Honoring My Mom and Yours

My wonderful mom recently celebrated a special birthday with her twin sister. These are two special ladies, with 17 kids and more than 60 grandkids between them.

wanda and wanee 80th

There is nothing my mom loves more than a phone call from one of her kids–except a long visit from one of us.

She has lived her entire life putting her family above everything else as her most important priority.

She was a grade school teacher before meeting my dad. And from I hear, she was the favorite teacher of a lot of her students.

That doesn’t surprise me at all. She is intelligent, a gifted teacher, an avid reader, a wonderful conversationalist. She has LEARNER and INPUT–two strengths that I share with her.

But my mom does something that few people can do. She makes everyone in her presence feel like they are the most special person around. She puts her heart and soul into loving everyone in her life.

Her CONNECTEDNESS, EMPATHY, and INDIVIDUALIZATION work beautifully together to help every person feel like they are part of her family, she loves them, and she is interested in every detail of their life.

Growing up, most of my friends called her Mom and always loved to be at our house, whether for her home-made bread, or for her attention and interest in them.

Mom–you are one-of-a-kind. No one else in the world has your unique combination of strengths. By using all your strengths to serve your family, friends, and neighbors, you have been a huge blessing to us all.

I love you forever, Mom! Happy Mother’s Day.

P.S. Since there is nothing my mom loves more than a phone call or visit from someone she loves–and I’m sure your mom might feel the same–I’d like to offer you a FREE STRENGTHSFINDER 2.0 assessment code which you can give to your mom TODAY.

All you have to do is BE ONE OF THE FIRST 10 PEOPLE to fill out a simple form, promise to gift the code to your mom, and then read her Strengths Theme Insights Report aloud together with her, and express appreciation for how she has used her strengths to bless your life. Then email me about your experience. Then I’ll call my mom and share your experience with her. Win-win-win. :)

Here is the form: http://goo.gl/forms/eEGvhg1DPa

Once you fill it out, if you are one of the first 10 people to do so, I’ll send you a StrengthsFinder 2.0 code for free which you can share with your mom – TODAY!

P.P.S. It’s 3:00 ET and there are still 3 codes left.


Best. Kickstarter. Ever. (for Entrepreneurs)

I really really like this new Kickstarter campaign. I can’t wait to see how much money it raises.

And I can’t wait to read the book.

If your name is Eric Ries and you created the Lean Startup movement–and you have friends like Fred Wilson and Brad Feld promoting it–your Kickstarter project to write the follow-on book is going to get fully funded. That’s not even a question. The only question is how many unexpected multiples of the goal will you bring in. A steady flow of new pledges has been coming in to help Eric write a new book, The Leader’s Guide, and launch an online community for project backers.

It’s at $83,894 as I post this. But ever time I go back to check more pledges have come in.

If you are an entrepreneur, I suggest you go to Kickstarter right now and pledge $21 — so that you can participate in the beta community around this new book.

And if you want a chance to change your life forever–seriously consider one of the $5,000 pledges. I would suggest the Day With Brad Feld. He knows as much as building startup ecosystems outside of Silicon Valley as anyone alive, and a chance to spend significant time with him (outside of his normal office-hours in Boulder) and to meet some of his portfolio companies would be a never-to-be-forgotten experience. If done right, the online attention you could get in your own investor community and among your potential customers leading up to and surrounding your day in Boulder could more than pay for this trip. Issue a press release about it. (Use the “Unconvential PR” tactic covered nicely in the new book, “Traction“).

In fact, if you are an enterprising entrepreneur somewhere in the U.S. or Canada, maybe not part of the Silicon Valley scene and not close to Boulder, why don’t you launch your own crowdsourcing campaign to raise the $5,000 (plus travel) you need to make the trip to Boulder, and promise to bring back something special to each of your donors? That would be pretty meta. Maybe ask Brad a question for each of them. Or get him to sign a bunch of books (I would suggest “Startup Communities“) and come home and distribute them to all the “economic development” people and big-time angel investors in your community. Maybe Meerkat part of the day–and let your pledges ask him a question themselves.

A second $5,000 pledge that would amazing is the Andreesen Horowitz experience. Just think about it, people have paid millions to have lunch with Warren Buffett. If you could pay $5k for a chance to spend some time with Marc Andreesen, arguably the most influential internet-technologist-turned-venture-investor in the history of the world, why wouldn’t you find a way to do it?

I met Marc at a fairly small Jupiter Communications internet technology conference in Northern California back in 2000 or 2001 (when I was still at Ancestry.com) and heard him in person make one of his few predictions that will never come true–he said (jokingly) that humans will evolve smaller thumbs so we can type faster on our Blackberries. I’ve learned a ton of things from him since.

Meeting someone in person somehow permanently changes your relationship to or awareness of that other person, and somehow compounds the learning potential you will get from them in your lifetime. At least that what it seems like to me. Somehow meeting someone, talking to them, shaking their hand, exchanging business cards, seems to make their opinion and voice louder for the rest of your life. I feel the same way about Bill Gurley who I heard speak in person in the 90s. And Esther Dyson. And Mark Zuckerberg (May ’07) and Vint Cerf (2012) and BJ Fogg, and on and one. I could make a list of dozens people who have been influential in my life where this seems to be the case.

So first, pledge $21. Then figure out how to be one of the $5,000 pledges and milk this for all its worth.

In this era of attention scarcity, I bet you could make your pledge pay off big time.

The view from Washington DC

This morning I flew out of Reagan National Airport. I always marvel as I look out over the nation’s capital from a plane window, thinking about the history of this place. On the 4th of July my family and I enjoyed watching the fireworks display from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, which face the Washington Monument. Today, I had a great view of the National Mall, all the way to the Capitol Building.

Since taking a job with Gallup last September, my first job in 22 years with a company where I wasn’t a founder, I’ve been taking the metro to DC almost every day. Getting the family settled took a few months, and just now am I beginning to feel really comfortable in and around DC. Lately I’ve been attending a lot of high-tech networking events, including a BigDataDC event last night in Vienna. I’ve been to two Data Scientist gatherings at George Washington University. And I’m looking forward to attending a lot more coding, venture capital, entrepreneurship, and political events in the coming months. Between Meetup and EventBrite I can find good events every week.

There were 7 speakers last night at the BigDataDC event, hosted by AddThis. (AddThis is a social sharing and analytics tool used by 14 million web sites. They process 3.5 billion transactions per day. They talked about their Hyrda tool, which they plan to open source soon.) One speaker discussed a sales and marketing tool he is building with about 10 open source and API components–and it’s exactly the same problem I’m working on for Gallup.

DC is not Silicon Valley, but it probably ranks in the top 5 communities in the U.S. for high tech innovation, and definitely in the number one or number two spot for a bunch of categories related to the military and national security, including Cybersecurity. Last night one of the speakers who has been in IT for 44 years discussed the Einstein 3 system from the Department of Homeland Security which reportedly will do deep-packet inspection of all internet communications in the United States. I’m not a fan of the surveillance state. It’s very troubling to me.

(Here’s an article about it from April: http://www.networkworld.com/news/2013/042413-dhs-deep-packet-inspection-269078.html)

When I lived in Silicon Valley in 1999-2000 I attended technology and marketing conferences and events constantly, at Stanford, in San Francisco and San Jose. I am just now starting to do the same here in DC. When building Ancestry.com and other startups, I always felt that the greatest value I added was from what I learned by networking and reading, and from new ideas and tools that I could bring in and experiment with. I loved finding more efficient ways to do things, discover best practices, and implement systems that could scale.

Because of Gallup, where I’m the evangelist for StrengthsFinder, I realize now that I’m wired to constantly learn, innovate, and strategize. That’s what gives me energy and it’s what I’m best at. My Top 6 strengths are: Learner, Input, Ideation, Intellection, Strategic and Analytical.

Gallup is a great place for me to be. It’s a mission-driven company filled with really smart people who want to have a positive impact on clients and on the world. Gallup conducts research all over the world. We talk with millions of people in 160+ countries every year. From our call centers in Nebraska and through our researchers on the ground all over the world, we have a view from Washington DC about how people are thinking and feeling about key issues everywhere that isn’t skewed because we’re inside the Beltway. Our view is informed by what people are telling us worldwide about what they’re biggest problems and opportunities are.

The advice Gallup can provide to business clients and to leaders in government, education, and faith worldwide does not come from theories or pet ideas–it comes from data and testing and research and measurement. Our scientists are brilliant, our data set is massive and unique, and our company has great leadership. I feel really honored to be a part of Gallup at this very interesting time in world history and in Gallup’s history. I hope I can make positive contributions with my entrepreneurial approach, my technology and marketing skills, and the new things I’m learning about big data and data science.

This view I now have from Washington DC is unlike any other view I’ve ever had, and I’m quite enjoying it.

(Posted from my Chromebook Pixel using GoGoInFlight, thanks to Google I/O)

Most Effective Email Marketing Tactics–I’m printing this chart right now and putting it on my wall

Most Effective Email Marketing Tactics

I’m printing this chart right now and putting it on my wall.

If your company does email marketing you should do the same. This chart can provide a constant reminder of what works best in email marketing….and that often the most important factors are overlooked.

I’ve been a huge fan of MarketingSherpa for more than 10 years. All online marketers and entrepreneurs should become familiar with their benchmark surveys, their case studies, and events. I’ve learned a ton of great things from MarketingSherpa, which was acquired a few years back by another great company that runs MarketingExperiments.com.

Here’s a link to the full article: http://goo.gl/Ewzsr


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Turbo Charge the Learning Registry

Have you ever heard of the Learning Registry? I hadn’t until recently. Here’s an O’Reilly article about it from last November.

If the Learning Registry is more fully developed and populated with content, students and teachers all over the U.S. will have easy access to all the best online resources that map to any of the Common Core State Standards for education. Actually, the Learning Registry is not limited to common core and I suppose it isn’t limited to K-12 either. Any educational content (free or premium) can be added to the Learning Registry. Think of it as a universal card catalog to all online education content, with community ratings on the quality of the resource.

One way to see how this could work is to imagine an effort to organize all the thousands of individual teacher Pinterest boards that already list education resources: http://goo.gl/WRESh

These resources can all be connected to grade level learning objectives for Kindergarten through 12th grade, and then easily browsed by teachers and students.

(Who knew that Pinterest could play such a massive role in online education?!?!)

At a recent event in Washington, DC I had the privilege of meeting with dozens of people from education tech companies, private foundations, and others who care about improving education.

I ended up on a small task force whose project is to “Turbo Charge The Learning Registry.”Our team consists of about 15 people, including individuals from multi-billion dollar companies, philanthropic foundations, and startup Ed Tech companies. I am helping to coordinate the work on this project.

Our goal is to make the Learning Registry more well known, easier to use, easier to add resources to, and more easily integrated with other learning management systems. We want to make sure all the best online resources are added to the Learning Registry. This is going to take a lot of crowdsourcing!

We need coders to help us with various aspects of this project and community organizers to help us organize the crowdsourcing aspects of the project, and of course teachers who can help us find the best online resources (videos, slideshows, animations, and other teaching materials) and add them to the Learning Registry.

We hope the end result is a wonderful learning resource that can be used by millions of students and teachers.

If you are a 1) coder 2) community organizer, or 3) teacher who wants to help contribute to this project, please comment below and fill out our Volunteer Survey form.

Google has an incredible iOS design and development team. I just downloaded the new search app fo…

Google has an incredible iOS design and development team. I just downloaded the new search app for iPhone and it's about as perfect as any app I've ever used. After a few minutes I'm totally loving it. And I use the Google+ iPhone app for like 30-60 minutes a day. It is an absolutely amazing way to consume content from my carefully built circles on Google+. The large photos with text overlays are brilliant.

When I'm simply consuming information, the iPhone experience with both of these Google apps are as good or better than than the desktop versions.

But when I'm creating content, or organizing it, or linking to it, or interacting with people, I still have to use my desktop, with its full-size keyboard and two large monitors. I get much more done at my desktop than I can on a smartphone, tablet, or laptop, because I have maximum screen size, maximum keyboard input speed, 20+ open tabs in Chrome, and most of my Windows applications open as well.

I've never been able to replicate that kind of maximum productivity environment on a laptop, let alone a tablet or smart phone. I wonder if I ever will.


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Did a social media hit squad derail the Buddy Roemer presidential campaign?

Did a social media hit squad derail the Buddy Roemer presidential campaign?

This week I was disappointed that +Buddy Roemer wasn’t able to get the support he needed on Americans Elect to become an official candidate for President of the United States in all 50 states. I think his message that our political system has been corrupted by money is spot on, but even with TV coverage by Morning Joe and Dylan Ratigan, and with an Atlantic Monthly article by +Lawrence Lessig, he couldn’t get the necessary support. I’ve been puzzling for months why he can’t garner more support — he’s a former governor, a 4-term Congressman, a successful traditional banker, and he was trained in economics at Harvard. He’s got great qualifications.

But tonight I think I uncovered a bit of evidence that perhaps his online campaign was derailed by a social media hit squad operating somewhere, backed by someone. I have no idea where or who.

But I really don’t think a single disgruntled supporter could post the same anti-Roemer message on 22,000 web pages by himself or herself.

It appears to me that someone has financed an effort to shut Roemer down.

I first saw this anti-Roemer rant as a comment on my own personal blog. I read it, followed all the links, and came away as strong a Roemer supporter as before. I didn’t trust the credibility of the anti-Roemer content that his person pointed me to. I found a lot of pro-Roemer support elsewhere, from people who knew him while he was Governor and while he served in Congress.

So I emailed the commenter, and what do you know, the email bounced. The person was using a fake email address. This was months ago.

Tonight, randomly, I saw the same anti-Roemer content on another site from a person whose nickname was SayAmen. Out of curiousity, I googled a phrase from the quote followed by another word in it.

11,500 hits showed up. When I told Google to show me duplicates too, it showed 22,000 web pages that contained this exact same lengthy anti-Roemer rant.

Here is the link to the Google query: http://bit.ly/Lgf41u

That leads me to believe there has been a well-financed and coordinated effort from someone to destroy Roemer’s reputation online.

And then I read this article about social media mercenaries who run fake campaigns to sell merchandise. Perhaps the same technique is used to undermine political opponents.

What do you think?

I welcome your thoughts about how this may have happened and how much damage 22,000 horrible comments about him may have done to his already underfunded and underexposed campaign.

Epic blog post on eve of Facebook’s historic IPO — coming soon

Epic blog post on eve of Facebook’s historic IPO — coming soon

I’ve been planning to devote much of today to writing an epic blog post on the eve of the historic Facebook IPO. But I’m not sure I have it in me — and I’ve got a lot of other things to do as well.

However, if I do write the post, here’s how it will unfold.

First, I’ll establish my (cough) psychic powers in the opening paragraph with a true story. Next, I will guess how Facebook’s stock price will fare in the short and medium term.

But the really exciting part will be in trying to predict how the Google vs. Facebook battle will play out in the longer term — over the next few years.

I will explore Google’s search-based revenue model and how getting a billion users registered on Google+ (even with minimal engagement on plus.google.com) will generate billions more in annual revenue for Google — even if it never places ads on its social network. This is genius.

I will also explore Facebook’s revenue challenges and opportunities. Selling ads around user generated content has always been tough. Especially if your users are “heads down” (not easily distracted) because they are engrossed in meaningful content generated by family and friends. Facebook’s ad click through rates are about as low as you will see anywhere, on any web site.

But Facebook accounts for a significant percentage of all page views on the web. That is an astonishing achievement. They are profitable, growing, and will have a war chest of billions of dollars for acquisitions and to experiment with new possible revenue models. I’ll discuss several ideas that I think Facebook will pursue in the coming years to try to grow into their current market capitalization before the market punishes them too severely.

My conclusion is that I would much rather be Google than Facebook. But I also celebrate the fact that it is a great time to be entrepreneur/developer. Imagine two of the world’s smartest and most valuable companies trying to entice you to build products and services on top of their billion-user social graph. Both companies will be providing awesome APIs, viral distribution opportunities, and monetization options that will help startup companies grow incredibly fast and get to profitability fast as well.

Tomorrow a lot of fortunes will be made when Facebook’s stock trades on a public exchange for the first time. And in the coming months, more fortunes will be made (and lost) as millions of shares trade hands with this stock — which is surely going to be very actively traded and very volatile.

But the bigger story is that in order to win the future, Facebook and Google are building open platforms that will attract huge numbers of developers and entrepreneurs to create apps, attract customers, and build value on top of their social graphs. These entrepreneurs will build fortunes by creating value in the marketplace, not by getting lucky in a volatile stock market lottery.

In the next decade, I expect to see scores of billion dollar companies built (and built quickly) on top of Facebook and Google+. That is where my attention will be in the long run, though I admit that tomorrow I’ll be watching the Facebook stock ticker all day long.


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Hangouts for Entrepreneurs: please take our quick survey and vote for the topic you want to discu…

Hangouts for Entrepreneurs: please take our quick survey and vote for the topic you want to discuss

(And please share this with other entrepreneurs that you know. We need hundreds of responses to make the results meaningful.)

Next week we'll be experimenting with Hangouts for Entrepreneurs. Based on the principles in the books "Love is the Killer App" and "Never Eat Alone," we are going to bring networking and idea sharing among entrepreneurs to a whole new level.

If you don't live in Silicon Valley but want to participate in daily or weekly discussions with dozens of other high-tech entrepreneurs, to share ideas, best-practices, to find technical help, and to find potential business partners for your company, watch this space. Hangouts for Entrepreneurs are on their way.

We'll be recruiting some amazing mentors and guests to help discuss our topics. Years ago I taught entrepreneurship and internet marketing at 2 different universities over 4 years. The secret to my (tongue-in-cheek) popularity was that I invited dozens of amazing guest lecturers–usually the founders of multi-million dollar companies–who freely shared secrets they learned with my students. It was amazing. I was constantly learning from my guest lecturers.

We'll do something similar here, bring mentors right to you via Google Hangouts. But entrepreneurs have to make hundreds of major decisions when starting and running a new business. Sometimes entrepreneurs face questions that more experienced entrepreneurs haven't faced before, because times have changed and the landscape evolves every year. When that happens, entrepreneurs need up-to-date peer advice.

We'll be setting up a format that allows all entrepreneurs to give and receive helpful and timely peer advice — learning on demand — so that entrepreneurs can make better decisions than ever before, about each of the hundreds of choices they have to make in the course of their business.

Please follow this link, fill out our survey, and provide us your email address if you want to be added to our mailing list: http://bit.ly/J3O7xp


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Dallas Fed President: Financial Crisis Will Happen Again

Dallas Fed President: Financial Crisis Will Happen Again

Here’s a 40-second video clip to remind all of us that the largest “banks” are much larger than before the 2008 crisis, and are not only too big to fail, but they are too big and complex to regulate and to manage. http://to.pbs.org/Jf3MgT

[Transcript] “So we know this [financial crisis] will happen again, the question is will the taxpayers be held hostage once more, if we have such concentration within so few hands, again, five banks have 52% of all the deposits in this country. Is that healthy or not? Our thesis in the Dallas Fed is that this is not healthy. It gives them such enormity of scale and complexity that it’s very hard for regulators to penetrate that complexity and I would argue, having been a former banker, in the real world by the way, not just at the Federal Reserve, makes them extremely diffficult to manage, because of their size and their scope.” (Richard Fisher, President Federal Reserve Dallas)

After years of researching this very subject, I’m now working weekly with a small group of informed citizens who are trying to do something about this.

We are hoping to spawn a nationwide social media campaign that will lead to citizens and their representatives becoming far more educated about how the financial system is engineered in favor of these big concentrated casino banks — and simple steps that could be done to change things. (Simple, but nearly impossible now given the billions of dollars of campaign donations and lobbying expenses the financial sector will use to stave off any real reform.)

We are hoping that we can find other like-minded groups and that our collective efforts could lead to the kind of rapid reform that the book “Throw Them All Out” and the 60-minutes expose on PBS did last year. The book was published in November. PBS aired the expose on November 13. Just months later the STOCK act — prohibiting the abhorrent but generally accepted practice of trading public stocks on insider Congressional knowledge. Now that was awesome to watch. Congress’s 10% approval rating hadn’t been enough to change their behavior, but being outed by PBS and a carefully researched book that showed how members from both parties had been trading on insider knowledge for years was enough. They were shamed into acting and acting quickly.

If enough light is shined on the corruption of our financial-political complex, and the fictitious (and harmful to the real economy) nature of most of the profits within the banking (i.e. high-stakes gambling) sector are more widely understood, perhaps a similar outcome could occur.

The last attempt at financial reform was an utter failure — too big to understand, too weak to matter. I spent a lot of time following that process, including time in Washington DC watching the conference committee finalize the bill. As is typical, no one had time to read the bill until after it was passed. What we ended up with was a 2,000+ page mass of confusion and mountain of complexity. And we ended up with very little actual reform.

What we need is short, simple, understandable. Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Conner said a few years ago in Salt Lake City that part of the genius of the U.S. Constitution was it’s brevity. She compared it to the length and complexity of the European Constitution (signed but not ratified by all member states back in 2004-2005) which I have since found out is 70,000 words long, fifteen times longer than the U.S. Constitution. The Cato Institute reported years ago that few people in Europe had read and fewer understood because of its “impenetrable language.” http://bit.ly/JiLQQ4

I love the brevity and simplicity of the Glass-Steagall Banking Act of 1934. It was about 26 pages long (depending on which format you read) and cleanly separated risky investment banks from federally insured commercial deposit banks. You couldn’t be both until regulators over time eroded and finally the Congress completely killed Glass-Steagall in 1999.

Today our massive, complex financial institutions combine deposit-taking, lending, mortgages, credit cards, investment banking, securitization, proprietary derivatives betting, high frequency trading, and all kinds of sophisticated speculation (aka hedging) on interest rates, currency exchange rates, commodities and equity futures, and credit default swaps within massive, highly leveraged, poorly regulated multi-national corporations which no one — even executives with decades of experience in one type of banking or another — can fully understand or manage.

I’ve watched and read many of hours of testimony of bankers and regulators answering questions from members of Congress and the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, and I’ve also spoken personally with a former executive of one of the largest banks, and I’m telling you it is impossible for any human (let alone the poor folks in the risk management divisions) to understand what goes on within these corporations that process trillions of dollars of transactions and trades daily.

Is it any wonder that every year or two a “rogue trader” brings down a huge institution or sovereign? Or that cities and counties around the world have gone bankrupt because they entered into derivatives transactions that they didn’t understand. Or that MF Global could go bankrupt just months ago — the 8th largest bankruptcy in U.S. History — and lose billions of dollars from customer accounts because regulations didn’t exist to separate customer accounts from proprietary accounts, or if they did, they weren’t followed. Our financial institutions are 1 part traditional bank (to have the appearance of doing good for Main Street) and 2 parts casino. They make the majority of their profits from their derivatives businesses. We need enough Americans and legislators to understand that the casino part is sucking the real economy dry.

Where will the next crisis start? What company will have a breakdown in their risk management processes allowing another rogue trader to bring it to its knees? It’s hard to predict where the next crisis will start, because the current system is so concentrated and so complex, as Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher says.

Complexity is our biggest enemy. Simplicity should be our best friend.

Simplicity will be the only means to eliminate Too Big To Fail (just break up the big banks already!), separating them into individual entities with a charter to do one thing or another — not everything. Think of Teddy Roosevelt, the Trust Buster, breaking up the railroad and oil monopolies. That turned out to be good for the country and good for the stockholders too.

Simplicity will help us reduce the risk of a global financial catastrophe that is rearing its ugly head again, with Greece and Spain and Italy and the inevitable contagion that will spread to the rest of the world, worsing our economies and our well-being, resulting in a lot of unnecessary and undeserved human suffering and misery.

“Do not give children dynamite sticks, even if they come with a warning label. Complex financial products need to be banned because nobody understands them, and few are rational enough to know it. We need to protect citizens form themselves, from bankers selling them “hedging” products and from gullible regulators who listen to economic theorists.” – Nassim Nicholas Taleb in “The Black Swan” (2007)

Let me know if you want to join a citizen hangout on this topic. If you did, let me know how many books on the “Financial Crisis Reading List” you have read so far. http://bit.ly/tOxrcv

My guess is that 99% of us haven’t read a single one of these books — which is why we are living under a corrupt financial-political system.

Becoming truly informed is the principle prerequisite for participating in our effort. The more you study, the more involved you will want to be, and the more excited we will be to have you join the cause.