Service Space - A Network of Hearts

08 January 2003


  • What is a network?

A network is a way for people to connect with other people in ways that are natural and organic. It is a space that allows people to discover one another's worlds as linked together through common interests. Once the connection is made, anything is possible.

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  • Is there justification enough to create our own networked community?

Networking people together goes hand in hand with service. In exploring other online networks, it seems that there is room for one that is based around service, so long as it improves on the similar networks that exist (and even if it doesn't, it will be a good way for the CharityFocus community to interact). These networks are also the wave of the future. If the intention of Charity Focus is to be a site that gets daily, repeat traffic and serves as a useful portal, it is necessary to make it a dynamic site. Networking is a perfect dynamic element for a service-related portal.

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  • What else is out there?

Friendly Favors (current web popularity - 221,886) -

The intention behind this site is great - it strives to empower kindness over greed in the exchange of services. This site has nothing to do with charity-type work. It is a slight step toward the bartering model. One offers their services for hire, often at a discount. Points are accumulated and 'thank yous' are passed around in addition to -and in some cases instead of - currency.

Also features:

  • local events
  • invite feature
  • members verify eachothers' credibility
  • search feature good for networking

Though it's possible, it's doubtful that 'thank yous' are enough of a hook to keep people coming back on a regular basis. It's a good idea; but for it to reach critical mass, it would likely have to be coupled with other elements.



Blogs (short for web logs) are a new and hot phenomenon on the web. People can express themselves easily through online 'diaries' and others can read and respond. Blogs empower the individual need for self expression and allow for everyone to have a voice. Blogs are dynamic elements that are proven popular; they will draw people in - both those managing their own blogs and others browsing.

Some references:


Taking IT Global (current web popularity - 82,281)

Taking IT Global is an awesome, cutting edge site that is making all the right decisions. Their mission statement is to empower youth to make a difference. This may exclude people who want to work toward change but feel they are over the age limit. That is reason enough to replicate their efforts.

Some good things about Taking IT Global:

(note: check out their e-cards) (current web popularity - 9,079) -

Though it's defined as a business oriented networking community, it really spill over into all areas.

What's good:

  • User has control over their page - can express interests (linkable), upload photos, write interests, etc.
  • Can start/join networks based on common interests (formerly tribes)
  • Message boards
  • Chat
  • Can add others as friends
  • Each page has a guestbook - you can sign others' guestbooks.
  • Private messages also
  • Preview of other ryze profiles/pages - encourages browsing
  • Is beginning to post Craigslist-type listings by categories
  • Local events
  • Fast loading (current web popularity - 288) -

Craigslist is a networking site in a different sense than the others, and in many ways it is more effective than the others. It provides many useful categories where users can post what they are looking for or what they are trying to unload. Through this medium, people are able to make matches and many connections come almost by default.

Though Craigslist has a 'volunteering' category, it is not structured toward service and does not provide any kind of infrastructure along these lines. It is useful to note it here because of its immense popularity. (current web popularity - 4,453) -

An example of a popular networking site based around art.

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  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of creating our own?

In creating this, we are taking a bold step toward becoming a more popular, highly trafficked site. The advantages to this are plenty! The more popular we become, the more people will be exercising their hearts of service. Not only that, but if we build it in the right ways, these hearts of service will be coming together and taking action which can have an extraordinary impact on our world.

Taking over PledgePage was the first step toward becoming a more trafficked site, so this decision has already been put in motion... and all signs indicate it continuing.

The disadvantages are only that there will be more complexity to be managed fully by volunteers (which can, of course, also be seen as more service opportunities). As we grow larger, it is possible that some of the intimacy we share being a small group might get lost, althought it is more likely to have the opposite effect. In creating Service Space, we are decentralizing, which will allow many to form small service groups like our own.

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  • What would our network look like?

Personal profiles (service pages):

Perhaps the most essential element in the success of a network is in the ease, the freedom, and empowerment one has in shaping their personal profile. If they are not motivated to work to shape up their profile page, then the network as a whole suffers. Ways to empower people:

  • ease of use
  • allow people to upload photos
  • allow for self-expression through philosophy, poetry, and art
  • provide a space for blogs
  • allow people to post their interests (linkable)
  • allow people to post things that they recommend: movies, music, foods, etc.
  • Their profile can also feature their service activities past and present (website for NPO, help the homeless, PledgePage, etc.)

(Note: our inspiration > expressions section has always been a little awkward, especially when it comes to recommended music, movies, etc. This will solve that by letting the users state their preferences rather than CharityFocus as an organization).


Ways to Network:

People will find each other in various ways:

  • Searches by keywords
  • Keyword links built into the users pages (interests, friends, guestbook entries, etc.)
  • Randomly via a system of 'plugs' for other pages (a la Ryze)
  • Bulletin Boards
  • Interest groups (CF Clubs)
  • Chat (a nice addition down the road?)
  • Sign up your friends


Fun Elements, as seen on other networks:

  • Each page has a guestbook for signing
  • One can also send a private message
  • People can link up as friends
  • Send e-mail


Customized information:

From a user's page, they will also have access to the things that are relevant to them, much like CF is currently strucured, with:

  • local events
  • subscriptions
  • current projects (sorted by role?)


Service Space

So far, we are mostly just repeating what is out there - an inspiring place to network with service being the theme, but we have the ability to take it so much further than this.


By tying into projects, we can help facilitate turning people's connections into meaningful action. Some examples:

  • You search for an open project based on an area of interest (i.e. homelessness in San Francisco)
  • There is a meaningful project going on. You meet someone with that common interest. You tell them about it and they sign up as a volunteer with you.
  • You have an idea for a project. You post it and find others who want to join you on it.
  • You find someone with a common interest. In chatting, you decide to take action together on a project.


When service space couples with money, many things can happen -- many of these concepts are pretty clear in my mind, but might require more explanation to be really understood by others. Some examples:

  • Just like Friendly Favors uses 'Thank yous," we can use CharityBucks (needs more discussion) that can be used toward funding nonprofit sponsored projects
  • Donors will have option of being listed as part of "team" with links to their service page.
  • Donors can "support" (even anonymously) service-hearted individuals (via paypal)
  • When a team comes together to implement a project, if they find a nonprofit sponsor, they will be eligible to reach out for funding using many of the CF tools (PledgePage, OneAtATime, etc.)
  • Charity 'wishlists' featured on individual's service pages


If service space is structured in such a way that it is all about service, it should naturally be very fun and inspiring. Some other ways to increase the inspiration:

  • An acquaintance can 'tag' someone else's service page with an inspiring story or tidbits about them (the person can remove them if they aren't wanted). They'll get an e-mail alert whenever they're tagged.
  • With art, poetry, philosophy, inspiring recommendations, and even links to inspiring stories and other things that the person has written, the pages will be loaded with good stuff.
  • Perhaps we can have some customized blog templates, such as: acts of kindness done this week --people will be producing their own inspiring content.
  • In creating message boards, we can have lots of good sections such as: What's the change that you want to see in the world and how are you going about being that change...


Other Items:

  • We'll need a 'Flag for Review' feature for any questionable content
  • Service pages should be updated automatically as part of the system whenever possible. For instance, any project that a person is working on, article they've written, or projects completed or supported, will be shown on their page (they can be hidden if desired). By making these updates automatic, then if a person feels it is vain to list them him or herself, their page will be interesting just by default.

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