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!