Month: November 2010

It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness. A swag is a candle to the homeless.

Stop press announcement: Want to help make a global impact with a small gesture? Nominate this project for Oprah Winfrey’s Australia show. Click here

Please nominate Dale King, ex homeless person and ambassador and voice for the homeless in Sydney, and the efforts of IT@AMP Make a Difference project as described hereunder raising $38 0000, and herehere, and here as a uniquely Aussie story for the Oprah Winfrey Show being filmed in Sydney next week.


So, last night I participated in a sleepout with 18 of my colleagues to raise money for buying swag shelters for homeless folks in support of And, yes, it was partly fun, but not so much at 4 am in the morning when rain was dripping on my face, and there was absolutely nowhere to go to escape it.The Shopping Plaza was locked to us and the only option was to get up and start the day-after only 3 hours of fitful sleep.

Critics are of course eveywhere. Some scoffed at a bunch of “fat cat” executives having a sleepout for one night as tokenism at best.They’re not wrong, one night is do-able. I think after one week we’d be pretty stressed people and a lot more in tune with nature, each other and our own humanity.( And I’ve only just been told that there are huge rats that come out at night and scavenge on food scraps. Eeeew!)

Others argued that providing the homeless with a swag shelter is not a solution. They are of course right also.

But that was not what motivated me to participate. I am not trying to solve the problem of homelessness. Smarter and more powerful people have tried and, of course realised it’s not a complex problem, its a complex SYSTEM, and there is an interplay of many variables.

All that motivated me is that for a few, life could be a little different, A little less hostile, With a small measure of control over the odds of waking up at 4 am from water dripping in your face and your bedding soaked.

And a swag shelter achieves that.


It has an “awning” with 2 guide ropes that can be tied to two points, its made from lightweight, waterproof breathable material, and a mesh to keep mosquitoes away and allow ventilation. (see design specs). And it costs only $68-00, less than dinner for two in a very ordinary Sydney cafe or a broadband internet connection for a month.

And more. It’s yours to keep. As Dale, the ex homeless person who is working with shared with us last night when he demo’d the swags, they have a 90% retention rate- whereas blankets get wet, smelly, dirty and are discarded after a while by the homeless folks.

After a warm shower at 5 am in the AMP Gym, a luxury that of course a homeless person wouldn’t have access to, and sitting at my harbourside office window gazing at the old Coathanger obscured by rain and mist, I felt a warm glow inside. What we did may be trivial in the bigger scheme of things, but it has made a difference!



Forty seven people sponsored my sleepout and helped me reach more than $5000, enough to buy 148 swags after it is dollar-matched by the AMP Foundation. Collectively, we raised $18600 which will be dollar-matched to make $37196.00 and make 547 swags available. All contributions received up to 10 December will qualify, so anyone missed out on making a difference, just click through to

We can’t make all the darkness go away, but that shouldn’t stop us from lighting a candle where we can.






Give what you can: How one young artist is making a difference

“Everyone needs to be valued. Everyone has the potential to give something back.” – Diana Princess of Wales

And here’s proof she was right.

In the course of my 10 day campaign to make life a bit more bearable and dignified for homeless folks, not everyone gave money. Some gave none, but they still took the time to read my story, and retweet it or include it in a daily newsletter. I received a LOT of encouragement. 6560 views of my blogpost, 157 tweets and several beautiful comments.

Some gave lots of dollars, and some a little, like my 16 year old daughter who is studying Mandarin in Taiwan and living on only $3 a day after mismanaging her pocket money, gave $10!.

If you still want to make a contribution to our fundraiser, (one swag costs $68-00 but its ok to give what you can) please click here, then “Donate Now”. You can attach your donation to me, Annalie Killian, by selecting my name from the team drop down box. 

 And then, two guys from Dublin Ireland gave something of themselves. Their creativity. These two budding musicians wrote this song: Honest broken Man. Take a listen. 

This is the letter they sent me:

Hi Annalie

My name is Craig , 20 years old from Ireland. 

I’ve written songs and performed them from the young age of 12 and love doing so. 
I have always cared about what’s happening in the world and have always tried to help others when I get the opportunity. 
I love to make a difference and even if that difference is small , I hope it will all add up someday . 
Times are tough at the moment and everyone is moaning and arguing and complaining about how little money 
they have and how they have to sell their expensive cars or ONE of their houses. 

This made me mad when I walked down the street in Dublin one day and seen all the homeless out on the streets 
sleeping with nothing , freezing on their own , but yet not moaning that they have not got what we have.
They are grateful some of them for what little they have. We are in this modern age just greedy and care too much for material goods.

So it was then I decided to write this song , after chatting with a homeless man for a few hours outside 
a pub called “The Village” in Dublin. I realised that this guy was a real nice man , had a family, kids and 
was even trying to get back to college. He had degrees and was a brainy man. But he was out on the street 
because his wife had kicked him out. He did not drink or take drugs. That is why I wrote this song entitled, 
“honest broken man” to show not all homeless are drug takers or alcoholics. This image is stereotypical and 
depicted very wrong.

I hope this song will raise peoples awareness of the homeless and that we need to work 
together to help make a change. I am giveing all proceeds of this song to charity.
So if you would like to purchase it please just email me at
It will a donation only for the song , every little helps, and In a month at xmas I will give all proceeds to the homless shelters here.

Thanks again


Their band is called The Loose Connections. And, you heard their song first on this blog tonight. I do not know Craig, and would encourage him to team up with a payment site that would make it safer and easier for folks to buy his record so that the proceeds can be channelled to where he wants to see them go. 

But how awesome is it that they have invested hours in writing and recording a song, then putting together a video and taking the trouble to reach out to me all the way on the other side of the world in Australia? This is part of a trend we are seeing among the Millenials….its being studied in a project called #FutureofMoney by Futurist Venessa Miemis(speaking at Amplify Festival June 2011) who is looking at The Big Shift in attitudinal change to wealth and money and a deep reaction to the greed and lack of integrity by the leaders who have sold their future down the gurgler. 

Thank you Craig and The Loose Connections for inspiring me with your amazing gift. 

Below is more info about Craig and his band, The Loose Connections, and their YouTube channel if you want to check them out. 

(1 week ago)
So guys this is a sample of what honest broken man , our single will sound like when released a long side our cd!

We are trying to raise awareness with both this song and the video of all the many millions of homeless worldwide in the run up to Christmas. Think about them and how hard these winter nights can be for them.

Please rate comment and like and let us know what you think. It would be great if you could share this video with friends family n twitter facebook or blogs and help raise awareness. 

Thank you so much

(c) 2010 The Loose Connections – Honest broken man – 



Serendipity, relativity and unexpected relevance

The article below struck me as serendipitous. Just a month ago I read the most amazing piece penned by Frank Schirrmacher on the Age of the Informavore, in Edge Thinking, and his postulation that in the future, given the growth of information and our inability to scale fast enough as humans, that we will need machines to filter what we should be paying attention to to cope.

And ….here we are: A content concierge! Neat….At a speech I made a few weeks ago talking about jobs in the future that hadnt been invented yet, I suggested something along the lines of Information Dietician and Sommellier of the Social Stream. #futurecareers

What else do you think we would see emerging? Information beautician? Making data beautiful- the rise of visual thinking and so on, or am I getting carried away?

This article was published at

Editor’s note: Henry “Hank” Nothhaft, Jr. is the co-founder and CMO of Trapit, a virtual personal assistant for Web content still in private beta that was incubated out of SRI and the CALO project (as was Siri, the conversational search engine bought by Apple).

One of the most interesting concepts to emerge in media and tech lately is that of “serendipity”—showing people what they want even if they didn’t ask for it.

Despite its seemingly ubiquitous invocation, however, the concept of serendipity remains ill-defined and put forth as some vague panacea for a slew of emerging innovations hoping to attract new users in droves.  What is needed is a closer look at what we actually mean when we talk about serendipity.

From Search to Discovery

Eric Schmidt’s recent remarks about Google as a “Serendipity Engine” (and Facebook’s quick reply), emphasize an important shift in our daily interaction with the Web and how we use it.  Google-driven search provided us with an expectation of finding what we are looking for with increased precision.  But the rise of Facebook’s social relevance algorithms brought about more personalized content discovery based on the human graph—who we know and what they are reading, watching, or passing along.

In fact, I’d argue that we’re seeing the dominant portion of our interaction with Web content shift from search to discovery.

Jeff Jarvis has perhaps most succinctly defined the concept of serendipity, arguing that serendipity is simply “unexpected relevance.”  His explanation opens an entirely new can of worms, however, in the recognition that relevance is relative.

In seeking to achieve serendipity, the individual reader becomes both the target of content delivery mechanisms and the genesis of what that content may be. This is why serendipity is so closely associated with personalization—it requires a high-resolution understanding of the user.

Serendipity and personalization are in fact two sides to the same coin.  Personalization merely acknowledges intimacy, whereas serendipity pretends to have happened on it as if by accident.

Of course serendipity is not, in fact, at all random. In reality, it’s quite scientific. Good serendipity is a slight of hand—it requires deep and granular knowledge, and the fact of its seeming to happen by accident is an artifact of naivety, if anything.

Serendipity is really just an informed calculation based upon any number of our individually unique interests, habits, location, the time and date, and prior knowledge. This level of relevance is, of course, what the emerging personalized Web hopes to achieve for each user, whether for recommendations (GetGlue; Hunch), marketing and ads (Rapleaf; Facebook advertising), or news and content (my company, TrapIt).

Below I run through four different kinds of serendipity—each has its pros and cons. I end by talking about them all taken together, and “the myth of the sweet spot”.

Editorial Serendipity

Editorial Serendipity is the first and oldest form, the process of combining articles that we know we want to read (the day’s headlines) with unexpected stories (features, profiles, restaurant reviews). Yet the editorial voice and direction of a paper or aggregator is hardly serendipitous; it is a calculation of demographics and readership, whether you’re the New York Times, the Drudge Report, or TechCrunch.

On the plus side here, the human element of editorial serendipity (someone making decisions on what content to deliver) provides an effective flexibility of interest. The downside is that editorial serendipity is delivered by another’s interests, or at best their perception of their audience’s interests. Though the content’s relevance is targeted to a certain demographic of readers, it is a necessarily broad sweep of potential readers, and the level of interest is based on the editors’ perception of what is most in tune with those readers or what she thinks they should be interested in based on her own judgement.

Examples: Newspapers/Magazines, Curated Aggregators

Social Serendipity

Much of our content discovery now comes from the virtual watercooler of what our social circle is sharing directly online. The social aspect of staying informed with what our friends are discussing is valuable, not only for keeping “in the loop,” but also simply for the notion that what our friends like is parallel to our own interests.

The benefit of social serendipity is that our social groups have always been a primary indicator of how we choose to define ourselves and our interests. If something is important or relevant to our friends, there is a high likelihood that it is also relevant to ourselves, as well. The con is that social serendipity is therefore largely public by necessity, and thus a projection of ourselves we would present to others or like to be seen. The propensity to amplify the echo-chamber of like-mindedness is also exaggerated, whereas the goal of serendipity largely lies in the surprise and delight of unexpected content.

Examples: Facebook, Twitter

Crowdsourced Serendipity

Bridging the gap between editorial and social serendipity, the notion of crowdsourced relevance really only delivers a broad, lowest-common-denominator level of content discovery. While not without its usefulness to the degree that we want to be aware of what is most popular and most talked about, the trade-off is the lack of personalization.

The pro here is the viral component, which makes up a great deal of our online content-discovery routines. Crowdsourced serendipity provides a tier of distribution in touch with a larger zeitgeist, from trivial cat videos to important broad-based news. The downside is that the lowest common denominator lacks any precision and therefore has limited utility.

Examples: StumbleUpon, Reddit, Digg

Algorithmic Serendipity

Opposite editorial serendipity, the notion of algorithmic serendipity is the hardest to do well, but the most promising for future innovation. (Bias alert: this is the approach we are trying at TrapIt)

Based-upon any given set of data points, content is personalized to provide both the relevant, need-to-know information of news and content correlating to our interests, with varying degrees of flexibility through both active and passive inputs.

The best aspect of algorithmic serendipity is that it places the user back at the center of defining relevance. Content delivery emanates from the user, whether consciously or in the background based on habit. It also provides for a level of adjustability and fine-tuning based on individualized input and how narrowly or broadly a user may want the information delivered to him.

The con with algorithmic serendipity is that we need to be careful not to completely lose the human element of engagement, no matter how accurate the algorithm is. Of course, the biggest hindrance is that unlike the other forms of serendipity, a finely-tuned algorithmic Serendipity Engine has yet to be effectively realized. Still, it needs to only be the starting point rather than end point of achieving personalized serendipity.

Examples: Genieo, My6Sense, TrapIt

The Myth of the Sweet Spot

The challenge for any conception of serendipity, regardless of type, is the prevailing notion of a mythical “sweet spot” for users.

In all of the forms of content delivery outlined above, there is a notion that we can hone in on a user’s interests and find the right balance of relevance.  Presenting any such balance as stable or definitive is pure folly. We humans have no “sweet spot”—our interests are evolving and fluid in realtime.

To some extent, this recognition is obvious. Our interests change and evolve over time. Yet for the kind of precision that seeks to provide consistent serendipity in the ways we have been discussing, the indicators need to be equally sensitive.

The content that I want, and better yet, the content that I don’t even know that I want, is an ever-changing proposition based on any number of factors. To achieve that level of sophisticated customization requires a sensitive understanding of context for any proposed “serendipity engine”, both a context of the content and the user.

In the end, relevance is a goal based on context. The impossibility of fully understanding every intricacy of context at any given moment makes achieving the mythical, consistent sweet spot of serendipity impossible. Recognizing that serendipity is a constantly moving target of context, the best we can hope to achieve are fleeting moments relevance.

Photo credit: Flickr/Jennifer Konig


Diagram of the year! The behavioural roles that shape culture in Hyperconnectivity


The weblink for this diagram is at who co-designed this with Venessa Miemis. Go to that site and then mouse over each element of the diagram for expanded content.

We are so excited to be welcoming Venessa Miemis to Amplify Festival in 2011– she is going to challenge our thinking at every level and I predict it won’t be long before MIT Technology Review includes her in the top innovators under 35.

You can read her blog called Emergent by Design. A personal favourite is her latest post: Metalogue: The Evolution of Mind, Consciousness and the Web.  Seldom does one meet a digital philosopher so eloquent and capable of puling all the threads together in a language that is accessible to all. Well done! 

Down doesn’t have to mean out: How I am giving thanks this Christmas

Tonight, when it’s raining again,16375 of my fellow countrymen and women who have no home, hearth or hope, will be sleeping on a cardboard box on the street. Again. .3750 have their children with them. 

I came perilously close to fear and desperation after I migrated to Australia in 1999. Caring alone for 2 babies after a horrendous marriage breakup and living off my life savings for 14 months while trying to find a job, I have some idea of how easy it is for even talented and capable people to suddenly experience a reversal of circumstances.

Bad things sometimes happen to good, decent folk. These people are not the dregs of society, and there, but for the grace of God, goes I.

And one Nobel prizewinner, seven Oscar winners, one famous psychologist ( Dr Phil), nine best-selling authors, one knighted person, one recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom,( the USA’s highest civilian honor),  one billionnaire, and a number of award-winning actors and artists. This list of 176 world-famous people all of whom have experienced homelessness at some stage of their lives makes for a fascinating read.

Whilst being down on your luck is a profound lesson in humility and personal resilience, there is NOTHING glamorous about it. And there is nothing glamorous about the sleep-out on cardboard boxes that I will be participating in on 30 November with a number of my caring colleagues. We are raising money to buy 500 swags ( backpack style sleeping bags that are waterproof and mosquito-proof) so that a few folks could have a healthier, more comfortable and dignified Christmas this year. I will be live-blogging and tweeting about this experience, so be sure to subscribe here and follow @maverickwoman on Twitter.

How empathy works: Instead of putting others in their place, we must put ourselves in their place.

If everyone reading this post contributes a swag or two in lieu of a Christmas gift to those who really don’t need another thing (one swag costs $68.00), imagine how many people could experience a warmer, drier and more dignified sleeping solution this Christmas? 

Update as at 27 November: This post has been read 5700 times. But only 32 people have made a contribution so far. With 3 sleeps to go before the sleep-out….. Would you be the next one please? 

Pls click through to , to make your contribution, big or small. It will make YOU feel a much better person, and its a great gift to give not only to yourself, but someone in need of your empathy and humanity.

You can read more here about the organisation that invented these award-winning innovative backpack beds (called a “swag” in Australia – yes, as in “Once a jolly swagman” from the famous Aussie “Waltzing Mathilda” song.)

And here’s how it works.



Innovation in storytelling with Storify

It’s 7 am and I have just woken up. I use my Blackberry for an alarm and so its become my ritual to flick through Twitter to see what the world got up to overnight while I was in dreamland. Yes, I am a Twtter tragic, and yes, I was the one that tweeted that post about Carl Sagan’s quote and Twitter addiction: “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known”. 

And so my friends, at 7am I discover not only that the mouse is dead, killed by the tablet, but also that stories have a new twist, thanks to this brilliant new mash-up technology called Storify

I have been an evangelist of storytelling in corporate life (AMP) since October 2006 when we held our first story slam for leaders, gathering 67 stories all up, and we have grown this year on year and now the whole company is doing it! Yeah! 

So you can imagine my delight to discover new ways to innovate on the theme of stories, alongside this other one I found last week! I have requested a beta account to trial Storify because sadly, the “Mashable” code didn’t work- must have been used up already.  I want to use Storify to tell the stories of the different speakers and topics at the Amplify Festival that I produce. (Next one is June 6-10 2011- have you booked yet?) 

But take a look, here’s the demo of Storify. How will you use it? 


Storify demo from Burt Herman on Vimeo.