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October 2004
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December 2004

The Distributed News Crew

Want to move news. Be a peer-journalist on Wikinews. This will be worth participating in and reading. It is an amazingly cool experiment.

Welcome to Wikinews, a free-content news source. We embarked on this journey in November 2004, and have written 97 articles. Our mission is to create a world where citizen journalists report the news on a wide variety of current events.

Anyone can help! with Wikinews. If you see a headline linking to an empty story, you can create it. If a story needs to be moved to a new title as events develop, please move it. If you know of a headline story from other sources but don't have time to write a story, don't hesitate to add that headline without a story.

Wikinews:Writing an article - Wikinews Demo.

Wikinews:Writing an article From Wikinews Demo If you want to write a Wikinews article, this page will explain to you the standards developing in the community for articles. Although in its infancy, Wikinews has contributors that are trying to agree on conventions for the style and content of stories. Such conventions will help ensure the accuracy of content, the entire wiki's ease of readability, and the ease with which others can pick up and continue editing a story.

Google SMS Activism

I have been playing around with Google SMS . It is pretty cool little service and it returns information a bit quicker than surfing on the web via the cell phone. Here is the basics on the service.

Google SMS enable folks to use wireless phones and handheld devices to access Google's Web search via text messages, short message service (SMS). Google SMS offers business and residential listings, product prices, and dictionary lookups.

The service works with Cingular Wireless, Verizon Wireless, and Sprint.

The results are driven off the listings from locations but there could be a cool way to play the sytem into offering volunteer data or activists activities.

Here is how it works today.
1. Send a SMS message to 46645.
2. Add a "what" and zip code [coffee 20910 ]

A few seconds later google sends you an SMS message with local coffee houses. You can also use "price" and "define" in front of terms to search other google indexes.

Ideally, we could get meetup or volunteer data indexed in the search and you would have a powerful social connection tool connected with a mobile phone.

I am putting it in the Google suggestion box.

Victoria's Dirty Secrets

Here is an interesting campaign pressuring Victoria's Secret to clean up the corporate behavior. Victoria is apparently a tree eating machine. This campaign looks like it has a lot of remarkable factors that will help it with publicity but the question will be if the campaign can control the frame of the debate. Trees vs. catalog spamming NOT trees vs. angels.

The "frames" to avoid would be pitting forest protection against free angels on the door step.

Victoria's Dirty Secrets:?What's Victoria's Dirty Secret.

Are you still looking to do good work? Partner with the new majority...pick common targets...this is going to be a campaign to watch. will it move the campaign away from the environmental issues and toward women's issues, child labor or other secrets? Do the ultimate decision makers care? Can the campaign pressure the right places to make Victoria loose the upscale and "clean sexy" image so carefully managed by the company? Will the campaign be open to exposing other secrets?

The goal is to pressure the catalogue industry to adapt use of recycled paper. Victoria is appropriately the covergirl for the campaign.

Assault Weapons are for Hunting?

This is sad and disturbing.

Police said Chai Vang, 36, of St. Paul, Minn., entered private property and was using a tree stand set up by local hunters. When two hunters returned to their cabin in the town of Meteor, they saw Vang in the stand and confronted him. Police said Vang opened fire with an assault rifle. Chief Deputy Tim Zeigle, of the Sawyer County sheriff's department, said the victims radioed back to their cabin and when other hunters responded, they were also shot. Some of the victims may have shot back, Zeigle said. Four males and a woman were killed, Zeigle said; one of the males was a teen.

No Deer were involved in the gun fight.

51% is all they needed. They were't going to pay for a landslide.

I am getting a little ill in my stomach each time I hear "lets look at our successes" or "we did wonderful, it is a shame the movement was so irrelevant" type quotes from one or more of the so called leadership of the party and movement. We messed up, we lost. (and when I say "we" I mean with the power, money and echo chamber of yes men kissing your ego for your good efforts.) The public interest groups and foundations botched their role in the election. Many GOTV efforts registered voters that didn't care about our issues. The information was fractionalized and kept in the dark. Good ideas that could have delivered votes and power were thrown aside in favor of traditional group think. The leadership across the nonprofit sector continues to be focused on individual achievement in spite of systematic failure. While some leaders take comfort in the small margins that the Democrats continue to loose elections by, the faithful must only be reminded of the John Fitzgerald Kennedy joke at the Gridiron Dinner “Don't buy a single vote more than necessary. I'll be damned if I'm going to pay for a landslide.” The reality that the Republicans are winning by exactly how much they need to should not be seen as a Democratic strength but as Republican efficiency. They got your game figured out. Change your game.

Undoing Industrial Revolution on Political Organizing

Here is a thought provoking post by Jakob Nielsen on Undoing the Industrial Revolution. Much of this post can be converted t political and advocacy contexts.  It really calls for the continued build and development of network-centric advocacy architecture.

I have edited Jakob's summary for an advocacy context but I recommend you give his a read too.

Industrialization had the following consequences:

  • Mass-produced products streamed out of the social advocacy movement giving everyone the same thing, with few variations.
  • Centralized advocacy groups emerged due to the cost of establishing efficient mechanisms for creating social change (fundraising, communications shops, lobbyist, etc. )
  • Big nonprofit groups emerged in response to these economies of scale.
  • Distance between decisions and execution increased as nonprofits grew and thus required several management levels between executives, professional staff and grassroots.
  • Centralized cities developed clusters of advocacy (SF, DC, Seattle, and NYC) attracted most of the grassroots groups, concentrating liberal voice and thinking within a very small percentage of each country's landmass.
  • Advocacy, civic engagement and leisure separated, with each occupying fixed times and places.
  • Mass media (TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, books, motion pictures, and so on) emerged and began broadcasting a small set of messages to a large number of people.
  • Mass marketing used mass media to sell mass-produced products to the working masses.
  • Image building became a primary means of sustaining market position in a mass-marketing environment

It is a haunting legacy. Big groups are now effectively marginalized and a bulk of resources and talent are locking into industrial age advocacy operations. The writing is on the wall. The movement slowly moved away from a distributed public and into the hands of professional advocates. The challenge continues to be "feeding the beast" of industrialized advocacy which is driving resources away from the edges into the centralized leadership.

Here is his follow up on trends worth considering in a network-centric campaign world. ( I am just riffing on Nielsen's points.) The movement should seek to:

  • Design custom-built products instead of mass-produced ones. Use a dense connectivity of the movement to connect individuals into civic engagements that are meaningful to them. The Internet allows for efficient transmission of individual needs to a dense woven grid of public interest groups helping the most relevant groups respond to each user inquiry. The movement should have a united front dedicated to listening and responding to users quickly helping them state what they want and connecting them to the best social engagements that hook them in participation in the progressive movement.
  • Niche products. Small groups are the heart of the movement. The activists core volunteers and ties in with groups at the local and state level. All national organizations need to offer cross-promotion with the niche issue groups that have greater success engaging small activist networks.(IE... Little river groups may only have 50 core activists each but there are 2000 groups.) The reality is that the power increases across the board even if the primary point of entry is not the final group the person engages with (today, donor and membership driven groups do not share member request)
  • Virtual community groups instead of big firms in centralized locations. Sorely needed improvements in collaboration software will let people better work together, even if they're in different locations and work for different nonprofit organizations. The average progressive chatter on the yahoo groups dwarfs traffic on any of the largest nonprofit discussion sites. With enough strategic support eventually issue teams will come together for projects based on the required expertise, and then disband. (think Anti-walmart efforts)
  • Geographically dispersed nonprofit infrastructure will be possible allowing key organizations to locate in battleground states instead of locking all the good people in self-selecting echo chambers. (Defense contractors have been spreading factories to congressional districts for 30 years..nonprofit should consider the same) Highly productive people can work at home and live far from big cities and centers of nonprofit activity (who are the first NGO's moving staff to PA, OH and Florida?) Not only is this good for the cause of getting to know target audiences but the dispersal also reduces the opposition calls that northeast liberal elite.
  • Narrowcasting and one-to-one media are what the Web is all about: providing exactly what individual users want in each individual moment. Narrowcasting is also what makes search marketing so effective. Rather than blast uniform messages randomly, a search ad is seen only by people actively looking for the exact thing being sold. Traditional mass media will diminish in importance: TV networks, for example, are irrelevant when you're picking shows from a menu. Our local community groups and neighborhood activists are the vehicles for narrowcasting messages. Large campaigns and nonprofits should move toward narrrowcasting into many markets with saturation strategies coming from many different voices not a national,celebrity spokesperson.
  • Reputation replaces image as the way to build a company, product, or brand position. This is partly because you can't establish an empty, slogan-based brand through mass marketing when there's no mass media. Also, reputation becomes more salient in the virtual world where it can be stored and aggregated. Reputation manager systems like Google place the most highly rated offers first, regardless of the vendor's size. MoveOn and healthy nodes will replace "top brands"

These trends drive decentralization and reduce the advantages of being big. It is all happening and mostly unavoidable. The challenge to the community is not when it will happen but how smoothly will power centers participate in the network-centric vs. the industrialized advocacy sector.

Leassons from the Bottom Up: Colorado Wins by Diversifying the Farm Team

Interesting food for thought on the value of investing in local races. Is this a case of message saturation from local level swamping out the national media trends? Lots of energized state reps. running with the infrastructure to organize their friends and local constituencies? It will be interesting to see how the $1.6 was spent in CO.

Colorado Democrats say their success carries a lesson for the national party. "We campaigned on pragmatism," state Democratic Chairman Christopher Gates said. "We set ourselves up as the problem solvers, while the Republicans were hung up on a bunch of fringe social issues like gay marriage and the Pledge of Allegiance.

Both parties agree that the Democrats did a better job of registering voters and turning them out. Further, Colorado Democrats reversed a traditional GOP edge in fundraising, largely through "the four horsemen," four multimillionaires who helped plan and finance the statewide Democratic effort to win control of the legislature....who poured $1.6 million into a Democratic fund for state legislative races that are usually run on the cheap.

Job One of the Moral Party : Excuse Leadership Convicted of Felony Charges

Ok. The next person that tells me we lost because of "frames" is going to need to explain this ironic twist. The party created to serve the radical religious first action after winning new seats is to change ethics rules to allow felons to serve in leadership positions.

Link: The Advertiser-Tribune: GOP out on a limb in DeLay protection - - The Advertiser-Tribune.

In anticipation of a possible indictment of DeLay in a Texas investigation of alleged illegal corporate campaign contributions, Republicans changed a rule that required House leaders to step aside while under indictment. The new rule allows the House to assess indicted leaders on a case by case basis.

I yeah I get it. The comprehensive story of the right has been the moral frame. hmm?

Learning Network Strategy from Spammers

A vendor we work with just sent me a report of progress on fighting spam at work. The way Mike explained the problem really stirred thoughts about the way the radical right distributes messages and provides some valuable insight into the importance of focusing on distribution strategy for important and valuable communications.

The nature of SPAM delivery has subtlety changed, too. Previously, most SPAM came from ISPs that were either known to be SPAM-friendly, or from countries with lax laws on SPAM (Korea, China, etc.). These are easily filtered out and that's one of the things the Spamhaus service does.

Now, the big problem is vast networks of compromised Windows machines with cable modem or DSL connections. Spammers can buy time on one of these networks and by using the distributed network send out millions of messages very quickly. By their very nature these networks are constantly changing as people discover their machine has been "hacked" and new machines are continually being brought into the network.

It's hard to filter this traffic out since it's always changing. And that's where a lot of the current crop of SPAM is coming from.

the nature of communication in the connected society has changed. In the past most political messages came from politicians and interest groups. The groups were identified to be bullhorns for a specific type of message and people have been able to filter them out. However, today the problem is that the radical right has compromised many different weak links in society to become their soap box. Fox (the 4th network, second rate think tanks, small conservative groups, theologically bankrupt church leaders and bamboozled small business owners. The spammers (NRA, radical conservatives and multi-national barons) hack the weak links in the network and buy time in these systems to distribute millions of messages. Eventually reality catches up with the false claims and people will understand that getting news from FOx will make you believe flawed reality (Iraq is going well, WMDs in Iraq, Saddam and Bin Laden connections). However, by the time people begin to discredit the source new churches and social networks are spreading the same message form new sources.

What would a "A God's-eye view" Mean in an Advocacy or Political Context?

The heart of network-centric strategy is to move power to the edges helping anyone "on the team" to access critical information that may affect their operation. In a campaigns we have grown to disconnect the opposition research, polling, donor, volunteer and other information from campaign workers. The teams working on registration of voters and voter turnout rarely had key analysis of the neighborhoods they were working. The information did not feed over to fundraising teams. There was a failure for the entire team pulling for public interest to have situational awareness....

IS it important ? ...consider this parallel from the NYTImes peek at the Pentagon's priorities.

Link: Smart Mobs: "A God's-eye view" of the battlefield.

The goal is to give all American commanders and troops a moving picture of all foreign enemies and threats - "a God's-eye view" of battle.

This "Internet in the sky," Peter Teets, under secretary of the Air Force, told Congress, would allow "marines in a Humvee, in a faraway land, in the middle of a rainstorm, to open up their laptops, request imagery" from a spy satellite, and "get it downloaded within seconds."

What's the price tag?
The Pentagon calls the secure network the Global Information Grid, or GIG. Conceived six years ago, its first connections were laid six weeks ago. It may take two decades and hundreds of billions of dollars to build the new war net and its components.

Not weapons, but interconnections
Advocates say networked computers will be the most powerful weapon in the American arsenal. Fusing weapons, secret intelligence and soldiers in a global network - what they call net-centric warfare - will, they say, change the military in the way the Internet has changed business and culture.

"Possibly the single most transforming thing in our force,'' Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has said, "will not be a weapons system, but a set of interconnections."

Email Pressure Pushes ABC to Cover Story

It is kind of a dead issue but it looks like the newsroom is starting to take leads from public pressure to cover a story.  Rush doesn' t like the trend but I think it starts to outline a new strategy to influence coverage beyond the press release and personal contact strategy.

JENNINGS: We've been a little bit surprised by how many e-mails we've had suggesting that maybe once again the country got it wrong. Now, we're not particularly disposed to conspiracy theories. As you know, Mr. Bush won by a comfortable margin of more than three million votes. We did think it might be a public service -- and, quite frankly, cut back on the e-mails -- if our ballot-watch correspondent Jake Tapper took another look.

Advocacy for the Age of Connectivity: Frames of the Debate on the Left

"Don't Think of an Elephant" is a good collection of essays and thoughts by George Lakoff.  Lakoff is a professor of linguistics and cognitive science at the University of California Berkeley, is a specialist in the technique of "framing," a communication tool that creates a "frame" for a message that defines the terms of the debate.
Frames help set a context for debate and Lakoff seems to have nailed the Republican strengths in this communicaiton area. It is a fantastic and thought provoking work.  Read it.
Lakoff ideas and the messages are clearly the kind of content that advocacy groups want to be pushing through the pipleines out to the public but Lakoff doesn't do enough to focus on the strategy and infrastructure that are required to frame an issue. 
Simply calling the gutting of air protections the "Dirty Skies Act" or the timber bill the "leave no tree behind act" is not going to carry the day.  These are good message frames and open the debate .."why is it the dirty skies act? " but moving a message takes horsepower, skill and infrastructure and a strategy that unifes messengers.   
Hopefully, campaigners here can understand the value of the frames and also start to question the strategy used to saturate the public with the debate.