Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Cautionary Tale

This is a cautionary tale about how for the want of a valid email address a museum serving the East Bay community for 35 years was lost.

The museum in question is the Hall of Health. Based in Berkeley, California, this is an interactive, hands-on health museum and science center for children and families sponsored by Children's Hospital which funds the project. The museum's doors closed on July 18. Up until this time, the Museum hosted any number of innovative programs, for example, Brain Awareness Week, and demonstrated the real effects of diet and drugs on the body.

So what happened? I spoke with Lucy Day, PhD, who has served as director of the museum since 1992. According to Day, what happened was a domino cascade with all the pieces "falling the wrong way."

The proposal from the Hall of Health was no exception. Day had submitted the proposal to the National Institutes of Health a week in advance of the actual deadline on May 18th. In past years, she explained, the NIH always returned grant proposals before the deadline with an email message calling attention to a correction or omission before acceptance.

Oddly enough, this time none came. Day assumed that with all her past practice, the proposal had sailed through. But after the deadline had passed, staff inquired as to the status of the proposal, and received alarming news. NIH had never received the file. Everyone at the museum started to panic. And backtrack fast.

Day explained that there are only two people at Children's Hospital who are authorized to submit these proposals. An assistant to one of these individuals recognized that the materials needed to be sent to a Web address for completion of a form and then for the final push of a "Submit" button.

The $200,000 proposal was to pay for staff and funding for a health and biomedical science program for diverse communities, and also disseminating a fourth and fifth grade curriculum on issues that affect everyone, but in particular, statistically impacting Blacks, Latinos, and American Indian populations.

But the actual web address got confused with entering a valid email address for the museum. When the grant proposal was finally sent out, the URL was accidentally entered as an email address.

Still, the NIH returned an error message to inform staff about the correction. But as fortune would have it, the NIH message came back without an "@" symbol and was relegated into the spam folder on the Children's Hospital side of things. It seems as though the IT staff had not completed a newly installed firewall that could more finely distinguish between real email and spam.

Bert Lubin, MD, president and now CEO of Children's Hospital, called the highest people he could reach at NIH to see if there was anything they could do, especially since the information had been submitted before the deadline. NIH demurred. They explained that proposals had already gone through the peer review process, but they would keep the hospital in mind if additional funding money came through the ARRA (American Reinvestment and Recovery Act) pipeline for education programs.
Too late for right now. Dr. Lubin requested four months of a half-time salary from NIH to allow Day to complete a lesson plan book and CD of the science curriculum to ensure that this part of the museum's work would not be lost. Traveling exhibits are still doing the rounds at a number of other museums, including the Global Health Odyssey at the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Challenger Learning Center in California's Central Valley. After three years, the Hall of Health can reclaim its exhibits if it is able to reopen.

Keep your fingers crossed.

The takeaway? Day said, "If you're sending an important email message, always get a confirmation."

Sunday, August 23, 2009

An Object of Desire

Marketers study the way we talk together, listening in on conversations, trying to understand how people interact online.  It's a new science, a hunt on for the new metric to evaluate marketing in the world of social networking.  Page views, RSS, brand recognition, information moving us to the purchase of a product.  And at what moment does the critical wallet pull happen and why? 

It seems as though the best marketers agree  (at least they did at the 8/19 San Mateo forum) -- while they're all interested in their sworn company's' bottom line, in the long run it's the one-to-one relationship with a customer that counts (I've always been at on the outskirts of being a party girl myself), and the biggest mistake is to abandon a relationship once you've established it.  The trust factor vaporizes into smoked candy.

So what's does a social network of patients suffering from dementia sound like? 

How are you?
All bright.

Lenore Weiss

Posted via email from techtabletalk's posterous

Friday, August 21, 2009

Power to the People

Jermiah Owyang, esteemed social web analyst for Forrester Research, outlines a new social history that consists of five eras:

1) Era of Social Relationships: People connect to others and share
2) Era of Social Functionality: Social networks become like operating system
3) Era of Social Colonization: Every experience can now be social
4) Era of Social Context: Personalized and accurate content
5) Era of Social Commerce: Communities define future products and services

Much of the discussion surrounding paid social network research is about big brand names wanting to understand how to adjust their marketing strategy. But wait a sec. Can someone please stop defining me as a consumer? 

What was a particularly interesting to me the evening of the Social Media forum had to do with a conversation before the panel with my two seat mates, who were also gobbling wonderful pastries. The two user interface designers and I commiserated about our mutual Facebook accounts and being consistently approached by people we didn't know who wanted to join our network.  But is it just a numbers game? A kind of "my network is bigger than your network" thing? 

From my end of the sidewalk, it's about why we connect to people that asks for more definition.  More later.

Posted via email from techtabletalk's posterous

Friday, August 14, 2009

Summer: Highway 80 to Davis, California

An oak tree nestles in the flank of a hill
where there’s a facing hill with an oak tree and a hill beyond.

Spit shine on the roof of new automobiles,
crushed clunkers in netting on flatbed trucks,
acres of sunflowers sold for seeds,
shopping malls checkered with need and desire and plastic cups,
telephone poles vibrating in the whine of windmills,

an oleander traffic divider 
shouldering red and white exhaust.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Jew Girl

Why must youth be sacrificed on a bloody scaffold...?

--from Hannah Senesh: Her Life and Diary

You traced letters in the air with an index finger
balancing on a table on a bed on a chair
broadcasting morning news
to your prison cell mates
closing out each segment with a Star of David

Other tricks

You covered an empty talcum powder tin
with silver foil
attached buds of white tissue paper
blades of straw from your mattress
threaded through each foxhole

A bouquet of roses

Biedermeir dolls Rococo dolls ballet dancer dolls
Carmens Madame Butterfly Tosca’s
Palestine boy and girl kibbutzniks
with pick and shovel in the olive groves of Caesarea
passed between the bars of Conti Street Prison

At 23 a match

consumed in its own kindling
lighting the way to Eretz Israel
where you could not escape
the bitch of history wanting
the flame to burn inside your heart
always Jewish