A lot of people (well certain people) have been fussing about Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey returning to the company as it’s new CEO. While I think he’ll easily be better than his predecessor Dick Costolo, I see no cause to celebrate.
The magic in Twitter has always been the connections between people and the ability to grow and connect communities of people. The Arab Spring is the most famous and impactful example of this, but “Black Twitter” is a more current illustration. It’s a large and decentralized community which is having a real impact on people’s lives through connection, cultural critique, and shining a light on police brutality via #BlackLivesMatter.
Today I followed a link posted by an old Twitter friend. It was a collection of reactions of “Twitter influencers” to Jack’s return. They were all white, a couple were my friends. Responses ranged from “we’ll see” to “Jack is my BFF.” There was not a single concern raised. It should come as no surprise that all of the white, male CEOs of Twitter were hired by a board which is itself nearly all white men (with the exception of a few Asian men and one very powerful woman).
Twitter has been making moves to try to compete with media companies (and Facebook) by pushing big news and events, memes that trend via their mysterious algorithm, and celebrity tweeters. This ground has been covered and there will always be someone who does that better than them. Twitter’s unique value proposition is the ability to find and directly connect with real people who you don’t already know but who add value to your life. To be a participant in a movement (whether it’s for democracy or your favorite TV show) rather than just a consumer. I have rarely seen Twitter’s corporate policies show that they understand or appreciate this value. In addition, their continuing lack of interest in doing anything serious about the pervasive abuse of women online further shows that they just don’t care about us, the users that give their platform meaning.
So I wrote a few tweets about this, but it’s hard to convey the complexity and the importance of this in 140 characters so I wanted to expand in this blog post. If you share my concerns, I’d appreciate a retweet or other show of solidarity.
Dear #BlackTwitter, I hope you are thinking abt other platforms & critical mass, Twitter's leadership does't understand or value community.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As I mentioned last month, I gave a 5-minute Ignite talk called “”How to think like a network (a.k.a. Five aspects of effective networks in five minutes)” at the 2011 Nonprofit Technology Conference. It’s the latest version of my ongoing rant/spiel about network-centric advocacy. Below is a video of my talk with the actual slides underneath so that you can follow along at home. Think you can keep up?