Markle Foundation — longstanding heros

I had lunch with Sheldon Mains today and he reminded me of another topic area I want to cover in this blog — community technology.

This evening brought this article about the Markle Foundation my way from the Fast Company site.

The Markle folks have been supporting all kinds of community access technology stuff for ages. I ran into them back in the ’70’s when I was part of the community radio crowd. They were hip back then, and they’re hip now too. Hats off to the Markle gang, glad to see they’re still at it. Read on for a quote from the article that gives a sense of the kind of outside-the-box thinking they’re doing these days…


Just listen to Hammond wax rhapsodic on the potential of the MP3 player as a force for social change: “This basically was invented for a market of rich teenagers to download music and walk around with it,” he says, digging unsuccessfully through a sheaf of papers for his own device. “The current model costs $150 and carries an hour’s worth of music. So let’s envision a world just a year away where we’re going to have $50 devices that can store eight hours’ worth of speech. Well, poor villages can afford $50. So suppose a village bought one of these things and then went to their local NGO to download compressed speech files that provide AIDS information, agricultural information, and so on. Listeners share the player with their neighbors, and then six months later, the village takes it back and downloads a whole new set of files. You would have an affordable information-transmission system that is under the control of the users.”

Pretty nifty, eh? Check out the Markle website if you’re feeling like getting smarter about community technology.

RSS feeds for PR folks

Ok, I’ve been one of the ones who took a long time to “get” blogging, so I’m probably going to preach with the enthusiasm of the recently-converted. But it seems to me that there is a tasty middle ground between the monsto-blogs (for example the New York Times front page) and the pipsqueak-blogs (like this one) in which lots of interesting things could happen. One that comes to mind is switching the PR industry away from “pushing” out their stuff (with web pages, email or gawd-forbid fax) towards publishing RSS feeds so that journalists can “subscribe” to their press-release stream and gain all the productivity gains that would arise if reporters could “cover their beat” by watching RSS feeds rather than slogging through the daily deluge…

Nope, not a new idea by a long-shot — Mark Jones has exactly the same idea in

this piece

that ran in


last November. But it’s worth amplifying, and explains why I’m starting to “get” blogging as a useful gizmo for the mainstream business type person.

*My* revelation came while talking to the PR person at a large local outfit and asked him what his day was like. The story he told got me to thinking… He spends his day mostly rasslin’ with the logistics of getting his stuff *out* rather than actually writing. He’s held captive by Joe, The Webmaster From Hell to get the stuff out on their web site. He waits for the fax machine. He juggles a huge list of email addresses.

If our hero had an RSS-capable blog at his disposal, he could push his own content to the web page, and reporters who cover his beat (of which there are many, this is a pretty important outfit he works for) would be able to peruse his stuff the way we watch RSS feeds. You know, “boring” “I don’t care” “yawn” “OH! Now *that’s* interesting…”

I think both sides of the equation would be better off. The PR person would do more writing, the audience would do more reading and a lot of awful middle-stuff would be gone.

I also think there are a lot of projects out there for blog-builders who want to get paid for their efforts. Package this up as the answer to the PR-maven’s problem and go to town.