Sunrise over CB's home office.

Thanks to everyone who sent me links for this month’s roundup. As always, if you come across something you think would be a good fit for the Best of the Web, send it to

News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2018
Here’s the headline of a new Pew Research Center report: Most Americans continue to get news on social media, even though many have concerns about its accuracy.
Here are the details: About two-thirds of American adults (68 percent) at least occasionally get news on social media, despite being skeptical about its veracity. In fact, a majority (57 percent) expect the news they find there to be inaccurate.

So why do so many people continue to rely on social media for news?

Here’s the answer: Convenience. Essentially, we’re lazy. (And possibly addicted to social media.)

The Personal Cost of Computer Technologies
In this excerpt of her book, The Joy of Missing Out, posted in the Utne Reader, Christina Cook suggests opportunities to break away from technology’s relentless grasp and discusses how the internet has grown into an oppressive aspect of human life.

How serious is it?

According to the intro, “Engaging with the vast amount of computer technologies has cost humans their attention spans, free-time and, in some cases, relationships.” The entire book considers the modern life and how computer technology affects communities, health, relationships and work.

The Science of What Makes People Care
“Effective communication is not simply about getting your message out,” Ann Christiano and Annie Neimand write over at the Stanford Social Innovation Review. “It requires you to strategically tap into what shapes people’s feelings and values.”

The pair shares five principles pulled from social science to help you connect your work to what people care most about.

Google’s New Dataset Search
Do you use the internet for research? If you’re an actual live human adult in 2018, there’s a high probability that you do—and there’s also a high probability that, at some point, you’ve found information that was inaccurate or misleading. (See previous item about the reliability of things online.)

One reason for this is the sheer size of the vast online landscape and all that it encompasses. It’s not easy to find things in such a big place. Everyone is familiar with a Google search, but here’s another Google search tool that can help you turn over different stones entirely.

Journalists are already putting the Google Dataset Search tool to good use, according to Ren LaForme at Poynter, but nonprofits could also find countless ways to employ it to learn more about their own knowledge areas.

(Though it’s full of important data, it’s also a little fun, LaForme writes: “In a few minutes, I found an expansive collection of food photos (waffles and apple pies) and the nutritional information for all the beer MillerCoors sells.”)

A New Tool For Storytellers
Here’s another tool used by journalists that has a wider application, including the nonprofit sector. StorylineJS, developed by Knight Lab at Northwestern University, “makes it easy to tell the story behind a dataset, without the need for programming or data visualization expertise,” Joe Germuska writes. “Just upload your data to Google Sheets, add two columns, and fill in the story on the rows you want to highlight. Set a few configuration options and you have an annotated chart, ready to embed on your website. (And did we mention, it looks great on phones?)”

The tool prioritizes simplicity, and is designed to work with a single time series dataset. I can think of dozens of ways for nonprofits to use this tool in their own work, and can’t wait to see what your orgs do with it.

You Took Lousy iPhone Photos. Here’s How to Make Them Beautiful.
If your nonprofit isn’t using photos in its emails, it should be—a single photo can boost response rates by as much as four times, according to some sources. (That’s why I put a photo of the sunrise outside my home office at the top of this email, even though it has nothing to do with the content.) Smartphones have made it easy for us to capture images, but not every shot you take is a keeper.

In the Times, J.D. Biersdorfer offers six easy steps for you to “salvage middling snaps with just a few taps.”

Just Don’t Call It Privacy
Also in the New York Times, Natasha Singer writes about the Senate Commerce Committee Hearing at which legislators and Silicon Valley execs discussed issues of privacy—except, she says, that’s not what they were talking about at all.

Citing examples such as employers using Facebook’s advertising platform to show certain job ads only to men or people between the ages of 25 and 36, Google collecting location data from users who have deliberately turned off location history, and AT&T sharing mobile customers’ locations with data brokers, Singer gets straight to the heart of the issue.

“In a surveillance economy where companies track, analyze and capitalize on our clicks, the issue at hand isn’t privacy,” she writes. “The problem is unfettered data exploitation and its potential deleterious consequences—among them, unequal consumer treatment, financial fraud, identity theft, manipulative marketing and discrimination.”

Your Copiers Are Storing Confidential Information: What You Can Do About It
Sticking with privacy issues, the always insightful Jim Lynch writes over at Tech Soup about a likely weak link in your office security: your photocopier.

“Modern digital copiers and larger networked multifunction printers have hard drives that store data and images of all the documents they copy, print, scan, or fax,” he writes. “They are as vulnerable to data theft as anything in your office’s IT system. They can store copies of documents, and they also have usage logs that hackers can get to, as can anyone servicing the devices.”

As Inbox Fades Away, Here’s How to Get its Best Features in Gmail
Do you use Gmail? Something like 1.2 billion people do. Many of them also use Gmail’s Inbox app, which offers more personalized features, including snoozing emails, organized folder bundles, and smart replies.

When Google revamped the Gmail interface this year, it incorporated some of those features into the new UX—and now it’s killing off Inbox. If you’re one of those people who still use the app, start planning your post-Inbox life now, says J.R. Raphael.

Over at Fast Company, he’s got some clever tweaks to replicate some of Inbox’s best features right inside Gmail. Here’s a tip: Even if you don’t use Inbox, these shortcuts might make you more productive.

Vaguely interesting statistics I found while researching this topic:

  • Gmail’s share of the global email market: 20 percent
  • Percentage of email in the average Gmail inbox that’s actually spam: 0.1 percent
  • Percentage of wanted email that ends up in a Gmail spam folder: 0.05 percent

The Conscious Style Guide
When I worked as a journalist, I had to learn the Associated Press Style Guide, which governed word choice and usage issues for most U.S. newspapers. When I started writing books, I had to learn the Chicago Manual of Style, which ruled over the publishing world. When I began at Idealware, I created a house style guide that incorporated my preferred usages from both—and that redefined some I didn’t agree with at all.

The problem with style guides is that language is dynamic. Usage evolves. Words matter. Using the wrong ones can cause harm.

I recently stumbled upon this new kind of style guide, The Conscious Style Guide, which bills itself as “for anyone curious or serious about conscious language.” It aggregates the latest observations, opinions, and style guides in one place with an emphasis on compassionate, mindful, respectful, and empowering language.

2018 M+R Benchmarks Study
There’s a scene in the old Steve Martin movie, The Jerk, in which his character gets inordinately excited at the arrival of a new telephone book, yelling, “The new phonebook’s here, the new phone book’s here!” There’s almost that level of excitement within the nonprofit technology community when the annual M+R Benchmarks Study comes out.

“There are trees, and there is forest,” this year’s report begins. “There are anecdotes, and there is data. There are the pinprick pixels of our individual experiences, and there is the vast picture they paint together of the world we share. The (study) is our annual attempt to bridge that divide.”

This year’s report gathers data points from 154 nonprofit participants, each of which marks a single digital interaction with a supporter: an email opened, a donation made, a petition signed, a website visited, an ad clicked, a Facebook post liked, or tweet retweeted.

“All told, these add up to 4,699,299,330 email messages, 527,754,635 web visits, and 11,958,385 donations,” it says. “It’s a lot of information, and each tiny piece adds a little more clarity to the trends that shape nonprofit digital programs.”

Why is this important? The averages tell the story of how nonprofits approach digital supporter engagement, and how those supporters respond—and the outliers tell us where we might be going. Read the free report and see how your nonprofit stacks up.

(Editor’s note: That’s right, I made pop culture references to a film from the 1970s and a phone book. I’m old.)

Idealware and Tech Impact Announce Merger
Finally, some Idealware news. In case you missed our own announcement this week, the NonProfit Times has the story about our upcoming merger with Tech Impact.

“We think this is a great fit, with compatible missions and cultures,” Idealware Executive Director Karen Graham says. “In fact, Tech Impact has long been a sponsor of Idealware publications. Together we can provide a broader scope of service by combining Idealware’s resources for learning and decisionmaking with Tech Impact’s services for technology planning, implementation, and ongoing support. A larger scale means greater reach, leverage, and financial strength. It also gives us increased access to expertise, including Tech Impact staff who work directly with nonprofits.”

I’m looking forward to working with my new colleagues, and we’re all excited to combine forces to bring you more expertise and resources.

See you next month!