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Great American Backyard Campout

It is all about synchronizing little efforts to help people feel they have power and are connected to something greater. The simple Great American Backyard Campout. is a step in the right direction.

People camp out all the time. Synchronizing the simple act and promoting it starts to connect people in powerful ways.

Gather family, friends and neighbors-- the first ever Great American Backyard Campout is coming! On August 20th, folks all across America will come together in backyards, parks, and camps to enjoy a night of star-gazing, listening for nocturnal wildlife, and exploring a whole other world right in your backyard. Be part of this nation-wide event! Add your campsite today and we’ll help you make the most of your event with packing lists, recipes, nocturnal wildlife guides, exploration activities, a night sky-guide, local weather and more. Win a Backyard Weather Station and be a Ranger Rick Star! After the campout, return to the website to share your photographs and stories for a chance to win a Backyard Weather station from WeatherBug and be profiled in Ranger Rick magazine!

The event seems a little heavy on the branding and the campkit is "for sale" is a bit over the top but the connections of campers to campers could be powerful.

I would suggest creating more ways to connect campers to each other.

1. Ask "old timers" to post old backyard camping photos to a system like flickr.
2. Ask for best and worst stories on the lead up to the event.
3. Let people suggest their own packing lists and recipes before the event.
4. Let folks take photos before the event of the nocturnal wildlife, record bid and sounds they ex[pect to wake up to on the 20th.
5. Link with other camping organizations to promote the 20th as national camping day.
6. Set up a national conference call for the campers to listen to an inspirational message from campers on top of Mountains or other remote places.
7. Link up with to provide local star maps for the night.
8. Set up the "virtual" campfire for best campfire stories.
9. Tell people that camping is also about community and sharing. Set up a "camp library" program to let kids borrow equipment. etc from neighbors that they might need for the backyard campout.
10. Create self-organizing kits so that people can download print and promote the campout in the neighborhood. (Ask for a lights out at 10:00 to help campers see the stars.)
11. Ask each camper to write one letter from camp to protect critters, clean water, wildspaces, parks, forest, etc.
12. other ideas......

Network-Centric Trends for Campaign Planners: Teased from The Journal of Community Informatics

This is a really interesting paper. (kudos The paper is a bit more focused on governments and larger nation state anaylsis but it is very relevant to the current struggle of those that "get" the looming impact of network-centric advocacy on the political, issue and campaign work. Many of the "questions" from foundations and big potential clients stem from the same observation Garth finds in his work... "Even their efforts to “decentralize” are merely efforts to retain control in changing circumstances."

This is a great contribution. The work lays out some incredible guides for those interested in organizing in the net worked world. The paper also throws some great food for thought around the concept engagement in social change and the "values" of traditional membership in the connected age.

Here are the quotes I find myself most attracted to in the paper.

That idea of the centre they cling to cannot hold. Up to the point of its failure, everything they do will be predicated on the need for control to ensure its survival. Even their efforts to "decentralize" are merely efforts to retain control in changing circumstances.
A distributed system on the other hand, has little need to waste energy in control because the key to its survival is its capacity to learn. To hang on to control in a net worked online world, governments are just going to have to learn to get into a new way of doing things ... because there are many communities, even disadvantaged communities, that are busy learning their way around them.

This is totally true in middle management at big orgs, foundations and in campaigns. Many new leaders are merely finding ways to work around the controls of power that have held bad leadership in place for far to long. We must find a way to plug the political, policy and other expertise back into the new way of doing things by leading with quality of vision, passion and not traditional control. The new issue networks are still a little dysfunctional and lacking the political experience and diversity of expertise that will make them successful.

There are a few other zingers that may also spread some light on the failure to mobilize old constituencies online....

The authority of structure inherent in self-organization is that the network exists and nothing else. The social contract of social networks is not defined outside of the fact of relationship. When we are able to make our social networks then every single action in relationship re-negotiates the social contract as our social networks make us.

As the barriers to entry and exit drop (like it has in political parties) each new idea, candidate or interaction a new negotiation for temporary commitment. Winning on platform, history and brand will continue to be a loosing strategy for organizations, leaders or parties.

For the individual as a component of a dynamic network, membership is inherently an inward act of self-identification. A degree of individual autonomy is required before a social network can emerge by self-organization.

This is not new it is the great effect of the middle-class in traditional politics. In issue organizing and campaign work we need to foster more autonomy across our emerging leaders rather than merely lock them up in brand organizations locked under traditional leadership. The freedom to operate across more issues will give rise to dense social networks among talented staff and improve the capacity of a multiple issue areas to create positive change.

A network, on the other hand, does not impose a necessity to believe in membership. Either that quality of self-identification is inherent in every individual so connected, or no network emerges.

And this final quote has become a manifesto of a generation of emerging leaders in the new climate.....

They easily recognize and dismiss actions to impose a duty on them, or to organize their direction, as antithetical to the structures of social networking they inhabit. They treat the imposition of order, as opposed to the emergence of order, as an obstacle that the network, to survive, must learn its way around.

Peer to Patent: Distributed Research on Patents

Peer production proposal for the US Patent office.

In a bid to shake up the beleaguered American patent system, a law professor has crafted a proposal that would shift the patent-application process away from individual examiners to an internet-based, peer-review method.
Called Peer to Patent, the proposal by Beth Noveck, director of New York Law School's Institute for Information Law and Policy, aims to relieve the current system, in which the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has a backlog of half a million cases. Noveck's plan would turn the review process over to tens or hundreds of thousands of experts in various fields who would collectively decide an application's fate via a massive rating system not unlike that of eBay.
"The Patent Office is supposed to provide expertise on behalf of the public in determining the nature of innovation," said Noveck. "We now have the tools available to us in terms of social software to consult with experts directly and to engage (their) voice."
Noveck says such a system would allow patent applicants to benefit from the combined knowledge of field experts, ensuring that only the worthiest inventions get the 20-year grant of monopoly rights that come with an approved patent.
Under the plan, inventors who submit their work for peer review would be eligible for a 20-year patent. Inventors could also choose to use the existing system.

Environmentalists Kill the Purple Cow: Endangered Campaigns Need Seth Godin

I recommended Purple Cow to a few people this week so I thought I would go back and skim some of it. The book is a "must read" on the reading list for all campaign and nonprofit staff.

1. Why is it required reading?
Look at these releases. This is an entire month of releases from many of the top groups in the world. Here is a few more...NRDC, FOE and LCV. Scan them for 30 seconds. Wait 30 seconds... Can you remember titles? Did these release strike you as "values" based? Are they focus on connecting you with issues you care about? If you were a rporter and all these came on the same day which would you open? Which do you think the average reader would care about?

2. Where are people on the environment?
When asked to choose the single most important reason that they favor environmental protection, Americans identify the value of responsibility to future generations in greatest numbers. Nearly four in ten (39%) cite this as their main motivation, followed by respect for nature as God’s work (23%). The desire to protect the balance of nature ranks third at 17%.

A huge slice of people want to protect the environment because it is important to them spiritually .Remember any of that in the press releases? Work with people where they "are" and bring them to the "sale". Selling environmental protection based on science or policy that most people do not understand or care about is ineffective. Be environmentalists not wonks or science geeks. It is like the last time you saw a car ad? Are many of them based on the science behind the engine and tires (maybe the prius) or are they about lifestyle and personal priorities (safety, being hip, etc.) I can't believe the core communicaiotns experts in our movement are still fumbling around with basic communicaitons concepts. We need sound sceince from our science community. We need good policy from our policy wonks. We do not need to focus the communications and campaigns on their reports.

3. What was that campaign?
Don't add noise to the information overload. If your campaign won't work and doesn't spread don't release it. Go back to the drawing board again and again to find a way to present your message and campaign in a way that spreads. Really how hard was it to come up with the LiveStrong concept? If your story doesn't help retell itself then get some better thinkers on your team. A little money and extra effort now is a lot easier then spitting into the wind for the duration of the campaign.

4. Tap today's networks.
Once you have a message that can "spread" focus on places that can move messages effectively. (Network-centric advocacy is about focusing on the reach of loosely organized networks to connect in the modern age.) Think about all the people you know that have "reach" and find out what it takes for them to spread messages. (Why did millions of people forward the email petition to defend PBS?) How did it become a chain letter and an urban legend? Millions of people can spread the messages in PTA's, Moms groups and little league listserves. The most powerful "spreaders" in the movement do not work for your group. (Aim Fight)

5. Design to Get Out of the Way
Viral campaigns need help to self-organize. How are all the materials made available to support the spread of the idea or campaign? (Look at Alex's Lemonade) , MoveOn House Party or New American Dream's Alternative Gift Fare

Seth's book is a must read because Seth is great on these issues. As he says"

In a nutshell:
* Sell what people are buying
* Focus on the early adopters and sneezers
* Make it remarkable enough for them to pay attention
* Make it easy for them to spread
* Let it work its own way to the mass market.

Please read it once every few months so we end up with more campaigns like this: ForestEthics, Ben's BBs, Dnext, New York Campaign against the Death Penalty. or my current favorite Panducermat

To the Moon: Google Moon - Lunar Landing Sites

Google has started to show some ways they can "stuff" other image data sets into Google Maps interface.

In honor of the first manned Moon landing, which took place on July 20, 1969, we’ve added some NASA imagery to the Google Maps interface to help you pay your own visit to our celestial neighbor. Happy lunar surfing. More about Google Moon.

I look forward to seeing the microscope level surfing over some cool data sets.

There is a great book on the history of the space program that is a wonderful summer read.
This New Ocean by William Burrows. I would highly recommend it as a fantastic overview of the space race, NASA's development and the shot to the moon. I really was not a space geek before the book but it is an amazing story.

There were a few sections that I actually kept reading aloud to family and friends (yes makes me a space geek now). The one that sticks with me is the narrative around the launch of the Saturn V rocket for the moon. It is a must read chapter for those of us born after the summer of 69.

I also was fascinated by the stories of scientists that are both blessed and cursed with a drive to push humanity to break ties to earth. Nerds with a desire to play with big toys and push humanity to space. Nerds caught in a political and race for rockets to wipe out the planet. It is a good read.

Nice Live8 Technology debrief by EchoDitto

This is a great review of the Live8 smartness. Many of the techniques highlighted are about giving people the opportunity to connect and synchronize the positive energy generated by the concert.

(1) Taking advantage of the traffic :: On the official Live8 site, you can "sign the Live8 list" for G8 leaders via SMS or online or upload your photo to be added to a wall of faces at the G8 -- no gallery yet?!. (Reminds me of the almost 2,500 photos submitted online at!). Nice clear asks taking advantage of all available technology, coupled with some solid video and exclusive content.
(2) Technorati Tagging the Blog Buzz :: Technorati sponsored what may be the first global online tagging event, encouraging bloggers to tag their posts with "live8" so that they could be counted in the global online discussion, accompanied by a syndicated image. It's a clever corporate marketing effort for Technorati, the blog tracking service, and also an excellent great way to put a mirror on the buzz being generated. As of right now, there are 12,073 blog posts tagged with Live 8, and 50 bloggers were invited to go backstage.
(3) [secret?] Party Planning Guide from ONE :: Despite the lack of online promotion for these viewing parties, someone at ONE knows what they're doing when it comes to online organizing... Check out their excellent house party guide (PDF) -- includes feedback form, signup sheet, and good background material for hosts. It's impressive—bordering on dense—and happens to follow a general template that we developed for grassroots meetup organizers on the Dean campaign. Unfortunately, there's no way to tell from the One Blog if any of these Live 8 parties even took place... Here's to hoping!

(4) 2.9 million TV viewers -vs- 5 million web watchers :: AOL has a more global reach than ABC, but it's still an impressive statistic. Reuters reports, "ABC's two-hour highlights special from the Live 8 concerts drew just 2.9 million viewers Saturday, according to preliminary estimates from Nielsen Media Research, far fewer than the 5 million users who logged on for AOL's free live video streaming coverage."

I would add the integration with Itunes to sell music (i think they sold a million copies of the Sgt. Pepper song?) , the SMS mess aging to show support (like a new wave of the old Jerry Lewis telethon) by the public. And effective play on the event drive timeline of the G8 summit (media savvy with a touch of political smarts).

Why do people watch reruns?

A good friend and I were sitting around watching TV. He was flipping through the channels (much like I might ) a few seconds, flip, news, flip, commercial , flip, flip, news.... you get the idea.

Finally, he stops on a channel that I would have stopped on. It was Seinfeld. It was a show both of us had seen before.

We were watching a show we had seen before. He asked "why?" It is a question that is still bugging me. Why do people watch reruns that they have seen before? Are there really that many new folks watching MASH or is it people that have seen MASH dozens of times and they like to stop and recall the episode. Is watching a rerun like sleeping? Does the brain actually play the old tape of the show so it can process the days stress in some other part of the brain? When the focus slips back to the TV the old tape in the head can fill in the gaps?

What is going on? Why am I attracted to watch shows that I have seen before? Do I expect the same laughs at yada,yada? No. I know the show it is comfortable so I watch it. Why does the brain enjoy that story?

Finally, how do reruns and the psychology of enjoying reruns influence what we know about frames and issue fatigue? Is it good to find new stories or does the public "lock in" on a political struggle they feel comfortable participating in? Should we just revisit the battles we won in the past and play the same talking points again and again?

How will this dynamic playout in an online world? Why do people watch shows that they have seen before?


Loosing Site of the Three Page Letter from Grandma: Like Congress ever listened to that!

Here is an interesting overview of the network effects of email on Capital Hill. It looks like a denial of service of paid gun email firms over the voices of Grandma. I don't believe it for a second but someone ought to forward this message around on all the conservative listserves you can think of.

Four-fifths of the aides believe that the Internet has made it easier for citizens to get involved in public policy; 55 percent think the Web has increased public understanding of Washington; and 48 percent are convinced that it's made lawmakers more responsive to their voters.

Unfortunately, a lot of the e-mails are barely worth reading -- or at least that's what the people who handle them believe. Interest groups generate most of the incoming e-mails and a numbing percentage of those are form letters. Half of the aides surveyed are convinced that constituents aren't even aware that they've sent such identical-form communications, and another 25 percent of staffers question whether those communications are legitimate at all.

Almost all of the congressional aides surveyed said that they'd like to find a way to differentiate between interest-group e-mails and the rare, more prized missives that individuals actually write themselves.

As one frustrated legislative director told the foundation: "[There is] too much mail, not enough staff. Not enough time to do it, particularly when in session. [We're] really losing sight of the important letters that come in -- like the three-page letter from Grandma as opposed to those floods of mail where all they're doing is clicking a button. It's insane."

"Stop sending form letters/faxes/e-mails that the constituent doesn't even know he/she is sending," a House staffer added. "It's a waste of time and resources and does not influence the members' stance on the issue in any way."

Such complaints are heartfelt but they won't deter the burgeoning e-mail-on-demand industry. Organized interests are so eager to penetrate Congress, which has become fortress-like in its security barriers, that they are hiring Internet experts at a dizzying clip.

Your voice doesn't matter? We are involved in an arms race we can not win. We need to find new ways to use technology to engage the public that don't mimic a spam machine.

Tsunami relief contributions: Online Lessons Learned Study

This should be an interesting webinar. Sarah and Michael were very involved and have the inside data and analysis of the way the money flowed during the Tsunami relief effort.

The Internet accounted for over $350 million in tsunami relief contributions. Join this online Webinar to hear about the lessons learned from this surge of online gifts, and how your organization can make the most of important breaking news events.

I have heard Michael talk about the responses they could "see" in the data at GetActive. It is really a compelling story about getting ready for advocacy in the age of connectivity.

28 Million Text Messages for Political Speech: Anyone Listening yet?

This is worth thinking about:

Over a million people listened to rock and pop musicians at venues across four continents on Saturday. More than 26 million people worldwide sent text messages on Saturday to support Live 8, setting a world record for a single event, organizers said.They also had expected two billion people to tune in worldwide, using the Internet, television and radio, although no exact estimate has been provided.
In Edinburgh, near where the G8 meets, 200,000 people marched peacefully to back the Make Poverty History campaign.
"For God's sake, take this seriously. Don't behave normally. Don't look for compromises. Be great," a Live 8 statement said, addressing leaders.

Hmmm. cell phones as a tool for activism... Join us at MobileActive

LIVE 8 - What to do: The Long Walk to Justice

I have been very moved by the global connections made by the LIVE 8 work. The strategy being used is really taking the connected audiences into the event and cause in powerful ways. AOL has done an amazing job and the connections to iTunes web sites and actions is a really powerful experience for the online community. It is a shame the TV just can't do the scale of the event fair coverage. It is a turning point for advocacy strategy. I love the text message your name and think this is going to be a new powerful connection even at local events.

Be a part of the march.

As part of The Long Walk To Justice a huge photo-campaign - The G8 Gallery - will see hundreds of thousands of pictures posted along two miles of railings in Princes Street, Edinburgh. This visual statement will show that you and millions like you, want our leaders to use the power they have to end poverty - for good.
If you make it to Edinburgh on Wednesday 6th July you can attach the pictures of you, your friends and your family to the gallery yourself.
If you can't be in Edinburgh you can send us your pictures and we will attach them for you. Upload your image or text it to 0044 7774 777 444.