Posts Tagged ‘Blogging’

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Meet Nicole Antoinette: A blogger making real change

March 30, 2009

handsinA few weeks ago I wrote a post on 25 ideas for how to use your blog to create change. It has since become the most popular post I have ever written (mostly thanks to getting linked in Feministing, so thanks Ann). One of the ideas I had from that post was about profiling young people who are using blogs and social media to create change.

I would be a lame hypocrite if I didn’t take my own advice, so that’s exactly what I’m doing today. I was really excited recently when I stumbled upon a post about HandsIn, a new nonprofit idea created by fellow twenty-something blogger Nicole Antoinette.  Check out the following interview with Nicole to learn more about her and her new organization, HandsIn.

nicole

Tell us about yourself and your blog.
I’m a freelance writer, perpetual nomad, cheesecake connoisseur, children’s day camp Director, and overall person of intense passion.  My blog, More is Better, is a chronicle of my shenanigans where absolutely nothing is off limits.  It’s also a way for me to explore my Life List and keep myself accountable for everything I want to accomplish. 

If you had to describe your blog in five words what would they be?
Best blog in the universe.  Or, less narcissistic: Girl lives life out loud. 

What is HandsIn? What are your goals/ vision for HandsIn?
HandsIn is an organization that harnesses the unique energy and creative passion of 20-somethings, inspiring them to connect with each other through volunteerism and empowering them to change their world through dedicated service and a shared commitment to a sustainable lifestyle.

My goal is to break the stereotype of 20-something apathy, to prove that us Gen Y-ers do care about the world, and 

are taking it upon ourselves to help change it. 

What inspired you to start HandsIn?
HandsIn was born after a particularly stressful bout of how-can-I-make-my-world-a-better-place-itis.  So much of social media and social networking is about the individual, and I wanted to create a way for it to be bigger than that, for people who care to come together and take action.

Well said! I’ve written recently about how I worry not enough Gen Y bloggers are using social media to create change and make a difference. Do you think Gen Y/20something bloggers care enough about social and political issues?
I actually think they care more than a lot of other people, and are often more informed because of how plugged in they are to the internet.  20-somethings are passionate and fiery and when they believe in something, they believe in it pretty fiercely.  I think the challenge is that sometimes, they don’t know how to get more involved in those causes, or they get too bogged down in their “quarter life crisis” to stop and do something. 

What issues are you passionate about?
I’m most passionate about issues of human rights, and childhood poverty/malnutrition.  I think a lot more attention needs to be paid to the hungry, impoverished children of the United States.

How can people get involved with HandsIn?
There are lots of ways to get involved with HandsIn, and they’re all quick and easy, perfect for the 20-something lifestyle.  The first step is to join and subscribe to our RSS feed, and after that? Get involved in the projects that move 

you, write about the efforts you’re making to change your community, network with like-minded people etc.  Getting involved means making a commitment to change, because change won’t happen overnight, it’s going to happen one person, one small act at a time. 

How did you create HandsIn.org? 

HandsIn was created in a coffee shop, on about twenty sheets of scratch paper, after a serious caffeine overload and a major session of inspirational brainstorming.  The website itself came together pretty quickly, about a month from start to finish, thanks to lots of dedicated work by myself and Aram, the guy I turn to when the coding gets too complicated for me.  Now that the site is up, I’m constantly looking for writing submissions and creative ideas from readers.  My goal is for the site to grow organically, highlighting the work of dedicated 20-somethings, and inspiring new people to take action each and every day!

Twitter handle: @nicoleisbetter and @handsin

Check out HandsIn.org today and sign up and participate — it definitely looks like a fantastic project.

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I’ve moved: to politicoholic.com

March 23, 2009

My blog has finally been moved off of http://nishachittal.wordpress.com and on to http://politicoholic.com. Feed is the same, so if you’re subscribed in a reader you don’t need to change anything. If you have old links on your blog or bookmarks, all the old links are automatically redirecting to the new domain so that’s set too.

If you want to link to me in the future, it’d be cool if you linked to me using the new domain :) 

I’m excited! I had been holding on to the domain politicoholic.com for a while to make sure no one else bought it, but I wasn’t ready to change things over until now. Next step: self-hosting. That’ll happen…one of these days.

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Just in case you hadn’t heard enough about SXSW: some final thoughts

March 19, 2009

I feel like I’m a little late in the game to be doing the obligatory post-SX-wrapup blog post, but I’m going to do it anyways. And hopefully I can share some insight for those of you who might go to SXSW 2010. Especially the really young people, since I was easily one of the youngest there.

To answer the obvious first question: yes, it really was amazing. A lot of people will tell you: it’s about the people and connections, not about panels. This is generally true. However, panels are great too. And some of the best connections I made at SXSW were by going to panels and staying behind after they were over to talk to the panelists and get to know them more.

Was it weird hanging out with people you only knew online before: not at all, though I’m sure my friends are waiting with their “cyberfriends” cracks. But I think they’re missing out on a huge opportunity by NOT networking online. And finally getting to meet some of these people I’d been working with online for so long was really awesome. Sydney is so much fun. Elysa really loves her iPhone a lot :) Ryan Paugh is just as really, really sweet as Penelope describes him, and we have a shared affinity for taking shots. Holly and Margie are tiny but make up for it with a whole lot of energy. Oh, and Penelope really is a tornado. In a good way though! I think. She also gave me dating advice: “Nisha, there’s a ton of single tech entrepreneurs with no social skills at this party and hardly any girls. Come on! You’re not leveraging your girlness enough!” Thanks, P.

I could go on forever about all the things I liked about SXSW, and the fantastic people I met and the great opportunities I got out of it (I’m attending 2 conferences I’m really excited about in the next two months because of people I met at SX!) but I can’t possibly get into all of it.

One thing I will say is that I went to SXSW because of Brazen Careerist. Those of you who have been around this blog since the beginning –which, okay, is not really that long ago — will know I wrote this crazy post on how blogging impacted my life in December for the Brazen blog contest, and by some miracle I actually won, and got to attend SXSW Interactive as a result. To be honest, I had no idea what SXSW even WAS before that contest but I entered because Ryan Paugh would not stop talking about this contest for two weeks straight so I figured, why not. I really just was hoping my post would be good enough to get on the front page of Brazen, since I didn’t know much about SXSW.

I wrote that post three months ago and my theme was about empowerment, and how blogging empowered me to quit being a “lurker” – both online and in my personal life. It was about how I started becoming an active participant in running my own life instead of letting my decisions be dictated by others. And it was all about how empowering and exciting that was to me.

Three months later I’m home from SXSW and I can’t believe what an amazing experience this conference was — and most importantly, it was empowering. It was so exciting to spend five days in the company of some of the most brilliant, creative, innovative minds in the field of new media and technology. Like Sydney said: this conference is for the innovators and early adopters — and it was amazing to be around like-minded people who shared the same interests I did. I know I’m not the only one who can honestly say I’m having SXSW withdrawal.

Because of SXSW and some of the people I’ve met there, I’ve found even more cool new opportunities in the next few months that I’m really excited about and I feel really empowered by all of it. I feel like SXSW was just the beginning of what is going to be a really exciting ride. But that definitely would never have happened if I hadn’t put myself out there, started a blog, joined Brazen, written that post at 4 am, and entered that contest that I didn’t even think I should have been entering in the first place.

So to sum up, I think the lesson I’ve learned from this whole experience is: don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Sometimes it sucks, I know. But you never know what kind of awesome opportunities could come out of it. So take a risk and do whatever it is you’re worried about…. you might be really pleasantly surprised.

(And next time Brazen has a contest: you better enter!)

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25 Ways to use your blog and social media to create change

March 2, 2009

Last week I wrote about something that has been on my mind lately: Gen Y blogging and whether we are self-absorbed or not.

Do we blog about ourselves a lot? I think we do. We’re all guilty of it at times. And why wouldn’t you? Everyone’s interested in themselves, their lives, their careers. That’s human nature and you would be abnormal if you weren’t.

But no matter what the topic or ‘niche’ of your blog, if you have an audience, you can use your blog to create social change just by spreading the word and doing something. It doesn’t have to be all the time. And it doesn’t matter how big your audience is. Even if you have 1 reader (who may or may not be your mom), that will be one more person who is more educated about an issue and who may take action. 

The simple act of informing people about problems in society can go a long way towards creating action. Change has to start with education and information. And bloggers are in a fantastic place to provide that.

So here is a list of 25 ways I think bloggers can do just that, and create real change. Many thanks to Raven who helped brainstorm a good portion of the ideas on this list.

If you think of more to add, leave a comment. And if you do any of these things, let me know (and maybe link back here :)… I will be thrilled. 

1. Start simple: write a post on an issue you care about. Chances are, most people don’t know much about it. Inform them.

2. Join Bloggers Unite and agree to blog about issues you care about on a certain day with hundreds of other bloggers.

3. Or if you don’t see the issue you care about, create your own and get other bloggers to support it by writing posts too.

4. Videoblog an interview with someone who has been affected by an issue you care about: disease, poverty, war, genocide…

5. Share someone’s story who would never have a chance to be heard otherwise. 

6. Has someone you love been affected by cancer or other disease? Share your story and raise awareness.

7. Highlight nonprofits that are creating change, like this one, the Fresh Air Fund

8. Circulate a petition. Ask your readers to participate. Like this one, sent to me by a CJP reader whose daughter is fighting the disease Spinal Muscular Atrophy: www.petitiontocuresma.com

9. Vlog an event related to social change/human rights issues

10. Twitterfeed posts from groups like Human Rights Watch

11. Write about your experiences with volunteer or nonprofit work.

12. Write your own ideas on how global human rights issues can be alleviated. 

13. Participate in Blog Action Day

14. Invite someone who typically blogs about social change or political issues to write a guest post for your blog. 

15. Discuss how social media plays a role in the non-profit community.

16. Write about advocacy in digestable ways for would-be donors, supporters: Ex. Explaining how donating to Save Darfur will help fund portable stoves for Darfur so young girls and women do not have to leave the camps (thus putting themselves at risk to be attacked while gathering firewood) or the Visual petition at www.congowomen.org

17. Highlight events related to advocacy efforts of charities, advocacy organizations, or other philanthropic groups in your area.

18. Interview or profile someone involved in social justice/human rights efforts

19. Research how a person or group is using interesting or unusual means to educate others on social justice

20. Discuss how social change is being implemented in school curricula and how schools are creating the idea of “global citizenship”

21. Interview a veteran. 

22. Ask your readers to donate to a cause you care about. Even if it’s small — a few dollars still goes a long way.

23. Highlight other bloggers, especially ones who need attention in volatile areas.

24. Participate in an event like Twestival to raise money for charity. Better yet: organize one. 

25. Include a link in your blog to great websites that allow you to make a difference with just a click, like The Hunger Site.
 

I hope this is only a start. What else would you add to the list?

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Forget careers. Blogging changes lives

December 12, 2008

I used to be a lurker.

You know who they are: those surfers of the web who revel in dark, unknown corners. Who consume but don’t reciprocate. Whose existence is known to none but themselves, whose presence we are never aware of as anything more than a number on our blog stats that might pique our curiosity. They lurk and disappear back into cyberspace, and no one ever has to know; no trace of them is left behind.

I knew the ups and downs of Penelope’s divorce, Ryan’s workaholism; but until recently I had never so much as left a single comment on any of their blogs. Your first reaction might be: creep! But something like 90% of blog readers are equally creepy lurkers. Chances are, you are lurking right now and will read, digest, and move along without ever saying a thing to me (including you, email subscribers – I know who you are!). You’ll never voice your opinion. So before you call me a creep, don’t forget what you’re doing right now: creeping.

Daring to commit your opinions and your intellectual thoughts down in words, permanently etched into pixels in cyberspace, is unnerving. It takes balls that most people don’t have, and that is why the vast majority of users of the Web are what we so affectionately refer to as lurkers. They’re afraid to voice their opinion and let anyone who Googles them find them; afraid that someone will disagree and criticize them.

I was one of those, and I was hiding. And for a long time that was a theme in my life: hiding. I have about 4 drafts of blog posts I have written over the years, saved in my archives, about how I hide different parts of my life from everyone. But, in my typical fashion, I never posted one of them. Because it takes courage to even blog in the first place. It makes you an outlier, it makes you different, and that opens you up to a whole new level of scrutiny.

Blogging is at once intensely personal, yet unnervingly public. And it connects people in the most individual, human, personal way. Of my college-age friends, I have very few who have blogs. And when one of them first started her blog, she proceeded to get mocked and made fun of behind her back, constantly. Her blog is a joke to the rest of them, constantly bantered about; every new post is gossip fodder, eagerly devoured. Spending so much time around people like that had left me paralyzed, afraid to just be who I am; and prancing around in that living charade was exceptionally tiring. Why did I care about these people again? It was illogical and irrational.

The difference between me pre-blog and me post-blog is simple: I went from an invisible, hiding lurker to a real person, and an outlier. Seems simple, but that transformation is empowering in a way you’d never expect. I went from letting others define me to defining myself. Instead of always having to hide what I do from people, I can just…be. I have something to say that is worth saying, and I actively contribute to the conversation.

It’s no longer a simple matter of writing a blog and hoping someone reads: it overflows into every other area of my life. Now, I want to have more conversations and put out my opinion on everything. I want to seek out new people and new perspectives and constantly learn from everyone around me. I want to explore new ideas, challenge them, and be challenged. I want to do something worth doing, instead of just what everyone else is doing. And sadly, though perhaps not surprisingly, most people aren’t willing to do that. But blogger are.

The mockers matter less and less, because, really, I’d rather drop them from my life now. When one of my favorite writers, who is far, far more successful than me, emailed me out of the blue and told me she loved a piece I wrote, the game changed a little. When my work started to get noticed by some others, the game changed a little. I no longer care to be just one of millions of college kids that are exactly the same. Who wants to blend in?

I realized I am different from them, but instead of continuing to try to hide it I started to reluctantly embrace it. I constantly strive to be an outlier, to be above and beyond, to put myself out there and be someone who challenges the status quo — and not someone who maintains it. I no longer want to be part of the norm. As one blogger said, that’s fifth place, when I know I want first. But if your presence is never known, how will you make an impact? How will you leave your mark? The simple act of voicing your opinion and expressing yourself means you are challenging the status quo, however insignificant you feel. But if you aren’t visible, to the world you don’t exist. If you’re just lurking and not participating, you’re outdated, obsolete, last year’s season. That’s not even fifth place; that’s invisibility.

Now, I’m no longer letting things happen to me. I don’t let others tell me what to do. I don’t believe in destiny; I just go out and make things happen. And I tend to brazenly defy everyone who doesn’t believe me. I realized that the way I defined myself and my life had to change. And in doing so, I won the inner battle that has been raging inside of me for twenty years. I killed the inner critic, the voice that stops so many people from doing great things. I stopped living for what other people think, and started living solely to create an impact and a difference.

And blogging, and everything and everyone that came with it, are what forced that change.

So when I sat down to write a post about how blogging has changed my life, many things came to mind. I wanted to write something as flawless as Andrew Sullivan’s brilliant essay, “Why I Blog.” But I am not Andrew Sullivan, so I can’t. Instead I thought of all the things I had learned, the advice I had gained, the opportunities I’ve received, the people I had interviewed and the late night discussions I’ve had when I could have been studying. And those have all been amazing things. But to this day, nothing compares to the surprising rush of empowerment that comes in that moment when you hold your breath and hit the ‘Publish’ button. It’s your blog, and no one can fuck with you there.

It’s something those legions of lurkers will never understand.

—–

(Hat tip to BC – what a challenge. This is probably the hardest thing I have ever written!)

And an update: this post just won me a free ticket to SXSW Interactive in March!

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Why I Love Blogging

December 2, 2008

There. I said it. I love blogging. I know to many people that will invoke images of pajama-clad anonymous online journallers in cyberspace, posting their innermost thoughts, or oversharing to the max a la Julia Allison. I know some people won’t like it. And guess what? I don’t care. Because blogging is awesome.

Since I started blogging, and like actually blogging, I’ve gotten to know some of the most interesting people — authors, writers, entrepreneurs, and above all, leaders. All in their 20s, too, and yet they’ve accomplished so much. Imagine where all these people will be in 10 or 20 years: they’ll be the most successful people of our generation.

Anyways, it’s because I love blogging that I don’t feel guilty at all about the two hours I spent tonight moving my blog from Blogger (hosted on nomadlife.org) to WordPress. If anything I feel like making the big switch to WordPress somehow makes me a more legitimate blogger.

There are many reasons I am blogging. One, I obviously like to write, a lot. Two, everyone from Loren Feldman to Penelope Trunk to Mitch Joel — tons of successful people at the top of their industries — are heralding the benefits of blogging. It’ll enhance your career, your personal brand, your reputation, your goals, your network, blah blah, all the experts are saying it. Yet the vast majority of us are still too scared to actually give in and do it, despite all the proven and much-talked about benefits of blogging. People are still scared to really express themselves and say what they mean.

And that’s a shame, because social technology really has the power to enhance your life, if you let it. But most of this stuff, even blogging, is far from mainstream yet. Particularly among college students, which is unfortunate and is something I gripe about every once in a while. But blogging can open up a wealth of resources if you can put in the work and patience it demands. The rewards are certainly worth it, though.

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