Archive for the ‘social networking’ Category

[update: corrected spelling of Scott Hefferman’s name. Sorry Scott!]

I am watching live streaming of the National Conference on Citizenship which will probably be archived on their website. The Case Foundation is sponsoring the live streaming of the conference and took this opportunity to debut their  Gear Up for Giving: Social Media Tutorials for Nonprofits initiative.

Click Daly is darling and this is a clever way to get a message out, but darling Daly took a hit from one of the panelists, Scott Hefferman of Meetup who said (good-naturedly as far as I could tell on a webstream), “I hate that puppet. We did not go from being content consumers to content producers. We are not content, we are people!”

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Earlier this semester, students in my Library School course on Community Engagement gathered tools for online engagement that I, along with Charles Knickerbocker and Silona Bonewald presented to the National Association of Planning Councils conference. I’m summarizing some of these tools here for the benefit of Patricia Wilson’s Commmunity Engagement Course at UT and anyone else who might be interested. (Also, I’ve thrown my back out and can’t present to her class in person so I hope this will suffice.) Since Patricia will be moving through this material in a one hour class, I’ve added a * after the web sites that should be opened and explored during the class. I’ve also set them to open in a new window which can be obnoxious, but is useful if you are clicking through web sites in front of a room full of students.


Before adopting any technology, it is important to think about what are you trying to accomplish. Keeping that in mind, my class created some scenarios, then recommended a tool and possible applications. These scenarios were inspired by a webinar we attended that was led by Steve Clift, an early adopter of technology for public engagement, founder of e-democracy and an Ashoka Fellow. We also used the IAP2 model to determine if the tool was best suited to 1) inform, 2) consult, 3) involve, 4) collaborate, and/or 5) empower. Read through the scenarios below.  As you think about these scenarios, consider:

  1. What are some likely tools address the challenge posed by the scenario?
  2. What are some possible applications of the tool?
  3. Who might use the tool?
  4. What are the strengths?
  5. What are the weaknesses?
  6. What is the level of public engagement as defined by the IAP2 spectrum?

Scenario 1: New to the community

You have just moved to a new community. You are unfamiliar with every aspect of the community but, in your old community, you were an active member. You helped plan the annual fair each year, volunteered at the hospital, tutored school children, and taught Sunday school. It is only your first week in this new community but you’re itching to get involved. You grab your computer and start searching online for some ideas. Where might you start? What technology tools will you use?

Scenario 2: Combating vandalism

You enjoying jogging through the local park every morning but lately have noticed an increase in vandalism along the trails. You have already contacted several individuals in the local government…Nothing has been done. Weeks have past and the situation is getting worse. You seek a public arena in which to voice your deepening concern. You would like to reach as wide an audience as possible. How might you utilize different tools from the technology tools list to reach the large audience you seek?

Scenario 3: Environmental hazard

You live in a small industrial town whose main employer is a large factory. However, you’re concerned that the factory’s chemical runoff is endangering local wildlife and, potentially worse, affecting the local water supply. What tools can best assist you to gather support, document any evidence/effects and subsequently present your case to a governing body?

Scenario 4: Tolerance and enlightenment

A group of students in a conservative town wants to form a Gay/Straight Alliance at their local high school, but are afraid to go public without a plan for presenting relevant facts & figures, involving fellow students, and getting the administration on board to approve. What are some tools the students can utilize to achieve their aims?

The basics about possible technologies

There are two great resources for a snappy introduction to the various technologies that communities might use to collaborate and form connections. Tim Davies, a UK blogger about e-democracy has created some terrific one-pagers that he freely shares through scribd* and Common Craft* has a number of short, light and informative videos. I suggest that you print out the one-pager for the technology that interests you and then watch the companion video.

Here’s an example of one of Tim’s one-pagers on blogging with wordpress, the tool I’m using to write this post.

One Page Guide to Blogging with WordPress*

EXERCISE: While you’re checking out Tim’s one-pagers on Scribd, sign up for your own scribd account. Scribd lets you share documents online. You can add tags, invite others to view. Viewers can easily download the document, share it with others through e-mail or over a dozen social networking sites, or even embed the document in their web site. They can even add it as a favorite so that they can easily find it later. The site even recommends similar documents that might be of interest to you. When would this be a useful tool? How might you use this as a student?

And here’s the Common Craft video about Blogs.

EXERCISE: Break into pairs and each pair take a different tool to explore. Download the one-pager here and see if there is a Common Craft video that correlates with the tool by doing a search here. What are some potential applications of the tool?

Hyperlocal Blogging or Placeblogging

Speaking of blogging, here’s our first application of a technology – hyperlocal or placeblogging. Sometimes the things that we care about, the things that affect us most directly in our own home town and our own block are not reported in the newspaper, but they are still important to us. At my parent’s neighborhood meeting the other day, the Chief of our volunteer fire department explained how they would respond to a fire in the neighborhood and how the scant number of fire hydrants puts the neighborhood in a vulnerable position. That’s pretty important news if you’re more than 500′ from a hydrant as 90% of the neighborhood is. It wouldn’t be reported in the newspaper – even in a small town like Salado. But some industrious civic-minded soul could set up a blog for free that would only report on things that people in the neighborhood care about. But don’t just take it from me. Here’s a video by Placeblogger’s Lisa Williams who also blogs about her community at H2oTown.

Vodpod videos no longer available.
more about “Lisa Williams on placeblogging on Vimeo”, posted with vodpod

“A Zogby survey released in February 2008 foujnd that 70 percent of Americans say journalism is important to maintaining community quality of life, but that nearly as high a number – 67 percent – say the traditional media are out of touch with what citizens want out of their news.” (See Fanselow, Julie. “Community Blogging: The New Wave of Citizen Journalism.” National Civic Review Winter(2008): 24-29.)

So why not give ordinary citizens the opportunity to report on what’s happening in their community?

The NY Times has their reporters hyperlocal blogging about the communities where they live. Here’s one example from Maplewood.

Another interesting use of hyperlocal blogging is for communities and grantors to share information with each other. The Northwest Area Foundation uses blogs as a key component of its Horizons program*. The Foundation gets a front row seat learning about what is working and what the communities need help with, and the communities in the Horizon Project share information with each other. They provide a grid of ways that people in communities can report on the progress they are making in their community and about a dozen screencasts on how to blog, why to blog and wordpress basics. Here’s one on why to blog by Griff Wigley, the founder of a community blog called Locally Growh Northfield whose early foray into community blogging has landed him a career as a blog coach.

EXERCISE: Check out some of the local blogs. What kind of stories do you see? How are they organized – one or more authors, groundrules for comments? What territory do they cover?

Social Networks for Participation and Collaboration

What if you wanted to enable people to set up their own blog, have conversations, share videos and photos. Two easy to use sites are NING.com* and Wetpaint.com*. I’ve used wetpaint for Texas Forums* several years. I call it my sandbox. It’s where I can dump things that I am working on and easily share them with others without worrying about it looking nice. I use it as a “not ready for prime time” website.

A couple of years ago I set up a wet paint site for a group of people in the American Library Association to see if we could frame Privacy as an issue for public deliberation using the National Issues Forums model online. They used the Privacy Framing site* to upload materials on how to frame issues, developed core questions to ask stakeholders, posted the results of their interviews, clustered their results into three approaches and created a discussion map that they will be testing at ALA this summer. COOL!

Ning is another option with lots of bells and whistles, and is very easy to set up. In just a few minutes in one of my classes online, a student set up a Ning site for librarians interested in community engagement* as a demonstration.

EXERCISE: Divide the class into two groups. Have one group set up a wetpaint site and have the other group set up a Ning site. Populate the sites and explore the tools. What are the relative advantages and disadvantages to each?

Where else to go…

Since my back is giving out and it’s time to find food, I’ll send you to a couple of other resources (i.e., really smart people who really know this stuff).

The social media game:* This game was first developed for a workshop led by Beth Kanter and David Wilcox in the UK in 2007. As is the nature of social media gurus, they are very generous with their creations so the game has been remixed. Check out the non-profit game* – lots of how-to videos and links to additional resources that will probably fit your interests.

Beth Kanter is one to follow.

Ok, sorry to poop out on you, but most anything I’ve left out will be in the social media game. I’ve got more resources I didn’t have time to post, but I’ll be back.

Look back over the scenarios. What tools could you use to help address some of the concerns and interests expressed in those scenarios?

Hope you had a great class, sorry I couldn’t be with you, but I look forward to hearing from you.



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I am preparing a report on the activities of Texas Forums over the past six years. It’s a fun trip down memory lane and I will be posting tidbits here and in our newsletter over the next few weeks.

In the process of gathering evidence of our activities, I panicked because half of our photos were missing from our Flickr page! Then I realized that we had lost Pro status because of an expired credit card. Sigh!

So I’ve paid our Flickr debt and we are back up and running. Sorry if any of our missing photos caused any “link slippage”.

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Steve Clift, founder of e-democracy.org hosted two-part webinar on Citizen Media and Online Engagement on February 5. The archive will be available for people who donate any amount between now and March 1, 2009. Donate here and you will receive a link to listen to the archive.

The first part of the presentation highlighted interesting citizen media and online engagement projects. Technology has dramatically shifted the power and control over who gets to tell the story about their community and what stories get told. People are using blogs, twitter, text messages, Flickr and YouTube to report what is happening in their local neighborhood.

In addition to Steve’s presentation, the Knight Foundation has funded a number of projects that provide great resources for citizen journalists, such as:

  • the University of Maryland’s J-Lab which helps communities start citizen news ventures, and
  • Knight Citizen News Network that guides both ordinary citizens and traditional journalists in launching and responsibly operating community news and information sites and that assembles news innovations and research on citizen media projects.

Part two of e-democracy’s workshop focused intensively on the secrets of starting an online Issues Forum (or learning from what we do to help your own project). Each section is roughly 50 minutes and well worth the donation!

Check out the slides for Citizen Media and Online Engagement and Issues Forums Webinar.

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From BlogTalk Radio Lightning Strikes…

Rod Amis, a well-known blogger, social media pundit and Christina Shideler talk with Silona Bonewald of the League of Technical Voters and Taylor Willingham of Texas Forums (an initiative of the LBJ Library) about building an online transparent federal budget. Former Senator and Presidential candidate Bill Bradley who promotes this idea in his book, The New American Story, is involved, and we’ll find out why.

Listen Here! 

Learn more about Silona and Taylor here.

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Rod Amis sent me a podcast interview with Silona Bonewald, our wonderful partner who founded the League of Technical Voters, the visionary of the Transparent Federal Budget, architect of our “We Are All Actors” weekend August 10-12, and the woman who has dragged me to two code-a-thons.

In this interview conducted by Tom Parish and produced by Rod, Silona talks about the Transparent Federal Budget, the results of our We Are All Actors weekend, Net Neutrality, the importance of transparency, creating online identities, supporting online dialogue, “hot babes” of open source, SXSW, Women in Open Source technology, open source social networking and open standards, Lawrence Lessig, taking control of our own information, and having a vision so powerful that you can’t NOT follow it. (She’s a civic entrepreneur!)

And she talks about Texas Forums!

Editor’s note about the podcast.

Listen and be inspired!

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exgtreme democracy

Date: July 30, 2007
Time: 7:00p.m. to 8:00 CDT
Where: Texas Forums Virtual Room (See discussion guide for instructions)
Cost: Free
Topic: Politics and Networks
Download discussion guide for:

  • Description of discussion topics,
  • Definition of Extreme Democracy,
  • Links to all reading materials,
  • Instructions about how to log into the room,
  • Everything you need to know about this series

Essays for July 30

It’s the Conversation Stupid!: The Link between Social Action & Political Choice, by Valdis Krebs
Discuss Krebs essay
Social Network Dynamics & Participatory Politics, by Ross Mayfield
Discuss Mayfield essay
Broadcasting & the Voter’s Paradox, by David Weinberger
Discuss Weinberger essay

Available only in print version, not online:
Sociable Technology & Democracy, by danah boyd (pp. 183-193)

The Calculus of Political Power, by Mitch Ratcliffe (pp. 127-153)

Download slides introducing tonight’s topics

Also of interest
We have invited all of the authors of the essays for discussion to join us. Mitch Ratcliffe has been a regular participant. So far tonight, we know that we will also be joined by Vladis Krebs. This is a great opportunity to engage in a dialogue about politics and networks with colleagues from around the world (France, for example is represented!) and some of the leading extreme democracy thinkers!

Background about Extreme Democracy
This is the sixth of a twelve part discussion series on Extreme Democracy co-sponsored by the Central Texas World Future Society and Texas Forums, an initiative of the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum.

The purpose of these discussions is to explore the principles and technologies of Extreme Democracies, and to explore how these concepts and technologies are affecting our own social change efforts, our democracy, and the upcoming election. These discussions take place online synchronously in the Texas Forums Virtual Room on Monday evenings at 7:00 p.m. Central Time. Participants are encouraged to also participate in an asynchronous dialogue about the readings for the week on the Extreme Democracy Blog.

You do not have to participate in all sessions.

These discussions are free and open to everyone.

For more information about this series including a schedule of events and hardware/software requirements for participation in the series, visit the Texas Forum blog. Read the discussion guide here. It includes a description of how to use the virtual meeting room.

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It would be interesting if they said something we hadn’t heard. Barack makes a joke about “No Child Left Behind” and talks about the money left behind but doesn’t get a big response here. Bonnie observes that most of the people here are taking it all blandly and no one is getting up and cheering. That’s the plight of this kind of crowd.

And Dennis Kucinich can get cheers from the crowd at the forum but little response from these folks. Mike Gravel has the freedom to talk truth because nobody takes him seriously.

So let’s talk about this event, as Yours Unruly plans to jet, and what the overview should be: the crowd should have been larger certainly, there should have been more journalists here to get the opinions of the average person – most of whose concerns are really about the economy, health care and having a government that isn’t riddled with corruption. I heard that tonight, walking from one table to another. I watched the people sitting here, Black, Asian, Latino and White and most them – as mentioned – had no idea about the “Covenant” but had serious ideas about what they wanted for this country. Many of them expressed their desire for common ground. This Blogger was happy to hear that.

At the same time, as a long-time journalist, I would rather have attended an event where more of the people got to speak instead of watch, an event where there was involvement and interaction instead of observation. Passivity is not what is needed now. Action is what is needed now.

The next stage of politics is involving the polity.

This was certainly worth doing but more is needed, more conversation.

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We are encouraging the participants in our Extreme Democracy discussion group to sign up on Attendr so we can see where everyone is located and get to know each other better. This tool allows you to add people you know to your network and then to map relationships. So far our numbers are small and Austin-centric, but we know that we have had participants from Pennsylvania, Colorado and California.

Extreme Democracy Attendr Map

If you want to participate in this discussion group, add your information to our Extreme Democracy Attendr map and download our discussion guide. We’re taking next week off for the fourth of July, but will be back on July 9. Paul Schumann will be off for some quality family time so yours truly and Rod Reyna will pinch hit as discussion leaders for that night.


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OK, I’ve spent a bit more time with innerTOOB, a new tool for making podcasts interactive I described in the previous post. Now I’ve discovered that we can link to all of podcasts uploaded by a particular user. We can put that link on our home page and people can easily link to ALL  of our podcasts loaded in innerTOOB. I’ve registered under the username texastaylor so the link is:


(I may re-register using Texas Forums as the username to increase our visibility, but I’ll let you know!)

I’ve only loaded one toob so far – ok, here’s my crack at defining “toob”… it’s a new term to add to the growing social networking jargon, but a toob is just a podcast converted to a format that enables the user to jump to specific places in an audio file and add written comments. This could be a very interesting way to share audio and use it to create conversations. It would also be great for the large number of audio files in the LBJ archive. Imagine being able to jump to a specific quote in a speech by President Johnson!

But here’s a real example. In this first posting, Diane Miller talks about reclaiming the public’s role in public life, what it takes to be an effective public leader, everyday heroes, and Rich Harwood’s book Hope Unraveled. Each of these points could stimulate a very interesting dialogue online. InnerTOOB makes that possible! This is what it looks like. Note you can start listening at exactly the spot where the interviewer poses a question to Diane Miller by clicking on the “jump on” button. From there you can add your comments via text chat. Click on the picture below and check it out!


So what do you think?

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