Preparing to leave San Francisco’s foggy embrace, I’m thinking about the work week ahead and which of the many open threads to needle first. One thing that came up last week was a twitter message from someone at Social Actions Labs, inviting me to test out their new DonorsChoose WordPress plugin on Firstgiving’s blog.
It didn’t seem quite right to use Firstgiving’s blog for this, but I was happy to try it out here on the ‘duck. After all, I’ve blogged about DonorsChoose before. So I signed up and downloaded the plugin. The first time out I got an immediate failure due to a PHP version mismatch, but the team soon corrected that. I installed the plugin easily. But when I looked at the blog, I immediately went back and disabled it. Apparently, I had a different idea of what a DonorsChoose plugin would do.
I sent off a note to the Social Actions Labs guy, who sent a nice note back a few days later. The gist of my issue with the plugin is that it added to every post a list of three DonorsChoose projects that might be related to the content of the post, hence “possibly related classroom projects.” While there was a way to disable to plugin on selected posts, I felt that imposing itself on every post automatically was way too invasive. I had been assuming that I could insert DonorsChoose projects either in the sidebar or in selected posts on an opt-in basis. Only a handful of limeduck posts have anything to do with schools or charity. Opting out of a couple hundred posts by hand was not what I had in mind.
Social Actions acknowledges that this is an early effort and in the spirit of open and agile programming, it will doubtless be improved over time. And as much as I love WordPress, I have to hope for the sake of Social Actions and DonorsChoose that future versions of the plugin are compatible with Blogger and other platforms. I guess they hadn’t figured out all the user types just yet. On the other hand, several blogs have already adopted the plugin more or less as is:
So it can’t be all bad. I hope Social Actions Labs makes it even better and even more blogs adopt it. I’m here for future testing. Here are some DonorsChoose projects that aren’t mined from this text but are still interesting to me, and I hope to you, too. Check them out, help make a difference.
Help the Henry L Higginson Elem School in Roxbury, MA get a digital camera ($285 needed)
Help the Thomas Edison Middle School in Brighton, MA buy books ($1,010 needed)
Help the Camp Curtain School in Harrisburg, PA get globes and maps ($567 needed)
These projects are linked to topics of interest to this blog, but not actually to the text of this post. Food for thought.
David – Thank you so much for this write-up and for sharing your thoughts about the plugin! I definitely agree with you that the plugin does pack a punch when it integrates with all of your posts out-of-the-box like that. Interestingly, a number of posts that you wouldn’t think would have related classroom projects, have really wild matches. For example, the MaxSchoolBus post on obesity has a number of classroom projects that focus on eating healthy. Another post on NewCritics about painting has a number of related classroom projects about art. On Amy Sample Ward’s blog, her post about green giving brings up a number of classroom projects on helping kids learn about conservation and sustainable living. You may want to try adding the plugin again and check out the various projects that get recommended for your different posts…It’s like StumbleUpon for charity!
You’re right, though, about creating a way to make it easy (and less invasive) to insert projects. Your feedback has helped to confirm Social Actions Labs’ next project: a widget that showcases relevant campaigns from 19 platforms (including FirstGiving). We think this will be a great way to raise awareness of and stir a bit of social change in your sidebar. We also plan to enable it across blogging platforms and other kinds of websites. You’ll be among the first to know when we launch later this summer!
— Joe Solomon
Social Actions Labs, Lead Scientist & Evangelist