Friday, October 25, 2013

Speech to Baldwin County Board of Education Re: Arabic as a Foreign Language

When my son was 10 or 11, I drove his friend Kareem home from our house. Kareem’s family is from Egypt, and I asked him if he spoke Arabic in his home.  He hesitated.  I could see him struggling with an answer.  He was afraid to tell me.  At 10 years old, he had learned to fear the reactions of others to who he was.
The fact that we are even having this conversation today, the fact that anyone could equate learning a foreign language or learning about a culture different from their own to indoctrination into a culture of hate is one of the very and many reasons we MUST continue to teach these subjects.
I have five children whom I am teaching to be informed, open minded, and tolerant of everyone alike or different.
Open- mindedness is taught by exposing children to different people, cultures, and viewpoints. By allowing them access to language and culture from around the world, you are reinforcing the idea that it is okay to be different from each other.
Tolerance is taught by example. By allowing children access to different culture, language and religion through education, you are teaching them to embrace those who are or believe differently and encouraging open and respectful discussion.
Our country was founded by immigrants.  We are a country of many languages, cultures, religions and traditions.  By learning about all of our cultures and roots, by learning about all of our histories, by learning about all of our religions, we teach our children to live with an understanding of others rather than a fear or hatred of them.
Providing children information from every perspective gives them the belief and the tools to change their futures and impact the world. By teaching them an understanding and practical knowledge of a different and globally significant culture and language, you are empowering our children to participate in a global market, to embrace a global perspective and to teach others these same skills thereby changing the future...maybe even reducing hate and fear bred by ignorance.
A 2009 article in USA Today reported that CIA officials were recruiting first and second generation Americans in areas with large Arab-American populations and providing $35,000 signing bonuses  to recruits with “mission critical” languages that included Arabic, Chinese, Dari, Korean and more.  It also reported that President Bush ordered the CIA to boost ranks for foreign language speakers by 50% following 9/11.
In 2004, the BBC interviewed Henry Pavlovich, Director of the Institute of Linguists who state that “good Arabic speakers are very, very heavily in demand and because of that, a lot are very highly paid.”
To those who disagree with me, I would encourage you to take a look at the Vision Statement for Daphne High School.  It reads:
The vision of Daphne High School is to provide strong academic press and a highly developed sense of community emphasizing civic-mindedness, international consciousness, and entrepreneurship.
The mission statement for the IB program goes further:
"The International Baccalaureate Organization aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect. To this end the organization works with schools, governments, and international organizations to develop challenging programmes of international education and rigorous assessment. These programmes encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right."

Monday, July 22, 2013

Interview with CEO of

Has anything like this ever happened to you?
Last week, I was sitting at work and I got a text. It was a friend asking me if my dog was missing because she had seen a photo of a dog posted on Facebook that looked exactly like him. I called the kids at home to ask, and lo and behold, he was missing! Meanwhile, my husband had already seen the post, called home to ask the kids if good ole Harley was missing (they didn't even know he was missing, by the way), tracked down the Facebook poster and was on the way to retrieve the dog.
According to Jeff Tinsley, CEO of MyLife, it is stories like these that contribute to a growing anxiety related to social networks -- FOMO, Fear of Missing Out.
"Here's what we know," Tinsley explained, "For people, their relationships matter to them. Your friends, your family, your professional connections, there are a lot of connections that people are trying to manage and they are just afraid of missing any news, any updates."
On July 9, 2013, announced the results of a national survey on social media behavior. The study reveals that social networkers are overwhelmed with managing their increasing numbers of social networks and email accounts to the point that 52 percent of respondents have either taken or have considered taking a "vacation" from one or more social networks in the past year.
"I was shocked to find out that people have very different sets of connections. We actually found that 68 percent have their friends, their colleagues, their different contacts strewn across the different services they use," Tinsley reported. "So it's a lot of different connections, a lot of different news they are fearful of missing out on."
The survey found that 42 percent of online adults manage multiple social networking profiles and 51 percent belong to more social networks or visit their networks more frequently than two years ago. The average adult manages 3.1 email accounts, an increase from 2.6 last year, and Tinsley was surprised to find out that 57 percent stay in touch via personal email accounts rather than social accounts.
"You connections are just all over the place. The updates are all over the place," Tinsley pointed out. "And yet at the same time no one wants to miss anything. We all feel the pain, it's just no one has really brought forward a lot of the facts and the statistics for this whole problem."
This is where can help by housing everything in one spot, according to Tinsley. In addition to identity monitoring and finding and organizing connections, the site allows members to house email and social networking accounts on one site and one dashboard to help streamline online management. You can prioritize and deprioritize your connections so that you get the information that matters most first.
"It helps you pull all of your connections together, and it helps you not miss anything that matters from the people that matter the most to you," Tinsley added. "We are getting a lot of positive feedback around the product. I, for one, am getting much better use of my time. I love being able to have everything together and my messages get prioritized based on who I talk to the most and who I designate as a priority contact in the service. It doesn't matter where they are sharing, I get to see those messages first."
Even in the face of social media anxiety, most people would rather give up some interesting things than to give up their social media.
"We have some funny questions related to people not wanting to give up these services. People will give up a lot, do a lot instead of giving up social media and email," Tinsley said. "They'd rather go to jail. They would rather get a root canal. They would rather give up smoking. They'd rather go through a lot of pain is what it boils down to. The relationships are too important and these services that keep them tied together are just too important."
Of those that take a break from social media or email, it doesn't seem to last.
"Even though it's 52 percent who are taking a break or who have considered taking a break, they go back," Tinsley said. "You can't live without these social services and email services because that is how we stay connected to each other these days."
Tinsley believes that the Fear of Missing Out is a legitimate one.
"People are using these services for all their relationships. For everybody, their career is important," he explained. "Everybody has professional connections, too, across email and social, and so they can't miss any of them because you never know when there's an important opportunity that will arise as a result."
According to the MyLife survey, 27 percent of respondents check their social networks immediately upon waking in the morning. Using can reduce the time this takes.
"I have three email accounts," said Tinsley. "I represent the average. Email accounts usually get checked first thing in the morning. It's a lot of trouble. We allow people to deprioritize and at the same time prioritize message that are important. That's how we are trying to help with the whole problem of having multiple accounts."
MyLife also helps educate members about different social services and how to get the most out of them.
"They are valuable services. I love Facebook. I love Twitter. I need these services, but we are trying to streamline what you do every day in line with the problems that people are having," Tinsley stated. He added that MyLife recommends and showcases different services in a way that works most efficiently for individuals, including discovering where your connections are sharing that you may have missed before. can incorporate Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, as well as Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL and Outlook. They are looking to add Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest and Google+ in the near future.
"Ultimately we want to help people get more out of their relationships. It's just too overwhelming to people," Tinsley concluded. "If you are going to miss things that are important to you, you are not going to get as much out of those relationships. An ultimate goal for us is to help you get more value out of all the relationships you have or those you need."
And in my case, that includes my relationship with the family dog.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Monkey See Monkey Do: A Challenge from SurveyMonkey

            “Where do we sit on charity donations this year?”

How many companies do you know that use this question as an integral way to increase clientele, to attract database members and to improve business quality all while sharing some jungle love in the name of charity?  Can’t think of any?  Well, SurveyMonkey, the world’s largest survey company, is leading with its heart.  And they are challenging other businesses to follow.

 “Any more companies we can encourage to do this kind of thing and bring charity to the center, it helps and makes a big difference,”   Brent Chudoba, Vice President and General Manager of SurveyMonkey Audience said.  “When we first started, we were sending hundred and thousand dollar checks.  Two years later we are donating a million dollars.  It starts to be really cool that we can do this much good.”

Charitable donations is the first topic addressed by Chudoba and his team at their monthly meetings.

“It resonates through  the whole organization of saying, look, if our goals are based around charity, and we know they are connected to business goals, too,” Chudoba explained, “that kind of helps people give back and it makes the people we work with even more important.”

SurveyMonkey, has formulated an innovative business plan that drives its business by donating to the charity of the respondent’s choice for each survey that is completed through SurveyMonkey’s site.  This is very different from anything anybody in the industry is doing, according to Chudoba.  He explains that the industry standard generally includes paying survey takers with cash, points, or frequent flier miles.  This practice creates huge problems with data quality because people speed through the surveys to get their points, he added.

Chudoba believes the charitable aspect (donating 50 cents per survey) has improved the quality of survey responses.

 “We do survey our respondents and ask what it is that makes you want to donate to charity and what it is that makes you take surveys,” he said. “Our respondents do love the fact that we’re donating material amounts to charity…they really like to see that what they are doing is making a difference.  There is an altruism feeling that it is worth 5 or 10 minutes of my time to complete a survey.”

            SurveyMonkey launched its new product, SurveyMonkey Audience two years ago.  This product allows customers to purchase respondents to take their surveys.  About one quarter of SurveyMonkey’s subscribers is non-profit organizations.  Because of the tight relationships SurveyMonkey had with many of their non-profit subscribers, the idea naturally progressed.

“Our first idea was to partner with the charities and say, hey, if we can recruit respondents to take surveys, we’d like to give them donations to charities instead of paying them,” Chudoba stated explaining that they recruited two million respondents in the past two years to take surveys. 

When the charities receiving donations began to see significant numbers coming from SurveyMonkey, they began to realize they could drive some of their own donations.

“The Humane Society is a great example,” Chudoba mentioned. “They escalated toward the top of our donation list because they are solving a lot of great problems.  I think people care about animals.  Our members have flocked toward a lot of cause areas.”

Chudoba explained that when SurveyMonkey began cutting  thirty and forty thousand dollar checks to the Humane Society, people from the non-profit began calling to see how they could work together to create something even bigger. 

“They actually put us on their home page for a period of time and emailed two million of their users and said, hey, this is a great program we are working with,” Chudoba noted. “They said that if you want to sign up and help us raise donations, click and sign up on SurveyMonkey.”

Instead of traditional fundraising methods, non-profits can encourage their members to participate in surveys to raise money thereby giving them more control over their own donations.  SurveyMonkey gives them the option of putting a button on their own web page that links to SurveyMonkey thereby increasing SurveyMonkey’s business.

“It’s interesting because it’s a new business model for charities, “Chudoba stated. “We are actually providing a business model and a set of metrics that say, here is what happens when we work together.  This is a donation stream that doesn’t really go away.  These people signed up to donate and as our business grows, your donations grow.  It’s an interesting phenomenon.”

“With an approach as innovative as ours,” Chudoba added, “it’s causing charities to rethink some of the ways they do business.”

Since the inception of SurveyMonkey Audience two years ago, SurveyMonkey has raised two million dollars for charity and has announced a goal to reach one million dollars in 2013 alone.  Chudoba indicated that they tend to have a lot of “cause” groups that include non-profits working with animals, youth, arts, environment, health and hunger/poverty.

In addition to the donations per completed survey, the employees at SurveyMonkey get out to participate in hands-on charitable work at monthly events with groups like Ronald McDonald House.

“It’s in SurveyMonkey’s DNA.  Given how much of our customer base is in the non-profit sector, we have a lot of nice connections,” Chudoba said adding that he participated in a zoo clean up and helped build clay houses for Habitat for Humanity.

Chodoba sees the charitable element of his business as a win for all involved.

“I think the charity component is really a game changer for customers,” Chuboda added. “When they see a company partnering with charity to do some things in innovative ways, it’s actually a good thing as we can showcase the charity partners that are great customers of ours, and it definitely helps business in a lot of different ways.”

“Hopefully I can put a five million dollar goal on the wall eventually,” he concluded.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Dating in the Age of Facebook

Dating for the second time around after a divorce is a daunting task.  Many of us married before the age of Facebook and online dating.  When re-entering the dating world, not only do you have to worry about finding a nice person, but also about when and how you allow that person access to your social media (forget real friends and family!).

I got to interview Sarah Gooding who works as a products manager for Plenty of Fish.  She gave some great insights into dating and Facebook.  The bottom line?  Go slowly.  Get to know someone.  And reveal your private life gradually.  As Sarah said, that's all part of the romance!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Interview with Markus Frind, Founder and CEO of Plenty of Fish

I was very excited to get to interview Markus Frind, Founder and CEO of Plenty of Fish this week.  Having used his website (and having met my husband there) I welcomed the opportunity to ask him about what prompted his email to all of his subscribers.  He wrote to them all to announce plans to eliminate the hooker-uppers on his site and make it easier for those who want real relationships.  He had some very interesting things to say!

I tend to gain and lose momentum with my writing as life, kids and job can be consuming at times.  And if I'm not in a great frame of mind, it always shows in what I write, which adds another layer of procrastination.  So when opportunities like this interview present themselves, I feel energized and I gain a new sense of motivation and momentum.

I have another article in the works and ideas for one or two more.  So keep an eye out!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Exciting New Experience

I have worked on my blogs and now my book for the last several years.  It has been challenging to find time to write, but more than that, to find time to write consistently.  I have ideas about where I would like this endeavor to take me, but every now and then, there is a little shift in possibilities.

During a long and trying week, I got an email from a producer from HuffPost Live asking if I would like to participate in a panel discussion about blended families.  I would be on with three other guests.  How fun is that?  The Blended Life was the result.  I participated with Donald Silverman, Jodyne Speyer and Judy Osborne.

You just never know when something will drop into your lap that will shift your possibilities and expectations just a little.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Keeping Kids Out of the Middle

My latest Huffington Post Divorce article came out last week.  I feel more strongly about this one than the others because it relates to kids dealing with divorce.  There is nothing more important than making sure your kids are as well-adjusted as they can be during this tough time.

To me, the most difficult and most important thing to do, especially in the beginning stages for separation and divorce is to put aside your own anger in front of your kids.  I am a big believer in leaving your kids out of your issues.  It is vital to their adjustment and keeping them out of the middle.

One thing I did not include in this article was NOT to vent on Facebook or Twitter.  These are private issues, and even if your kids are young or you don't think they have access, they will find out.  And whatever wrong you are venting will pale in comparison to the public venting in their minds.  You should never say or do something you wouldn't want your kids to see.  It's a good gauge for behavior in most situations.

Let me know what you think!