Ruby goes to class

Yesterday I gave a talk to an undergraduate class at UNC (COMP 380, Computers & Society). Thanks to Robert Peterson for connecting me with professor Jeannie Walsh. I spoke about my two favorite topics: network-centric advocacy, and OrangePolitics.

Here is a video of my talk (warning, it’s 75 minutes long), and below are the two parts of my presentation:

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Why yes, you did hear me on your NPR station last Thursday!

And here’s the proof: Marketplace: Giving goes online, too

I thought Janet Babin’s story was quite good, and she effectively got the point across that nonprofits need to do more to put their supporters in the driver’s set. She even pronounced my name right! I have just two small clarifications:

1. I am not a consultant, but in fact a full-time employee with benefits, etc. at the Fellowship of Reconciliation, and
2. In the second clip, I was not saying that “we” FOR don’t get this, but that “we” nonprofits in general don’t get the need to open up and trust our supporters.

Overall an excellent story, and I hope I get the chance to work with Janet again! Read on for a transcript, or click here for an MP3 of the segment.

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lag4peace: Don’t Iraq Iran

FOR's virtual office Tomorrow a large coalition of activists is organizing a series of events in Second Life to raise awareness about preventing a war with Iran. I’m really excited about it and I will be there most of the day helping out as a media contact. This event also inspired me to add some Iran info to the virtual office for my organization the Fellowship of Reconciliation (seen at left).

There is a whole day of events, but if you don’t want to be there all day, please come and check out the keynote and opening rally at 11:45am EST. It will be at the Commonwealth Assembly Area which can hold over 300 avatars (a lot for SL!).

Full info about the day of events is below. Sorry to post the entire press release, but this info doesn’t seem to be online anywhere else.
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OP becomes its own worst enemy

I’ve been struggling for a while with issues of free speech in the community of commenters over on Over the life of the site, there has been a small group of people who are generally screwing it up for the rest of us. Instead of informing and getting to know each other, the site devolves into nasty bickering which no-one wants to read except maybe the 5 people involved in it. I know I don’t want to read it, and that’s not just because half of it seems to be based on the premise that I am an evil dictator who is trying to control your life and ruin your neighborhood.

I often hear from folks who have varying success at ignoring the negative elements and usually just stop reading the site. I try to remind people that you can just read the posts and skip the comments (especially via RSS), but most OP readers don’t value that distinction very much. Lately the tension has gotten worse and some commenters have become increasingly toxic.

So as we are approaching the second major platform change to OP (from WordPress to Drupal), I’m starting to think about how to help the readers feed back into the system and have some collective say about what words and what behavior is or is not valued. It’s already going to be a great improvement that trusted users can have their own blogs on the site. I’m especially interested in Drupal modules that might help with rating content (both posts and comments), although I also accept that some manual moderation will probably be needed, especially in determining what goes on the front page.

Brian says that allowing the community to vote will encourage gaming of the system, and I think he fears that this could put the difficult people even more in charge. While this is certainly possible, I have more confidence in the commenters and especially the (silent) readers to balance this out and result in the right outcome most of time. This isn’t so much a wisdom of the crowd thing as it is a Buddhist thing, at least for me. I need to believe that everyone is essentially good. Otherwise I wouldn’t be working to amplify their voices, help them vote, help them make media, etc.
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Civic engagement and technology

Thanks to the Triangle Community Foundation for bringing Rob Stuart to town and organizing today’s Civic Engagement and Technology Workshop. I really enjoyed seeing a lot of my old NC nonprofit friends as well as making new ones.

As promised, here are the materials I used in my sessions. First, my seven-minute overview of OrangePolitics. Then my network-centric advocacy presentation, which was referred to in our discussion of social networks. And here is a Second Life slide show that I prepared but didn’t end up using.

OP presentation

Finally, here are some of the social networking sites that I demonstrated. If you sign up for any of them, please look me up and say hello! (virtual reality) (photos) (mini-blogs) (music) (videos) (books)

Learn more:
Pushing Power to the Edges

Social networks at ConvergeSouth

Slide5 The bad news: Anil Dash is not going to be able to attend and speak at ConvergeSouth today due to air travel problems. He’s a smart guy and a good speaker and I know he’ll be missed.

The good news:
I will be sitting on the Social Networks panel instead of Anil! I don’t think we’ll be using formal presentations, but I will probably base my remarks on my typical network-centric advocacy thoughts. You can see my recent presentation on this from Yearly Kos at

Update: Everyone keeps telling me to add this presentation to, but I don’t really see the advantage of that over Flickr where a lot more people might see it. However I did upload it to Google, so if that floats your boat: have at it.

10 Questions for presidential candidates

My friends at echPresident are launching a new site today called 10 Questions. The idea is to take the “YouTube debate” that gave regular people a chance to ask questions of the Democratic candidates a few months ago, and make it even more democratic by allowing the community to vote on which questions get asked instead of having them hand-picked by the TV networks.

Here’s my contribution, I did it in a hurry so please pardon the grammatical errors, etc.

Since the site is brand new, there aren’t many videos yet. This is a chance to get seen by the thousands of people who will check out the site today. Post your question at now!

Why I’m fasting tomorrow

Interfaith Fast Because it’s not enough to vote in November. Because it’s not enough to write letters to Congress. Because it’s not enough to march in the streets of Chapel Hill, Raleigh, Fayetteville, and Washington. Because it’s not enough to reduce my consumption of fossil fuels and boycott businesses that support the war and the Republican party.

Because we all must be the change we want to see in the world.

I will join thousands of other Americans tomorrow in refraining from food from dawn to dusk. I will meditate and I will generate compassion and love (metta) for the people of Iraq and the U.S. service members, who are suffering every day that this war goes on and will continue to feel the physical and mental pain of war for years to come. And like many others, I will join with an interfaith community to break the fast and celebrate our unity around the cause of peace.

Find out more and find a fast-breaking near you at

Join me in Second Life to feed our avatars and our souls at 7pm EDT. keep reading for more information.
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Burma is burning

Here’s an update on Burma that I just posted at the FORpeace blog:

[avatars in red t-shirts] Over the past week there have been countless demonstrations around the world is support of freedom and democracy in Burma. Even in the virtual world of Second Life there has been a red t-shirt campaign and a "human chain" action to bring people together, spread the word, and show support for the people of Burma. On Flickr you can see many more pictures of this innovative action as well as photos from demonstrations around the world calling for peace and justice in Burma.

[Israeli protest]Our colleagues at the Buddhist Peace Fellowship have been hard at work and have a lot of information to share including this list of Burma events around the U.S. and the world, a collection of statements from Buddhist communities in support of their brethren in Burma, and most importantly an updated list of what we can do to support the people marching for democracy in Burma.

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