database, despite the fact that I had previously checked into other Shoppers' location (and was once the mayor of the Forest Hill one).

I'm not a big fan of the mobile web, but I figured I'd give that a try.

At this point, I'd been standing in the cold November weather for about half an hour and my fingers were going numb. I was thinking those gloves that you can get to use your mobile device in the winter weren't such a bad idea after all and probably worth the price. (Great Christmas gift idea for your friendly lost-in-the neighbourhood Webslinger.)

So I searched Google on the Chrome browser for Shoppers and Danforth and nothing returned (despite their numerous stores on the Danforth). I went to Shoppers' website and tried their store locater functionality. ;It didn't work and it is almost impossible to use. It correctly located me, but it said the nearest store was incredibly far from me. Also, their map feature wouldn't display and the phone numbers couldn't be dialed or even really clearly seen.

Then, I remember the Yellow Pages app that I had on my Blackberry and had such great luck. Well, a search for Shoppers (in its various forms) turned up no locations near me.

At this point, I gave up and started to walk home. I did find that direction from Google Navigation. To my great surprise, I found the Shoppers right near the subway station.

Okay, how is it so hard for four mobile apps to not be able to execute basic functionality. If they can't get the location part of location based services right they are rather useless. I'm also puzzled at how so few Shoppers locations came up when I searched.

I tried the same search from my home again tonight and they all worked except for Foursquare and Shoppers' mobile webpage (which is indeed impossible to use).

Apparently, the other apps haven't heard of fuzzy search as if one types in Shoppers but not Shopppers Drug Mart they get the problematic results. (I thought for sure I tried various name combinations - but I won't rule out human error, as it surely wouldn't be the first time). Still, why would a shortened version of the name pull up some results but not others?

So I'm still convinced that although location-based services have a lot of promise - I still assert that - THEY SUCK!

(Buy me the gloves and I'll forgive you.)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Online Research: New Challenges and Opportunities

I delivered a guest lecture this week on online research - both online methodology and researching online phenomena. Below are the slides from my presentation and a coding exercise of online discourse I had the students do.


Friday, November 09, 2012

Methods to Study Digital Media

I'm teaching a class next week on "Online research: New challenges & opportunities". In preparation, I was thinking of all the ways to study online (and by this I mean both Internet and mobile) phenomena and to use online methods to study other things.

As I love typologies, I thought I'd prepare one on this.  Although such a list doesn't express the complexity of online research, I thought it would demonstrate the diverse ways to investigate digital media.

Online methods to examine online phenomena:
  • computer-captured and compiled data (e.g., web metrics)
  • email, virtual reality, VoIP telephone or video call, or instant messaging interviews
  • diarying or user logs
  • remote observation (participant or nonparticipant)
  • online focus groups
  • web-based or email surveys
  • audience response systems
  • remote user testing or experiments
  • autoethnography (can be conducted through blogging)
Methods to analyze online phenomena:
  • social network analysis
  • semiotics or visual analysis
  • content analysis
  • discourse analysis 
  • hermeneutics
  • ethnography
Online methods to study offline phenomena:
  • web-based or email surveys
  • email, virtual reality, VoIP, or instant messaging interviews
  • diarying (e.g. through special software or blogs)
  • photo documentation via mobile device
Offline methods to study online phenomena (which may or may not involve having users interact with digital media while capturing data):
  • face-to-face interviews or focus groups
  • nonparticipant observation
  • contextual inquiry
  • verbal protocol analysis (talk-aloud method)
  • eye-tracking studies
  • user testing or experiments
As a colleague pointed out there's also design science and participatory design that involves creating digital media as research tool - this type of research could be place in every category.

Please let me know if I missed a major method, as I'd like this typology to evolve iteratively.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Mobile Devices Are Changing Our Lives

I recently signed out magazines from my nearby public library for recreational reading on a flight. I still like reading print, but don't like spending the $6 or more magazine now costs. Granted they were a bit old, but applicable to my research interests.

Toronto Life Magazine had an excellent article on the problems with RIM, "Lazaridis and Balsillie Meet Their Waterloo" (unfortunately, not available online).

Time magazine had a "Wireless Issues" this past August that discussed "10 Ways Your Phone Is Changing the World". These ways and their respective articles are:
  1. Democracy - elections will never be the same
  2. Giving - doing good by texting
  3. Spending - bye-bye, wallets
  4. Secrets (and surveillance) - the phone knows all
  5. Attitudes (socializing & communicating) - your life is fully mobile
  6. Talking (rural telecommunications) - the grid is winning
  7. Seeing (photography) - a camera goes anywhere
  8. Play - toys get unplugged
  9. Learning - gadgets go to class
  10. Health - disease can't hide
I'm planning a class (hopefully to teach sometime soon) on how mobile devices have affected our society and identified these areas as the major ways mobiles are changing our lives. But I wondered what other areas are changing as a result of the increasingly global, ubiquitous access to mobiles?

I was thinking this blog post would be a good place to iteratively document mobiles impact from the major to the minor. So I would love for readers to add their thoughts or experiences with this. Here are my observations:
  • Socializing and Lifestreaming - our ever-present mobile devices enables us to share the magnificent and minute details of our lives
  • Identity and Memory - not only do mobile devices allow us to record and reflect on the events and images of our lives, but they provide a way to craft and project our identity and serve as memory aids and diaries
  • Personal efficiency - from digital to-do lists, calling the spouse at the grocery store, or proximal reminders - mobile devices help us manage our lives for efficiently (and also prevent us from ever escaping it)
  • Information and m-Libraries - through either e-books, online news, reviews or facts, or mobile friendly info databases, we have more ready access to information than ever possible
  • Maps - do we need them any more with GPS and maps on our phone or in our car (but we do need to learn to not drive into the ocean or onto logging roads because or device told us too)
  • Accessibility - there are strong barriers to use of mobile devices based on ability literacy, and finances - but mobile devices are providing new forms of information and communication access to groups that have not otherwise had it such as in the developing world or for the deaf and their use of instant messaging as a readily available mass communication method.
That's all I can think of now, but I'm sure there are many other ways mobile devices are changing our lives - so please share your thoughts here.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

On Location in Baltimore

I went to Baltimore to present my findings on location-based services at the conference for the American Society for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T). I was only supposed to be there for a couple days but then Hurricane Sandy blew in and stranded me there for a few days. So the dull academic conference had more excitement than usual - and I got to explore more of Baltimore.

Before going to Baltimore I bought a new mobile device, a Galaxy Nexus, so that I could connect to WiFi as my old BlackBerry didn't allow this. I also thought I would just be getting a better device. So far my experience with the Nexus has been very disappointing, which I'll blog about later.

I've travelled to the United States before and used my mobile device, but the roaming fees were killer. So this trip was the first time I was able to use my device while exploring a new place.

Before going to Baltimore, I was looking for travel guides apps or content to access on my mobile. I couldn't find a Baltimore app - which I was surprised wasn't readily available. The only thing I could find on Baltimore for my mobile was an e-book by Lonely Planet. But at $10 it was too expensive for me.

Baltimore is making good use of Foursquare however (see Visit Baltimore for more on this). I was able to connect to visitor centre beforehand and receive recommendations on places to visit, which I saved in a list.

My new device did allow me to easily check-in on Foursquare at spots with Wi-Fi and to upload pictures. This functionality forms a travel log, which I really enjoyed. It also made it easy to share what I was up to with my wife at home (I'm not sure she liked knowing the fun places I was at while she was working and watching our kid at home) and with friends.

These check-ins allowed me to earn the quirky crab "Charm City" badge. These badges, as I have noted before, are surprisingly fun. I also got a Halloween badge on the trip for being out on Halloween night - instead of with my family as usual - due to Hurricane Sandy.

Facebook also has similar check-in functionality, which now makes Foursquare less necessary. But at this point, I don't want to share every check-in with my Facebook network, so I still find it useful to have a separate app.

Plus Foursquare, in theory, offers "tips" on places, but these user-generated suffer from the inevitable problems of spam, trolls, and overall noise. Most of the time that I wanted to access these tips in Baltimore they were populated by such useless content, that it rendered this feature pointless. If I knew of an app that had place info on Baltimore - both official and user-generated - I would have gladly used it as Foursquare is really problematic in this regard.

Another problem, is that as I relied on Wi-Fi, I could only check-in at major places that had a free Wi-Fi, so I wasn't able to get the tips when and where I often need them (e.g. deciding a restaurant) and I couldn't check in at all the fun, new places I wanted to.

My explorations of Baltimore, however, came to a halt when Hurricane Sandy came to town. Under such circumstances, I (and everyone else at the conference) wanted regular, real-time access to hyperlocal news and weather. I couldn't find a source for this during my short time in Baltimore (yes, I could have used Twitter but I find it too much of a firehose in these instances). I could find weather forecasts for the entire city, but not a minute-by-minute update on my particular part of the city. This was info I needed to know to determine if it was safe to venture out to get to the conference venue or back to my hotel (the conference went on during the storm). It was easier to just turn on a tv to a local station or ask somebody to get the best information.

The conference itself was a great opportunity to meet other people researching some interesting things. But unfortunately the sessions, I found, were rather uninspired. There was almost no sessions that discussed mobile or geographic information - so ASIS&T might not be the best place for this topic. Still, several people were interested in my research on mobiles, location-based services, and sense of place. So maybe I'll attend the next ASIS&T conference in Montreal - at least I could use my mobile device freely around the city and not have to worry about access points or roaming charges that otherwise greatly limit the technology's potential.