You may not be surprised to learn that UNDP has developed an excellent resource on Aid Effectiveness, tho’ you might be surprised that it is a wiki! Though not launched, and appears to have sneaked up by the back door it is certainly worth a second and third look.
Designed by a hardened field practioner the Aid Effectiveness Wiki has been developed by Aidan Cox at the Regional Centre in Bangkok following his development of the Donor Assistance Database (DAD) in Afghanistan and coordination support to Angola, India, Iraq, Maldives and Sri Lanka. DAD spun off from AIMS Humanitarian Information Centre where a very early stage incarnation the Appeal Tracking Information Management System (ATIMS) developed. Yes this history is of primarily nostalgic value.
Now UNDP has complimented its comprehensive corporate DevAid site with the wiki they can truly act as the access point to some of the best information on this topic, of course they are by no means on their own, ODI, The World Bank, OECD just to name three all conduct critical work in this area. However genuinely opening up to contributions for the broader community of expertise may well ensure that on this topic UNDP can at least ensure accessibility from one location to critical information and comment, if not develop thought leadership.
Lets sing praises where it is due. Following recent critical comments about the slow adoption of modern approaches to information management by security specialists in the humanitarian and development sphere, What do Aid workers and spies have in common? and Open Source Spying and NGO’s by the NGO Security blog. It is refreshing that in a critical area such as Aid Effectiveness advanced transparent approaches to information sharing and management are being advanced.
No doubt some find it hard to swallow that UNDP is leading the charge! However take another look, UNICEF openly publishes its RSS, podcast and vodcast at the bottom of every page on its website. Despite the excellent podcasts being produced by Christian Aid they are still hard to find on their site. Maybe traditional fears of change stressed by NGO Security are on the mark.
Wiki’s are a key information management tool, the more focused the interest the more powerful and valuable they become. Given the critical nature of humanitarian and development work we would be doing a disservice to our end clients and ourselves if we do not adopt such technology sooner rather than later.
Global news is really taking off, much to my surprise we now have a second non-anglo centric view of the world… within one month, France 24 (en anglias) rumoured to be a reactive idea by President Jacque Chirac following the Anglo intervention in Iraq, was launched on 6th December!
To quote President Chirac, France “must be at the forefront of the global battle of images, that’s why I am resolved that our country should have an international news channel” BBC
Published in French, English and Arabic it will hopefully prove to be yet another voice, view and analysis of world events, along with Al Jazeera, BBC and CNN. Available across Europe, Middle East, Africa and North America some of us are unfortunately unable to view the channel. Early suggestions implied that France 24 would operate its broadcast News channel over the internet. Sadly this is not yet the case, the online version appears to be focused on enabling access to broadcast content, but of course does not yet have the back up of a comprehensive depth of audio, video and text data. The unofficial weblog appears to be a great location for information and comment.
Lets hope the unconventional site structure is a hint of things to come… the tag cloud, journalists blogs… just imagine a conventional broadcaster establishing a News wiki including audio and video. It is already far ahead of Al Jazeera which hasn’t organised downloads yet! It may not be so far fetched after all France 24 would gain from developing a radically different media model. As a rarity the government appointed Chariman is a self made communications and advertising man, Alain de Poulzilhac , no énarque here … “Vive la France Libre”.
Perhaps I shouldn’t get too carried away, a ‘new media’ approach by staid old broadcasting, not yet. Also the énarque appear to have generally lost their shine as Chirac hands the batton to Nicholas Sarkozy. However I am an optimist, Richard Porter of the BBC reports Iran’s interest in an English 24 hour News channel called The Press.
Just perhaps France 24 will bring a fresh approach together with its competition for our valuable time and attention? If not maybe we can look to the Iranians or one of the Anglo channels to take the next step and bring participatory new media, encompassing the views of millions, to us where, when and as we want it, whether by cell, broadband, cable or satellite… “plus ca change!”
Remembering this is a niche blog for humanitarian and development workers overseas, here are some of my tips for contributors, though this cannot compare with those professional bloggers tips like Harvey at Bad Example!
1. Provide valuable reference to other sites, the more interesting the better.
2. Link to any blogs relevant to the topic at hand and try to personalise it using the name of the author if possible, but please not at the expense of content.
3. Make the title interesting … especially to people online, Sex always sells but may not be relevant!
4. Use intelligent categories or tags assigned to an article, it will help others find information they need, provide flexibility for cross referencing and support search as the site develops.
5. Content is KING… back up comments with facts and reference them. Content really drives referrals and repeat visits to the site, but more importantly help stimulate others creative juices.
6. Global Nomad101 will develop as a ‘magazine’ community site, variety is important, we need a x-section of like minded international fools to contribute and value the site if it is to have a future.
7. Be controversial and critical… we have a demanding target audience, bland is uninteresting, unique, stimulating, challenging will gain attention, court criticism and debate.
8. The most popular blogs to-date have all been work or learning related… that isn’t neccessarily a guide to the future but it is a clear indicator of why they currently value Global Nomad101.
9. Content is KING … consider links to earlier blogs so people are referred back to useful content… currently it is not intuitive for people to find relevant posts from the past, this is something we shall address.
10. Simple, short, direct… better to break a longer article into bite size pieces, preferably thematically. Primarily because most people do not read through long texts, but scan articles. Do refer to next and previous relevant posts, indeed update past posts with critical new links to ensure they act as a good reference. Alternatively such posts can be published as content on the site, another future development!
There is a huge amount of advice online not least from tips for blogs online, and a wealth of knowledge at tips central registrar. As a newbie I have a lot to learn not least on Search Engine Optimisation and blog technology. Indeed as a luddite in the unmaking, I should simply spend time learning how to use WordPress, ultimately I should be heeding my own advice which somehow means improving my ability to read blogs and find time to experiment with the technology.
Escaping into a reality you never were aware of! … ok, so that is over the top, however I must confess I have become a podcast addict since leaving Afghanistan recently and rediscovering the delights of broadband, (sorry again guys!), all downloadable from i-Tunes at no cost.
1. History 5: European Civilisation from the Renaisance to the present. University of Berkley.
… Top marks to University of Berkley posting many of its lectures at last count 59 Audio podcasts and through the web site many as Video casts. The quality is very dependent on the lectururer however Professor Thomas Laqueur brings it to life, openness about his German Jewish roots adds to the value, full marks for a fascinating, insightful and entertaining account. This series illustrates what is missing or rather could be achieved with high resolution enhanced podcasts!
… sadly not for the Windows majority out there. Apple is renowned for having a broad supportive community of users and amazingly useful add on apps and widgets, I was surprised to find it really exists and they are incredibly helpful! NLMA presents enhanced podcasts on free or very cheap apps that are not only extremely useful but are a pleasure to use and often fun! Screencastsonline provides high quality full screen video tutorials on how to use Apple software with extra content available on subscription. But windows folk should not despair, with the advent of VISTA (replacing Windows XP) Microsoft has adopted a far more sophisticated front end and not a few Apple approaches so it should become a pleasure to use, your widgets are called Gadgets :-).
3. BBC Newsnight (video podcast feed)
… this was a tough call, but they just squeezed in! with excellent content on a variety of topics (sure a UK bias) not available on BBC World, recently they started releasing short format news casts more regularly, with a weekly show as usual… short and focused… like home from home. Of course the BBC seem to publish as many audio (ripped from radio) podcasts as they can, I find most of it uninteresting, but I imagine they are working on the longtail principle.
In truth podcasts are not that popular with surveys implying that pick up is not increasing dramatically. However niche markets such as humanitarian and development users such as MSF and Christian Aid are seeing sharp increases in usage because they have specialist application.
Of course I have access to broadband in Brazil… no doubt a trusty developer could easily configure content delivery software and package it with an i-Tunes like content aggregator to ensure that broadband doesn’t continue to be the bugbear it is for the populace of less developed countries and their frustrated humanitarian techies.
One would imagine that Obituaries are a morbid topic, after all it is all about looking back at someones life, after the event. However well written obituaries provide an interesting insight into the lives and challenges others faced before us, a historical record, indeed it is a shame that humanitarian and development workers don’t have an obituary ‘site’ imagine the wealth of experience and lessons it could capture!
Of course one typically only hears about the lives of fascinating and often influential people, as ever however it is the intricate stories of unsung heroes and mundane lives that I find particularly interesting.
Igor Sergeyev a military commander who rose to First Marshall of the Russian Armed Forces and Minister of Defence was sacked after the disastrous failed Kursk rescue attempt. As a General by simply being attentive, honest, responsible and focused on his job he is probably the one individual that cajoled, negotiated and badgered away to ensure that nuclear material from the huge arsenal of Russia’s long range nuclear weaponry did not go awry and leak into the underworld. Other recent obituaries by the economist include: Markus Wolf a former East German Symaster, a Jew, his Stasi team routinely outwitted its bumbling West German rivals. Bulent Ecevit a Turkish prime minister and poet who ordered Turkish troops into Cyprus and enjoyed a fondness for Hindu mysticism and Sanskrit verse. And Eric Newby a travel writer and fashion buyer who would travel on little but in the best possible taste. Like many of his generation served in the war and in his case was interned in Italian camps.
To get a cross section of American lives the New York Times provides a diverse cross-section, for example David Cockrun a comic book artist who re-invented the X-men and the Marvel Comic with other characters in the mid 70’s and before that worked on Superman, Batman and Flash. Or Rhodes W.Fairbridge who died at 92 in time to see his passion become mainstream. A pioneer on Climate Change in the early 1960s, he developed the Fairbridge curve, a record of changes in sea levels over the last 10,000 years. His graph showed periodic dips and spikes in levels, against a larger trend of rising ocean waters. Among other indicators it is considered to be early evidence of a larger trend in global climate change resulting in the melting of glaciers and continental ice sheets. In plotting his curve, Dr. Fairbridge looked at high-water marks recorded in fossilized dunes and reefs and later made more eclectic observations of climate fluctuation.
For a different view on a society check their obituaries, sadly they may be hard to find in your own language, when checking Arabic papers for this blog, I was unable to find any obituaries in English. This is sad since a chronicle of the past is an insight into the present and future
And you mustn’t forget those bloggers, The blog of Death is a rather unusual place to start, the TaxProf Blog and Jacks Blog are more typical. GoogObits will help you find list of obituaries and of course wikiobit a database of obituaries for everyone by everyone, and new media approaches are emerging Obit Earth encourages use of Google Earth to mark the place of significant events in a deceased persons life, and raises the intriguing possibilities of marking maps with pictures and other data! YouTube has many video obituaries.
After a lifetime of balancing family life, with emotional crises, illness, heartache, joy, pleasure and of course work. Perhaps there is a small measure of comfort in knowing that in some way we are having an impact on the lives of others like so many before and so many to come. But perhaps, just perhaps everyone of us leaves our mark on the world by simply getting on with our lives. Some may put this article down to old age, perhaps, perhaps it is due to experience in in-secure environments, rather I would propose that we should use reflection and celebration of others lives as an opportunity to learn and advocate the humanitarian and development work we are all involved in.
In truth podcasts are not popular, BBC reviews a survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project (Nov, 2006).
However in it’s 5000 person sample the Pew survey found just 1% of respondents download a podcast on a typical day, with 7 to 12% claiming to have dowloaded a podcast. These figures have been consistent much of 2006.
Despite this the number of podcasts being distributed has exploded… in November 2004 Podcast Alley a show directory, listed 1,000 podcasts, today more than 26,000 and over one million episodes. Although usage implies a high percentage are discontinued it is evident that publishing a podcast requires minimal equipment and is simple indeed.
I could go on to quote all the hype of market growth, but it is frankly irrelevant, podcasts are an excellent medium for select applications (“MSF & Christian Aid …”, “Rocketboom, UNHCR & Refugees”, “Online video sharing….”, “Promote MP3’s, Zunes, i-pods …”).
The technology has simplified to a stage where any luddite (such as yours truly) can download podcasts from i-Tunes, they are free. In truth it is nearly just as easy to upload! Even I (ok, an adventurous luddite) with an Apple laptop and Garageband, prepared an (admitedly poor) audio podcast ready for upload to i-Tunes. Don’t forget you don’t need an i-pod, any MP3 player or computer will do. I watch all video podcasts on computer and listen to audio from the laptop as if it were a radio (“Pandora & Filter – Personal Radio Stations…”).
Forget the hype, play with podcasts, lets see how we can turn this tool to valuable applications to further humanitarian and development work.