I stand for a free and open Internet.

A few weeks ago as many of us were patriotically wishing a happy birthday to the United States of America, a coalition of organizations including the ACLU and EFF launched a Declaration of Internet Freedom. I love how simple they kept it, while also encouraging engagement with the statement in a variety of online communities. The declaration is below, in text as well as the obligatory infographic format.

Individuals are invited to sign it at  AccessACLUCREDOEFF or Free Press, and to comment on it at on redditTechdirtCheezburger (yes, really!), Github and Rhizome. They have also invited organizations to sign on. I signed it on behalf of HASTAC, where I work. Have you or will you sign it?

Continue reading “I stand for a free and open Internet.”

Bridging The On-Line Real-World Gap

As I was Googling for something from an old work project, I stumbled across this interview with Marshall Kirkpatrick from 2006. Marshall and I had met a few years before at the Nonprofit Technology Conference. He has gone on to become a leading blogger on new media issues and is now a Senior Writer at ReadWriteWeb. I’m pleased to say that I think what I said still makes sense over 5 years later, and I would give nearly the same advice today (in principle).

Bridging The On-Line Real-World Gap: An Interview With Ruby Sinreich Of Netcentric Campaigns

Ruby Sinreich is the Web Maven at Netcentric Campaigns, a division of Green Media Toolshed. She is also the founder and editor of OrangePolitics.org, a progressive multi-author blog about politics based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Previously, she was the Online Organizing Manager in the Public Policy Division of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.Ruby and I talked in the following interview about Netcentric Campaigns and building an effective on-line strategy to support off-line, real world political organizing.


Network-centric advocacy is based on a philosophy of empowering the grassroots, your supporters, the “network.” We try to build strong networks between activists so they collectively form an effective movement. There are five aspects that we think are necessary for effective social networks

  1. You must have strong social ties so that the members trust each other and know who (with what skills) is in the network. Friendster/MySpace/Orkut/etc. are one way to build social ties, but so are in-person gatherings. Happy hours can also build your movement.
  2. There needs to be a common story that ties members together. They should have a shared sense of what the problem or what the goal is. This can vary widely, it might be a generally shared value, or it might be a mutual bad guy.
  3. There has to be a dense communication grid so folks have many ways to meet and communicate with each other. Blogs and social networking tools are a part of this, so are instant messaging and face-to-face gatherings.
  4. The members should share resources with each other. This could be money, space, information, etc. Like a directory that members can access, or sharing expertise.
  5. Finally there should be a sense of purpose so the network members know what the network is for. So they think of it as a tools for collective action or whatever the goal is.


It seems that there has been work to bridge the online world and the offline world for progressive causes for at least a few years now. Are there specific lessons that have been learned that have changed the way that you now advise organizations to, for example, build strong social ties with online and off or build a common story?


I don’t really think much about the distinction between on- and off-line. When we know our goal and our strategy, that leads us to tools which may or may not be online. We want to use a lot of online social networking and self-publishing because it’s very supportive of the kind of ties we want to build.

The internet itself is very network-centric (at least right now) so it lends itself to organizing in this way.

Continue reading “Bridging The On-Line Real-World Gap”

Stop censorship. Stop PIPA/SOPA.

A blog post I wrote for work at http://hastac.org/blogs/ruby-sinreich/2012/01/17/stop-censorship-stop-pipasopa 

HASTAC is joining with others around the U.S. and globally on the Internet to protest the outrageous SOPA/PIPA bill that – yes – is still making its way through Congress right now. Major organizations such Wikipedia,Mozilla, and many others are participating in a one-day black out, while others including Google, are using their home pages, as are we, to protest and inform about these frightening bills that would have a chilling impact on intellectual freedom and digital interaction. We were heartened by the news that the Obama administration is opposing the bills and so we chose to to stay online but with a banner on the site, but clearly the debate is far from over. The potential implications of this corporate and politically-motivated censorship upon academic freedom, especially digital scholarship, are simply staggering.

So many others have covered the issues around SOPA/PIPA so well (and my own understanding of the legislation is so comparatively tiny) that I won’t bother to rehash them but will link to some of the best below. Thanks to HASTACers Gerry Canavan for posting about SOPA last month and Alex Leavitt for today’s post about how SOPA opposition galvanized on Reddit. I highly recommend this 4-minute video that explains the legislation, including an important update at the end.

Link fest:


Occupy Wall Street

If you only get your news from mainstream broadcast and print media, you may not be aware that thousands of people have been participating in an occupation of Wall Street (yes, that Wall Street in Manhattan) for over a week. About 300 are there right now (Sunday morning). Many people have been arrested for things like “disorderly conduct” ie: annoying the police without breaking any real laws.

Here’s a live streaming video from the street, below this I’ll post some more links.


Just heard on the live stream from a protester named Lizzie, who just finished telling the story of her arrest: “You don’t need to be here (on Wall Street), light that fire in your own community.” A lot of my friends have been pointing out the difference between how this is (or isn’t) being covered compared to your average Tea Party protest. Can you imagine if a bunch of Republicans took an action this dramatic, or were treated this inhumanely? Not just FOX but CNN and even MBNBC would be en fuego.

Doctorow on the politics of technology choices

One of the nice things about my job is that I get to write blog posts like this. Cross-posted below.

I just read a great piece by author/activist Cory Doctorow on what he calls “Techno-Optimism” in Locus Magazine. He addresses a question that is often confronted by those of us who aspire to somehow use technology as a tool for social change: does the tool matter, or just the results? For example, if it’s easier to reach your target audience of young people who care about software freedom via Facebook, does the end justify the means? Or should we hold ourselves to a more idealistic standard and use an open source tool that lacks the critical mass of users?

In other words:

As a techno-optimist, I was heartened to see the role that networked technologies played in aiding activists in Iran, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain and other middle-eastern autocracies to coordinate with one another. But as a techno-pessimist, I was horrified to see activists making use of unsecured unfit systems like Facebook, which make it trivial for authorities to snoop on and unpick the structure of activist organizations.

Doctorow concludes:

The trick for technology activists is to help activists who use technology to appreciate the hidden risks and help them find or make better tools. That is, to be pessimists and optimists: without expert collaboration, activists might put themselves at risk with poor technology choices; with collaboration, activists can use technology to outmaneuver autocrats, totalitarians, and thugs.

As I like to say: the path IS the destination. How you get there is every bit as important as where you go. I already use a lot of open source software such as Drupal (this site’s platform), Firefox and Thunderbird (which I couldn’t work without), and Ubuntu (on my personal computers at home). I’m going to redouble my efforts to support software and systems that themselves support my own (and HASTAC’s) values of freedom, democracy, and security.

Read the full article at http://www.locusmag.com/Perspectives/2011/05/cory-doctorow-techno-optimism/

Building “buzz” for your cause

WeAreMediaToday I’m thrilled to be at the annual conference for North Carolina nonprofits. This used to be a regular hangout for me, but in the last decade my work has shifted to more national organizations and I haven’t had the time or funding to attend it in many years. Nice to see all the new and old faces here.

The reason I’m here is that I was invited to be a co-presenter of NTEN’s We Are Media workshop. This all-day workshop is based on the fantastic curriculm developed by the NPtech community with Beth Kanter’s leadership a few years ago. For my breakout session on “Building Buzz” I’ve combined NTEN’s materials on the subject with my own network-centric approach. You can see the results in my presentation…

How to keep thinking like a network

I had a great time today at the 2010 N.C. Tech for Good Conference. (Izzy enjoyed the reception afterward.)

I did a talk called “How to think like a network,” which is my latest iteration of my favorite subject: the five aspects of effective networks, a.k.a. network-centric advocacy. I’ve been talking to nonprofits, geeks, and activists about this approach for five years now (!) and while the technology has changed a lot, I think the strategy is as relevant as ever.
Continue reading “How to keep thinking like a network”

Online organizing quickie

I recently needed to collect some links about online organizing and outreach for a colleague. These are mostly pretty quick reads for the organizer-on-the-go.

In toolkit form (very handy): http://www.onenw.org/toolkit/online-organizing
In traditional form: http://www.bloggerrelations.com
In very short form: http://www.echoditto.com/best/organizing
In manifesto form: http://culturekitchen.com/the_cluetrain_manifesto_for_people_powered_politics
In guide form: http://www.epolitics.com/2006/07/03/online-politics-101-introduction-to-online-politics/
In wiki form: http://advocacy2.org

Five aspects of effective networks

I’ve been doing a few presentations lately that include the basics of network-centric organizing, so I thought it would be helpful to post a refresher here. With props, as always, to Marty Kearns from whom I learned a lot of this.

Update 6/25/10: Here’s the latest version of my presentation on network-centric thinking: https://lotusmedia.org/how-to-keep-thinking-like-a-network

Update 5/22/08: Now you can watch the presentation, which makes very little sense without me talking.

Five aspects of effective networks

  1. Strong social ties
    • Personal relationships
    • Trust
    • Awareness
  2. Dense communication grid
    • Online & offline
    • One-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many
    • For example
      • Blogs, forums
      • E-mail, IM, SMS
      • Face-to-face
  3. Common story
    • Shared values
    • Collective narrative
  4. Culture of sharing
    • For example
      • Data, information
      • Skills & expertise
      • Money
      • Space
  5. Network awareness
    • Feeling like a member
    • Knowing what the network is for

Here are some more resources to learn more about network-centric organizing strategies:

  • Earlier presentations on this topic: https://lotusmedia.org/advocacy-20-the-slideshow (slides) & https://lotusmedia.org/ruby-goes-to-class (video) &
    https://lotusmedia.org/civic-engagement-and-technology (with helpful links)
  • Blogging tips: https://lotusmedia.org/so-you-wanna-start-an-advocacy-blog
  • Network-centric approach to politics: https://lotusmedia.org/the-political-cluetrain
  • Background reading: https://lotusmedia.org/network-centric-reading-list
  • Marty Kearns’ widsom: http://advocacy20.org & http://netcentriccampaigns.org

… and more in my “Advocacy 2.0” category on this blog: https://lotusmedia.org/in/nptech/advocacy/