Lilium Inter Spinas
A word about words. For my URL I have chosen “herbsstag” (Autumn Day), the German title of one of my favourite poems by Rilke, which you will find here in translation. For my title I have chosen “Lilium Inter Spinas" which is Latin for "Lily Among Thorns" and is a play on my surname which is Italian for "lily." The expression itself is biblical in origin (it’s from the Song of Songs 2:2), and has rich symbolic associations, and has even been set to music. 

A word about words. For my URL I have chosen “herbsstag” (Autumn Day), the German title of one of my favourite poems by Rilke, which you will find here in translation. For my title I have chosen “Lilium Inter Spinas" which is Latin for "Lily Among Thorns" and is a play on my surname which is Italian for "lily." The expression itself is biblical in origin (it’s from the Song of Songs 2:2), and has rich symbolic associations, and has even been set to music


The thing speaks for itself.  Patty’s new album proves once again that she is simply the best singer-songwriter ever.

The Low Anthem — Apothecary Love

An amazing song and an amazing performance!

Fr. Michael Pfleger: What does social justice look like? 

"I dare you to leave your comfort zone. I dare you to leave your safe church, your safe faith place. I dare you to go where the pain is. Don’t just send a check. Don’t just pray from in church. Go where the pain is.  And feel it, and see it, and see the anguish and see the tears and see the hurt. Go where injustice is. Go where the marginalization is….choose, like Dr King said ‘I choose to identify with the poor, I choose to identify  with the outcast , I choose identify with those thrown to the side of the road…’ I charge you and charge me to have the courage to ask the prophetic questions to a world that seems like it has become well-adjusted to injustice.”

Solidarity singers faced down a new set of state policies intended to regulate and put a price on assembly and free speech at the Wisconsin state capitol, Monday.

My Brightest Diamond — I have never loved someone.

Prepare to be wowed!

We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis (1856-1941)

Justice Brandeis entered Harvard Law School in 1875 without a formal college degree, and broke academic records there. President Woodrow Wilson named him to America’s highest court as its first Jewish member. While serving on the Supreme Court, he wrote of the right to privacy and defended civil liberties. Brandeis University in Massachusetts is named after him.

On November 17th, we’ll be releasing our interview with his great-grandson, Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, in which he speaks about the the social gospel movement and how it may be resurfacing in a renewed interest for authenticity.

(via beingblog)

Mic Check! Love it!!

Social Media Analytics (Week 6, 30/10)

There are two possible outcomes: if the result confirms the hypothesis, then you’ve made a measurement. If the result is contrary to the hypothesis, then you’ve made a discovery.          — Enrico Fermi

As an online communicator, my ambition is that my measurements should always outweigh my discoveries.  Whether or not that is ultimately the case, I identify here some of the tools that might help me on my way: 


(1) Kred

The appealing features of this service include its transparency, its primary focus on individual players (“trusted friends and subject matter experts”), and the ability it offers to assess influence in the community context.

It measures both influence (the ability to inspire action in the form of retweets, replies, likes, new follows, +1s etc.) and outreach (based on generosity as reflected in sharing, interacting with others, initiating conversations and the like).

It offers “a fully transparent influence measurement system.” Reach and influence are quantified in normalized scores and fully and transparently documented in Activity Statements accessible to the user. The user can actually understand what the scores mean! Knowing precisely how her actions influence her score offers the user insight into how it might be improved.

In addition to an overall network score, users can are assigned scores for each of the communities formed around their interests, facilitating the identification of key community influencers. An individual’s community score is to a certain extent qualitative, so that an engaged and respected member will quite rightly have a higher score than a disinterested person regardless of the relative number of followers that each has.

The service also allows individuals to add real-life/offline recognition and honours to their scores, thus ensuring a certain degree of consistency between online and offline influence.

Another useful feature the Kred offers in the ability to scan Twitter for trending topics by community and to surface fresh content that your followers have not published.

Finally, scores are also provided measuring the influence and outreach of a community as a whole within the greater network, enabling the user to identify appropriate conversation partners and to focus her promotional efforts.

(2) Bitly

Most appealing about this service is its simplicity. I like way it combines a utility (a link shortener) with a measurement tool (that confers the ability to track and analyze the link’s subsequent use).

Every link is assigned an info page which tracks the number of clicks (including the number of clicks for links to the same page created by other users), the time frame for each click, the location of each clicker, the nature of referring sites, and the use of the link in conversations on Twitter (tweets) and Facebook (shares, likes, comments).

For added convenience, it offers a bookmarklet that allows you to monitor activity from a sidebar in your browser, and can be readily integrated with other services like Tweetdeck, Twitterfeed and Qwitter.

(3) StatCounter

Since I have a Tumblr blog, I have a special interest in tools that measure blog traffic.  StatCounter in one such service, which, in addition to offering a hit counter and tracking the number of unique vistors to the site,  provides in-depth statistical reports based on more than thirty criteria. These reports enable the user to construct rich profiles of site vistors , including what sites they came from, their entry and exit points, the keywords they used to find you, the search engines they used, how long they stayed on your site, whether they are new or returning visitors, their geographical location, what type of browser and operating system they use and the display resolutions of their devices. Armed  with this information you can optimize your site content and functionality to ensure you meet your communications objectives and streamline the user experience to ensure that they come back for more. 


(1) offers a variety of online reputation monitoring and management services to individuals and organizations.

I am especially partial to its services for individuals, which in my view are empowering, and in that sense go against the grain of the social web.

The best among these is myprivacy, which finds and removes personal information from dozens of websites and continuously monitors the Internet to ensure that that information remains private.  It allows the individual to monitor progress from a personal privacy dashboard.  Other services it offers include those which optimize browser privacy settings, block ad-tracking software, and facilitate filtering of unwanted email. for businesses enables organizations to effectively bury negative search results and to create and optimize web content that surfaces a positive image in search results.

Faith-based solidarity is a beautiful thing! From a statement by groups supporting the protesters: “As Christians, we stand alongside people of all religions who are resisting economic injustice with active nonviolence. The global economic system perpetuates the wealth of the few at the expense of the many. It is based on idolatrous subservience to markets. We cannot worship both God and money.”

A program called Occupy the URL, launched on Tuesday, will turn any website into a protest, complete with pop-up photos of Occupy Wall Street protesters. Users need only insert the URL they wish to occupy.

Alleluiah! Amen!

In Defence of the CBC: Issues Management and Social Media Strategy (Week 5, 23/10)

The CBC has found itself at the centre of controversy in recent weeks.  There is currently a Parliamentary Committee investigating its involvement in litigation (funded at taxpayers’ expense) with the Information Commissioner over its repeated resistance to access to information requests, many of them brought by QMI media in an apparent effort to discredit the public broadcaster.  

This controversy arises, not coincidentally, following the election of a Tory government bent on dismantling public services for purely ideological reasons — as its attacks on the Canadian Wheat Board and the long gun registry so richly illustrate. 

Now there are legitimate reasons for the litigation, not the least of which is an ambiguous law that exempts the CBC from the obligation to turn over information relating to “journalistic, programming and creative activities.”  QMI’s concern (to some extent legitimate, despite its obvious interest in eliminating the CBC as a competitor) is that the CBC is misusing the exemption to insulate itself from public scrutiny of its $1 billion annual budget.

Just as QMI principal Pierre Péladeau was set to appear before the Committee, the CBC released a fact sheet (which currently I can’t seem to access) suggesting/alleging an apparent lack of accountability on the part of QMI in own its receipt of public funding.   Although the release had good pick-up in the Twitterverse, and quite apart from the fact that QMI is now threatening litigation, I don’t think this was the best approach for the CBC to take.

At the very least, the fact sheet might have been more effective coming from an independent civil society organization that supports public broadcasting. To be clear, I am not suggesting an astroturfing strategy — there are any number of civil society organizations — the Council of Canadians to cite on obvious example (a public sector journalists’ association might be another) — that could legitimately express the same concerns.

That aside, I am inclined to agree with Matt Gurney’s argument here that the CBC should change its position and adopt a more liberal policy towards the release information (included expense-related data) that does not clearly relate to the maintenance of journalistic integrity or the protection of sources.

It could then seek through social media to engage the public in a mature, adult, factual and non-ideological conversation about the real benefits of public broadcasting, using its extensive list of Twitterers — that includes many prominent and influential media personalities — to shape the conversation — and opening its Facebook pages to wider public participation (for instance by allowing folks to author their own posts — on this page, for instance, folks can only comment on CBC’s own posts), all with a view to mobilizing the public against proposed cuts.  In furtherance of the campaign, members of the public in underserved regions of the country could be encouraged to create YouTube videos testifying the significance of the CBC in connecting them to the political, social and cultural life of the nation.

"The uprisings that have shaken the Arab world were galvanised by photographs and videos taken by ordinary citizens using their mobile phones.

Spread via social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, these images offered the outside world a glimpse inside countries such as Tunisia and Egypt as the people took to the streets to overthrow their dictators and to demand justice.

These images publicised their cause and spurred on would-be revolutionaries elsewhere, in the process transforming ordinary citizens into citizen reporters who could circumvent state-run media to tell their story.”

Best Practices in Online Community Management (Week 4, 16/10)

I think Grocery Gateway’s Facebook page exhibits the hallmarks of good community management.  They appear to have a dedicated community manager who responds directly to customer service issues in a personalized way, both on their wall and via email (for more complex matters). They are willing to tolerate a certain amount of risk in allowing customer complaints on their wall (in one case highlighting the non-delivery of a Thanksgiving turkey).

The messaging on their wall features items that are not strictly related to their business: including seasonal greetings, comics (on such topics of Labour Day, back to school, and a weekly Monday piece), local events (like the film festival and family fruit picking at Whittimore’s Farm). They also highlight the company’s contribution to various philanthropic/CSR related activities (including breast cancer awareness, support for local farmers and the benefits of their service for the elderly, and the disabled among others), allowing room for customers to recommend their own.  Some of the more traditional forms of marketing collateral (like recipes, contests , coupons and flyers) are in evidence as well.

They appear to pursue an integrated approach to social media; they have a dedicated page on Facebook that reproduces postings to their Twitter feed (including tweets and re-tweets). They  seem to address some customer service concerns via Twitter, and the Twitter page features numerous testimonials from satisfied customers (leveraging the power of neutral third party recommendations).

They also have a polling page that is maintained by Kremsa, a firm of digital strategists and consultants based in California.

Via Rail exhibits a similar approach. Once again they have a dedicated community manager who responds to customers using his own name (Richard. M.).  The Facebook page directs users to clearly defined rules of engagement . They have a presence on YouTube and Twitter as well.

The YouTube videos are commissioned for the most part by Via itself, highlighting, among other things, the historical importance of rail travel to the growth of the nation and to new Canadians.  It reminded me of Spirit of the West’s “It’s not just a train” (it’s freedom to leave). The Facebook page, by contrast, features user-generated content, including photographs and videos . There is a page dedicated to “Vivian’s Stories” wherein Vivian solicits users to post their “impressions and travel experiences.”  There is a link out to Via Vivian’s blog which highlights some of her own experiences as a “curious traveler who loves taking the train” in different areas of the country, and top-ten lists of user-generated photos taken from or of trains. You can subscribe to the blog via RSS and there are links from it back to Facebook and Via’s Twitter feed. Finally there is a Facebook page dedicated to promotions where customers can search and browse destinations and fares.

While I think that they might perhaps make a more personalized use of Twitter, and reveal a little more about Vivian, on the whole I think that their efforts successfully create a positive (if not romantic) response to the idea of train travel, which would certainly incline me at least to consider taking the train instead of flying.