change the world – Stay N Alive

To Whom Much is Given, Much is Required

Just the other day a kind Single mother was nice enough to share a story with me about how, as a newly Single mother, one of my books had helped her get off the ground and start her own business.  It’s something I never thought of before, and I admit, I was very touched (and still am).  I think some times we don’t think about the potential of what it is we share and do with our talents and knowledge.

I just found this video about a High School girl with Muscular Dystrophy whose fellow Cheerleaders thought of what being a Cheerleader would mean to someone who would otherwise never have the chance.  It made me think about how important it is for us to be thinking about those around us.  When we are given talents and strengths, are we using those strengths to also strengthen those around us?  Here’s her story:

Yes, I cried too.

Changing the World Quite Literally Through Social Media

The rumor is out – I thought I’d make it official.  This week I have started as the new Social Media Architect for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  In summary, I am in charge of the architecture and integration of Social Technologies for the Church.  I will be in charge of finding ways that make sense to integrate technologies such as Facebook Connect, the Twitter API, @Anywhere, OpenSocial, Google Buzz, Google Wave, FOAF, Google’s Social Graph APIs, OpenID, and just about any other Social technology you can think of in to the Church’s web properties.  This is quite a task!

The LDS Church (also called “the Mormons” by others) has some of the most visited websites on the internet.  I’ve talked about it before. As of now,, the Church’s site for members of the Church, ranks at number 2,460 in Alexa rankings.  The Church has the largest database of genealogical information in the world.  The Church has one of the largest philanthropic organizations in the world, contributing significantly to the efforts in Haiti, Chile, and many other causes (you can donate over on the right).  The Church’s Relief Society is the largest non-profit womens organizations in the world, contributing to the welfare, support, and moral guidance and relief of women throughout the world.  The Church has a global audience, speaking just about every language you can think of, and the Church’s technology has to support that audience.

That’s why this is such an incredible opportunity.  Never in my life have I had the chance to support such a large, global audience in a way that could impact so many.  I see the use of Social Media enabling the Church to reach into areas and touch people in ways it was never able to do before.  I see Social Media enabling the Church to help more people, strengthen, and make the world a better place without boundary.  I will get to not only use Facebook and Twitter to help others benefit society, but on a global scale I’ll get to use Orkut, Hi5, Bebo, and other global networks, and find ways to deeply integrate these technologies into the work the Church is doing, on a global scale and to a mass audience.

Will this affect my business, SocialToo?  I anticipate not.  I am taking a leap of faith here for something I feel has an even greater effect to change the world, but my intention is to continue running SocialToo part-time (at least).  As it needs more attention we will see where things go at that point.  I don’t anticipate anything changing on SocialToo, and I also expect some really amazing new features, new partnerships, and more to appear, even while I am fulfilling my position at the LDS Church.

“I don’t like X about the LDS Church” — I don’t intend to respond to many of these comments, and if they’re persistent I may remove or block them – IMO they are irrelevant to the position I hold.  I am responsible solely for the Social Media-related technologies of the Church, nothing else.  Any post here I make in representation of that position will be technology focused, not Church Policy focused.  I’ve made it clear my intentions are to make the world a better place with this position.  It doesn’t matter what your personal beliefs or motivations are – I think we’re all in this purpose together, and IMO, that’s what matters most.  I hope you can support me in this.  I hope to work for better standards in the realm of Genealogy.  I hope to work for better, more friendly International standards, and better ways people can communicate globally in different languages.  I hope what I do can change the poverty levels, and the welfare of the world through technology.  That is my purpose.

There is no better job where I can “do no evil” better than in what I’m doing now.  This is something where I feel I can truly make a change for the better.  Will it help my faith, my religion? You bet!  What I’m most excited though is the effect this position will have on the world.  My faith and my religion are entirely centered around that, and my hope is that I have an effect on this more than anything else.

Have any questions? Please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments and elsewhere.  I’m very happy, as always, to answer questions and discuss these matters and my beliefs in the Church especially.  You can definitely expect much more from me on some of the related technologies we’re working on as I am able.  I’m excited to where this leads!  There is something very powerful about Social Media technologies and the potential they have to change the world.

As always, the content of this post and any other post on this blog are my own opinions, not the reflections of my employer, nor an official statement on my faith or religion.  Any comment or post outside official LDS Channels are my own opinion and views.

Create for a Cause

Recently here in Salt Lake City we had the opportunity to have Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google visit. While I didn’t have the chance to see it, reading about it, he seemed to talk about a common worry I hear throughout this State. Here in Salt Lake City and around the area we have a lot of successful businesses! From my Uncle’s, to Omniture, to Mozy, to Novell, Wordperfect, and many others, there’s no shortage of success in this area. It’s a hotbed of talent and technology the world doesn’t give enough credit for. The problem is that we have no Yahoos or Googles or Facebooks or Microsofts to give us credit for that success. We have no home-grown success story that didn’t eventually sell out for big bucks to one of the big West Coast companies.  I think this is a common problem for many areas.  Why is this?

Eric Schmidt tried to come up with his own reasons in response to Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, who (Hatch) stated, “We get a corporation going and it has some tremendous ideas and all of the sudden someone comes up from Silicon Valley and buys it and takes it back there.” Schmidt responded, saying, “I don’t know whether [improving the situation means] globalizing the business. I don’t know whether we need more venture capitalist presence in Utah or maybe just more experience building the businesses from the startup. It’s not that businesses aren’t getting started, it’s that once started they aren’t growing the businesses fast enough.” So what is it that keeps the Googles or Microsofts from staying in Utah (and other states) rather than staying here and growing to compete with the big guys?

I’ve suggested the PR problem before. That’s just one problem Utah has – a lack of enough tech bloggers to get the word out to Silicon Valley. One other common problem I see in Utah is we get greedy. I’m not even saying that’s a bad thing. Too many Utah startups are focused on the money rather than an underlying cause that motivates their revenue stream. That’s part of the reason Utah businesses have been successful – we have some of the smartest business people in the world right here. Even Eric Schmidt confirmed that, stating that “Utah is one of the best places to do business.” We know how to make money! Unfortunately that’s what differentiates us from the West Coast companies like Google however.

I argue it all revolves around cause. Let’s look at Eric Schmidt’s company itself, Google. Everything they do centers around one central cause, “Do no evil”. It doesn’t even matter if they have purpose. Everything they do must be done “the right way”, even if they lose money from it. Some even argue this has become a PR pitch for them as well. Google is willing to lose money for their cause, yet they are also making money because of it. It’s an amazing strategy.

Facebook also does this well. I’ve done a lot of work with Facebook with 2 books on the company and several apps written around their platform. When you interact with them and their employees, you get a common theme from them: They are doing all they can to enable people to share in bigger and better ways. Their vision is to help you share without risking privacy. Everything they do revolves around that – their revenue model is built around their cause.

Twitter is building “the pulse of the internet”.  They want to enable better communication between anyone in the world. They’ve forgone revenue to ensure that takes place (yet they’ve been able to raise a ton of capital, I realize, but I argue that’s part due to their cause).

I see the same thing from company to company in the Bay Area and even up in tech hotbeds like Seattle (home of Amazon, Microsoft). These guys all drive revenue based on purpose! While there are currently a few exceptions, I don’t quite see this in Utah and other states, especially amongst the larger startups. It’s all business.

Eric Schmidt also stated that “It’s not an attitude problem, it’s an availability problem. To me, it’s recruiting new talent into the state and growing new talent. It’s really people and expertise and that’s the way to make it happen.” Guess what drives and keeps talent? Motivation. If people have cause to work for they come, and they stay, and they work hard at it.  I remember at (a Utah company), our mantra was “We use the gear we sell”.  Employees loved that because all kinds of incentives were given to get employees using their cool gear, and the employees loved that!

80% of Utah’s population is in the Salt Lake City area. Schmidt suggested this was an incredible opportunity for people to connect. I think we just need motivation to encourage that connectedness. Motivation is what makes the Googles and Facebooks and Microsofts of the world.

If you’re a startup, anywhere, what are you building on top of? Where are your foundations? Are you building for money or for purpose? I know as I build my business I’m going to be thinking much, much more about changing the world and less about the money I make as a result of that. The money will come naturally. That is how you build Google, and keep it there.

What’s your cause? What businesses do you think do this well? Please share in the comments.

EDITORS NOTE: 2 Companies in Utah that I think are doing really well at this are Phil Windley’s Kynetx and Paul Allen’s FamilyLink.  When you interact with them you can sense their cause.  It bleeds through the company.  People are sacrificing time and money just to be sure their cause is getting through.  As a result, Paul Allen’s company was recently ranked one of the fastest growing companies on COMScore, and recently, according to, surpassed his old company, in traffic.  Cause eventually pays off!  I encourage you to learn what they do – they won’t be going away any time soon.

Source of Eric Schmidt Comments: