Oct 01

I’m Presenting On Making Social Media Matter at Refresh Bryan/College Station

I am a writer, so it’s not surprising that I don’t really enjoy presenting. My perfectionist tendencies tend to get the best of me. But when Cody Marx Bailey from Downtown Cartel asked for a speaker for Refresh Bryan/College Station, I decided to step up.

My talk is called “Making Social Media Matter: How Social Media Turns Everyday Citizens into Superheroes”. I’m going to be presenting the Blood Drive Tweetup for the first time in public. While creating my slides, it was amazing to remember how many people stepped up in such a short period of time. I feel truly blessed to have been a part of it and hope that my presentation inspires others to create similar drives and movements in their communities.

This presentation is dedicated to my sister, Debby Greer-Costello, who is still struggling with graft-vs-host disease, and to Johnny Romano, who recently passed away of leukemia at the age of 10. Johnny fought a hard fight against ALL and AML for three years. I ask that you extend your thoughts and prayers to his family at this time.

Sep 10

I’M OFFICIALLY BANNING ALL TECH HAPPY HOURS

Yes, this is correct. I am never going to another tech happy hour in Austin again. I don’t care if Michael Arrington shows up. I don’t care if Obama shows up. I don’t care. I am a former athlete and I don’t like drinking that much, and there is a lot better use of my time.

I look at the 2.0 community, and I see a lot of people who think they have very progressive ideas about “community”. It seems like people really like patting themselves on the back for it. When I go to happy hours, I see a lot of people buying enough booze to get comfortable but not too much as to embarrass themselves, just trying to network. There is nothing wrong with networking, but there are ways to network that actually accomplish goals, i.e. actually “being” progressive. Last night, I learned a lot about Google Chrome at the Refresh Austin meeting. We had drinks, but the meeting centered on learning how it would change the scope of the internet. Lynn Bender’s last GeekAustin meeting brought together people for a very useful open source project called OpenSims. Mando Escamilla and Whurley presented. The Blood Drive Tweetup I organized with David Neff and attended by the coolest Tweeps ever helped save dozens of lives. For the Hamup Tweetup, Mike Chapman brought Tyson’s Foods in the equation, who donated 35,000 POUNDS OF FOOD TO LOCAL AUSTINITES IN NEED (and a resounding “w00t” for both of them :D). Come on Saturday to volunteer or bring food. I guarantee that you will indeed network with other people.

Work hard for your clients or company. Volunteer for an open source project. Educate people (and notice, I say EDUCATE instead of SELF PROMOTE) at a Refresh Austin, GeekAustin, or Austin Social Media Club event. Give your time to the community in need. All of these will earn you more respect in your field than chugging away drinks and talking away at a happy hour. After all, you can get a conversation started, or you can take all of the conversations people are already having, screaming, wanting to be fixed, and actually do something about them.

Aug 22

Hunger is Unacceptable (But Please Read This Instead of Heading to the Fridge)

Hunger is Unacceptable

When Lisa Goddard from the Capital Area Food Bank first told me that hunger was unacceptable, I kindly agreed with her and grabbed a Clif Bar to munch on. But then I realized that she was talking about the thousands of people who are on food assistance right here in Austin. Here are some statistics from the Capital Area Food Bank website that will blow your mind:

There’s More Need Than You’d Think

* Nearly one in five adults and one in four children in Texas is hungry.
* 41,000 children under the age of 18 in Travis County are confronted with food insecurity every day.
* 82% of Food Bank Partner Agency recipients are food insecure. 49% of recipients experience outright hunger. (Source: Hunger in America 2006: Central Texas Report, in association with America’s Second Harvest)
* 61% of Austin Independent School District (AISD) students are eligible for free or reduced lunch.

Austin is EXPENSIVE
* 76% of households receiving assistance from CAFB Partner Agencies report incomes below the federal poverty level. (Source: Hunger in America 2006: Central Texas Report, in association with America’s Second Harvest)
* 106,930 (12.6%) of Travis County individuals live below the Federal poverty level ($18,850 for a family of four). (Source: Austin Community Survey, 2004)
* The annual income needed for a Travis County family of four without employee sponsored health insurance to “afford” to live in the Austin area is $53,080. That’s 257% above the Federal poverty level. (Source: CPPP.org, The Family Budget Estimator Project)
* Austin continues to have the highest cost of living in the state of Texas, exceeding housing costs in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Fort Worth.

Kids and the Elderly Are Hungry. How Messed Up is That?

* While the child poverty rate in Texas is 23.2%, for the CAFB service area, 35% of the household members receiving food are children. (Source: Hunger in America 2006: Central Texas Report, in association with America’s Second Harvest)
* While 12.4% of Texans in poverty are elderly, only 7% of households receiving food through CAFB are elderly. (Source: Hunger in America 2006: Central Texas Report, in association with America’s Second Harvest)

September is Hunger Action Month. Personally, I think every month should be Hunger Action Month, because there is enough food in this world for people to not go hungry and being hungry really sucks. But alas, now is the time when we show people how important this cause really is.

Lisa and a bunch of cool people in Austin are planning a Ham Up Tweetup to get food, and in particular protein, to feed the 21 Central Texas counties that CAFB helps. Follow Lisa on Twitter and at her blog for more updates on how you can help, and don’t forget to change your avatar and upload it to the Flickr group to show people that Hunger is Unacceptable.

Jul 13

Quit Complaining About Society. Support Non-Profits and Volunteer.

gandhiquote

I am amazed at how many pats on the back I get for trying to support Elaine Allan’s efforts to help Burmese refugees here in town. All these people, all Obama supporters. All clamoring for change. Few choose to step up and actually help out.

Awareness is great. People willing to “get their hands dirty” are so much more useful though.

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. I suppose awareness is better than indifference. But when I see a kid who is a year old who isn’t wearing a diaper because his mother can’t afford them, and I meet a man who doesn’t have a job, can’t speak English, and has sought political asylum here in the States, I have a hard time settling with awareness. I met a family that was down to six eggs to eat right here in Austin, Texas.

How excited should I really be about the new iPhone apps? Why should I follow your dogs on Twitter? I love geeky people and feel they want nothing but the best for this world. I just don’t think they quite get the disparity in our world, and how little effort it takes from each individual to fix it.

So please support Obama. Support change. Just appreciate that you, and not your government, are responsible for the change that this world needs. Whether you believe that we need to find the cure for cancer, or bridge the digital divide, or solve world hunger, you cannot rely on your government to fix these problems. It doesn’t matter how many tax dollars you throw at it. Anyone who’s dealt with the government knows that their programs are wasteful, inconvenient, and run by people who are rewarded for being tenured rather than competent. Try this on for size: I am still dealing with crime victim’s compensation paperwork A YEAR AFTER the the situation that warranted it. When I asked a woman who worked for this division to just email me a fax number, she said she was unable to do this. EVERYTHING IS PAPERWORK WITH THE GOVERNMENT, AND THIS IS A WASTE OF YOUR TIME AND MONEY.

Change isn’t just a buzzword. It is an action that we all have to take to make society better.

BTW, if you want to improve the Burmese people’s situation here in Austin, please email Elaine at borntohelp(at)earthlink.net. She will tell you everything they need.

Jul 10

Calling All Bloggers: Your Support is Needed to Support a Child with Leukemia

National Bloggers Blood Drive DayBlogging doesn’t have to be self indulgent drivel. You don’t have to post and post and think, “Eh, no one is going to read this”. Blogging allows you to spread information, and information is power. We can make change spread faster than any other time in history because we don’t have to wait for a printing press or an editor. We can be more accurate than publishers because we offer firsthand information instead of filtering it through the corporate sponsored machines that are magazines and newspapers.

So bloggers, I’m asking you to show your power for a cause that is truly worthwhile.

A man named Phil Burns found out about the Austin Blood Drive Tweetup and decided

that bloggers everywhere should organize blood drives on July 30th.

It’s called National Bloggers Blood Drive. Phil’s daughter Serenity has acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the same form of leukemia my sister had. He’s calling bloggers everywhere to blog, organize, tweet, and muster as much support for blood banks everywhere. Don’t just blog it though. Sign up to give blood and as well as for takesalltypes.org, a service that sends you text messages anytime your blood type is needed in your area. Let’s show Phil and Serenity that people do care about those in need by creating and building blood drives around the country on this day.

For more information, please visit Phil’s blog. Learn more about Serenity and her situation on her site.

Jul 04

Austin Blood Drive Tweetup More than Doubles Traffic at Austin Blood and Tissue Center

Dale Thompson (dale_thompson) from 501Tech

I am so happy at how many people showed up today at the first inaugural Austin Blood Drive Tweetup. I spoke with many staff members at the Blood and Tissue Center, and they all agreed that the Tweetup more doubled their traffic that day and brought in more first time donors than they had seen in a long time. They were also happy because there is a need for blood July 4th weekend and it would have been incredibly slow had we not showed up. Considering the first blog post with the instructions for donating didn’t go up until Sunday and we also managed to get a raffle, a sammichometer, a birthday cake for Mike Chapman, a visit by Erica at KUT, a mention in the Austin American Statesman, and custom stickers for the event, I’d consider this event a huge success.

For future events, I will have an official sign up as per the suggestion of Alex Jones so we can know who is coming, when, and get a better headcount.

There were so many good people involved in this Tweetup. The best part? Everyone who came in took part to make a difference. It wasn’t about self-promotion or networking. There is something very refreshing about that and I intend to duplicate this result when Grant Hutchins and I take a bunch of Burmese refugees to “Blues on the Green” on July 9th.

I feel like a broken record sometimes, but social media is a communication tool. Just like a cell phone. Communication facilitates action and we now have the tools to make things happen so much faster and easier than before. Quit Twittering about the donuts you eat in the morning. Stop throwing up post after post about the Fail Whale. DO SOMETHING WITH SOCIAL MEDIA. This will facilitate the inevitable cultural shift towards a society that rewards those with a message rather than merely those who can afford to push their message out. If you don’t do something with social media, people will ultimately see it as a waste of time.

I have to thank sharinghope.tv superstud David J. Neff for organizing this event with me. Props should go to Mike Chapman for delivering some killer posts on the Austin Social Media Club website, as well as the countless others who took time out of their days to blog about the event. If you didn’t come by, you missed out on the cool stickers and the sammichometer designed by Cesar Torres. My thanks to Tarus Balog at the OpenNMS Group for sponsoring the totally awesome sammichometer.

Check out the photos by visiting our Austin Blood Drive Tweetup Flickr pool.

Jun 09

30 Burmese Refugees Bust into Anarchistic Craze at the Outta School Super FunFest

What happens when you take
1.) 30 Burmese refugees in who don’t have cars to go anywhere and
2.) Texas heat (a given in the summer)

and give those refugees 250 water balloons?

You get THIS!

Outta School Super FunFest from Michelle Greer on Vimeo.

Check out Grant Hutchins’s pics on Flickr. Too awesome!

Many thanks to Josh Seaver and Grant Hutchins for helping out. It was an entire day of awesomeness.

These refugees have led a very hard life and could use them help. We are trying to score them computers as well as internet. If you are interested in helping them people out, please leave a comment or get in touch with Elaine Allan. Her website is www.borntohelp.org.

May 06

$20 Will Help a Family Reconnect after the Burma Cyclone

We all saw the horrible Katrina aftermath. We saw the disconnect people felt after the tsunami. It appears as if Mother Nature has struck again, this time in Burma. A cyclone has left at least 25,000 people dead and millions in a chaotic state of having no means to connect or communicate with others.

So people in Burma don’t have Twitter or Brightkite to connect. A lot of the time, they don’t even have internet because the totalitarian military government shuts it off to prevent people from discussing the killing of pacifists. What some of them have phones. There are many Burmese refugees here in Austin. These people have no idea if their families back home are alive or dead. If you’d like to help them reconnect with their families, just follow these instructions. It will only take five minutes:
1.) Go to www.speedypin.com.
2.) Choose USA–>Myanmar (not what Burmese people like it called, but that’s all a lot of people know)
3.) Buy a “Gemini” calling card. It is best to give these out in $10 increments so they can get spread around equally. Just fill out your own information, as you will just receive the pin in an email.
4.) I would not opt for auto-recharge, as there is no telling where this would go.
5.) You will be receiving an email eventually. Just forward this email to borntohelp(at)earthlink.net. This is Elaine Allan’s email. She helps Burmese refugees here in town and will be more than happy to give the PIN numbers to them.

If you have any problems with this process, please let me know via email at michelle(at)michellesblog.net

There is no need to sit back and idly watch the news if there is something you can do to help. Take a few minutes out of your day to make a difference, and pass this along to someone else who looks bummed. Hit the tiny Digg button at the bottom. After all, helping others physiologically makes you happier.

Apr 21

Be a Superhero (even without having sixpack abs)


You had the action figures. You watched the cartoons. You even had (or even still have?) superhero underoos. When you were four, being a superhero was the obvious career path for you. You never understood why adults like your parents somehow chose NOT to be superheroes.

Sigh. After a not-too-successful stint as the invisible man and a failed attempt to fly off the roof, you’ve conceded that your image will never be powerful enough to grace the underwear of little boys everywhere.

Not to worry. Here are a few projects you can tackle that do not require you to have superhuman physical strength or x-ray vision:

1.) Trish Forant started a campaign that allows civilians to stay in contact with a member of the armed services at emailourmilitary.com. Currently, if you sign up to start emailing a service member, you have to print a form and mail it to Trish. She is interested in having an online form put on this site. This would require some form of payment processor and SSL as there is a $2 registration fee. If you would like to help with this, please contact Trish here.

If you are technologically inept and/or lazy like me, you can still help by signing up keep in touch with a service member by filling out a form on Trish’s website. There are a host of other great projects on this site to help support our troops.

2.) I am helping collect computers and other items for Burmese refugees currently living in town. These people have suffered greatly at the expense of a ruthless and unjust military regime. They did not get a choice in where they lived and came to the United States with nothing. Here is a list of what they need:
* jobs that offer a decent wage
* English tutors, especially for the ones who can’t get out
* computers (kids know how to use them, but can’t use the school ones before or after school because they ride the bus)
* calculators for the older kids
* telephones & phone cards (MOST DO NOT HAVE PHONES)
* shoes — tennis shoes & sturdy work shoes
* diapers
* ricecookers
* non-perishable foods
* Wal-Mart, H-E-B, etc. gift cards

Since you cannot break out a can of whoopass and single handedly fly over to Burma to defeat the military regime, you can email Elaine at borntohelp(at)earthlink.net if you’d like to offer any assistance to these new Austinites.

You will indeed be defeating evil by helping out in these projects. I wouldn’t count on your image being immortalized as a tiny figurine wrapped in plastic and 100 twist ties though.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Which Superhero are You? If you can’t decide, feel free to take this super old Superhero quiz to find out.

Jan 12

The Best Connection You Might Ever Make

If you are like me, you are amazed at how quickly and efficiently the internet enables us to make connections within our community. You can throw a party and within a few hours, have 50 people show up. You can make connections with people who are connected with five employers, all with jobs that you will find more gratifying every day.

Making connections doesn’t stop at Facebook and Linkedin though. I met Ivo at Nuclear Tacos Night, which was started by a bunch of guys who met on distributed.net. I had a good time talking to him and the gang, so I decided I’d Google him. I found his site, and on his site was a link to the Upendo Centre, the orphanage his sister Tessa runs in Kenya. From this site, I connected with the orphans who live there. Think about that. In a matter of minutes, I ran into profiles of people halfway across the world. And unless you are in a hurry and didn’t actually click on those links, I’m passing them to you in even less time.

If you feel the community spirit, please take a look at what the Upendo Centre is all about. The news about Africa can be disheartening. Fortunately, we have more tools to help solve these issues than any other time in history. What is one of these tools? A simple tool called PayPal. If you would like to help support Tessa’s work, please take a few minutes to donate at upendocentre(at)gmail.com.

Want to spin this your own way? Here are the links, made nice and easy:

http://www.upendocentre.org
http://www.upendocentre.org/children
https://www.paypal.com