One Cause At a Time – Archive

An Archive of Chicago Now One Cause at a Time Posts

Archive for November 2012

Building A Better Chicago Through Broadband Research

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“Broadband” (in tech terms) refers to the ability to receive multiple signals and processes electronically. For many Chicago communities in light of the recent broadband challenge, it means the difference between growth and development…and staying technologically stagnant.

Thankfully, this Thursday will bring the Illinois Broadband Research Conference, a one-day event that is free to the public (but you’ll need to register), and collects broadband researchers from across the state of Illinois to discuss research and efforts.

The conference will be held on November 29, 2012 from 8 am-3 pm at the UIC Student Center East, located at 750 S. Halsted (and easily accessible via public transportation, although parking is available as well).  Topics that will be discussed include

  • Benchmarking Illinois Broadband: Who is Using High-Speed Internet? Where Are Those Users? What Are They Doing With Broadband?
  • Seeding Demand: How Specific Broadband Initiatives Are Expanding Usage
  •  Data-Driven Impact: Using Broadband Illinois Research for City and Statewide 

Building stronger communities and neighborhoods in Chicago does not just mean focusing on the more obvious issues (like economic and business development) – it means a concerted focus on insuring that everyone can participate in a radically-shifting economy. Accessibility to high-speed Internet is no longer just a good idea, or even a “nice thing to have” – it is increasingly becoming a necessary tool that drives economic sustainability. For many non-profits and organizations engaged in driving the social good, this conference may seem a little esoteric.

However, it speaks to  Broadband Illinois’ efforts to drive awareness about this critical tech tool.  As we are moving towards an increasing dependence on web-based and online tools to accomplish greater tasks, insuring that every community in the state has access to broadband is extremely critical. Insuring equal access and availability is less about meeting an agenda as much as insuring that Illinois moves towards being increasingly competitive in a continually evolving technological landscape.

And that definitely defines the “social good”.

Have questions or comments? Please feel free to leave them below. In addition, you are more than welcome to contact me privately either via my Linked In profile or my web site’s contact form.

And as always, thanks for reading!


Written by gordondym

November 26, 2012 at 12:14 pm

Google’s Black Friday Gift

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Today is best known as “Black Friday” due to heavy amounts of retail occurring. But today, I’m going to encourage everyone to become advocates in a way that will make today a little less Black.

Google is starting efforts to help make the Internet “free and legal” – efforts are underway to more heavily regulate the Internet (including efforts within the United States), and insuring equal access to the net is not just a cornerstone of digital excellence – it is a 21st century expression of the fundamental principles of our nation.

But don’t just take my word for it – you can visit Google’s site to learn more about these efforts, or simply watch this video:

Thanks for reading, and please – if you have comments or questions, simply leave them below, or drop me a line via e-mail.

Written by gordondym

November 23, 2012 at 12:15 am

Petraeus & G-Mail Betrayal

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E-mail is one of the most widely used channels by non-profits and social change agents, and so if there’s one lesson that results from the recent scandal involving General David Petraeus and Gmail, it is that e-mail as a channel is not quite as secure as you might think.

And in fairness, I’m not beating up specifically on Gmail – any web-based e-mail provider provides the same kind of data that led to Petraeus’ discovery. But in an age where cybersecurity is becoming an increasingly prominent issue, and with federal offices being granted further powers of discovery…many people need to think (or rethink) the way they use Gmail.

Thankfully, yes, there are the obvious articles focusing on lessons from the Petraeus matter, but ultimately, this is more about having a stronger awareness of keeping e-mail secure. It’s more than just having a really effective password (although one author argues that isn’t enough) – it’s having a more thorough understanding of what to avoid.

So in that spirit, some suggestions about how to handle e-mail both professionally and personally:

  • Try not to check personal e-mail at work: this may seem obvious, but for many of us, checking personal e-mail when we’re “on the job” at an office can be problematic. Unless you can access e-mail from a smartphone, it may be best to leave it be until you’re at home.
  • Stop “phishers” before they start – If you receive an e-mail seeking your login information (which isn’t caught by your spam filters), and you suspect it’s “phishing” for information, don’t click any links, but head to the main site and sign in. (So head to rather than click on a link from an e-mail that looks suspiciously like one from
  • Use your entire keyboard when creating a password – When creating an e-mail password, consider mixing up symbols, numbers, and letters. (For example, rather than “onecause”, an equivalent password that is a little harder to break would be “10n3c@u$e”.
  • Google “e-mail security tips” and read plenty of articles – or simply click this link, and you’ll get plenty of tips to read.

It would be easy to focus on the more prurient aspects of the Petraeus matter, but ultimately, current events are helping us – at the very least – understand some of the more casual security concerns inherent within our most currently used online channel.
Have any comments or questions – please leave them below. You are also more than welcome to contact me either via my Linked In profile or my web site contact form.
Thanks for reading, and have a great, happy Thanksgiving.

Written by gordondym

November 21, 2012 at 1:29 am

Making Illinois Work

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Like many people in the state of Illinois, I am one of the “underemployed.” (In fact, I recently ended my stint guest-blogging at another Chicago Now blog to focus on finding more freelance/permanent work, and am always open for referrals). But thankfully, part of my exploration and networking has led me to find two online resources – provided by the state of Illinois – that are relatively easy to use, and which help anyone at various stages of unemployment connect with opportunities to return to work…and prosper in a changing economy.

It would be easy for many job seekers (like myself) to see Illinois JobLink as redundant – after all, there are many other job boards that contain duplicate information. What makes JobLink unique is that not only does it aggregate and contain job listings from a variety of sites, but also allows for employers to search posted resumes for qualified candidates. (In fact, I received a recent phone call from an employment agency via the site, and have since interviewed). For those who may not be technically savvy or digitally literate, Job Link provides a really invaluable service for job seekers.

It’s Illinois WorkNet – focused on training and education – that really serves as a great resource for job seekers. Providing career planning, training, and assessments, WorkNet is a really good resource for job seekers who wish to develop critical skills and maintain some of their job seeking momentum.

Some of you may be wondering why, in a blog about tech and social good, I am focusing on these sites. We tend to focus solely on charitable efforts and/or marketing when talking about these issues….but workforce and economic development are also key in driving the social good.  My experiences in job seeking and freelancing have left me with one key understanding – that despite the protestations of a few people, nobody wants a handout….simply a hand.

And both of these sites are welcome assistance for those of us seeking employment.

Have any comments or questions? Please feel free to leave them below. If you wish to contact me privately, please feel free to do so via LinkedIn or my web site’s contact page.

And as always, thanks for reading!

A Gallery of Links

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Every once in awhile, I like to assemble a small gallery of links to articles about a variety of issues. Granted, it may seem like lazy blogging, but there is quite a bit happening around tech and the social good – so much so that trying to select a single topic can be a bit daunting.

As a way to help kick your weekend into high gear before the holidays, here are some links of interest that hopefully can provide you with some good reading….as well as some great food for thought.

Thank you very much for reading – if you have comments, please feel free to leave them below, and you can contact me personally either through Linked In (just mention Chicago Now) or via my web site contact form.

The Power of Podcasting

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It’s probably one of the most frequently used tools to help spread the word, and many agencies, quite simply, aren’t taking advantage of the opportunity.

I’m talking, of course, about podcasts – essentially online radio shows that provide a forum for discussion about a variety of topics. (Brief note – I co-host a podcast about comics and popular culture). Podcasts are portable (usually created as a sole MP3 file), can be played anywhere, and thankfully, are relatively low cost, with many of the tools available via open source software.

Thankfully, there are several podcasts which focus solely on non-profits and the social good, and are great ways to build collaboration and community. Assembling a podcast is relatively easy….but there is a definite learning curve to the process. It’s one of the few tools that is readily available, and can help an organization expand their reach outside the greater Chicago area.

But what goes into a podcast? Although there are plenty of articles about how to start a podcast (like this one from NTEN), there are some basics to consider when (and if) you plan to start one:

  • Sound Recording/Editing Software – on a basic level, you will need some kind of recording/editing software in order to capture your own voice or with others. Thankfully, there is an open source solution called Audacity – there is a bit of a learning curve, but you can find great information via Google.
  • Microphones/headsets – this is one of the few expenses that you will need; thankfully, most microphone/headset pieces cost between $20 and $40.
  • Conference Call/Recording Software – If you’re recording with others, you might all want to consider getting accounts with Skype, and also consider getting one of the many plug-ins that allow you to record Skype calls.
  • Hosting – this is going to be one of the more critical expenses, since different hosts offer different plans. Services like Libsyn, Podomatic, and Blog Talk Radio offer a variety of bells and whistles – you will need to do some comparison shopping, but this is something where spending a small amount of money can lead to some positive benefits.
  • Music – There are many sites that offer free or close to free public domain music. (“Close to free” means that if you mention the artist in your show, you have their permission to use). Simply Google “public domain music”.

Is this an easy, simple solution? No, but for many social change agents, non-profits, and other mission-driven organizations….this is a great chance to engage a highly underutilized channel.

Book Review – The Newbie’s Guide to GOING SOCIAL

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(FULL DISCLOSURE: A Review copy of the book was provided for review purposes. My opinions are my own)

One of the challenges that many Chicago area non-profits face is handling not just social media, but the idea of social marketing. Using social media tools in a professional, strategic way can be a challenge, especially for those unusued to thinking about social media as a legitimate marketing channel.

Thankfully, Jeremy Goldman has provided a great introductory volume to social marketing via his new book, Going Social. Although it is written in more general business-like tone, there are many key issues, ideas, and thoughts that non-profits and other agents of the social good can integrate into their regular marketing efforts.

Much like  The Tasti D-Lite Way, Goldman’s book provides some great examples (although admittedly, they’re much more diverse in terms of corporate and private brands), and the tone makes this a pretty good read. (Some of the more marketing-oriented language may be a bit off-putting for non-profits and other mission-driven organizations, but that’s a minor quibble).

But all in all, Going Social is a pretty strong guide for social marketing, and well worth reading not just by community groups or non-profits, but anyone with an interest in connecting online.

As always, please leave comments below, and you are more than welcome to contact me via e-mail.

Thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

November 12, 2012 at 10:29 am

After The Election, Keep Democracy Open!

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It is sorely tempting to write about all of the great apps and widgets that are making this election happen. Whether it’s Barack Obama or Mitt Romney, whoever handles the affairs of state will be entering a relatively new political sphere  in which voters and citizens have greater expectations around accountability, transparency, and insight into the workings of government.

All of this is part of the idea of an “open government” – or as the Open Government Chicago Meetup  might put it:

…government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” We believe that citizens should consider government to be “us”, not “them.” This meetup is for citizens who are interested in seeing their federal, state, and local government function more efficiently and responsively. We are inspired by people who are actively building tools and experimenting with solutions along these lines, like the Sunlight Foundation and GovTrack. We believe that open source software practices and internet culture provide good examples of how people can work cooperatively on complex problems to produce meaningful results…

So what’s the idea? Basically, it’s about making government data more open – and accessible – for citizens. (Think web-based tools like EveryBlock).  It’s also about driving connections between the electors and the elected – that the community can come together and collaborate towards the common good.

Regardless of how you vote – or who wins – I cordially invite you to consider participating in the Open Government Chicago Meetup.  They have an event this Thursday focusing on the city clerk’s office, and there are a few spaces left. However, I would seriously suggest joining them and learning more about what’s happening – after all, part of this election has focused on facts vs. opinions, and being well-educated in how government works always results in positive effects.

Have questions or comments? Please leave them below, and feel free to send me a note via Linked In (please mention Chicago Now) or my web site’s comment form.

As always, thanks for reading!


DexCon – Driving Digital Excellence In Chicago’s Neighborhoods

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Driving digital excellence and literacy in the Chicago area is a key undertaking for many groups. I’m fortunate to be part of one of them – another is the Chicago Digital Access alliance.

Thankfully, they’re going to be putting on an event on November 10th, and this is a great opportunity for community-minded people, neighborhood activists, and others who are interested in how underserved communities can mobilize and engage around digital literacy.

DEXCON2012 – the CDAA’s Conference and Tech Fair – will be held at the Logan Center for the Arts, located at 915 East 60th Street in Hyde Park. This will be a great opportunity to learn more about grassroots community mobilization around digital access and excellence issues, and will feature an afternoon discussion of the Chicago Broadband Challenge and its implications for residents on the south side.

So why attend? Quite simply, this is a great opportunity to learn more about tech issues not just on a high level, but on a very smaller, more localized level. There’s some great work being done on a very focused, community level, and this would be a way to network and engage with a variety of people.

The event will be held from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm – for more information, or to RSVP, please call at 312-970-0249 or 312-473-0373, or e-mail at

If you care about digital access for everyone, community organization around tech issues, or have an interest in access to technology for traditionally underserved populations, this is an event that you should make an effort to attend.

Thanks for reading!