We certify charities. Certification is based on 3 areas of accountability; philosophy & approach, financial health, and performance.
A ‘Given Tree Certification’ holds charities accountable for using best practices, showing transparency with financials and reporting on how funds are spent and projects are progressing.
Charities post updates/photos/video so donors can see how their contributions are being used.
100% of your donation goes to the charity. Given Tree is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, run by volunteers, who are professionals with years of experience with non-profits both local and international, online networking, financials, accounting, marketing, and more.
You can follow your friends and see the interactions they share with their favorite charities.
Any of your favorite charities can sign up, but we hope to especially shine light on the smaller charities with great causes who don’t get the focus they deserve and don’t have the resources to create an online platform for raising money.
Plans for the Website
Having a virtual tree grow based on funds raised (tree on the project page and maybe a personal tree on your profile).
Donating sometimes gives gift-to-a-friend donations – when corp sponsors available (more on this to come!).
Create your own mini-campaigns for your favorite charity eg. “BBQ party to raise $500 for Haiti Helper’s Build-A-School campaign!”
Facebook integration and other social features.
About the Team / How We Got Started
The founder Angie Holzer, with a background in working for local and international non-profits, two years ago came up with the idea. And with help from a few friends, the idea came to life…but she still needed someone to develop the website. One day as she was talking with a friend of her’s and web developer, Brady Mitchell, about wanting to create a place where any charity, especially the smaller ones, can be assessed and then get help fundraising, Brady quickly agreed to help. Brady volunteered to take on the project in his spare time, and was currently working at the same company as me. Brady asked me if I would be interested in the project after he had mentioned the concept of Given Tree to me and I said I had thought about building a social network for charities in the past.
Sign up page at giventree.org
It’s hard to believe but Brady and I started developing the code for the website over a year ago now. Angie leads the certification and the legalities side of organization. Recently we added Frank Leng, who also worked at the same company as Brady and I (he built the lovely signup page you guys are gonna use to signup). Designer Monica Ewing graciously donated her time to providing the designs for the website. Given Tree now even has a board of directors as well, which includes Angie, Brady and 3 others.
Another Charity Website? How is this different?
I think the easiest way to show how Given Tree is different is to compare it to a couple of the (very different) big non-profit websites.
Causes – I was a big fan of Causes, a Facebook app for charities. I’ve used it many times in the past to make a donation on behalf of a family member’s birthday. I like a lot of innovative things they’ve done; using FaceBook as their platform, finding unique ways to raise money (aka. watch this ad video or fill in this survey to raise money for a charity). How we differ from Causes? I was disappointed to find out Causes is a for profit business. It was actually co-founded by Sean Parker (creator of Napster). Also, with Facebook as Causes’ primary platform, as Facebook changed (like dropping app boxes on profiles), they’ve had a hard time adapting and it’s not the same experience it once was.
Kiva – I’ve actually been surprised how many people reply to me after telling them about Given Tree with “Oh, like Kiva”. How we differ from Kiva? The primary difference is Kiva focuses only on micro-finance projects, which is about *lending* money to people in developing countries for business ideas. While this is noble, Given Tree also includes other projects like building wells, education, immunizations, curriculum for schools, etc. We applaud Kiva for what they have done, but feel there’s much more that needs to be done where they don’t reach. You can read about concerns and issues people have had with them on Kiva’s Wikipedia page.
Charity:Water – We will lend a lot of inspiration from Charity:Water. I’m obviously a big fan for Charity:Water birthday campaigns, I would consider Given Tree a success if we can provide the Charity:Water experience for Given Tree certified charities. I respect how transparent Charity:Water is, how professional their videos and photos are, and the care they put into their campaigns. Of course we likely won’t have the resources for such professional photos/videos, especially when our focus is on more than 1 charity, but eventually I’d like to see our media of a similar quality.
Given Tree will launch with with it’s first charity very soon! We have 3 more charities ready to launch soon after. We plan on getting a blog up and running, where we can post more updates like this one on building the website and challenges we encounter.
One thing we learned while building giventree.org is just how long some of these features take to build. For this reason, we have decided to release features in phases. We’ll be launching a very basic version of the website in the next month. If you’ve got any neat ideas for Given Tree we’re all ears, post them in the comments below or contact one of us.
Sucks to see these guys shutting down, I was really into Amplify as a curation tool up till about a year ago. Their sister site clipmarks.com is shutting down as well. Forbes acquired Clipmarks a couple years ago and created a spin off of the site as Amplify.com. Amplify introduced me to the likes of Joe Hackman, Flavio, Louis Gray, Stefan Svartling, Jay Gilmore, Danny Brown, Paisano, Mark Krynsky, Dave Yank and many others who I still follow on other social sites. As Amplify saw competition from micro-blogs like Posterous and Tumblr, and then later Google Plus and now Pinterest, the community slowly died off. Best of luck to Eric Goldstein, Dave Grossman and the rest of the Amplify team on their next venture.
Dear Mitchell McKenna,
After much consideration, we’ve decided that it is time to shutdown Amplify. On behalf of the team, I want to thank you for being part of our journey. It is important to us that we shut down the service in the most responsible and considerate manner possible. Towards that end there are two things that you should consider:
First, we’ve arranged with Clipboard (a new service under entirely different ownership and management) to give you an account on their service, which is currently accessible by invitation-only. You can accept this invitation and register your account now.
Second, from the registration page, Clipboard will allow you to easily request that your old clips be preserved in Clipboard. If you don’t want them converted, then do nothing. We can’t guarantee that we’ll be able to convert all of your older clips, but if the demand is sufficient, we will do our best.
We hope that you’ll accept the invitation to join Clipboard. Like Amplify, they believe that the Web is better when people can easily save, share and discuss the parts that they care about.
Wait, you haven’t heard of gdgt.com? One cool thing about joining gdgt (pronounced “gadget”) is that most of my friends have already heard of it. It’s a social network for consumer electronics; a place where people can create lists of the gadgets they have/had/want, and find out more about those gadgets. With the latest redesign there’s a focus on Q&A and Reviews (who do you trust more than your friends?). You can ask or answer questions like “Should I Switch to the Verizon Iphone?” or “Is Netflix Worth it on the Wii“, or read reviews on gadgets your thinking about buying. I’ll let Veronica take it from here…
Why the change?
I’ve always wanted to work for a company who builds a product I use. Haven’t you ever used a product and been like “damn, I wish it had this feature!”? Or better yet, if your a developer “I wish I could just code this feature for them!” (god bless API’s btw). If you can find a company to work for that’s building a product you would have liked to create anyway, something you can be passionate about, then work doesn’t feel like work any more.
That’s what drew me to gdgt, I used the site since they were in beta. I even went to their launch party in ’09 (watch TWIT at gdgt Launch Party) – I just so happened to be interning in SF at the time and got a chance to attend with my friends Frank Leng (checkout his blog), Jaime Wheeler and Tom Hill (check out his site RigSmith). The event went over so well by the way, it spawned a whole events side of the business (upcoming events on the gdgt Blog).
Anyone who knows me knows I’m pretty addicted to social networks, I’m on just about all them (or so my friends tell me) and have always been fascinated by the social web, so being a developer, getting the chance to help develop a existing social network seems like a great fit.
Joining the Startup Scene
I’ve always wanted to join a startup, it was one of my main reason’s for moving from Canada to SF, and this is the time in my life to do it (I’m young, no wife, no kids, no major debts, less risk). I’ve worked for corporations all my life (Web Developer at QuinStreet, Data Warehouse Architect at IBM, SharePoint Developer at Cognos), all jobs I’ve been lucky enough to say I’ve enjoyed and learned a lot from, which I’m thankful for and is often not the situation when working for 500+ employee corporations. I honestly don’t believe I’d be able to say I’m at where I am today without what I’ve learned at those companies. In particular I learned a lot while I was a web developer in the education vertical at QuinStreet (they run hundreds of high profile websites like schools.com, worldwidelearn.com and onlinedegrees.com), both from the projects I got to work on (including a new found love for PHP Framework CodeIgniter) while I was there and the amazing co-workers I now consider friends.
My parents thought I was crazy at first, “why would you ever give up a reliable job at a successful corporation?!”, but they came around and my family’s been supportive of “going after your dreams”. They understand times have changed since they were my age, it’s not about the “9 to 5 and get out” lifestyle anymore, there’s less of a bridge between your work and personal life now-a-days, so you better find a job you enjoy.
Now here’s an story for you; an example of how people can end up getting jobs in our industry has changed. Like I said before, I was already a user on gdgt and I was getting a lot of emails (gdgt sends you an email when one of your friends does something on the site like asks a question – it’s actually a great feature), so I posted in the feedback section that it would be great to have settings for bulk email notifications, like once a day, or once a week (quite an entertaining post now).
Ryan replied to my feedback, that night, at like 11pm (how many founders do you know are responding to feedback at 11pm on a Saturday?) and said it was on the roadmap “but we’re constrained by how hard it is to find awesome developers to add to the team. Did I mention we’re hiring? Even Canadians, Mitchell!”. I was impressed, that he was willing to do a little background check on me had caught my attention. Ryan pulled my email out of the system (not sure if they’re allowed to do that, but I won’t tell Ryan ) and contacted me directly. I fired off a link to my LinkedIn resume, we had a phone interview and an in-person interview with the team, and the rest ladies and gentlemen is history.
My sister Sheri-Lee McKenna recently helped publish a magazine with some breath-taking visuals of PEI for Prince Edward Island Tourism Advisory Council’s (PEITAC) new tourism strategy – Strategy 2015. Check out the rest of the visuals and the entire magazine at www.peitac.com/2015.
This year, I’m giving my birthday up. I’m turning 23 years old, and instead of asking for gifts, I’m asking for $23 or more (or less, even just $5 because every donation counts!) from everyone I know. It’s not going to me, though. All of it is going to build freshwater wells for people in developing countries.
With the help of charity: water, one of my favorite charities, and one that I’ve been following for years, I’ve started a birthday campaign where I’m asking people to donate for my upcoming birthday on August 6, 2010. Charity:water is a non-profit bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. You can check out my charity:water page at mycharitywater.org/23forMitch.
For my 23rd Birthday
I’m asking you to donate $23
So we can raise $2300
To give 23 families clean drinking water
That’s clean water for almost 123 people!
Most of us have never really been thirsty. We’ve never had to leave our houses and walk 5 miles to fetch water. We simply turn on the tap, and water comes out. Clean. Yet there are a billion people on the planet who don’t have clean water. It’s hard to imagine what a billion people looks like really, but one in six might be easier. One in six people in our world don’t have access to the most basic of human needs. Something we can’t imagine going 12 hours without.
They are very real, and they need our help. They didn’t choose to be born into a village where the only source of water is a polluted swamp. I invite you to put yourself in their shoes; imagine carrying 80 pounds of water in yellow fuel cans every day, digging with your children in sand for water, or lined up at a well waiting 8 hours for a turn.
Could you imagine what it would look like if we had to gather dirty drinking water right here in our cities in North America? It might look a little bit like this…
Now, make a decision to help. It’s not a grand solution or billion dollar scheme, but instead, simple things that work. Things like freshwater wells, rainwater catchments and sand filters. For about $20 a person, we know how to help millions. Start by helping one.
Check out this inspiring video on how charity:water started, and how birthday campaigns came to be…
You can read more about the founder Scott Harrison and how Charity:water got started here. They recently made it to the $2 million mark but still desperately need our help to reach their goal. They supported haiti (for a 2nd time!) after the disaster that struck them. It’s a charity that Adrian Grenier (Vincent Chase, Entourage), Alyssa Milano, and many others support. They have even leveraged the power of twitter by starting Twestival in 2009, an annual fundraiser for charities hosted all over the globe, and raising $250k+ that year for drilling wells in Ethiopia.
One of my favorite qualities of Charity:water is their ability to inspire others (hell, they inspired me to do this didn’t they?), with their powerful imagery, well designed ads, and creative campaigns. For example, check out this powerful promo video featuring “Time Bomb” by Beck which has some pretty staggering facts in it.
Here’s my first attempt at a time-lapse video. It’s of the fireworks display at the 2010 Foster City, CA 4th of July celebrations. Shot on a Flip Mino HD from the 8th floor of the Parkside Towers building. There’s 20 minutes of footage speed up to 4x normal speed to create a 5 minute video. The video was edited using the open source video editor OpenShot. The song is titled The Storm Begins by Jennifer Haines and adds a nice effect to the video. Overall I’m quite happy with how it turned out, I hope you enjoy.
The end of a gaming era. Six years ago, Bungie showed off Halo 2 for the very first time. Let’s see… 2003, that would make me 15! In February 2010, Microsoft had announced that they would be dropping online support for the multiplayer aspect of Halo 2 and that day finally arrived on April 15, 2010.
Halo 2 was basically the key reason Patrick and I went halves on a xbox back in the day (halves? hilarious, I know). Halo 2 was how I spent much of Grade 11 and 12 back in high school. I’m just now realizing this is probably the videogame I’ve played the most… in my life. I remember often pulling all-nighters with Jimmy, Spencer, and Matthew as we “schooled N00BZ with our L33T SKILLZ” into the wee hours the next morning.
In honor of the game, on April 15 9pm-2am EST developers at Bungie went online to play a couple final rounds with the public, to give it a fitting send off. “See you on the battlefield, Seventh Column. One last time”.
Halo 2 was the most popular video game on Xbox Live, and even held that title until the release of Gears of War for the Xbox 360 nearly two years later. By June 20, 2006, more than 500 million games of Halo 2 had been played and more than 710 million hours have been spent playing it on Xbox Live, and five million unique players on Xbox Live. Halo 2 is the best-selling first-generation Xbox game with 8.46 million copies sold worldwide, with at least 6.3 million copies sold in the US alone.
Check out this post where Bungie asked some of their key developers from Halo 2 to share some of their fond memories of the game.
Montages such as the one below have been cycling around the interwebs where gamers have put together some of their favorite memories from the game.
The Olympic torch in Halifax on November 18, 2009. A couple of my friends and I were there for the passing of the torch in front of Dalhousie University Sexton Campus Gym. Nova Scotia native NHL star Sydney Crosby carried the torch & passed it on to Sarah Conrad; Halifax Olympian snowboarder who ran it into downtown Halifax and lit a cauldron in front of Halifax City Hall.
Someone stopped me for a pic while I carried the torch through the Vancouver mountains (jk)
Over 20,000 people gathered into downtown Halifax for the ceremonies. The ceremonies was put on (and heavily sponsored by) RBC and Coke. Performances included a local artist spin painting, musical performance and dance, DJ Skratch Bastid, break dancers, local snowboarders on a man made hill beside the main stage.
Just picking up our torch Crosby dropped it off to us.
After the torch ceremony Classified performed the hip-hop version of Canada’s national anthem “O Canada” (check out the official music video here). My friends Mike and Liz got a change try out an olympic bobsled at the end, lol. Check out my video of clips from the event below.
WordPress 3.0 is projected to be released on May 1st, the same day as WordCamp San Francisco. Since I recently moved to San Francisco, I’m hoping to attend again this year!
Merge of WordPress + WordPress MU
WordPress MU is a similar platform to WordPress except it allows users to run multiple sites under one installation. WordPress.com is running on WordPress MU code base. Founder Matt Mullenweg announced the merge news during WordCamp San Francisco 2009 (I was there!)
What does this mean for you?
You can now have multiple sites in one installation. Say you have 10 different sites, you don’t need 10 different installations of wordpress. Particularly handy when upgrading. WordPress MU users will now be able to use all WordPress.org plugins without hacking them.
Search Across All Your Sites – If you do decide to have numerous sites under one install, cross network search would be a very handy outcome of this, it’s not in the core yet but it may be in the near future. You can use the plugin to make it work for now.
Custom Post Types
This feature will allow you to have different type of posts for example Portfolio listings, Products, and then Normal blog posts. Combining Post Types and Taxonomies will make WordPress a much more robust CMS option. Check out First Impression of WordPress Post Types by Frank of WPEngineer for more on this.
Better Navigation Menus
Custom Woo Navigation will be included to the core in this release in order to allow for better menu management. This menu system has the drag and drop ease of the widget management screen. It also allows the ability of re-ordering, along with submenus, and hiding specific Pages or Categories from the menu altogether. Kudos to Woo Staff for contributing this system to the core.
New Default Theme 2010
Bye Bye Kubrick Theme! Welcome 2010. WordPress 3.0 will come with a new default theme known as 2010. From this year on, the goal is to have a new theme for every year! Wondering what the new 2010 theme would look like? (Just click on the image below to see the live version.)
Custom Background Support
Kind of a twitter-background like feature. Support for custom background can be called by adding this line in your functions.php: add_custom_background();
You’ll see a screen in your admin panel to upload a custom background image which will replace the default grey background (only works on 2010 theme & others that support this feature for now).
Author Specific Templates
In WordPress 3.0, you can create specific templates for each author. The function get_author_template(); has been expanded in wp-includes/theme.php.You would be able to name files like author-syed.php.
Ability to Choose Username When Installing WordPress
As of now, WordPress automatically assigns the first user with the username “admin”. If you have read any articles on WordPress security, you know the importance of this feature. Now the hackers cannot guess your username because it will no longer be “admin”.
Have you used a plugin that you loved, and the author stopped providing support. No bug fixes, no upgrades, and the plugin eventually breaks in newer versions. Canonical plugins are developed by a community instead of one developer, so if one person steps down, the plugin does not die. Using the open source development model basically.
Today Google announced a new “social” part of Gmail called Google Buzz. I find this a strange coincidence after just last week I was discussing if we should just give up on Google as a “Social Entity” – turns out, Nope.
1. You will automatically follow the people you e-mail and chat with on a regular basis.
2. You can share content from around the Web, including YouTube, Picasa, Flickr, and Twitter.
3. You will be able to share your thoughts in a public way and in a private way.
4. You will get social updates in your inbox.
5. Google will help you find only the stuff that matters by recommending popular content.
6. The mobile version of Buzz can figure out where you are and show you nearby buzz posts.
Another Friendfeed Clone
It’s a little surprising to see how identical Buzz is to FriendFeed. There’s still a lot of users using Friendfeed (and one of my favorite social networks), but since being acquired by Facebook it’s not keeping up with integrating new services or innovating. The Buzz team has also been able to lift some of the best ideas from FriendFeed. You can “like” items, comment on them, and you can see who liked a post. Which looks identical to FriendFeed’s implementation of this feature (see RWW‘s screenshot below).
Sadly Buzz is missing one of Friendfeed’s best noise cancelling features where you can ‘hide’ certain types of posts. This features is quite handy if you don’t wanna see someone’s picasa posts, a custom RSS feed, or a noisy twitter user for example, without having to necessarily un-follow them.
Another vital Friendfeed feature Buzz is missing is Groups (previously known as Rooms). With Friendfeed Groups you can see updates related to specific topics of interest to you. For example, one can follow people posts related to Apple, Web Design, Google, Facebook, etc. This includes posts from people you aren’t currently following. This means 1) You’ll be able to find new friends of common interests and 2) When you post to a group, people who aren’t following you (but are following that Group) will see your post as well, giving your post more exposure. In Buzz, you can post to a group of friends you create in a friends list, but you can’t follow other people friends lists, so Buzz is missing out on this great social feature.
Focus on Mobile
Unlike Friendfeed however, Google Buzz seems to have a focus on mobile.
Just last week I was chatting with my good friend Dylan Blanchard (over a game of pool) about Google’s failed attempt at making Google Reader social. It’s almost impossible to build a conversation around the items you share. But Buzz might give Google Reader the social features we’ve all been waiting for.
Anything you share in Reader will automatically be posted to Buzz. Comments are even shared between both products, so you can view and participate in the conversation wherever you’d prefer.
A shared item in Reader (background) and Buzz (foreground)
And don’t worry, you don’t have another list of friends or followers to manage. The people you follow in Reader are the same people you follow in Buzz – those you’ve already chosen to follow in Reader, plus the people you email and chat with the most in Gmail.
Some great news for the other lifestreaming and open standard fanatics out there…
Over the next several months Google Buzz will introduce an API for developers, including full/read write support for posts with the Atom Publishing Protocol, rich activity notification with Activity Streams, delegated authorization with OAuth, federated comments and activities with Salmon, distributed profile and contact information with WebFinger, and much, much more.
1. One major mistake I believe is that they’re introducing Buzz as part of Gmail. If they introduced it as it’s own service at http://google.com/buzz , and adding it into your gmail was just a feature, it would be far more successful.
2. Although most people have a Google Account, this will not be useful for the many people who don’t use gmail for their email client. As well, these users will also have minimal existing google contacts.
3. This could also be quite annoying for people who try to keep social networking noise separate from email, especially with all the emails that people have cc’ed you on a post, liked or commented on one of your posts. (Edit: This can be solved with the use of a Gmail filter)
4. For those who use gmail for professional and business connections, they may need to have a different GMail account for their social connections. (Buzz uses Google Contacts where you can define various friend lists for services like GTalk & Reader, so Google may be able to solve this problem that way).