There are two people named Dan Bejar: one is the singer for Destroyer, the other is an artist in who resembles him slightly. The later started a project called The Googleganger in which he photographs himself posed and dressed similar to existing images of the other Bejar. Several of the re-staged images have crept up high in Google Image search results.
Ben is the co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Mobile Commons, where he is responsible for product development, system architecture, and technical operations. He is one of the leading pioneers shaping how nonprofit organizations successfully use mobile communication for advocacy, fundraising, list building, and organizing.
Ben has 15 years of experience building Internet applications of all shapes and sizes. He spent much of his career building distributed software for B2B customers. With a background in both the financial and medical industries, he has extensive experience with high availability systems with a focus on security and data sensitivity. As a software engineer at Bloomberg LP, Ben developed their trading system, search engine, and web services. After Bloomberg, he worked at ShadowTV, transcoding, indexing and streaming 100s of terabytes of video data for government and corporate customers.
He earned a BS in electrical and biological engineering and a Master's in medical image processing, both at Cornell University. After completing his studies, he took a position as a Visiting Scientist, developing medical software used in clinical trials for lung cancer screening and image analysis tools used in General Electric's CT scanners.
Ben lives on a small urban farm in Brooklyn with his wife Arin and sons Gabriel & Ezekiel. He can usually be found coding, biking, or rock climbing. He sits on the board of ioby.org and advises nonprofits on effective uses of technology.
2007 - Present
Co-Founder & Chief Technology Officer / Mobile Commons
Susan Crawford, on contentions by AT&T and T-Mobile that local wireless markets are competitive
You should have distinct memories of you or someone under your employ having at least two separate incidents in the last four weeks in which they dropped everything they were doing and immediately took action to resolve these problems.
Last night during the hurricane, we could not telnet to one of our partner’s data centers from our primary data center. We could get there from our workstations and from our backup sites.
A traceroute revealed a router somewhere in Washington DC that was hanging things up between the two data centers.
So my question is, how could this happen? I would have expected all the TCP/IP packets to be rerouted automatically around the malfunctioning router? Isn’t that the way the Internet was designed to work?
Today we’re launching Capture the Flag: Web Edition, a security contest where you can try your hand at discovering and exploiting vulnerabilities in mock web applications. If you’ve ever wondered how a CSRF attack works in practice, this is your chance to find out. We’ve found that hands-on experience with exploiting security flaws helps us write more secure code, and we hope that working on the CTF will be both enlightening and fun.
I’m giving my development team the afternoon off to compete in this!
Look, I love programming. I also believe programming is important … in the right context, for some people. But so are a lot of skills. I would no more urge everyone to learn programming than I would urge everyone to learn plumbing.
This is one of the dumbest things I have ever read.
The article is conflating “coding” with “professional software development”. Learning to code teaches you, among lots of other things:
Divide and conquer
When a programmer gets requirements from a product manager or business analyst, they are ALWAYS incomplete. The edge cases are NEVER identified and none of the “what if” scenarios are played out. 9 times out of 10 it is up to the programmer to understand the nuances, to take things to their logical conclusions, to consider what happens in the case of N=0 or as N approaches infinity.
These are all skills I use EVERY SINGLE DAY, not just when I code, but in solving problems in life. Broken toilet? How do I figure out where the problem is? You bet I’m going to divide and conquer that shit (pun intended)!
This kind of thinking helps me in everything that I do in life and it wasn’t until I learned to code (in college, mind you) that I started thinking this way.
Do I want my son to become a computer programmer? I don’t care. Up to him. Do I want him to understand how to think critically and logically and in a structured & methodical way when approaching problems? Absolutely. And computer programming teaches these skills better than anything else I’ve ever done.
Half of New York City’s best and brightest technologists live or work in Brooklyn, yet we travel to Manhattan every week for the best tech talks.
Not anymore! BK Tech Talks are presentations about the most interesting problems and solutions that New Yorkers are working on.
Presentations should be 30-45 minutes long and are for a technical audience. Don’t be afraid to show source code. And if you’re afraid to read code, this Meetup isn’t for you. If you would like to present or there’s something you’d like to hear about, please let us know.
The first few presentations: “MTA BusTime: Real Time GPS Tracking of New York City Buses” and “Bitcoin is Not a Currency” look awesome.
So? What are you waiting for? Come join the Meetup and we’ll see you in Brooklyn!
Hackathons are how marketing guys wish software were made.
The great thing about the web is linking. I don’t care how ugly it looks and how pretty your app is, if I can’t link in and out of your world, it’s not even close to a replacement for the web. It would be as silly as saying that you don’t need oceans because you have a bathtub.
The Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group fighting for LGBT civil rights, has been hailing their banner year of political successes through celebratory updates that inform their member base and raise money to push their causes further.
As different states legalize gay marriage – the most recent, Minnesota, puts the number at twelve, plus the District of Columbia – HRC sends out a triumphant text message to its followers, informing them of this new step toward national marriage equality.
The text messages also include a link that directs recipients to a mobile giving site, reminding members that raising more money allows HRC to continue its advocacy.
Driving members to a mobile website asking them to donate can be extremely effective. Moreover, unlike text to donate, a mobile website allows you to ask your members for any amount of money – not just $5 or $10.
What better way to broaden the impact of HRC’s work than to contribute to the fight? After all, there are still thirty-eight states to go.
How do you use your organization’s data to reach more members? Much ink has been spilled about how data mining can transform your organization’s outreach. But it can be confusing, on a practical level, to figure out where to even start to mine.
Fortunately, the data wizards at DoSomething.org are here to help. Do Something has dedicated itself to connecting with teens using the medium they love most – text messaging. Because every text they send or receive is tracked by the Mobile Commons platform, Do Something has been able to apply extensive data analysis to their program.
They’ve used the insights they’ve unearthed to increase signups on each campaign by almost 500% and to bring in 837% more new members. The organization recently reached its millionth mobile member.
Check out the highlights from the presentation below.
Do Something’s Data Mining Process
Step 1: Monitor the Data
Do Something’s first step for data analysis is to monitor the data that’s coming in. As the presentation notes, a mobile campaign provides a wealth of information about your users. When someone texts in their phone number, you essentially know their location. When they tell you their first name, you’ve got a good guess at their gender. First, gather the data that’s available to you. Then you can start to seek out patterns.
Step 2: Detect Patterns
Once they’ve isolated their data, Do Something looks for patterns. For example, Do Something noted that certain cities have far greater user retention than others. They had the greatest user retention in McCallen, Texas, and the most user drop-off in Provo, Utah – and the difference was significant. Do Something started to see that their retention rates were much better in cities with more diverse populations that skewed towards lower incomes. Wealthier, more homogeneous metropolitan areas had higher drop-off rates.
Step 3: Test Campaigns
Knowing their different user groups allowed Do Something to test which campaigns performed better with different sorts of users. The data analysts saw that campaigns that focused on the family and on individual health did better among the minority populations of cities like McCallen. People in Provo preferred campaigns that looked outwards towards the community – for example, a campaign to help the environment.
Step 4: Prescribe
Once you know what sorts of users prefer what types of campaigns, you can start to design initiatives that resonate with their intended audiences. For example, Do Something designed a campaign that combined dancing and diabetes, to connect with the minority users who felt passionately about family health issues.
The results speak for themselves. Do Something increased signups for each individual campaign by almost 500%; they increased the total number of signups almost 600%; and they increased the percentage of new members from campaigns by 837%.
The process feeds on itself, too. Do Something data scientists can monitor the data from the prescribed campaigns, start to detect patterns, test more campaigns, and then prescribe even better ideas.
“With data,” Bladt says, “we no longer have to rely on intuition. We get constant feedback.”
Rigorous data analysis has helped DoSomething.org, an organization of about 40 people, to rally millions of members – and have a concrete impact on the broader world.
Watch the full presentation from DoSomething.org’s annual meeting below. (The data mining presentation starts at 19:30.) And if you’d like to discuss ways your organization can start to take advantage of the data that’s already at your fingertips, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With an immigration reform bill about to be up for debate in the Senate, Reform Immigration 4 America has launched a new and concerted push for awareness with a new commercial featuring actor Edward James Olmos.
The commercial drives home one of immigration reform advocates’ most salient points: that current US immigration laws tear apart parents, children, and siblings. It encourages viewers to join the fight to keep families together by connecting with the RI4A cause. Olmos is the latest in a long line of celebrities supporting this issue. In an NBC article about actors and actresses who have taken up immigration reform advocacy, Olmos talks about why he feels so passionately about it and how it relates to pride in his family:
“I’ll never forget my first day of kindergarten, when my father took me to Belvedere Elementary in East Los Angeles,” says Olmos. “I looked up as I entered the school courtyard and written at the very top of the archway was a sign that read ‘If it isn’t worth saying in English, it isn’t worth saying at all.’ That’s what greeted me in during my first day of school in 1952.”
That painful memory – and many others, says the Mexican-American actor – is why he will continue to fight for immigration reform.
The issue of immigration reform is a critical one, and there’s never been a better time to get involved. You can join RI4A’s cause by texting “Justice” to 69866. You’ll be asked to provide your zip code so that you can be get updated about the latest developments in the fight for immigration reform, hear about opportunities to take action in your community, and invite your friends to join the movement.
Watch the RI4A commercial below. RI4A also released a Spanish-language version of the PSA. The spots were produced by the award-winning firm Revolution Media and aired through Entravision, a media company that reaches 105 markets, including 53 TV stations, 49 radio stations and multiple interactive owned and licensed platforms and data analytics.
A new study shows that text messaging can increase your sales conversions by a staggering 328%.
Leads360, a sales software provider, recently aggregated data from almost 3.5 million leads across 400 companies. The resulting study, “Text Messaging for Better Sales Conversion,” makes a clear case for how vital a text messaging campaign can be in the sales process.
Below are the key takeaways:
Text messaging, if used properly, can increase conversions by 328%.
The study specifies that it’s important to use texting in the right way. Texting a lead before contacting them via another medium can drop that rate significantly. Make contact first – then use texting to follow up
Sending 3 or more texts has a significantly greater conversion rate.
The study found that the more texts sent, the greater the conversion rate. Of course, the study advises that you text responsibly. Following up with a lead, asking for more information, or reminding your contact about an appointment are all great ways to add texting into your sales pipeline.
Text messages have higher open rates and greater response rates than do email messages. But the study suggests that texting shouldn’t replace email entirely. ”Our research suggests that texting can be an effective way to supplement email and phone communication channels,” the study says.
At Mobile Commons, we know that well-executed mobile campaigns can be an invaluable sales tool for every company or organization. If you want to get started with your own text messaging campaign, or even just discuss how texting could help your organization, contact us at email@example.com
When someone texts in a donation, why let the conversation end there? You can turn a one-time mobile donation into a lifetime of engagement.
Mobile donations usually consist of four texts (see below). But did you know there is a lesser-known 5th text you can send? Once the mobile donation is complete, you can send an additional message that directs the donor to a mobile web page, where you can collect further information.
Take advantage of this underutilized 5th text. Several of our clients have already successfully used this, driving additional participation in a very restricted message flow.
At Mobile Commons, we believe that the best way to build relationships – and encourage further donations – is to engage in a two-way conversation. The 5th text is a perfect conversation starter!
It’s been an active couple months for us at Mobile Commons. We launched Mobile Commons Advocacy; we got generous praise from some notable figures; and we worked on a wide variety of exciting mobile campaigns.
In this newsletter, we wanted to share some of our biggest news and most innovative partnerships from the first third of the year.
How can you best use mobile at your organization? How can you plan ahead for big bang wins? And how can you grow your mobile list? Our mobile strategists will walk you through tips your company can employ to make mobile a powerful tool in your marketing utility belt.
We only succeed by working with our clients to create innovative and effective mobile campaigns. If you have any ideas – or want us to brainstorm some ideas with you – contact your mobile strategist, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
VAV has enlisted the help of stars including Jim Carrey, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Mario Batali, Juanes, and the group’s founder, Tony Bennett. They’ve recorded messages that instruct callers in key talking points, and take a powerful stance against gun violence.
For example, Jim Carrey’s message says,
Hi. I’m Jim Carrey. Thank you for raising your voice against gun violence. In a moment, you’ll be connected to a Congressperson who ignored the voice of the people, and voted against background checks. Tell them to support common sense laws that keep guns out of the hands of the wrong people, including criminal background checks on all gun sales. Thank you.
By logging on to the Voices Against Violence website, you will be asked to enter your email, your phone number, and your zip code. Your phone will then be connected with one of the celebrity recordings, and then routed to one of the targeted Congress people.
You can also text MyVoice to 877877 to get involved.
The Senators who voted against the gun control legislation are already facing the backlash in opinion polls. A Fox News poll recently found that voters would be much more likely to support those who voted in favor of expanded background checks. Voices Against Violence is hoping to keep the pressure on those politicians and induce them to change their votes in this charged issue.
Member Rebecca Anolick of New Jersey joined DoSomething at the encouragement of her friend Sami, and got the surprise of her life from the DoSomething team: cake, balloons, friends and family, and… a free trip to Disney World! What a sweet and wonderful way to celebrate this exciting milestone. And of course, we have to credit DoSomething for their enthusiastic use of our Tell-a-Friend feature, which allows members to reach out to their friends and encourage them to join in the activism and fun.
DoSomething has been partnering with socially engaged teens for a decade, and their text messaging campaigns use quizzes, games, and statistics to raise awareness about issues from bullying to animal rights to the environment. It’s just one more exciting way that DoSomething helps teens better their world—one million strong and counting.
See the surprised winner and her friend here:
To get in on the DoSomething.org action, text JOIN to 38383.
There’s been a national debate about immigration reform for years, but not much real legislation to back it up. Throughout that time, RI4A has been unrelenting in its advocacy. They’ve driven hundreds of thousands of phone calls to the president and to Congress, demanding that our government overhaul immigration laws.
This year, RI4A’s advocacy has been both thorough and effective. Throughout 2013, they’ve sent out repeated calls to action, asking supporters of immigration reform to call their senators and demand comprehensive legislation. For example, just last month, they sent out a text broadcast to their entire list that read:
Immigration Alert: Our Senators went home for Easter recess w/out introducing an imm reform bill. Reply CALL or 888-891-3271 to demand a bill in April!
RI4A’s direct advocacy forced the Senate to pay attention to their cause. The resulting proposed legislation is an enormous step forward for immigration reform. As Bloomberg News reports, “The bill lays out a rough, but realistic, road to citizenship for the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US.”
RI4A’s successes are proof that, no matter what your cause, direct advocacy can yield concrete results. “Immigration reform promises to be a messy process, and not everything will go according to plan,” Bloomberg concludes. “But the legislation introduced this week moves the nation in the right direction. It deserves support.”
How do you craft health care messages that will inform your audience and change their behaviors? The CDC has written a guide that can help you write better texts. The guide was designed to share the CDC’s insights into how to create effective outreach across social media – Facebook, Twitter, and SMS. It turns out the CDC’s not only experts on global health. They’re also astute marketers who know the most powerful way to convey complex messages in just a few characters.
The guide ranges from the highly general (what sort of material makes good content) to the incredibly specific (how many characters should your text messages be). In this post, we’ve pulled out some of the key lessons the guide imparts.
General Rules for Social Outreach
Be Clear and Concise
Use easy-to-understand language.
Catch the reader’s attention with a compelling lead that provides the most important information first.
Use abbreviations sparingly. Avoid “text speak.”
Have a clear call to action, encouraging people to take concrete steps.
Explain why the action is important.
Use strong verbs such as “learn,” “watch,” or “join.”
Be Useful and Relevant
Send messages that are tied to current events, seasons, or observance days.
Provide concrete knowledge and additional resources.
Use Web Content as a Source of Material
News articles, fact sheets, and FAQs are excellent sources of additional material.
Web content has often been developed, edited, and cleared through the proper channels.
Just be sure to rework your web content so it makes sense over text.
Specific Insights into SMS Messaging
Keep Your Texts Short
Messages should be around 140 characters to leave room for help messaging and links.
Customize your Texts
The CDC asks users questions about themselves to better target their messages.
Questions include age, gender, health condition, subscriber’s role, and zip code.
You should always identify yourself in your text, so your subscribers know who the text is from.
Provide Access to More Information:
Include a phone number or URL in your message, so users can follow up.
Make sure all numbers are numerical and formatted, so readers can click to call.
Include Opt-Out and Help Instructions:
Make sure your subscribers can opt out of your campaign by replying STOP or QUIT.