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Archive for the category “Online Media 2012”

Restore Omaha

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On Saturday I was lucky enough to attend the Restore Omaha conference as a volunteer and cover the events and speakers.  Restore Omaha is an annual conference centered on restoring older and historical homes, promoting green energy alternatives, and implementing energy efficient renovations to existing homes.

It was an educational experience, to say the least.  The opening address was given by Arnie Breslow, who recently restored the Cornish residence on 10th and William Street in Omaha.  He detailed how, over the last 13 years, he dedicated his weekends and holidays to restoring the French Second Empire-style house, built in 1886.  The Cornish house is just one of several houses that Breslow has restored in the Omaha area.

After the first session was a lunch break followed by the keynote address from Patricia Gay, Executive Director of the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans.  Gay highlighted several similarities, as well as a few differences, between New Orleans and Omaha and their respective preservation and restoration efforts.  She spend a great deal of time focused on federal and state legislation that can aid restoration projects, and how restoration projects can help stem problems of urban blight and actually be a financial boon to a city.

Before and after the keynote address were dozens of mini “breakout sessions,” dealing with a more specific topic related to classic homes and homeownership.  I attended classes on electric safety given by a local contractor, Tom Taylor.  I saw a history of the “modernist” movement in architecture, given by Paula Mohr of the Iowa State Preservation Office, and ended the day with a sneak peak of the newly improved reEnergize program, a collaborative effort between Omaha and Lincoln to improve energy efficiency in old homes.

In between there were plenty of opportunities to meet local merchants and enthusiasts, and lots of networking opportunities.  I happened to meet the son of a UNO alumni who ran the UNO Gateway for many years, and a number of other interesting people.

I spent over seven hours at the convention and it flew by.  I look forward to it next year, and encourage anyone who plans on owning a home or currently owns a home to attend as well.



“The economics of Jesus.”

Words that would be public suicide for any of today’s politicians, but this is how Mary Barrett, founder of the Omaha chapter of Habitat for Humanity, describes the Habitat philosophy.

“It’s a biblical business model.”

“We don’t work for the poor.  We work with the poor.  We don’t want to lose that focus.”

This is how Jesus would have run a business in today’s world.  That’s not to say that Mary sees herself as Christ-like; far from it.  Mary is one of the most honest, sincere, humble women I have ever met.

So how exactly would Jesus run a business in the modern economy?  If it were a housing business, he would first house the poor, the homeless, and the helpless.  He would have those who he helped repay him by doing the same kindness for another, and building more homes for the homeless.  By paying it forward, he would soon have amassed a volunteer base that could build not just one house, but a whole neighborhood, and much much more.  Instead of sheltering profits, he would shelter people.  And he would call it Habitat for Humanity.

This idea of people helping people at the most basic level, with no interest in profit, is what motivated Mary to found Habitat for Humanity in Omaha.  On a visit to Georgia in 1984, the same year that Jimmy Carter discovered Habitat for Humanity, Mary saw the Habitat organization and what they were doing, and how it got to the root of the problem.  She had worked with her church and other organizations at homeless shelters and charitable foundations before, and had seen the revolving door of the same faces coming in time after time with the same problems, stuck in the same rut.  Habitat for Humanity was a different sort of project, one that aimed to empower people and give them a foundation on which to build their own futures.

Mary came back to Omaha with the idea to help the communities in her hometown that needed the help most.  After receiving little initial support, she invested $1,000 of her own money into the project, and when that ran out, she invested another $1,000.  Her initial investment fed the organization hand-to-mouth until enough support was garnered to interest donors and grants.  Once the project was underway, it became completely self-sustaining; the money gained by mortgaging the houses is directly channeled into building more houses, with no profit to the organization.  The homes are mortgaged at 0% interest.

Now, 25 years later, Mary is still involved heavily with Habitat in Omaha.  Though not officially a staff or board member any longer, she often visits Habitat sites and continues to lend a helping hand.

For more information on the Omaha chapter of Habitat for Humanity and the organization in general, visit

More on Social Media

This is from an article I wrote for the UNO Gateway student newspaper (published 02-01-12), posted here for your viewing pleasure!  The article in the newspaper was titled “A realistic approach to social media, please!”

Many classes embrace social media as the new norm.  To be taken seriously, a company must have both a physical presence and an online presence.  Any business nowadays knows this.  No start-up would think of opening its doors without a website or at least a Facebook page to accompany it.  Social media has become integrated as a large part of our culture; it is an extension of our selves, a means of building and maintaining relationships, both professional and personal.

Sure, most teachers don’t allow texting, Facebooking, or Tweeting during class (although there are exceptions), but it’s been recognized that social media contributes to the learning environment in new, exciting and unique ways.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I came across a textbook with an introduction that not only advocated the rejection of social media, but actually encouraged readers to phase out their online presence via Facebook, Myspace, Linkedin, etc.  In fact, heralded it as a “ray of hope” that some would do so.  This got me thinking…

We all know someone who *gasp* doesn’t have a Facebook.  Usually it’s our great grandparents or our great aunt twice removed.  We expect some people to be resistant to change.  For some, new technology is just a hassle.  Our parents and grandparents have lived for decades with only the telephone as the quickest means of communication.  Obviously the world didn’t stop turning then, so what’s the big deal?  Is it just a passing fad?  The aforementioned textbook goes on to say that we, as a society, have reached a “saturation point” with social media.  We simply won’t tolerate it any more.  Everyone’s had his or her fun with it. It has outlived its usefulness, on to the next.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Sure, we all get tired of hearing about how well your best friend’s crops are growing in Farmville, or who got 250 million points at Bejeweled, or who was able to use the word “zygote” in WordsWithFriends.  But just because millions of us waste our time on trivial mind-numbing games doesn’t mean the idea has gone the way of the Furby.  Far from it.  What we are seeing is not a saturation point but rather a turning point.  Social media has been pushed to its fullest capacity as far as entertainment value is concerned.  We have reached the point where social media has been transformed into something entirely different from its original conception.  It is now a powerful tool to be utilized and molded to suit our needs as sentient beings in the information age.  We are just starting to make this turn- we have not yet fully passed the turning point of putting social media to productive use.  We are still so flooded with messages from Farmville and beyond that it is hard to keep focused on the bigger picture.

The bigger picture is that social media is a useful tool in building healthy relationships, both professional and personal.  If you feel like all of your friends on Facebook are superficial acquaintances, it’s probably because they are.  Many of us haven’t been taught how to effectively promote social relationships or interact on a personal level at all, which makes it impossible to utilize social media effectively.  Being neighbors in MagicLand or CityVille does not make you neighbors in real life.  Giving your neighbor in ZooWorld a new panda for their zoo does not give you grounds to be offended that you were not invited to your ZooWorld friend’s real-life bachelor party.

Having a Facebook page does not mean you have become an excellent communicator.  An excellent communicator is able to use a Facebook page to effectively maintain solid, lasting relationships with other people.  That’s what Facebook is about.  Effective communicators understand that our online personas are an extension of our actual personas.  Effective communicators understand how to build relationships and how to enhance relationships, both in person and online.  The two are not mutually exclusive.  They work together in a way that allows us to maintain a relationship regardless of distance, and that is the beauty of social networking. It is the responsibility of the individual, family, and community to promote healthy, respectful, and ethical social skills. We are social creatures, and social media allows us to create, define, and enhance those relationships we care about.

To avoid the problem of impending social media ‘saturation,’ these lessons need to be understood at an early age, and these values emphasized in our culture.  We need to fight back against the jaded view that all users of social media are simply wasting time and that this is a passing annoyance that will fade in time.  This attitude only serves to further our lack of social competence and leaves no room for the possibilities that social media presents.

Twitter in 300 Words


For a long time I was one of these people:

“I have Facebook.  Why would I need Twitter?”

I knew how to send messages, look up funny things, and find bands that I was interested in.  That’s what social media was for, right?  It didn’t really serve any purpose, but it sure was a great way to waste time!  Of course, that was before I understood the “social” part in “social media” and certainly before I had ever heard the term “Web 2.0.”  I could never understand what the big deal about Facebook or Twitter was, or how people ended up with so many friends and followers.  Why would anyone even want that many friends?  Why didn’t anyone care what I ate for breakfast or what my new shoes looked like, but other people were getting hundreds of comments?

Today I take a different approach, and though I wouldn’t consider myself a social media guru, I have finally come to the point where I don’t want to throw a celebration every time I find out someone has added me as a friend or started following my tweets.  The social aspect and the importance of it have become clear to me.  The opportunity to interact with other people is something I’ve learned to appreciate as I’ve learned to do.  I am able to maintain mature personal relationships, relationships that are based on more than “Liking” each and every status update.  I am also becoming more proficient at interacting professionally.  This is a new skill, and it comes slowly.  I have realized that social media is a way to get a message out, and a way to receive the message others are trying to get out.  It is this mutual respect of individuals and their ideas that give social media its value.

What I Found Today


What do you see?

A dog?  A wolf?  A person?  Something else entirely?

How about hope?  Love?  Brotherhood?  Faith?  Humanity?

That’s what Ricky sees, and after talking with him, that’s what I saw.

Ricky Murphy is the artist behind this photograph, and every photograph, at What I Found Today Productions (managed online at  Simply put, What I Found Today is a new way of looking at the world.  I mean this in more than the sense that Ricky’s photography brings out things that most people otherwise would not be able to see.

“It’s not about what I see.  It’s about what everyone else sees; allowing people to see this amazing world…I found the biggest icebreaker in the history of the world- ‘what do you see?’”

Let me back up a few steps and explain a little.  Ricky takes photographs.  Much of what you’ll see at looks less like a photograph and more like an oil pastel, or a water color, or even a computer generated image.  But make no mistake, photographs they are, of every-day objects.  Some seem logical- trees, clouds, nature.  Others are less conventional- rust; cement; brick walls; dirt on the floor.  Ricky takes photographs of these objects in order to make more obvious to us what he sees instinctively.  Ricky looks at the world differently, and in this way teaches us to as well.  However, Ricky teaches us how to look at the world differently in a much more meaningful and no less artistic way.  The photograph itself is only the first part of Ricky’s artwork.

The second part of Ricky’s artwork lies in his method of promotion and distribution.  The photograph above, and every photograph on, is distributed for free.  The customer simply pays printing and shipping costs, and becomes owner of a truly unique piece of work.  Ricky can print his photographs onto any medium the customer desires.  Why give it away for free?  Because, as Ricky explains,

“Let’s put it this way: most people who are artists struggle throughout most of their lives trying to get their name out there and get recognition.  Now, that’s why I came up with the idea that I should take my photography and just give it back to the world, because I am not the artist.  The world is the artist…so it only seems fair that I should give it back to the world that gave it to me.”

There’s no catch, but Ricky does ask one favor: that if you accept his artwork, you repay him by doing one thing:

“…doing what we all should do, and can do very easily.  Pay it forward.  That’s it…and pay it forward, meaning even the most random act of kindness is amazing.  Even just holding the door for someone is an amazing thing.  If people just did small things for a random person that they don’t know, it really comes back.  We need to stop thinking about ourselves.”

If you can’t think of a way to pay it forward on your own, Ricky suggests this: determine for yourself what you believe the value of his photograph to be, and after you have received it donate that amount to a charity, or simply to an individual in need.

Besides paying it forward to his customers, Ricky is actively involved in local charities.  He is preparing for a charity show in April, and frequently donates his artwork to charitable causes and nonprofit organizations.

This is the true art in what Ricky does.  Most of his artwork has not been distributed because of people finding his web page.  Ricky is one of the most dedicated, hardworking marketers I’ve ever seen.  He is able to distribute his work because he has rediscovered the lost art of conversation, and truly cares about each individual that his art reaches.  By showing this basic interest in another human being, Ricky has been able to touch people’s lives in a very significant way.  He has had complete strangers open up to him about their deepest fears and innermost secrets.  It is this opportunity to form a real connection between two people that Ricky values above all else.

To hear from his own mouth how and why he does what he does, Ricky has taken the time to explain the conception of What I Found Today, as well as its meaning and significance, in a YouTube video (  Below are all the ways you can contact Ricky for more information, to obtain one of his photographs, or just to talk.

Via Facebook

Via E-Mail

Via Twitter


Via Telephone

(402) 612-9595

Hello world!

Hello world!  I am currently a junior at University of Nebraska-Omaha, majoring in Journalism/Public Relations.  I compulsively read the news and follow political, tech, and climate stories.  I hope to promote both non-profits and the city of Omaha through blogging, as well as spread worthy news and opinion regarding the topis mentioned above.

If you have any interest in the same things I do, feel free to follow me and I will gladly follow you in return!  I love meeting new people, hearing new opinions, and despite the prevalence of social media and the multitude of uses for it, nothing beats a good conversation!  I look forward to reading and being read, and meeting all of you!  Happy reading!



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