Swan Song: Sunsetting My Work on Domestic Violence

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Photo: Joanne Rosanio, 2017. Seaside Park, NJ

I admit, at first, it began as a vanity project. I was high off the success of my two prior Internet-based startups and felt invincible.  I had a lot of friends.  I felt empowered that I could do this.  I brought a whole lot of arrogance and conceit to the fight.

Then, nearly as soon as I began, I got knocked off my my pedestal.  I had to learn how to really work… how to really do research, how to make a real relationship, how to inspire someone to work for me for free with no guarantee of any return at all.  I had to learn how to persuade people very different from me that I could be trusted and that I was sincere.  I had to learn how to accept rejection, in the face of all logical evidence to the contrary that what I was selling was highly effective and worthy of investment.

I was told, “YOU HAVE NO STANDING” to have conversations in this field.  In other words, GO AWAY.

Nevertheless, I persisted.  But maybe, (h/t Stevie Wonder), like I fool I went and stayed too long––  I actually made progress against my goals.  I believe what I’ve set in motion will pay substantial dividends in the future.  I’ve said it hundreds of times: The Answers are in the Data.  The problem in domestic violence is the offender, and we can identify, track, predict, and control their behavior with proper data analysis and monitoring.  I’ve even filed a provisional patent for a software tool that will save lives if implemented properly.

Yet, after three years, I’m quitting.  Maybe quitting while I’m ahead, but quitting nonetheless.  The reason is personal, not business.  You see working on domestic violence brings me to the front lines of my own personal horror show every damned day.  I simply cannot continue to work on this for health reasons.  Let’s call it a graceful exit.

I will leave behind the seeds of an important beginning conversation about the vast potential of data, and the powerful transformational story told by High Point, NC in our film.  We should have a final cut soon.  I wholly underestimated the toll this work would take on my mental health.  At my peril.

Over time,  I’m contemplating writing a short ebook about my experiences working in this field featuring what I learned–– the challenges and opportunities as I see it–– but there I go being thought-leadery again.  I may also consider doing some public speaking aligned to the film, but we’ll see.

For now, I’m going back to tech consulting, and continuing with my R&R time in the comfort of the Florida winter chillzone.

Namaste.  And a sincere thanks to everyone who helped Big Mountain Data and our ambitious goals.

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Update 4/15/18:  I was asked to speak at a National conference in the fall and looks like the software tool is moving forward in the hands of some industry experts who can take it to the next level.  So, not exactly gone for good.  Plus, I have a meeting tomorrow with a  local data scientist who’s interested in our work.  There is that UPenn machine learning case study I’ve been interested to replicate on the assessed risk of DV bond hearings… 

 

SXSW and the Fabulous Twegg Hunt

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As I mentioned in the previous post, I’m helping to support Mobile Loaves and Fishes during this fun, frenzied SXSW season. Here are all the details you need to know for the #Twegg contest.Short version is– help the homeless and win a kindle!WHATWith the help of some social-media savvy volunteers, Mobile Loaves & Fishes, an Austin nonprofit organization that feeds homeless and working poor people on the streets of five U.S. cities every night, is launching two contests in conjunction with SXSWi. The name for the contest– “Twegg”–has a dual meaning. The first part of the contest takes place on Twitter, and hard-boiled eggs are one of the most popular and important foods served from MLF’s trucks. See www.mlfnow.org/tweggHOW IT WORKSTwegg #1:• Participants must be on Twitter and following Mobile Loaves & Fishes CEO and President Alan Graham @MLFNOW• Until 11:59 PM on Saturday, March 14th participants must make one or more tweets about Mobile Loaves & Fishes or its mission to be considered eligible. Each post must include the hashtag #twegg to have be counted in judging.• On Sunday, March 15th, a panel of judges will review each post tagged with #twegg and pick the best Tweeter. The winner will get a Kindle 2!Twegg #2:• This contest takes place at the SXSWi 2009 Plutopia music, art and performance extravaganza/afterparty on Monday, March 16–see www.plutopia.org• Find the Mobile Loaves & Fishes volunteers with Easter baskets and bunny ears, and exchange your business card for a free, informative egg and the chance to win a Kindle 2!• The winner will be announced at Plutopia between 11 and 11:15 PM (must be present to win).WHENTwegg #1 takes place until 11:59 PM on March 14, 2009 and Twegg #2 takes place at the SXSWi 2009 Plutopia afterparty on March 16.For more information, go to the Mobile Loaves and Fishes Twegg site. I will be judging the best tweets– so they better be good! I’ll be looking for the best tweets that respectfully show support for Mobile Loaves and Fishes and their mission. Good luck!Here is a video segment generously donated by Andrew Shapter of Alan Graham and his work with MLF.

Finding Happiness in Selflessness

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I always like to hear the story (although I’m not sure it’s still in effect) about how Google permits its employees to dedicate 20% of their time to pursuing creative and innovative work of their own choosing. Here at the newly launched SoCo Partners, we’re instituting 20% time not for innovation, but for pursuing civic activism. I’ve chosen domestic and international poverty as my issue. Here in Austin, there are many ways you can contribute to helping the less fortunate. Here are a few causes I am involved with or with which I am planning to be involved:1. For the past two years, my daughter and I have participated in Operation Turkey on Thanksgiving. Bryan Menell turned me onto this from Facebook when we first arrived in Austin. We love doing it. Every year it grows and is more impressive. I plan to do this forever more. Wonderful way to give thanks.2. I’ve recently become involved with Mobile Loaves and Fishes. Last Friday I saw an Austin screening of “Happiness Is,” a beautiful and moving documentary by Andrew Shapter, a local Austin film-maker. Alan Graham, founder of Mobile

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Loaves and Fishes is featured generously in the film and participated afterward in a live panel discussion with the director. Alan said a number of things that completely changed my worldview regarding the homeless. In Austin we have many intersections where folks hold cardboard signs looking for help. The individuals are as varied as the messages they broadcast to the uncomfortable drivers waiting for the light to change (hurry light!… don’t make eye contact!). I’ve committed to helping Mobile Loaves and Fishes in any way I can apply my hands and heart and possibly socialweb and collaboration know-how to helping their cause. We are cooking up a fun project for SXSW called “Twegg.” Details are still being worked out, and I will be blogging on that shortly. Be sure to plan to attend Jon Lebkowsky’s Plutopia Monday night, March 16, which will showcase a large part of the initiative. Information on Mobile Loaves and Fishes (MLF) is available on their web site. Please considering donating.3. I met Tina Williamson over a year ago at her Christmas party. Tina has launched a program called, “Women Worldwide.” Women Worldwide has as its mission to enable women to help other women around the world. She recently returned form a trip to Mali in Central Africa. You can hear Tina’s story about what her team did there and the inspiration for Women Worldwide over on vimeo. I’m helping Tina leverage social media to raise awareness for her initiatives.4. I’ve become a student of poverty and am particularly interested in generational poverty issues. I picked up three books on poverty and have set aside time to read each one. I’m currently reading, “Nickel and Dimed” by a wonderful writer, Barbara Ehrenreich. She also wrote, “Bait and Switch” which has a lot of relevance for today’s economic downturn, as it focuses on white collar unemployment. A book I bought for the shock value of some of the demeaning language is “Bridges out of Poverty.” More on that one when I read it all the way through. I’m also subscribing to the Poverty in America blog on change.org. Learning a lot there.It was @timoreilly who motivated me to “work on something that makes a difference,” while we’re navigating through the vagaries of economic turmoil. Even though in his most recent posts on the subject he wasn’t advocating pure charity work, it forced me to look carefully at what I’m going to commit my time to. My goal is to help my non-profit friends to learn how to leverage the social web to make their work more productive and rewarding.Finally, the trailer from “Happiness Is.” Enjoy.