Changing the World – Stay N Alive

Families Can Be Together Forever

I hope you’ll forgive this diversion from tech so I could share something that touched me.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (my employer, and Faith) just released this video and I just had to share it.  It’s based on a song I’ve sung since a kid.  In my faith this carries a particularly powerful message.  It’s called, “Families can be Together Forever”.  Here are the words:

I have a family here on earth.
They are so good to me.
I want to share my life with them through all eternity.

Families can be together forever,
through Heavenly Father’s plan.
I always want to be with my own family
and the Lord has shown me how I can.
The Lord has shown me how I can.

Be sure to watch the video below:

You can learn more about what Mormons believe about family on

to End Poverty

If you’re wanting to do something good on January 21st and 22nd, save the date, book a flight and a hotel, and come to Utah for what is certain to be an unprecedented event.  The lack of precedence is perhaps not just because of its potential to make a big dent in poverty and homelessness, but perhaps also that it’s being organized by a High School Senior.

The Conference, called “Hacking Poverty”, or , as Zach Stay, it’s founder calls it, is a conference whose sole intent is to gather together developers to group together, come up with ideas, and build software to fight poverty.  Zach, who is also my cousin, hopes to organize groups around various software projects, create those software projects, and then release the code and technology as open source software that other Humanitarian organizations can then use freely.  The format of the conference is a lot like Phil Windley’s (also from Utah) Internet Identity Workshop, where ideas will be presented, and people can choose which cause they want to participate in and discuss as a group.

Thus far, several projects have been proposed:

  • “Building a Fighting Poverty Apps Store”
  • “Twitter GPS Locator App”
  • “First Aid App”
  • “Tsunami Twitter/SMS Broadcaster”
  • “Medical Twitter Broadcaster”
  • Medical “ChaCha”

You can read more about those over on the Hacking Poverty website.  You can also submit your own via their form.

In addition to the above, I plan to announce a new way I think can completely end Street Begging and truly feed and put a shelter over the heads of those that really need it around the world.  I’ll be announcing that shortly on this blog, and I hope to recruit volunteers to help with it at the Conference.  If you come for anything, be sure to come for that, as I’m sure it’s likely to turn heads.

Zach Stay has great blood, and it’s not from me.  His Dad, Tim Stay (my Uncle), is also one of the founders of Unitus, the micro-funding group which has made significant strides in fighting poverty in Africa and other areas of the world.  Zach’s got some of the best council around and its bound to show in this conference, and I can guarantee the conference will have an effect as a result.

If you get a chance, and you have any talent at all, come and offer to help.  It doesn’t have to be coding either.  If you can blog about the event, share it with your friends, Tweet about it, or share it on Facebook, that’s one step towards ending poverty.  If you have video talents and can help broadcast the event for people that aren’t attending, let Zach know.  If you have graphic design skills, or project management skills, or marketing skills, there is a place for you in these projects I feel.  While this is a conference for developers, I think everyone can have a role.  If you can offer something, please contact Zach and the Hacking Poverty team via  Or, at a minimum, donate to the event via this Paypal link.

If you can come out to Utah, or you’re already in Utah, come on out to this event on January 21 and 22.  The skiing’s great this time of year.  This is going to be a groundbreaking conference, which could be the start towards the end of poverty in the world.  Will you please join us?

Just go here to register. The conference is free!  If you need help finding a good hotel let me know in the comments and I can make several good recommendations.  If you need me to help you convince your employer to give the day off on Friday to attend, I’ll make a personal call for you – just let me know.

Thanks to Chris Pirillo and Kelly Clay for kicking this off tonight.  Check out Kelly’s article over on Lockergnome for more details about the conference.

Want to Give me a Christmas Present? Please Like This.

Fighting the homeless is something near and dear to my heart, especially when it’s at home.  I have a non-profit idea I’ll share here later which I may pursue at some time and I think could completely (or closely) eradicate the problem of homelessness.  This Christmas I’m thinking a lot of those that are less privileged, and even if not homeless, hungry.  That’s why I’m supporting the Utah Food Bank this Christmas.

If you give me anything this Christmas season, will you please just click like on this page, supporting Salt Lake City’s food bank?  If we can get enough people to like it Salt Lake City’s food bank earns $1 million to distribute to the needy.  This year is of particular need for the Utah Food bank.  In a down economy, they are seeing increasing need for help, with a shortage in what they are able to provide.  They claim this year to have a 30 percent increase in the number of families coming for food.

Will you please give to me this Holiday season by giving to the homeless and clicking “like”?  This will be one of the greatest gifts you can give to me this season, and even great would be if you could blog about it and share it to your friends as well.  Again, here’s the link – just click “like” on the following page:

To help, here is a box you can use to like it (just click “like” here!):


Paying it Forward

Based on my last post I know you commenters and readers are out there.  My last post was all about me.  This post is, quite sincerely, about you and I hope I can see the same response from my commenters as I did that last article – I really mean that.  The Blogess recently wrote an incredibly heartfelt post that really inspired me.  If you haven’t read it yet, please go over there, read it, then read the comments for the article, which are the best part.  Because of one sincere offer by The Blogess to offer free gift cards to her readers, people are coming out of the woodwork, sharing such touching stories of poverty, need for this season, daughters who plea for their laid off fathers, wives who just want some groceries this season.  I admit I cried a little when I read it.  I realized I owe it to my readers to share, at least a little of what I have to those of you in need.  I’d love to see a Techmeme meme around other bloggers doing the same – we owe it to each other.  These are tough times.

I’m going to do the same thing as The Blogess.  I am definitely not wealthy, and I have a family of 6 (soon 7) to pay for this Christmas, but I want to give at least what I can of the good fortune I have.  I do feel really blessed, and a lot of that is because of you.  If you and your family are in difficult circumstances this Christmas, please let me know and I’ll give a $30 Amazon Gift Certificate to 3 of those who seem worst off in the comments.  If you don’t want to reveal your name, please use a fake one (I use Disqus, but you can create a fake Disqus profile – if anyone has difficulty with that please email me).  Just use your real email address, which no one but me sees, and I’ll email you the $30 Amazon Gift Certificate, no questions asked.

A lot of you are really in need this Christmas.  This is the best thing I think I can do at the moment – I know it’s not a lot, but I do feel like I need to pay it forward.  At the same time, if you, my readers would like to donate to any of those in the comments in need, please let me know in the comments (again, including your email), and I’ll arrange to have your gift sent to those who have needs.  Let’s help each other out this Christmas.  The economy is dismal at the moment.  I know many of you are struggling.  Please, let me, and my other readers help.

If you share any blog post of mine I beg you to share this one.  This, to me, is one of the most important posts I’ve ever written, and it’s my gift to you.  Please retweet it, share it on Facebook, Google Reader, or tip it on Techmeme. Please do it for those in need.

How will you give up your Christmas?

Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s "Hallelujah Chorus"

This video, featuring Handel’s Messiah by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was put together in partnership with BYU TV just for Youtube.  I think it’s a beautiful piece.  Many people, Christian and not, can’t imagine the holidays without this amazing Choir.  I think back to “Mr. Krueger’s Christmas” (with Jimmy Stewart), something close to my family, which my Grandfather (and namesake) produced – perhaps one of the most famous cameos by the Choir.  Their weekly broadcast, “Music and the Spoken Word”, recently won a Radio Hall of Fame entry for being the longest running Radio Show in America.  You’ve seen them singing around the world, in front of the Whitehouse, at the Olympics, and even comforting America after 9/11.  Ronald Reagan called them, “America’s Choir.”

It’s been an honor working with them recently, although I admit, working with them has been not anywhere near as effective as just letting their talent and beautiful voices speak for themselves.  Please enjoy this video and, if you like it, share it with someone else you think it might touch:

Are You Inspiring Others This Holiday Season?

When I was about 16 or 17 years old I liked to sing in the car. A lot.  One time I was driving somewhere with my parents and they had a song, of which one I can’t really remember, but I started to sing along with it.  It was probably one of many times I would sing along in the car with my parents, but this time my parents complimented me.  They said, “Jesse you’ve really got a nice voice.  Your singing is really good.”

That compliment really stuck with me.  I had never heard those words from them before about my singing.  I probably wasn’t really as good as they said I was, but the fact was they complimented me and gave me a sense of confidence I never had before.

I came upon the same type of opportunity today as I saw my son singing to some Christmas music we had on for the family (We reserve Monday nights for family in our home – a tradition held by many Mormons).  Truth be told, to my more experienced ears (to the extent you can call, “experienced”) it didn’t sound very good.  But I noticed he was trying.  I took this same opportunity to tell him, “Tom, you have a great voice – you should keep practicing what you’ve got going for you.”  I noticed a little gleam in his eye, a kick in his step as he sang louder.

I wonder if there are times in our lives when we could be complimenting and inspiring each other more, sharing opportunities of encouragement when they come.  I wonder if there are times when we could be lifting up each other, giving each other that little “kick in the step” they need to keep trying harder.

I have entrepreneurs that present new ideas to me all the time.  It always pains me to be honest with them when their idea, at least I feel, is not quite one that will succeed.  Instead, I often point out the positive points of their ideas.  I find areas of inspiration to give them to work harder, ways they can grow their idea and work harder.  Truth be told, they’re going to learn their mistakes on their own, and when they come asking for new ways to improve I’ll be there to help them along the way.  But at least this way I’m giving them the motivation, the encouragement and inspiration to improve.  I’m giving them that extra “kick in their step” to make them work harder, and they’re doing it on their own.

Some times the entrepreneurs I help are like my kids in many ways.  Even though what they’re doing may really be bad I can at least give them the confidence they need to keep trying.  Maybe we need more of this for this Holiday Season.  I’m vowing to try to be more inspiring, more encouraging as I post here, and as I help others in the future and throughout 2011.  It really doesn’t matter if your idea stinks.  What matters is that you feel okay to keep trying.

As I finish up I can hear my son humming the tune to the song we’re hearing now.  He’s trying, and I’m a proud Father.

P.S. – if you really want more inspiring articles like this I highly recommend you check out Brett Nordquist’s blog – his is chock full of these!

Picture of boy courtesy

How do I get People to Interact and Build Lasting Relationships?

Today I received 2 similar requests, so I thought I’d share the answer here so others could learn as well.  The question was, “How do I get people to interact and build lasting relationships?”  Other forms of the question previously have been, “how do I build my followers?” or, “how do I create traffic?”  There’s even a book about it called, “How to win Friends and Influence People.”

While I don’t think the actual answer is very hard, the process does involve hard work.  It shouldn’t be easy.  It’s something that  involves much more than just “creating numbers.”  Actually, the question, “how do I build my followers?” or, “how do I build my traffic?” are probably the wrong questions you should be asking.  The correct question is just what another person asked me today, which you read in the title – how do we build relationships?  How do we build community?  How can you build an audience that will listen when you speak?  Even better:  How do I build an audience of people that listen that have even larger audiences of people who will listen?  I think that’s the key.

When I was asked this earlier, here is how I answered:

“What do you have to offer? Find people that are interested in what you have to offer, and offer to help – it’s pretty much Karma. The more you give, the more you will get back and the more your community will grow. Build cool stuff. Create cool content. Find people that need help and offer to help with the talents you have to offer. The most successful have mastered these things.”

To another person I suggested building a monthly consulting plan where we work gradually towards that goal.  I am worried that person is too focused on numbers though – he will not be nearly as successful.

Earlier I shared my biography of how I got to where I’m at now.  I mentioned an important piece to that puzzle to building influence (in my case, getting published, and building a reputation) was how to network.  I also mentioned to Jolie O’Dell, which she mentioned in a recent piece on Mashable that this is key to aspiring web developers looking to grow their talent (and I argue this can apply to any position out there).  What I haven’t shared is how to network to build that influence.

One of my first memories shortly before I quit my job and started working for myself was Guy Kawasaki visiting Utah to speak.  I heard great things about Guy and wanted to learn from him.  One of the most vivid things I remembered from his presentation was to always tell people after you help them with something, “I know you would do the same for me.”  You see it’s all about Karma – some call it The Golden Rule.  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Find the needs of those that can help you, and find ways you can use your own talents to help them in their needs.  Some call this “Social Capital”, or “Whuffies“, being a form of currency for that Capital.

I actually took Guy Kawasaki up on his offer, funny enough, to Guy himself.  As a software developer working a 9-5 job as I mentioned earlier I followed Guy on Twitter – he was a guy I wanted to learn more about, someone I wanted to learn from.  My Dad always taught me to always surround myself with people smarter than me, people that I look up to and aspire to be.  Social Media: Twitter, Facebook, make this possible and the people don’t even have to know who you are.

Guy mentioned on Twitter that he was looking for a script to automatically follow the people that follow him on Twitter.  It had just so happened that I created one of those for myself, and even published the source code on my blog earlier (there’s an entirely similar story with Chris Pirillo, who I now consider a friend, who inspired me to release that due to a similar need he mentioned on Twitter earlier on – I would be wrong not to mention his influence, as well).  I decided to offer this to Guy.  To my surprise, Guy responded!

To make a long story short, I adapted my script to a format Guy could use, and I even made it so others could use it in a nice, easy to use UI.  Thus became the birth of the service I still run, SocialToo.  In a private message, Guy thanked me for setting that up for him.  He also offered to let me write a post about Facebook on his blog, since I had just published my first book with Jason Alba (which you can read here).  My response to him: “My pleasure – I know you would have done the same to me.”

Several months later Guy approached me again, this time with an idea to publish surveys targeting Twitter and other social networks on SocialToo.  We built the product, I launched it on SocialToo, and it became one of many more features we have added to the service since.  Guy at that point officially became an Advisor to SocialToo, and I consider him a good friend, mentor, and Advisor.

Networking is all about relationships.  It’s about how you can help others.  It’s about opening yourself up, saying, “here’s what I have.  How can I help you?”  It’s not about the numbers.  It’s not even about gaming people by pretending you care in order to get them to like you back.  It’s about building true friendships. It’s about building real relationships.  It’s about really caring.

As you build your strategy, are you trying to build numbers, or are you trying to build stuff that helps others?  How are you changing the world?  How are you building relationships?  How are you touching people?  Look at Gary Vaynerchuck – I believe he calls it, “Crushing it.”  He approaches people that don’t even know him and offers to help, one-by-one.  Today’s he’s a brand that even non-social media folk know and turn to for help.  He did that one-by-one, starting with the comfort of his own Wine Store in New York.  I think you’ll find similar stories for each and every successful person or business out there.

So my suggestion to you: don’t worry about numbers.  Worry about relationships.  If you have one person completely devoted to helping you because they believe in you that’s so much better than thousands of people that barely even know you’re there.  Once you have a large audience, keep in mind you have to shout really loud to get everyone to hear!

Anyway, I thought I’d share this while it was on my mind.  After all, I know you’d do the same for me. 😉 (but really, I do this because I want to help!)

Tragedy Turns Into Inspiration as Thousands Turn to Help Slain Bishop Through Social Media

My heart just tears at the thought of this story as it hits really close to home – I can’t help writing this without a tear in my eye and heaviness in my heart.  A man enters a Visalia, California LDS Church meetinghouse, asks to meet with the leader over the congregation, and gets referred to the Bishop (all Bishops are volunteer, lay clergy in the LDS Church).  He meets with the Bishop, pulls out a gun, shoots him in the foot, then drags him out into the hall and shoots him in the head in front of his congregation and family.  The Bishop, Bishop Clay Sannar, is a husband and Father of 6 sons, ranging from the ages of 14 years and 3 months.  The wife and children are now left without a father, and the Congregation heartbroken as the man who served them was slain doing what he believed to be right, helping the poor, comforting the afflicted, and feeding the needy.  The shooter and the Bishop had never met prior to the event.

There’s a good side to this story though.  Connor Boyack (Twitter), a local Utah activist (he used to manage the Social Media Campaign for Mike Lee for Senate), geek, and I think all around good guy, heard this story and decided to do something about it.  He created a Pledgie campaign, setting a goal of $60,000 to raise for the family that was left behind – that’s $10,000 per boy in the 6-children family.  In just a couple days, they’ve met that goal, and in a single day they are in fact exceeding it and have raised over a thousand dollars just today.  The brother of Bishop Sannar has asked to keep the pledges going, on behalf of the family.

The fundraiser seems to be raising records for Pledgie as well, raising over 45,000 pageviews just in the few days since last night for the site, bringing over 1,100 pledges, and a total of $63,000 for the family.  The fundraiser hasn’t stopped either – it is spreading like wildfire, starting in LDS/Mormon circles, and expanding to many more who feel a need to donate.  It’s inspiring!  It, to me, shows the power and good of Social Media and that there’s a little good in each of us, and while this family will never see their father again, hopefully this effort can at least remove the burden financially for them so they can focus on resetting their life without a Dad.

If you could, would you please donate?  Just a few dollars is sufficient.  If you can’t afford to donate (and even if you can), would you please share this story on your blog, Tweet about it, tip Techmeme, post on Digg (I don’t even care if you do this for my article – feel free to post other articles that explain it better if you like), or whatever you might do to help out?  This family could be any one of us, and their Dad had put his whole life out to help others, even ahead of himself and his family.  Let’s show some good Karma and give back at least a little towards his priceless life and what is left behind.

As I write this, the family is grieving at the Father’s funeral (again, this just breaks my heart!).  These boys will never have their father to go to Scout camp with.  He won’t be able to watch his boys grow up.  While I hope justice is served, let’s show a little compassion and mercy by helping out this family.  Will you please donate?  As a father of 3 boys, this just tugs at the bottom of my soul.  Please help me out, and thank you for any help you can give.

You can do so now by just clicking this widget:

Click here to lend your support to: Help Bishop Sannar

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.

If You Think You’ve Got a Tough Life, There’s Always Someone With Worse

I’ve been meaning to share this for awhile.  This is something the “Mormon Messages” Youtube channel for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints produced recently.  Stephanie Nielson is a popular local Utah blogger who, if you want someone who truly understands life, you should follow. You can follow her blog at the NieNie Dialogues. Or follow her on Twitter here. You won’t get through it without shedding a tear, I promise:


Whenever you’re down, watch this and think, “It could be worse!”.  Stephanie is an inspiration for us all.

Be sure to follow Mormon Messages on Youtube, Facebook, or Twitter for more great inspirational messages produced by the LDS Church.