Making a difference is not about creating a heroic image.

When good intentions are valued over effective change, resources that should be used for effective change are diverted to create an image of moral goodness or greatness.

In the article, Raising the World’s I.Q., Nicholas D. Kristof of The New York Times suggests that a worthwhile initiative for positive change in the world is often overlooked because of its image problems:

Travelers to Africa and Asia all have their favorite forms of foreign aid to “make a difference.” One of mine is a miracle substance that is cheap and actually makes people smarter.

Unfortunately, it has one appalling side effect. No, it doesn’t make you sterile, but it is just about the least sexy substance in the world. Indeed, because it’s so numbingly boring, few people pay attention to it or invest in it. (Or dare write about it!)

It’s iodized salt.

Almost one-third of the world’s people don’t get enough iodine from food and water. The result in extreme cases is large goiters that swell their necks, or other obvious impairments such as dwarfism or cretinism. But far more common is mental slowness.

When a pregnant woman doesn’t have enough iodine in her body, her child may suffer irreversible brain damage and could have an I.Q. that is 10 to 15 points lower than it would otherwise be. An educated guess is that iodine deficiency results in a needless loss of more than 1 billion I.Q. points around the world.

Development geeks rave about the benefits of adding iodine and other micronutrients (such as vitamin A, iron, zinc and folic acid) to diets. The Copenhagen Consensus, which brings together a panel of top global economists to find the most cost-effective solutions to the world’s problems, puts micronutrients at the top of the list of foreign aid spending priorities.

“Probably no other technology,” the World Bank said of micronutrients, “offers as large an opportunity to improve lives … at such low cost and in such a short time.”

Yet the strategy hasn’t been fully put in place, partly because micronutrients have zero glamour. There are no starlets embracing iodine. And guess which country has taken the lead in this area by sponsoring the Micronutrient Initiative? Hint: It’s earnest and dull, just like micronutrients themselves.

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Howto: Post your Blogger comment actions on Twitter automatically

This tutorial shows you how to take a Blogger comment feed and output a new feed containing only your comments, formatted for twitterfeed. This is useful if you frequently comment on a Blogger blog and want your comment actions to be automatically posted on Twitter.

My last tutorial showed you how to use Yahoo! Pipes to filter a WordPress comment feed so that it outputs a new feed containing only your comments. However, Blogger comment feeds require more processing than WordPress comment feeds to make the RSS items presentable as a twitterfeed tweet. (If you want the WordPress version of this tutorial, see the previous tutorial.)

The method in this tutorial creates the title of the feed item based on the blog post’s URL. For example, if I commented on Sweden expected to legalize gay marriage in May 2009 which has the URL http://gay-persons-of-color.blogspot.com/2009/01/sweden-expected-to-legalize-gay.html, the final tweet would be “commented on Sweden expected to legalize gay” with the URL appended at the end as a TinyURL link. Although the item title may not perfectly match the title of the original post (“Sweden expected to legalize gay” vs. “Sweden expected to legalize gay marriage in May 2009”), this method is easier and faster than extracting the real post title.

What you will need

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Howto: Post your WordPress blog comment actions on Twitter automatically

This tutorial shows you how to use Yahoo! Pipes and twitterfeed to automatically log your WordPress comments on Twitter.

Why it is useful to automate tweets

The great thing about Twitter is that it asks you, “What are you doing?”, and no update status is too trivial. If you are like me, you use Web 2.0 services outside of Twitter. If you are like me, you feed the RSS feeds of your blog posts, Wikipedia edits, and Delicious saves into Twitter via twitterfeed, so that whenever you blog, edit Wikipedia, or save a link to Delicious, your actions are logged on Twitter.

I also comment on other people’s blogs, and I thought it would be a great idea to keep track of my comments on Twitter. Some comment systems provide a RSS feed of your own comments, but most WordPress blogs provide only the RSS feed of all comments. I decided to use Yahoo! Pipes to filter the comment feed of my WordPress.com blog and output a new RSS feed containing only my comments.

What you will need

  • the WordPress comment feed of a WordPress blog on which you frequently comment. (The URL of a WordPress comment feed looks something like http://pddp.wordpress.com/comments/feed/. All WordPress.com blogs have a comment feed URL in this format.)
  • a Yahoo! account (free)
  • a twitterfeed account (free)
  • a Twitter account (free)

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