Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Moving The Twitterati and the Tuberati

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | July 23, 2010 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Gay Geeks, Media, The Movement
Tags: Netroots Nation, Twitter

This morning at Netroots I attended a session on turning tweets into action and another on using YouTube to move activism.

I must admit that I've grown cool on twitter, finding that what people had for lunch and the latest news that I've already seen 10 times over is, frankly, not all that exciting. Nor is YouTube my thing (except for Charlie the Unicorn, to whom I relate all too well).

But I learned some pretty interesting stuff. Like how to get tweeters and tubers to sign petitions and donate with one click. One Click is where it's at.

And all this before 10 am.

So of course, after my obligatory lunchtime session at poolside, I rushed to share this with our Projectors.

Behold the new worlds of Twitter and YouTube.

I learned about act.ly, a petition site, and meetup.com, a site to, well, meet up with likeminded others.

On act.ly, you create a short petition directed to a twitter account. For example, @speakerpelosi for Speaker Nancy Pelosi. You creat a short description, like Pass ENDA now, and more details go below that. Click a button, and voila, your petition goes out to your followers. They sign by retweeting! No need to go to a separate website, though the link is there should they wish to view. Here's my Pass ENDA Now petition. Please click and tweet it out! ( I don't hold much hope for ENDA right now, but at least let's be heard. At some point it HAS to move, though that's about as predictable as the slot machines here, which is to say, not much.)

Meetup.com allows you to create opportunities for like-minded people to meet up. For example, I joined a local lesbian scrabble group. (I love scrabble!) What if someone selected certain targeted districts in the country, and enlisted people to push meetups of people to write letters to their local Congressmembers, along with, I don't know, pizza and a 50/50 raffle? (I'm not sure whether that's legal in all jurisdictions, but it's just an example of an idea.)

I also learned about four YouTube apps that make that One Click connection: YouTube Direct, YouTube Annotations, YouTube Moderator and YouTube Overlays. I have to admit that I shinned into the session a bit late, so I'm not as up on these, but I did get to finally meet Autumn Sandeen, from Pam's House Blend, which made it worth it. But the general idea is that you can put up a video of anything, and make it possible for people to easily click at certain points in the video to send a petition, donate, or even easily add their own vid of local actions and local activists, creating a giant, time-distributed conference of activists, each connecting with others to make a much larger impact.

How are these different from just sending an email saying sign this petition or come to a phone bank? Well, what's the difference between me mixing up a bunch of lemonade and putting out a handlettered sign on the side of the road and Coca Cola putting lemonade in your local Piggly Wiggly and across the nation?

The distribution network.

What made Coke into a giant success is that they painstakingly, over decades, created relationships with individual stores all over the world and got them to agree to stock their stuff, and they made sure it moved off the shelves through advertising. I might make better lemonade than Coca Cola, but I have no distribution network and no advertising.

Well, you say, just get a bunch of emails and you can do the same thing.

Not really. Emails are relatively expensive to collect. A list of 50,000 emails is considered a large list, and it takes months or years to collect, with many going to people who just aren't interested anymore. It also takes personnel to maintain servers and to connect with those people and collect new emails.

Twitter, MeetUp and YouTube shortcut that by activating inexpensive distribution networks that connect much more easily to interested consumers. Voila! A distributed distribution network!

Of course, as these technologies age, saturating the market, people erect privacy fences to cut down on information overload. But as these methods are relatively new, there is still an opportunity to reach lots of people. And in a geographically scattered community like ours, that's gold.

I plan to work on using these new technologies to best advantage, and to give you activists out there info on how to do that too. (You may not consider yourself an Activist with a capital A, but if you're reading this, you're likely an activist with a small a. Not that I'm commenting on the size of your A. Size doesn't matter.)

I have great hope for these new technologies for connecting us offline and multiplying our individual efforts with the power of community. I think this will be especially effective for those in small or isolated communities, which is, counter-intuitively, precisely where the greatest efforts are needed.

All hail the netroots!


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Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | July 24, 2010 8:05 PM

Although I'm open to new technologies. I'm not sure I agree with you about using these sites. That's because I think that achieving our agenda doesn't depend on utilizing technologies. It's a political question above all.

The concept of change at Netroots Nations is a lot like fluffing. It's fun while it lasts but it doesn't accomplish much in terms of real, fundamental change.

In my view the chief value of blog posting, commenting, twittering and giving facebook in our biggest of all banana republic's is educational. A proven exception is the use of cell phones to call instant demonstrations. That's much better and faster than leafleting but it'll only truly be effective if it's based the use of huge phones lists with enough lead time for the word to spread outside circles of friends and political acquaintances. We need mass demonstrations as well as instantaneous responses.

The only real way to get fundamental change is to build a nationwide, democratically run, financially self sustaining, militant, action oriented organization of activists and militants. Our movement has to do that while making it clear that racists, gynephobes, immigrant bashers and pro war folks are not welcome. And we have to be clear that Democrats and their brother-cousins the Republicans are welcome to support us but never to lead us.