Silicon Beach: Local Geek Helps the Homeless

Categories: Silicon Beach
Robert Murray, local geek, is inspired to do good.
Robert Murray, a freelance Flash and iPhone developer, is practically a Miami native considering he's lived here since 1990. But it was a recent trip to New York City that inspired him to set up the city's first Social Media for Social Change event.

Social Media for Social Change (SM4SC) started out as a grassroots movement in the northeast with Bostonian Gradon Tripp at the lead. The idea was simple, but brilliant:  if we're all talking online, let's use that conversation to change the world for the better. Since Tripp's first blog post about the idea in June 2008, virtual fundraisers have become commonplace on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.

This month, Murray -- a hunky single dad who is a solid presence in the local geek scene -- brings SM4SC for the first time to Miami. A benefit for Camillus House takes place on November 19 at swanky Club 50, located inside The Viceroy Hotel on Brickell Avenue.

Riptide spoke with Murray on the phone about his inspiration.

New Times: What inspired you to do this?

Robert Murray: I was at my mom's house, talking to one of her friends who was visiting from Jamaica.  He was a senior, the past president of the Kiwanis Club in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.  The club wanted to build a school in Ocho Rios. He told me about how hard it was to get young people involved. My initial thought was "social media is perfect for this." I then spent two hours talking to him about social media.

NT: How did this lead to the Miami event?

Murray: Using social media for good causes was already on my mind when I met Matt Knell, one of the leaders behind SM4SC, earlier this year at a New York City Barcamp.  Tripp, Knell and Meg Fowler, the other person behind SM4SC, had already put together successful events in New York City and Boston, raising over $10,000.

NT: This event benefits Camillus House.  Why did you pick that charity?

Murray: Because this is the first Miami SM4SC event, we wanted to do something with a recognizable charity. We wanted to introduce the concept to Miami in a way that people would recognize. In the future, we might pick smaller charities, but obviously all of them have great needs.

NT: How are you using social media for this event?

Murray: We're using various tools, trying to keep it focused online. But actually, the important part is to get the people you're communicating with on a daily basis to meet offline. Social media is great, but it can only go so far. There's a lot of power in having people look each other in the eye and saying hello.

NT: How is this different than other tweetups and social media events that we're used to here in Miami?

Murray: Although it is a benefit (100% of proceeds go directly to Camillus House), this is going to be a real party atmosphere. DJ Mr. Sandman is volunteering his talent and drink specials are in the works.  I think it's going to be great. I'm really excited about doing this in Miami and the response has been really good so far.

NT: What about that school for our neighbors in Jamaica?

Murray: That's on the back burner for now as I focus on Miami. But I definitely want to help there too.

RSVP for the event at Eventbrite. Early bird tickets are $25 until November 9. Thereafter, tickets are $35. You can follow Murray on Twitter @robertmurray and learn more about his geek work at Salt River Studio.



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