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On Thursday 25th March 2010, people from an estimated 200 cities across the globe will come together to celebrate and support the second Global Twestival. Defined by Twitter as ‘a way to take part in a global event that transforms lives’, Twestival was created last year by London based Amanda Rose, an events-minded entrepreneur, who believed that Twitter’s users could be brought together for the common good.

Ms Rose’s creation resulted in a series of worldwide off line events – from concerts to knitting groups – that raised over $250,000 for the chosen beneficiary - Global Twestival - and brought worldwide public awareness to the global water crisis and the devastating fact that over 1 billion people lack access to clean water.

This year’s Global Twestival looks set to repeat last year’s achievements, at the time of writing a shade over $52,000 had been donated, with all proceeds in 2010 going to Concern Worldwide.

Perhaps it was the success of the first Twestival that led Wolverine himself, Actor Hugh Jackman to challenge Twitter users to explain in one short tweet why he should support their favorite charity. The charity supported by the most convincing “tweet” would win $100,000. In the end Hugh ended up donating $50,000 each to both Operation of Hope and Charity:Water. Another Hollywood Star, and everyone’s favourite tweeter - @aplusk - a.k.a Ashton Kutcher delivered on his promise of donating to Malaria No More, if and when he beat CNN to the million followers mark.

Likewise, last year ABC New Reporter, Bob Woodruff, who himself was seriously injured whilst on news duty in Iraq called upon Twitter users to donate to his foundation, which aids injured service personnel and veterans. To date his Tweet to Remind initiative has raised over $200,000 towards its May Memorial Day target of $1.9M.

The examples listed above - all Twitter - are just a flavour of the hundreds and hundreds of fund raising tales that involve the use of social networking tools to spread their powerful messages and calls for action. And you can bet that they won’t be the last.

With 400M users on Facebook and 119M unique visitors on MySpace, and Twitter managing to acquire 6.2M new users per month, social networks offer non profits and charitable causes a huge opportunity for getting both their voice heard and raising vital funds (even allowing for inactive and deleted accounts).

Campaigns and petitions can be set up and released in seconds. The old saying a ‘picture tells a thousand words’ is never truer than on the internet. A 20 second You Tube video of an elephant being culled by poachers is far more powerful, and engenders a far more emotive response, than a 1,000 word article describing the slaying.

The beauty of the internet is that’s instant and will genuinely elicit a reaction in real time – which gives any organisation a pretty decent snapshot of whether their campaign is going to float or sink.

And as the trend for online social/community fund raising and campaigning grows apace so does the need for additional computing power to effectively support the demand. So used to simply logging in and typing away are we, that we are completely oblivious to the infrastructure that is humming away in the background to deliver the services we consume.

And this is an absolutely key characteristic of the other buzz term (social media just about outscoring it) cloud computing. To the end user, the cloud is invisible; the technology that supports the applications doesn’t matter — the fact that the applications are always available is key. Uptime is everything.

Take Facebook for example. When it first began in 2004, with a small number of members and with no photos or videos to display, the entire service ran on a single server. Today, some 30,000 servers later, the company is investing somewhere between $180M & $125M in a purpose built data centre in Prineville, Oregon. How many of us even remotely consider this fact or are even bothered by it as we join the other 35 million users in updating our status pages daily?

Yet this is a great example of how computing and communication is moving to the data center – someone else’s data center – the cloud. No need to invest in and manage your own infrastructure, you simply plug into the services offered by a third party supplier as and when you chose. But there is a risk of relying solely on ’free to net’ Social Networking tools for planned events and campaigns in that you are basically beholden to standard terms and conditions and have no recourse for action should your service provider fail you or suffer an outage. A thought worth hanging onto if you’re attempting to raise millions of dollars.

As the tech industry debates the benefits and merits of the public vs. private vs. hybrid cloud models, perhaps with initiatives such as Twestival, we may also begin to see the development of a fourth not so widely touted model - the Community Cloud.

It may take a while to become a reality, but you can certainly envisage the day when communities of like minded people/groups across the globe decide to take the socio-technical concept one stage further, and create their own virtual data centers utilising the spare capacity of their networked personal computers/laptops.

Not for them the Fail Whale, but their own dedicated controllable cloud. Not only will they control the messages and promotion but also the apps/storage/shared workspace behind the campaign. The technology exists today but there are still many barriers and questions to overcome, such as latency, resource management and security. These are not insurmountable challenges, and it will certainly be a while before the Community Cloud truly materialises – but it certainly is one cloud on the horizon.

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More Stories By Phil Worms

Phil is a 30 year IT industry veteran with a passion for education and has personally led many school and higher education initiatives designed to engage young people and showcase the broad range of exciting and fulfilling roles in IT.

A full and varied career has seen Phil move through various senior product/project and marketing positions with companies as diverse as Centrica plc, One.Tel, VarTec Telecom and iomart Group plc. Phil is working on a project to create an intergenerational social hub that will celebrate creativity and achievement in Helensburgh, birthplace of television pioneer John Logie Baird.The Heroes Centre will provide people of all ages with the new media and content creation skills required to engage fully in the digital world. Follow his progress on Twitter and on Facebook

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