MLK Day 2010: New Innovations Streamline the Reporting Process via Social Media
Last year, I wrote a blog post about my experience as an E-Reporter for Literacy AmeriCorps’ special Martin Luther King, Jr. Day volunteer project. When MLK Day was approaching again and @MLKDay announced via Twitter that E-Reporters were needed once again to report on volunteer projects that were happening in honor of the day, I Jumped At The Call (as we say over at TVTropes). I was thrilled to have the opportunity to recapture the fun and excitement of that experience. I just came back from my MLK Day 2010 volunteer project, and I had another excellent, fun experience as an E-Reporter.
I’m not in Literacy AmeriCorps anymore, nor do I live in the area, so I couldn’t go to their project (although from the plans I heard, it was awesome – I would have gone if I could have). By searching the database of MLK Day volunteer projects at Serve.gov’s MLK Day page, I found out that the closest project to me was being held at the Fingerprints Children’s Museum in Hemet, from 9:00 A.M. to noon on MLK Day. The project, called “Road to Recovery,” was hosted by people from the Central County United Way. 40 or so volunteers, working for roughly 2 1/2 hours (we were done by 11:30), created 205 thank-you cards for veterans living in a veterans’ home, and over 200 MLK-Day-themed get-well cards for children in a hospital. The latter contained MLK Day bookmarks and word search puzzles.
Volunteers at the event came from Senior Corps, from a local school, and from an AmeriCorps NCCC team currently in the area. It was especially cool to run into them; I was wearing the same red-and-white AmeriCorps T-shirt I had worn to last year’s MLK Day project, with my AmeriCorps Alums lapel pin pinned on it. It was fun meeting and talking to other AmeriCorps people. Everyone there had a great time letting their creative expression show in the cards they designed. We decorated them with crayons, markers, colored pencils, sequins, yarn, stickers, foam letters, and colored slips of paper printed with quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr. The project organizers walked around the room, collecting the completed cards and keeping us informed of how many we had made. There was great energy and community spirit in that room, so we all stayed motivated and enjoyed ourselves the whole time.
It’s really amazing how much the social media technology used for the MLK Day E-Reporting effort has changed in just one year. Since the purpose of the E-Reporting program is to give media outlets one convenient source of information on the many different MLK Day volunteer projects that are going on all over the country, all the tweets from all the E-Reporters need to be aggregated onto one page, as do all the photos. Last year, the person running the @MLKDay account aggregated them by hand: she retweeted every single tweet that was tagged with #MLKDay on that account. That was the only way to do it last year. Now, we have Twitter Lists, so all she had to do to aggregate our tweets was put all the E-Reporters on a dedicated Twitter list, and all the #MLKDay tweets showed up on one page automatically. And thank goodness that option exists now, because there were so many projects reported on that she madddy have had a hard time keeping up otherwise! She did retweet some selected #MLKDay tweets on her account, though, and thanks to her, I once again got to enjoy reading about all the other volunteer projects that were going on while I was volunteering. (S.R., if you’re reading this, thank you so much for all you do! 🙂 )
On the photography side of things, this year’s MLK Day project photos are posted in a Flickr set. We used Flickr to aggregate all our photos last year, too (wasn’t there a Flickr Pool set up for the E-Photo Journalists last year? I don’t quite remember), but the technology for sharing photos has also changed. This year’s #MLKDay tweets were full of links to pictures hosted not only on Flickr, but also on Yfrog, Twitpic, Twitgoo, Tweetphoto, and other services, none of which I remember existing when we did this a year ago. I think those services made it a lot easier for more people to share photos from their projects, but the photos are also less centralized than they were, which may be a bit of a downside.
Also, I don’t think the MLK Day home page over at Serve.gov was that cool last year. Look at that – the tweets from the aforementioned Twitter List, the pictures from the aforementioned Flickr set, blog posts, and news stories all in one place! That is SO COOL!
I had lots of fun volunteering and reporting on my activities today. I’m really glad that I got to be an E-Reporter again, and I look forward to doing it every year for as long as the program continues.
Edited To Add: The person behind @MLKDay says (via Twitter) that she loves my blog post (!!!), and adds: “I also found using Twitter favorites to be great as well. Creates a sort of archive, where lists get replaced with new content.”