Did You Tell Them?

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This story goes back to a non-profit job I had several years ago. Early on in my time there I’d been given the responsibility of maintaining a contact list for our department. As we had unusually high staff turnover, including transfers in and out of the department, it took up a fair amount of time. When we relocated to a different building, it made sense to expand the contact list to include all of our organization’s staff in that building, not just our department. Then someone got the idea that the contact list should include all our staff, not just those in the building.

In the meantime I’d formed a virtual friendship via e-mail and phone with the technicians in the IT department, who were mostly at one of the other locations. I’d only met two of them: the technician assigned to our site and the guy who managed all our cell phones. But the IT guys were a great team and very helpful even though we hadn’t yet met. One of the things they helped me with was the contact list, even to the point of creating an automatic notification system that would let me know when a new e-mail address or cell phone number had been assigned to someone on the staff.

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I Am Not for Sale (But I Used to Be)

Several years ago I visited Charleston SC on a vacation. While there I toured the Aiken-Rhett House, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977 and is now a museum. I love museums and I love old houses, but the Aiken-Rhett House is unique among all the old house museums I’ve ever been to: it retains an outbuilding that once contained slave quarters (discreetly described as “servants’ quarters” in the NRHP nomination form).

I arrived at the house shortly after it opened to visitors for the day, so had it pretty much to myself. I followed the audio tour through the main house, then walked out the back door. Two nearly identical buildings flanked the courtyard—to the left, the stables; to the right, the slaves’ quarters. I went up the stairs to the second floor, above the kitchen. The small rooms, which reminded me of a bargain motel, were where the slaves had once lived. They were mostly bare—I remember a wooden bed frame without a mattress and a simple wooden table—because slaves’ furnishings were not saved as heirlooms and very few have survived the years.

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Relationships Are Becoming Virtual. Get Over it.

For at least two years, I’ve been hearing and reading about how social media is taking over our lives. It’s terrible. It’s revolutionary. We love it. We hate it. It needs to stop. We need to learn how to use it. What will we do when the bubble bursts?

It’s time to get over it. Social media is not a fad, although some of the particular websites that have been popular early on (such as MySpace) are struggling and may disappear. Like other electronic technology it will continue to evolve. But it’s not going away.

It’s time to stop arguing about if and start discussing the who, what, when, where, why and how of social media.

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People Shouldn’t Have to Live Like That

Last week I attended a “Hunger Banquet” sponsored by Oxfam America. In my role as a citizen of the world and occasional do-gooder, I’ve come to enjoy programs at the Action Center to End World Hunger, which hosted the event; as a wordsmith I was intrigued by the oxymoron of “hunger banquet.”

Rice – cc by vegeyum.wordpress.com

The first order of business was to pull a slip of paper from a bowl—my fictional persona for the evening. I was Enrique, a 40 year-old farmer in Guatemala, who recently bought a cow with money he received from Mercy Corps (which sponsors the Action Center). I don’t look or sound anything like an Enrique, but I was willing to play along. Almost immediately I learned that “playing along” included sitting on the floor for the event. My slip of paper was green, identifying me as one of the roughly 50% of humanity considered “low income,” meaning they earn less than $800 per person per year.

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