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Text it, Tweet it, Pin it… Grow it?

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Spring is around the corner. Text it, tweet it, pin it… grow it?

Since the creation of the world wide web in 1990, there have been countless technological advancements. As technological innovation propagated connectivity amongst people and information, it also promoted a renaissance in the tradition of Urban Farming.

Before the internet and technological boom, urban farming was not on many people’s radar and was disregarded as a means to an end for feeding dense city centres during economic duress. According to Five Borough Farms,

“Modern urban agriculture can be defined as growing fruits, herbs, and vegetables and raising animals in cities, a process that is accompanied by many other complementary activities such as processing and distributing food, collecting and reusing food waste and rainwater, and educating, organizing, and employing local residents. Urban agriculture is integrated in individual urban communities and neighbourhoods, as well as in the ways that cities function and are managed, including municipal policies, plans, and budgets.”

Vancouver, BC is one of the leading urban farming communities. According to Councilwoman, Andrea Reimer, “the number of community garden plots on city, school and park board land has more than doubled to over 4,000 in 104 locations in the past four years. There are now at least 19 urban farms, including Yummy Yards.” With the combination of the rising cost of produce, the alarming amount of chemicals and hormones infused into food, the environmental crisis and the explosion of technological advancement, urban farming not only can help us by:

  • nourishing a healthier city centre

  • providing jobs

  • fostering a sense of community

  • reducing an urban ecological footprint

According to The Greensgrow Urban Farm, the internet was one of the major contributing factors to their success in urban agriculture endeavours. “When we started there was no real social media. There wasn’t even a GOOGLE. Finding information was difficult, finding fellow urban farmers even more so. In the years since Greensgrow has incorporated a great deal of social media and used the web to research so many things. People who would never have found us have found and come visit us-people from around the world. We use social media to tell our story, build our resources research our ideas and gain support. So I think we grew up alongside the internet in some ways.”

Today, urban farms are taking full advantage of social media platforms. With social vehicles such as Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Pinterest, awareness of urban farming has flourished and product popularity has grown exponentially. Urban farms are spreading agricultural knowledge by planting seeds in the minds of urbanites to get them involved with creating a more sustainable city environment. Volunteer participation and new course offerings have expanded dramatically through online forums and education that have not been available before. Newly minted apps to aid rookie urban farmers such as, ‘Sprout-It’ and ‘Urban Farming Assistant’ and are popping up for mobile devices and online communities.

It is a funny juxtaposition: farming and tweeting, but when navigating through the countless websites dedicated to urban gardening, Pinterest boards dedicated to growing an edible patio garden, event forums dedicated to participating in urban homesteads, and Blogspot posts on how to get involved in urban agriculture. It seems natural.

@UrbanFarmingGuys have 16,961 followers

@UrbanGardens have 30,001 followers,

@UrbanLandInstitute have 59,104 followers.

People now have resources about starting up an edible apartment garden or a patio grow-op. Leda from ‘The Urban Homestead’ in Pasadena, which is a family operated and highly productive city farm, said, “social media has been a huge boost to my urban homesteading.” She was adamant about the following:

  • It is  way to promote classes, articles, and books on the subject,

  • It’s also as a way to find out what questions people are asking – what information to provide them

  • Most importantly, social media has connected her with fellow urban homesteaders she would not have met otherwise.

“I met Brooklyn beekeeper turned New Jersey farmer Megan Paska via twitter, and hired her to teach beekeeping and organic vegetable gardening at the NY Botanical Garden. Another twitter introduction was chef Jeremy Umansky. Facebook connected me with BK Swappers, where I bring my preserved foods and trade them – it’s fascinating to see what others are making and I often find inspiration there that I translate into recipes and how-to’s for my preservation site.”

The managers at Earthworks Urban Farm in Detroit said, “by following, retweeting and contributing, Earthworks has created multiple networks of influence that share common threads of interests all around the world. In short, social media has helped us distinguish Earthworks as a reliable source of news on food justice and other related topics by helping build our online identity and relationships with others.”  They found that cleverly articulated tweets also help cut through the fat of the internet and connect with people in a meaningful way. In some ways, twitter has been helpful in organizing around social events and issues too.

Now that’s something to tweet about.

 

The Unifying Force of Social Media

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Social media has always been used to maintain current relationships by staying connected on various platforms. However, it’s now being used to open the lines of communication with people we weren’t previously connected with. I’m not talking about dating websites – I’m talking more along the lines of social media functioning to find and reunite people with lost loved ones. These platforms can be used as a database, instead of hiring a detective. More and more people are turning to media queries and why shouldn’t they? It seems like the logical and natural choice. Social media helps individuals find the needle in the haystack.

Online platforms have been proven to have the ability reconnect lost family members. It’s as simple as typing in a name in the search box or unintentionally coming across a Twitter account. These posts, videos and profiles are all clues to link people together. For example, Anaïs Border was able to finally contact her long lost identical twin sister after stumbling upon a YouTube video. The girls were separated by adoption and geography. Anaïs was in France and her sister Samantha in Los Angeles. The sisters have recently took to social media to help them once again by raising money to travel to meet each other and create a documentary about their journey. By using Kickstarter, they have surpassed their goal and have raised approximately $43,000!

This is not all social media has done to connect people. The uniting muscle of social media was exercised again and even on a larger scale during the Boston Marathon bombings. Typically after traumatic disasters, cell phone reception becomes weakened by the amount of traffic. Luckily, Google reacted quickly by launching the resource website, People Finder. The site allowed people to research, update, and share the status of family and friends. People Finder acted as a comfort and another gateway for people to find answers, which is essential in a time of uncertainty and fear.

The unifying power of social media grows daily as our channels of existing communication expand and new connections are formed. The Border twins and many others join the long list of people who were given the opportunity to find someone using today’s advanced technology. The perception of the Internet is moving past regurgitating useless information from a lit-up screen, and instead, offering relief and opportunities.

Creative Commons

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So you’ve found a great photo, but it’s copyrighted. What then?

If possible, your best bet is always to create your own photos or graphics. It may take longer than finding an image online, but the benefits may be worth it. For example, it may be cheaper to labor over photoshop for a few hours than to pay for photos/graphics. It might be extremely difficult to find a suitable photo to match your needs, so making your own means that you’ll get exactly what you want. Needless to say, you have complete control over every detail, so the end product can blend in better with your company theme, colors, and more. Every time you make your own visuals, you get to put your name or website on it, which means that if others choose to share your work, credit will be automatically redirected to you.

Photos registered under Creative Commons (CC) licenses are a great way to get awesome pictures or visuals that can be freely and legally used. Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that “enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools” [1]. CC licenses are not an alternative to copyright. They work alongside copyright, and allow authors or creators to modify copyright terms to suit their needs. In other words, “all rights reserved” becomes “some rights reserved.” If authors/creators want to give the public the right to share, use, and even build upon a piece of their work, publishing it under a CC license can give them the flexibility to allow or restrict certain types of use. See this page for more information on types of CC licenses.

The quickest way to search through creative commons material is to go to Search.creativecommons, where you put a search through a media, image, web, video, or image search engine (i.e. Flickr, Google, Wikimedia Commons, YouTube), and it automatically filters for content with Creative Commons licenses. Search.creativecommons.org can’t guarantee that the results generated are placed under a CC license (as there is no registration to use one). One should always be sure to verify that the work is actually under a CC license by following the link. Otherwise, you can go directly to websites which have material published under CC licenses.

Some examples of Users of Creative Commons licenses:

1. Google: Google has enabled CC-search capabilities through their main search engine, image search engine, and book search engine. Google users are also allowed to CC license their own content in Picasa and documentation at Google Code. YouTube (Google-owned) has added the CC BY licensing option for video uploads, so users can search the “Creative Commons” filter if they so desire.

2. Flickr: “Flickr was one of the first major online communities to incorporate Creative Commons licensing options into its user interface” [2]. It allowed photographers worldwide to easily share photos however they wanted. As the Flickr community grew, so did the library of CC-licensed images. With current standing at over 200  million photos, Flickr is the world wide web’s “single largest source of CC-licensed content”. Flickr has a CC image portal and advanced CC search features.

3. OpenCourseWare: MIT OpenCourseWare began releasing its materials under a CC BY-NC-SA license in 2004. Today, MIT OCW “has over 1900 courses available freely and openly online for anyone, anywhere to adapt, translate, and redistribute” [3]. Having free courses from MIT to use and even adapt seems to be too good to be true, but it is, and the only restrictions are: materials cannot be repurposed for commercial use, any and all reuse (of original and derivative works) must be attributed to MIT and the associated faculty member’s name if applicable, and any distribution of original or derivative works must be offered freely and openly in the same way that MIT OCW did.

You can go here to see which domains house CC-licensed works, check out the CC case studies, interviews, and the milestone tag in the Creative Commons blog to find more resources.

The objective of Creative Commons is to develop and encourage legal restructuring of copyright in the digital sphere so that digital creativity, sharing, and innovation can be maximized. Social + Good believes in creating original work, giving credit where it’s due, and expanding on innovative thoughts and creations!

Socialblood: Transforming Facebook into the World’s Largest Blood Bank

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Source: Socialblood

Did you know that more than 44,000 blood donations are needed everyday in the United States? This number increases as more patients are diagnosed with an illness, disease, or suffers from significant blood loss. The purpose of social media has and always will be to solve a problem. We create platforms to perform a task, to communicate and to connect with others.

The blood crisis is amongst one of the global problems that will eventually affect everyone in some way. Karthik Naralasetty, an Internet entrepreneur from India saw the potential in a platform that already existed: Facebook. He repurposed the social media network to start a movement to increase blood donations worldwide. Naralasetty explained, “If my social networking site can tell me its my friend’s birthday, why can’t it tell me that he was in an accident and requires 2 litres of blood?”. And just like that - Socialblood was born. Learn more about his inspiration by watching his Ted talk.

Naralasetty began Socialblood by creating 8 different Facebook groups for the 8 different blood types and then designed and developed a portal site to link the groups. The site thrived as requests for donation and offers to donate came pouring in. This program is effective because it helps to put a face to a specific person in need. This personalizes the cause. Instead of becoming overwhelmed by a massive problem like the blood donation shortage, a user can focus their efforts on helping a single person. Socialblood works by allowing users to request donations, keeping them up to date on special charity blood drives or notifying them if there is a particular blood requirement in their locality. It displays everything clearly on a map and is considerably more user friendly than a database. In addition to the good feeling you’ll receive after donating, Socialblood also rewards you with coins that you can use to buy products offered by partners. For example, you can get a coffee from Starbucks for 50 Socialblood coins! Talk about a win-win.

Socialblood works because it’s simple. It took the very best qualities that Facebook offers such as location settings, personalized accounts and instantaneous notifications, and created a powerful way to connect with blood donors in your community. Socialblood is becoming the largest hub for blood donations in the world and is a perfect example of how we can use technology and social media in a compassionate and formidable way.

Evian Smart Drop: Future of Shopping

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Have you seen the Evian Smart Drop Project? It is a magnet for your fridge that’s connected to the internet, and it allows you to order bottles of water. People realize they have run out of a product right when they’re looking for it. Then, they walk away and forget about it. If you have the resources to order it right away, you are more likely to do so. If people used this product, Evian would be able to beat out more of their competition since consumers don’t have the price comparison in front of them.

I have a hard time wrapping my head around ordering water while I’m standing beside the sink (you know, the thing that has an unlimited stream of clean water). With that being said, I think this technology could be adapted greatly. Imagine you were on the toilet and realize you have one roll left with a refill button right beside you? That’s pretty glorious.

Do you think this will be the future of shopping?

Yelp, Urbanspoon, and Zagat. What do these all have in common? Food and social media.

If I wanted to find a place to eat out on the spot ten years ago, I would have called a friend or asked a relative to recommend a place nearby. The food experience depended on word of mouth. If I want to go out for dinner an hour from now, I would ask the internet.

If you want to search by category, there’s probably a website or mobile app that can make it easier for you. Search by location, popularity, price, type(s) of ingredients and cuisine, whether credit cards are accepted, whether it’s family-friendly: you name it, there’s a website or app that meets your search criterion.

One study shows that nearly 90% of those who browse their mobile devices for restaurants will end up visiting the location they saw online. Of those people, about 30% of them will visit a restaurant immediately, and as many as 60% will visit within an hour.  The factors that have the most impact on these statistics are proximity, price, and good reviews.

Catering to over 78 million people per month with over 40 million reviews, Yelp is a powerful tool. Even a half-star rating increase leads to a 19% reduction in available reservations at a restaurant. Can you say powerful? With so many social media websites and mobile apps that help you look for good food, the power of the internet on food is ever-increasing.

On the other hand, restaurant owners can also find social media useful for connecting with their customers and enhancing their brand. By replying to their customers, liking or retweeting positive comments about their brand, acknowledging negative reviews respectably, and engaging their social media followers in conversation (just to name a few), restaurant owners can sell not only food and drink, but also an experience. Customer trust and loyalty really picks up when they see that restaurants’ social media is consistently positive or encouraging. People love to receive online attention from their beloved restaurants, and when they do, they want to keep going back to those places.

What are some of your favorite things about the transition of the food experience into the digital sphere, and what are some websites or phone/tablet apps that you can’t live without?

 

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