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June 2007
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Journalism by Phone gets one step easier. Video Share

I expect someone will have a webservice that will grab this video pretty quick and turn distributed journalism to a new level. It will be interesting to see how fast ATT sees folks pick this up. At first glance the video share looks really intereting.

I would assume that we will see an advocacy application of this within three months.

Link: AT&T Video Share.

charged for Video Share minutes. AT&T is not responsible for the content of any live video.

©2007 AT&T Knowledge Ventures. All rights reserved. AT&T, AT&T logo, Cingular and Cingular logos are tra

Moving beyond centralized vs decentralized

THis is interesting. I have seen riifs on it before and often think of the "simple rules create complex behavior" that Steven Johnson wrote about. It is also in the models you can play with on Netlogo.

Maybe the movements need more "simple rules" or mix up the simple rules that guide the movement today. What are the rules that shape advocacy and social change efforts today? What should they be to encourage faster emergence?

Link: elearnspace.

Eric Beinhocker tackled the impact of complex behavioural outcomes through swarm-based behaviour in Origin of Wealth (a book that has received far less attention than it deserves). It would appear that functioning in truly complex spaces moves us beyond centralized vs. decentralized debates, and puts us instead in a philosophy of simple rules, local activity, and high levels of connections/contact. The most overwhelming problems can be attended to with this simple model. The solution is not something we work on directly...instead it emerges when we attend to the individual elements.

Why I Blog? Still the Same...

I was looking at my post from yesterday. It is not my best work. I am a bit embarrassed by the way it rambles, doesn't make sense in some places, broken sentences, etc.

I know that if I sit and clean up my posts I would not have time to ever get things done. I would stop posting. Perfect would be the enemy of the good. So I need to revisit why I blog....( A post from 2004.) It is ok for me to make lots of mistakes here. At this point, I still need this space to riff on ideas.

We are kicking out better and clean content at Green Media Toolshed and Netcentric Campaigns. But if you want the raw idea jazz spilling from my head ...they will stay here in all their messy glory.

What's a Blog, and Why Should Nonprofits Care? by Zafar S. Shah has inspired me to crank out my top five reasons I blog as an Executive Director of a small nonprofit.

1. "Online Thinking Space" - The number one reason I blog is to flush out my ideas into a communication. I am often get these thoughts (Oh we should sell ringtones that generate revenue for nonprofits, we should decentralize our content, someone should work on polling the people who work for nonprofit community to find their common stories and values, etc .etc. but until I sit down and google the concepts, play around with the idea and crank it out as a post for my friends (the 34 of you that read this thing) the idea sits as a one line to do in a notebook.

2. "Build my research library" - I see cool things, rants and concepts and articles that I know come up in my work. (I.e.. someone is going to ask me about internet ads someday...Here is a cool example of an effective ad...bang it becomes a post that I can share and that becomes available on my little Google side bar search)

3. Vanity and Dreams of Greater things. - I am so sick of walking into conferences and meeting with nonprofits only to hear all of us complain about the stupidity of foundations (don't worry if you read blogs you are probably not one the idiots everyone is complaining about) and the way that if they only changed our work would be solved. I dream that someday folks will find the rants and perspective here interesting enough to read it (beyond you 35 people) and slowly the target audience will find messages that help them change the behavior of key opinion leaders. I also hope that my rants give my friends the sound bytes, factoids, examples and stories that they can use to further expand the movement of folks that are willing to look at the network capacity of our movement.

4. Virtual Mentor - Being younger, inexperienced and running a small organization is a huge challenge. In Fortune 500 companies most of us punks would be climbing middle management and being cultivated by senior managers to help us access experience, wisdom and network. The online thinking space has been a huge help in getting building ties with a handful of external mentors so they can see my "thinking" and offer feedback to improve the design and execution of my ideas.

5. Comfort with Mistakes and Being Wrong - I am the type of yahoo who gets lots of thoughts and thinks better "externally". I am not the quiet contemplative type person that tends to think better alone ( I think this comes from the way my mom used to help me work thorough life while we sat in the kitchen). There are some people that (think, edit and speak) and there are some of us that (converse, think,speak,edit) I typically edit last. Unfortunately, it means that I say (blog) lots of dumb things (I still wonder what the hell I was thinking with the computer virus attack on Democratic Primaries post?) but I get to throw them out here and get snagged by fellow bloggers. It catches the mistakes or reinforces good ideas and helps me edit more of my thoughts (beyond 8-6 work conversations). 60% of these post could hunt me in the future and I know the language, witting and thoughts are often way more convoluted than I would ever kick out in a meeting or for work products. I also mess up typing and spelling all over the place. However, I am pretty comfortable with the idea that I am not stupid and that cranking stuff out on the blog helps me refine my thoughts. I am verbose. I am comfortable that I make mistakes and I am not perfect. The blog merely reflects my thought process if it is smart and thoughtful and this line of thinking would be helpful in a campaign I can work with groups. If your staff are ahead of me on this thinking and they write perfect and never make mistakes then you don't need my help so I am comfortable that the blog is a bit of a reflection of the kind of person that shows up everyday. Seeing my thoughts online and may actually just serve to make me more comfortable with the idea that some mistakes are OK.

My general thoughts on the article
Another interesting push for the nonprofit community to consider the value of making more of the thinking and learning of the organization available to staff, friends and the public. while the topic is not new and there are old blogs and rants on the nonprofit use of the blog as a tool in their work, Zafa makes a contribution to the chorus pushing nonprofit staff to be more transparent through use of the blog as an easy content tool.

Related Post:
Weblog Strategies for Nonprofits
Blogs as Training Tools
Going Beyond The Internet: Blogs from the Front
Web Dominance No Longer Tactical Strategy for Campaigns

My favorite clips from this article:

When she encouraged her staff to blog about their work, Sisnett recognized another benefit of nonprofit blogging: She could now easily keep up to speed on her staff's work and the progress of various, concurrent projects. Soon, between the executive director, the technical staff and volunteers, Austin Free-Net had three staff blogs full of updated and archived information that could easily be incorporated into strategic plan updates, VISTA reports, press releases, newsletters and grants. When a colleague, a sponsor or even a journalist needed information about a project or issue, Sisnett could refer the interested party to a blog.
blogs with an "internal focus" have made it easier for organizations to capture the knowledge of teams and support their collaboration. "Rather than only a linear discussion list for a team," she points out, "individual and collaborative blogs make it possible to see ties among team members and issues they are working on."
While blogs entail a requisite amount of timely attention and care, the work you put into them is not "just blogging," Sisnett adds, thinking about how the research and learning behind her blog have improved Austin Free-Net's projects and partnerships. "That work affects all of your organization's work."

inattentive trust building : passive trust building : network connectivity

So why do you read peoples twitter? Why are network status updates on facebook useful? Do you actually build trust with someone when you read their blog?

I have been thinking lately about the role of inattentive trust building and function of peripheral vision in building real world trust. There is a theory that a significant part of trust building occurs outside of the time when someone is "attentive" to you.

When you and I are talking and we are interacting that only builds a certain type of relationship or trust. The real depth of trust building comes as I observe how people act not with me but others. Do they express laughter at the same time I do while hearing a story. Can I read their disgust and frustration and relate to them.

Sure someone might be nice to me during a conversation but do they turn and treat a waitress like crap? Do they talk about others while I am around? How someone acts when you are not interacting directly plays a huge role in evolving a relationship. We are hardwired as a species to pick up these tells.

Direct online interaction robs the very important inattentive trust building components to relationships. Twitter, facebook, etc. provide a unique window into watching someone without paying direct attention to them. How many of you log on to do work late at night and "see" in AIM list and Skype list folks that are still online working. Does that over time build your relationship with that person in any way? Does a facebook update on someone going hiking at a place you have hiked before influence your interaction with that person next time you meet even thought you never discuss the hike? Yes.

What if they were taking jazz lessons? What if they twittered they picked up a new Hummer? or bagged a black bear on the first day of the season? You might never bring it up in a work context or direct interaction but you know it is there and your brain files it in the mix. It is inattentive. They we not telling you. They were not looking for a reaction. They were just letting you see if you cared .

One of the key components of network health is social ties. There maybe passive network building strategies that should be tested and deployed within a campaign context that help foster building inattentive trust. Such activities might include micro blogging activities and work, shared calendars, regular questions asked about non-campaign related activities and republishing the information back across the network.

The tools are catching up very slowly to all the complex needs we have to understand one another. We need to be aware of the opportunity they present to enable us to build more powerful network capacity even in inattentive and passive ways.

Birdcinema: New way to build birding community!

how are the groups you are working on lands conservation, birding, habitat conservation posting something visual and compelling out there? Why was a private company vs. big birding groups the first to launch user generated content site like this? This is beautiful. Figure out how to get conservation ads on this site.

I need to dig around on the web and figure out how to hack a channel like this out of youtube or rever functionality integrated with a simple site to create the same effect.

Lakoff at Google 51:minute introduction to his work.

I have always liked the ways George kicks up conversation and thinking about important language and the way audiences hear and process campaigns. In this video, he presents his current thinking on the Google campus.

George describes his job "to make the unconscious conscious and give language to it. We start with the understanding that people all want to make sense and our job is to tease out the undelying moral constructions that enable the arguments to make sense. "

It is then possible for the rest of us to find ways to adjust ourt work to transmit across that undelying structure, run new messages with different outcomes across that same mental pathways. It is our job to find competeing and compelling underlying structures that we can use to move progressive issue campaigns more effectively.

I find him very interesting but difficult to listen to (or read). It is really important to filter through the stuff the talks about that he know little about (political process, national power stuggles, the power of the conservative message machine, etc.etc.) However, It is really great to dig in and find the few and powerful lessons all of us can use. There is so much that he really throws at you (his personal opinions non research findings, current political debates, etc) that it hides what he does know. He really knows language and conitive science and explains it better than anyone else.

I find his points about the following most useful and supported by my experience and other folks I respect (like andy goodman's work on stories.)

* Cognitive pathways and linguistic development structure the way all of us process input.
* we process most information unconsciously.
* the universal ability of reason was the foundation of democracy but the view of the mind in the enlightenment was wrong. Thought is emotional, pure logic is not the way people think.
* the way the brain and body are structured influence the very thoughts we have. Structure dictates thoughts.
* We form the key metaphors we use to make sense of the world all start to get formed and circuits in our heads by the age of 7. Example "adding is up" "decline is down" learned from the way we add water to a glass. There really is no reason that adding up arrow but everywhere that metaphor is reinforced in so many ways.
* Hearing messages enough creates a physical change in the brain. Synapses created become a normal path in the brain.
* Looking back in time in literature, history and political discourse ...the really good metaphors have existed forever and across many cultures.

In the last 16 minutes he gets into the Q&A with the Googlers and it really gets interesting and different from his books and other riffs.

Are the right people listening? Ten years of work where are the ideas being picked up. Senate candidates are picking up better frames. Lakoff takes a small bit of the frames for Tester and Webb. The Wolfblitzer ...CNN ..Barac Obama ...attack the questions. The liberals are starting to get that the questions frames possible outcomes.

In the last five minutes he riffs on windows of opportunity to drive environmentalism, social safety nets and penatrate mega churches. It is worth looking more into his work on these subjects if you work on these areas.

It is great stuff. George contributes to the movement in very unique ways and hopefully, more of the distributed voices out there down message work (all of us) can leverage his gifts.

A Small Circle Of Friends -

There are some great to-do's to tease out of the article from Forbes. How is your advocacy network evolving in a self-help way.

1. DO you let your online discussions range over many issues and help people connect on more than just one political issue. Do you encourage members to connect on personal level (EVEN though everyone remains connected for a specific reason.) Connecting on different levels does not change the reason for participating in the network it only strengthes the connection.

2. How open is your network? How does it grow? who is responsible for network operations and network health? Who is responsible for creating bridge ties within your network and to outside networks? How are you learning from the new people? what is the use of connecting to the distant ties if you are not learning from them?

3. How do you find the "bliss point" in organizing. Are you open enough to bring in new ideas and closed enough to foster trust? How will you know? Is there an introduction process? Is there a qualifying process? Do you need a long-term group or just a rapid series of short lived networks? How does that change vetting process?

4. How is the network managing persistent reputation and identiy? How is the network leveraging the "self-help" instinct and peer pressure? How are people joining to help themselves not help you? What value do they get beside "be a part of your campaign" ?

The killer quote..building in sustainablity to your lon-term network has to include value and personal ties.


Short of mafia-style enforcement, most self-help groups have to rely on self-interest, broadly construed, to maintain their members' interest. Those that survive over the long term usually do so not because of their practical advantages, though those may be considerable, but because of the friendships they create. "What keeps people in more than they anticipated is essentially the ties that are formed," says Zuckerman. Groups like Business Networks may be "selling essentially hard-nosed business considerations--you're going to go in, and you're going to increase your bottom line." But once members have gotten those initial benefits, they stick around because, in Cunningham's words, they've become "best buds for life.""

Link: A Small Circle Of Friends -

While self-help networks differ widely, they all face similar issues: How exclusive or open can the group be and still achieve its goals? How can it sustain participation over time? Who will take responsibility for maintaining group activities? And how focused on its instrumental purpose, as opposed to social connections or other concerns, should the network be?

To social scientists, a network (self-help or otherwise) usually implies a system that includes both subgroups in which everyone knows everyone else and "bridging ties," where an individual is connected to others outside those smaller circles. In an influential 1973 article, "The Strength of Weak Ties," sociologist Mark Granovetter, now a professor at Stanford, demonstrated that while job hunters use social connections to find work, they don't use close friends. Rather, survey respondents said they found jobs through acquaintances--old college friends, former colleagues, people they saw only occasionally or just happened to run into at the right moment. New information, about jobs or anything else, rarely comes from your close friends because they tend to know the same things and people you do. One reason online forums are so valuable to participants like Franks is that they connect lots of people who wouldn't otherwise know one another.

Bridging ties keep a network from becoming a clique, but they can't build the trust and deep knowledge essential to many self-help efforts. The most effective networks reach a sort of "bliss point." They're open enough to bring in new ideas and closed enough to foster trust and intimate knowledge. "You actually need some of that cliquey-ness," says Brian Uzzi, an economic sociologist at the Kellogg (nyse: K - news - people ) School of Management.

If it becomes too open, a self-help network can disintegrate. Through the 1990s Stephen B. Garner, a Portland, Ore. marketing consultant, served as the volunteer coordinator for a business network called Resource Focus Group. Once a month members met for breakfast to hear a presentation by a company facing a strategic issue, such as how to penetrate a new market or whether to sell the business. Members asked questions and discussed how the company should proceed. Once a year presenters reported on what had happened since their meetings. By bringing in outside presenters, the group ensured a constant flow of new information. "It was really just a great learning experience with some very intelligent people," says Garner. Members could also propose new members, subject to a vote by the group.

When Garner moved to Spain for a year, however, his successor took a more laissez-faire approach, making the group less exclusive. "People would just show up, and they'd be new members. There'd be no introduction. There'd be no qualification," says Garner. As meetings became more impersonal and less fun, longtime members started drifting away. The group eventually dissolved.

To remain useful, self-help networks have to police their members, whether that means removing spam from the Living Donors Online message boards or screening members. That often requires an informal coordinator like Garner who not only organizes network activities and enforces the rules but stakes his own reputation on picking the right members.

In her new book, Survival of the Knitted: Immigrant Social Networks in a Stratified World (Stanford University Press, 2007), Rutgers sociologist Vilna Francine Bashi examines the networks that bring West Indian immigrants to New York and London and help them find jobs and housing. These networks depend on people Bashi refers to as "hubs," usually pioneer immigrants with strong ties to their homelands. Hubs decide whom to bring over, put the new migrants up in their homes until they've saved enough money for their own apartments and refer them to jobs. They are selective as, person by person, they build a new community. Bashi asked one woman how she decided which of her two sisters to send for: "She explained, 'You send for the one you like best.'"

Build it into the political and advocacy constituency. Use online and onland activities to support it and ultimately you are creating a mush more powerful and robust grassroots.

Civil Disobedient Lawmaking

Right to life for corporations? Interesting system disruption as applied to the underpinning laws hat give corporations more rights than people.

Hmm... bill of rights for people needed again?

Link: Conservative Pennsylvanians Pass ‘Radical' Laws Defying U.S. Constitution - July 16, 2007 - The New York Sun.

More than 100 largely Republican municipalities have passed laws to abolish the constitutional rights of corporations, inventing what some critics are calling a "radical" new kind of environmental activism. Led by the nonprofit Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, they are attempting to jumpstart a national movement, with Celdf chapters in at least 23 states actively promoting an agenda of "disobedient lawmaking."

"I understand that state law and federal law is supposed to pre-empt local laws, but federal law tells us we're supposed to have clean air and clean water," the mayor of Tamaqua, Pa., Christian Morrison, told The New York Sun.

More than a year ago, the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Corporation stirred an uproar in Mr. Morrison's eastern Schuylkill County borough with a proposal to use a large strip mine as a disposal site for material dredged up from the Hudson and Delaware rivers.

But in May, the mayor, 37, cast a tie-breaking council vote to enact an ordinance that bans corporate waste dumping — making his the first community in America to do so — and abolishes all corporate rights within his borough.

"The state and federal environmental protection agencies … support the big corporations, and they really don't look after the safety of the people that I represent," Mr. Morrison told the Sun. Representatives at Lehigh Coal and Navigation did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Notes and Questions: Are you also building the capacity of the network to serve itself?

A few months ago, I spent some time in a meeting talking about networks and network-centric strategy. We were invited to think about giving. There were a few zingers that came from the conversations which I have scribbled on my notes but didn't make the inal cut of the report produced. I wanted to capture and mull over the idea anyway.

Foundation need to ask...What do you want to "buy"? Can you really afford it? What can you afford?
Does your endowment really have enough in it to save polar bears? What do you want to buy when a big group ask for a donation like that? What is it that we really want to buy with a donation? Can we think about investing in system change and system disruption in order to make achieving results cheaper? Do change makers really want to buy disruptive innovations?

When making any type of investment, What is the metric of success? What is the outcome targeted? who will be evaluating it? The basic way this is set up determines the real outcome you can achieve. Are you setting the outcome and evaluating by metrics which confine pathways to progress. Are you funding the dreamers , innovators and field staff to get the work done? Are you the boss or the funder? How are those role different are they the same?

Is "deeper engagement" a worthy goal or is less engagement which creates an acceptable desired outcome from a constituency also as good? Is it better to need people to engage all the time to solve problems or is light touch engagement better outcome?

Youth engagement issues "Did you asks the five year old what they wanted? " They are opinionated. They are the ears into the 10-13 year old and they are dead honest. They are the youth of the near future.

Which projects and which type of investments are changing the culture and context of the issue? Which are just good projects? How do we know the difference?

I am not sure what the next steps are but the questions the meeting raised were thought provoking. Someday, I will retire and reread all my post beginning to end to start thinking about he ways this all fits together. These questions seemed really interesting in the way that they related to the formation of a grant program.

PressThink: Just the Sum of Us: James Surowiecki On What Crowds Can and Cannot Do

This is food for thought.....

Q: Do you think that crowds’ clearly eager participation in sites like, which you discuss in your book, voting for “American Idol” contestants, and the countless other ways wired first-world life has become a lively participatory democracy, can or will re-translate into a more active, in-person engagement with lower-tech forms of collective action, like voting in greater numbers, political protests, environmental activism, global crises, and labor organizing?

A: The simple answer is: I don’t know. I think that it’s clear that lots and lots of people want their opinions to be heard — and want them to, in some sense, make a difference. And I hope that that will, at the very least, translate into people voting in greater numbers, and even contributing to political campaigns in greater numbers. (It’s possible we actually saw some evidence of this in 2006.) But there is a big gap between dialing a call-in number on “American Idol” and participating in a demonstration, let alone actually doing real labor organizing. The thing about lower-tech forms of collective action is that they’re often hard, not just in the sense of being demanding in terms of time and energy, but also in the sense that they require tremendous amounts of patience and a willingness to defer immediate gratification. Unlike electing Jordin Sparks this year’s American Idol, social and political change does not happen in a few hours, or even a few months. So I’m not sure we can expect the “democracy” of the Net and of modern media to lead to an efflorescence of real-world activism. But that doesn’t mean that participatory democracy in the wired world is unimportant. We just have to be realistic about what it can accomplish

What if there is another way? I agree change is demanding in terms of time and energy. I agree that change requires patience or a willingness to defer gratification. The problem is that our applications and uses of the web don't compile small contributions of time and energy or sequence projects so that they can be done over time

...or do they , wikipedia, etc..

The very edge of thinking on new online organizing is exactly focused on this issue. Change is hard. Change takes time, energy and intelligence. Build the next generation of organizing tools to aggregate time, energy and intelligence to solve very big problems by compiling more realistic contributions by people into something in aggregate that can significantly transform real-world activism.

I am not kidding. Try it. See what giving 10 minutes of skill and intelligence feels like . thanks.