Get mobile copy on the front page of the New York Times

I never imagined that I might write copy that would appear on the front page of the New York Times, but it was there in the print edition, reproduced in a screenshot from the signup pages my team produced.

My client NARAL Pro-Choice America ran into a bit of a problem with Verizon over the text messaging program I helped them put together. It smacked of censorship, so they went public with the issue and got a reversal from the CEO of Verizon within an hour. Still, the potential for this to happen to others is still very real. I’m not quoted in the article, and wasn’t directly involved in getting it published, but congratulations to the savvy folks at NARAL Pro-Choice America who turned this problem into an opportunity and stood up for us all. Fighting the carriers publicly isn’t usually an option for most working with mobile, but the alternatives leave much to be desired.

Even without taking into account free speech issues, the current US shortcode process is overly expensive and difficult. Many choose established shared-shortcodes to avoid as much of it as possible. I’ve helped bring live dozens of shortcodes, and have seen first-hand how good programs are frequently delayed or denied for trivial and/or arbitrary reasons. As a consumer, though, I’ve tried mobile programs which should never have been allowed to go live, violating rules that do protect the interest of consumer and carrier alike.

I’d love the carriers to agree to a uniform set of rules and to delegate program approval and certification to a single body (or trusted aggregators), leaving each carrier to handle technical provisioning only. This would help the whole industry by creating more consistency for protections to the consumer and would reduce costs to carriers and to those who build SMS programs by cutting redundancies and the arbitrary differences of multiple standards as well as regulating the updates to those standards. As it stands now, it is difficult for even the most diligent experts to keep up with all the rules and how they are interpreted — imagine having to file your income tax with five different governments that each have differing rules that are updated quarterly!

As to the free speech issue, I was heartened to read Nancy Keenan and Roberta Combs in the Washington Post. Right on! When the presidents of NARAL Pro-Choice America and the Christian Coalition of America agree on something, we should all stand up and take notice. As power shifts, corporate censorship may be a more important issue in this century than government censorship has been in the past.

Facebook Mobile: Causes, SMS and Blackberry

A few quick notes from CTIA (the wireless industry conference this week):

CTIA CEO Steve Largent announced that they’re re-activating Text2Give for the SoCal fires: text GIVE to 2HELP to donate $5 to the RedCross, shows up on your phone bill.

Facebook CTO and Co-Founder Markovitz, this morning’s keynote (yesterday was Steve Ballmer):

  • New mobile features let app’s automatically work with mobile and to add new mobile keywords for SMS
  • They love the ‘Causes’ app and used it as an example for both the above.
  • ages 35+ is the fastest growing demographic for Facebook (which is similar to SMS — these are not just ways to reach youth)
  • RIM CEO joined to announce and demo the new Blackberry native Facebook app. Uses push so you have content when offline (set custom tones for Facebook notifications), fully integrates with photos and address book to allow things like tagging and uploading to Facebook automatically when you take a pic. Again, Facebook and mobile are not just for younger demographics, RIM investing here (and 2000 RIM employees are on Facebook)

ASPCA Mobile

I subscribe to as many non-profit mobile programs as I can find (send me yours). I work with NARAL Pro-Choice America on Txt4Choice, but also helped launch The Humane Society’s mobile program, so I’m particularly interested in the messaging from ASCPA mobile. I have to say, I just don’t get it. I mean, I understand why some people would want a weekly dog or cat tip to their phone (though I’d love to find out how many subscribers there are and to hear from recipients what they think of the messaging), but I really didn’t understand their receent legislative alert:

Protect primates and people. Please visit http://www.aspca.org/primates and urge your legislators to support the Captive Primate Safety Act.

This is the only SMS legislative alert I’ve had from them, and it asks me to go online. The website doesn’t seem to be at all mobile friendly (though I’m viewing from an iPhone, so perhaps they’re detecting browser and serving pages accordingly) and asks me to send an email. For goodness sake, why not help me call my legislator? Or let me submit an SMS that is forwarded to my legislator? It seems much more likely that folks on the hill can make use of short sweet text messages actually written by constituents than long boring form letters that are repeated by the thousands.

What do you think?