Your Online Life and Offline Death in Post-Apocalyptic Times

Three things receive unconditional respect and are regarded as
near-holy in my home: a German work ethic (Kurt, my partner, is of
German heritage), good food (preferably made with lots of butter), and
Terminators (you heard me). I like to consider the Terminator ethos and ask myself, W.W.J.C.D? In fact, it’s what came to mind after Daily Gumboot editor-and-chief John Horn asked me to contribute to the post-apocalyptic series: what would John Connor do?

As a huge Terminator fan, I can say with some certainty that in times like these, with our online lives spread across social networks, ecommerce sites and Google, John Conner would be prepared. And Sarah Connor would be proud.

More of us need to be thinking like John Connor. That’s because, in totally non-resistance fashion, there’s no universal protocol on what happens to our online life after we die.

Facebook, for example and with proper documentation, can turn your profile into an online memorial. There’s also an app that allows you to prepare a video message for your friends and family. The people in charge of releasing that message are called your “trustees” and will only allow it to be sent when you’re gone. Twitter, on the other hand, simply shuts down your account rather than hand it off to next of kin.

There will come a day when it’s left to our family and friends to manage our digital identity. Assuming that Skynet hasn’t tried to destroy the human race and the Resistance isn’t too busy fighting to worry about your digital life which would no doubt be controlled by Skynet anyways, it’s worth considering the following checklist to better help the people you love take care of your memory, both on and offline.

What To Do Online Before You Die

1. To the best of your ability (let’s face it, it’s hard to keep track of it all) list all of the online networks, communities, websites, companies and organizations you belong to that require a password login. This includes Facebook and other social network websites as well as online banks and websites you’ve bought from in the past. Keep this in a safe place somewhere on your computer and, preferably, offline. It’s likely a document you’ll want to update, annually. When the time comes your friends and family can follow your wishes.

2. Tools like 1Password will help keep all of your passwords and login information handy and in one place for your next of kin.

3. Do you host your own blog or website? Prepare all of the hosting information and keep it together in one place with instructions on how to proceed. There are also hosting solutions that, for a price, will keep your blog up and live and operating, indefinitely. Maybe even through Judgement Day.

4. There are online services that can send email messages to your contacts so long as it’s prompted by someone you’ve given control. If final farewells are important to you, this may be a service you want to consider. Personally, I would ask one of my close friends (likely a writer from the Daily Gumboot) to prepare a digital eulogy and send it out to my contacts.

5. It’s important to have a will and there are templates and online tools available to help you create a digital version of it. Keep in mind you will still need a notary to make it official.

6. Finally, think about what you want your online legacy to look like — do you want a place where people can come together to send your loved ones their deepest sympathies? Will there be a digital component to your wake? These may sound like morbid questions but I know they’re the ones my friends and family will ask when I’m gone.

I think we’re going to see a lot more activity and conversation around the topic of how we die online in the years ahead. In the meantime, prepare like you would for the Resistance and against any damage that could harm your online memory and the efforts of your loved ones. It’s certainly what John Connor would do.

Photo courtesy Maxwell Hamilton, flickr.

Have I missed anything? I’d love your feedback and advice on how to better preserve  online memory and build an online legacy. Feel free to post, below.

“Facebook Revolution”

Popular protests in Northern Africa have attracted a lot of media attention in the last two months and I would like to bring your attention on one particular aspect of its coverage by western media. Repeatedly, journalists have referred to a “facebook revolution” or “twitter protesters” to describe what was happening in Tunisia and Egypt. In my opinion, this insistence on the predominance of Facebook and Twitter reflects western obsession, first with itself, and second with our scientific-technical complex, as if technology were always a source of progress.

Even though accurate and posed media coverage is always available, as it was the case with Egypt and Tunisia popular mobilization, a large part of media coverage has emphasized clichés and insisted on the importance of Facebook and Twitter. Basically, the argument goes that some young people, frustrated by Mubarak’s and Ben Ali’s corrupted regimes, started facebook pages about getting mobilized and spread the word on Twitter, then ten of thousands of people gathered in the streets. For example, transforming a Google employee (Wael Ghonim) into a star of the “facebook revolution” is part of this trend. Sometimes journalists do not directly say that Facebook or Twitter were causes of the revolution, but the argument is generally implicit, first a facebook page, second thousands of people in the street demonstrating, as if there were a direct, automatic correlation between the two.

Of course, I am not arguing that social medias do not have any impact and that they did not play a role in forcing those two dictators out. Internet in general, or specific elements such as Facebook or Twitter, can certainly help mobilize citizens, just as they can help doing business or organize political campaign. However, they remain tools; they are not causes of political or social phenomena. In a recent conference about social unrest in Northern Africa, a well respect Argentinean intellectual described Twitter as a very efficient phone, nothing more…. I would not go that far, but I strongly believe its role in Egypt and Tunisia has been overestimated.

The most important concern with this type of media coverage is to transform a specific technology into a cause, as if the technology in itself engendered a “revolution”. If you want to make the argument, then a better access to information and facilitated communication did help considerably to mobilize and organize protesters. However, television (such as Al Jazeera), radio, internet in general, cell phones must be considered as a “package”, which contributes to making people aware of other protesters and what was happening. But again, that does not explain why these mobilizations happen at these particular moments and times.

The other problem with a supposed “facebook revolution” comes from internet access. In Tunisia, the site estimates that in a population of 10.2 millions, 3.6 enjoy access to internet; so about 34% of the population. In Egypt, it only gets to 21%. We probably have to lower this number when political unrest started, since theses statistics regroup access at home, at work, or in internet cafés, the last two being far less available when repression begins. Furthermore, the Egyptian government was quick to block access to internet as soon as the 28th of January, a few days after mobilization started. It is probable that cell phones played a bigger role than Facebook or Twitter, especially once manifestations had started; nobody talks about the “nokia revolution”… If you wonder, only 5.5% of Libyans are internet users.

Making such historical events about Facebook or Twitter has two important implications. First, it displaces the debate away from real, more complex issues. If we try to understand the structural causes of these popular uprising, we inevitably start talking about corruption and authoritarian regimes. If we look even deeper we begin to see economic distress. Both Tunisia and Egypt face severe poverty and unemployment issues. As we all know, Ben Ali and Mubarak were geopolitical allies of Western Powers, but they also followed their economic precepts. Under Ben Ali, Tunisia followed the IMF’s recommendations and implemented neoliberal reforms, which ended up failing the Tunisian population. Moreover, food prices were only seldomly mention in mainstream media, even though they played a major role in fomenting a sense of injustice and push many poor people to join protesters. I doubt that someone worried about bread prices spend of lot time on facebook…

In my opinion, the emphasis on Facebook and Twitter in the media coverage shows our obsession to make every world event about us. Egyptians and Tunisians could not simply have used the tools at their dispositions to fight political and economic injustice, no, in reality they want to be exactly like us and they could do it because they finally got what we have: Facebook. It seems to me very sad that we have to simplify to this extent important events to interest people and make them feel good about themselves (or our society). Calling these events a “Facebook revolution” is as ridiculous as to call the French Revolution the “pamphlet revolution” or the Cuban revolution the “radio revolution”.

Facebook – Just how effective is it for Community Builders?

Community organizers and political organizers are always some of the first to jump on innovative new technologies like Facebook, Twitter etc. to engage and encourage large numbers of people to do specific actions.

When I worked for Vision Vancouver, many people talked about how social media tools were revolutionizing how we reached out and engaged people. And they were, to a certain extent. Using Facebook certainly made inviting people and building a sense of online community easier. All you had to do was to reach out to your fans and invite them to get involved in a posted event. A steady stream of news headlines about elected or candidate politicians provided a steady stream of “news” content that could keep your wall incredibly fresh and in the height of campaign season, people (particularly the young and young at heart) flocked to the Vision Vancouver and Gregor Robertson fan pages.

This sort of organizing certainly worked well for those engaged through the outside community and news media. But what about all those other people who you want to reach out t0o who exist in the Facebook universe and who might have very similar interests to your organization and even friends in common? How do you connect with these people?

Today I came across an interesting article posted on the Atlantic‘s blog. The full article comes from Adina Levin’s blog here. It’s fascinating and demonstrates how the much heralded organizational power of Facebook for campaign groups might not be so ideal after all. Have a read (particularly you social media/online organizer types – you know who you are) and let me know your thoughts!

As the dominant online social network, Facebook is place where activists and organizers head to help their movements and ideas spread. People are already on Facebook, and can share discussions, events, actions, with their networks of friends. This is great. But there’s a pretty serious problem, it seems to me, in the use of Facebook for organizing. It’s hard to get to know people on Facebook.

In the Facebook social model, it’s not very socially acceptable to “friend” someone you don’t actually know. The Facebook model is designed for people who are already “friends”. A “friend” relationship is symmetrical – both need to acknowledge the relationship. Facebook does have a separate built-in asymmetrical type of relationship. Institutions or celebrities can create “pages” that fans can “like”. The model sets up a hard dichotomy between people, who have friends, and celebrities who have fans. It doesn’t make social sense for a celebrity or institution to “like” one of its fans. By contrast, in Twitter, it is easy and socially acceptable to follow someone without their following you back. With this affordance and social practice, it is easy to become familiar with someone’s tweets, and use lightweight social gestures including retweets and replies to over time get their attention and make their acquaintance.

On Twitter, there is no hard dichotomy between friend, aquaintance, and fan. There are celebrities on Twitter who have millions of fans, and that relationship is clearly not mutual – you are probably not friends with John Mayer or Ashton Kutscher. But on Twitter, the follow affordance is the same, allowing for nuance and gradual change. On Twitter, and in a blog or forum communities with shared discussion where people use stable handles, individuals can become familiar with others over time.

In Facebook, if you don’t know someone already, you might come across them in conversations in the discussion thread started by a friend, or the page of an institution that you “like”. But you then have no good way of finding more about them, and gradually making their acquaintance, since many public profiles are quite sparse, and stream that really gives you a picture of the person is often locked down for privacy. And (at least I find) that it is awkward to address someone you don’t know, even if you’re a conversation started by the post of a mutual friend.

Facebook does have an interesting feature and social practice that helps someone convene a conversation. When you post to Facebook, you can “tag” a set Facebook friends to notify and call them into the conversation. Oakland Local’s community manager Kwan Boothdescribes using this technique for jumpstarting conversations with Oakland Local. Even if those friends don’t know each other, by virtue of being invited to the conversation by a host, they have been given implicit permission and encouragement to talk to each other. When you’re tagged, it feels less awkward to directly address a fellow tag invitee whom you didn’t know before. But still, you don’t have a good way to get to know these people over time.

For organizers, it is valuable to use Facebook to enable information and actions to spread throughout people’s existing networks of friends and family. But for organizers it is also often very important to build a greater sense of community, and cultivate the network of relationships in the community. Helping people get to know each other is important to growing a sense of shared purpose, reducing feelings of isolation and disempowerment, build on people’s social motivations to take action.

Much of traditional marketing has been focused on attracting individuals to a brand; even social media marketing seems to focus on building a relationship between an organization and its customers and constituents. Thus, coaching about how to stimulate conversations on Facebook pages about topics relating to your organization and your brand. But organizing isn’t just about the relationship of people to your organization, but about their relationships to each other.

In Facebook, where conversations remain in existing cliques and friend networks, it seems much harder to grow the network of relationships. Ethan Zuckerman talks about this issue in this CNN article – does the dynamic of Facebook’s social network, based on existing relationships, make it harder to make new connections. In The Networked Nonprofit, Beth Kanter and Allison Fine talk about the role of “network weavers” who combine traditional and online skills to connect people and organizations; in Share This, Deanna Zandt talks about using social media to deliberately get to know people with diverse cultural backgrounds. But how do you do this using a tool that makes it hard for people to get to know each other?

One way to get around Facebook’s limitations – and an important tool for any community that participates online – is to meet up in person. An organization or organizer can convene meetups and conferences. There, people can meet in person, and after meeting each others’ acquaintance, go back and “friend” each other on Facebook. It’s become quite common for in-person meetings to evolve online acquaintances into closer connections; the inperson connection and online reinforce each other. I’ve met up with Twitter acquaintances at conferences and on vacation. The BlogHer conferences brings together women bloggers, and the Netroots Nation conference developed as a meetup for the Daily Kos political blog online community.

But in more socially open networks, the in-person meetup bolsters a process of getting to know each other that also progress gradually online. With Facebook, there’s a much higher hurdle until and unless you’ve met in person. This is particularly challenging for geographically distributed communities – spread out regions like the Bay Area, or interest groups and movements that are spread out around a country or around the world.

A question for organizers and activists reading this post – do you use Facebook for building community, and if so what practices do you use for this? Have you developed practices for integrating Facebook into a broader set of tools and practices for people to meet each other, and if so how?

p.s. I’m using the term “social model” to refer to the affordances and conventions of recognizing, meeting, getting to know, and affiliating with other people. I’ve talked about this concept as it relates to social software design in posts including here and here. There may be better terms for this concept. If you know of better terms and references, please leave a comment.

Hijacking or Highlighting – is a facebook “Community Page” a Community at all?

You’ve just joined a heap of new communities! At least, that’s what facebook is telling me on all of these new community pages.

Your New Home!

Community, or Collection of Crap?

Check this one out – Cooking, a lot of people like cooking, 2.5 million have it as a “like” in their profile. By facebook law that seems to mean they’re / you’re members of the facebook cooking community. That’s regardless of whether you’ve been notified that your posts are being scrubbed for keywords and presented as contributions within this new format.

This section from the intro is particularly surprising, “…the best collection of shared knowledge on this topic.”

To me this seems like a very underhanded way to extract monetary value from the userbase. That best collection is actually a collection of posts not intended for this page, given some sort of context thanks to a description and image ripped straight from Wikipedia.

I’m undecided on whether this is a move to shift how we use facebook, moving users from personal networking to community-publishing, or if it’s just the next logical step in facebook’s growth. After all, we started with individual profiles, then we got groups and pages, and now we’ve got communities built on top of all of that.

Truthfully, I suspect these are just a step towards refining search and portal components to better compete with google and the like. That’s where the money is in terms of serving targeted ads and sponsored content.

Take a second and check out your profile. Chances are you’ve listed at least a few interests, and now when your posts contain keyword matches they’re being pulled into these community pages.

What do you think?

[poll id="7"]

Fifa World Cup: Africa Makes History

After 80 years of waiting, Africa’s history has been modified and strengthened by hosting FIFA world cup 2010. The vuvuzelas, the heavy traffic and city modernization efforts initiated and executed by South Africans to bring the 2010 soccer extravaganza to Africa is commendable. This is beautiful and big history for Africa! Africa will benefit from the 2010 world cup for years to come.

According to research posted on, an accumulated audience of over 37 billion people watched the France ’98 tournament, including approximately 1.3 billion for the final alone, while over 2.7 million people flocked to watch the 64 matches in the French stadia. This gives an idea of how many people are watching the World Cup and how Africa can use this platform to change its negative image forever. For PR purposes we should have the following infomercials aired before the beginning of every match, at half time and at the end of every match:

Johannesburg is not the capital city of Africa, Africa is actually a continent with more than 52 countries! Africans don’t keep Lions as pets, Lions are dangerous wild animals only found in the parks!  ..and That Mandela is the President of South Africa and not Africa. All these infomercials  can help change the perception in the West about Africa. A good example is Melissa who toured Africa the other day and uploaded this on her facebook status “ ..Just learnt that Africa is not a country and that Egypt is found in Africa. This is all news to me as I thought Africa was a country  and Egypt was in the desert and that you would never get pyramids in Africa, just like you would get elephants in Egypt… apparently I am wrong.”

Pundits predicted that Africa could surprise many and lifting a FIFA World Cup Trophy. However, Africa has been surprised. South Africa has written history as the first host nation of a FIFA World Cup not to qualify for the second round! That means Bafana Bafanas’ dream of playing the eleventh World Cup special match ball named Jubulani made by the German sports equipment Adida at the finals will never come to pass. Jubulani is a isiZulu word which means “bringing joy to everyone”.

Ghana has made history as the only nation in Africa to qualify for the second round. Figures are crossed and many have sworn not to miss any match being played by the new “African heroes”. My friend who is a tech wizard in a busy organization and a football fanatic developed a solution named “ FIFA  World cup2010 boss management solution”. I have decided to share the same with you so that you can have freedom at your workplace and watch any world cup match without being terrorised by your boss. Remember this solution has worked in some organizations in Kenya and is only applicable until 12th July 2010. It reads:

Dear Sir / Madam,

I wish to let you know that the FIFA World Cup is about to begin. This is not just any other tournament, it’s the World Cup! Please note that this tournament takes place every four years and a month to finish, i.e. from 11th June to 11th July for this year. During this period take note of the following:

1. I will be knocking off earlier than usual in order to watch the kickoff of the first game.

2. Do not be surprised if I report a little bit late every morning, it will depend on the time the last game finishes.

3. Production will go up during this month as almost all employees will be happy and highly motivated (Check Maslow’s Motivation Theories with Human Resource).

4. I know you are into other boring sports like cricket, bowling, etc. Please, if you want to fit in the work environment for the next one  month, try to know something about soccer, even asking a foolish  question like “Is Malawi playing tonight?” that is if you really want to  fit in, or else you will be a loner for one full month.

5. Greeting each other in the morning will change from “Good morning” to “How was the game last night?”

6. I will not accept to work overtime during this period as no amount of money can buy me to miss a game. Therefore make sure you don’t give me any work after 16:30 hours.

7. I will need to be up-to-date with the latest; therefore, the first hour every morning is for accessing sports websites and other updates on the internet and also chatting with friends on phone.

8. Lastly, please do not think you can fire me should you decide to break any of the above rules, as you will have to fire everyone.

Thank you for your understanding.

Yours faithfully,


Cc:   Management

Cc:  Secretary General, Central organization of trade Unions

cc:   Human Right Commission

cc:   International Labor Organization

cc:   United Nations Council for Human Rights

cc:   FIFA

cc:  Moreno Ocampo, Prosecutor, International Criminal Court Prosecutor

Enhance Your Online World Cup Experience

Ladies and gentleman, we are on the eve of what I might argue is the world’s finest sporting event — The World Cup. I’m happy to report that you have the musings of Gumboot editors John Horn and Kurt Heinrich to look forward to over the next few weeks as they attempt to explore the community-related possibilities that an event such as this is apt to inspire.

To add to the excitement,  I have a few fun tools to enhance your online World Cup experience. The first is a schedule that an online developer has put together for our delight. As Darren Barefoot puts it, “it gracefully enables you to explore a complex schedule–32 teams, 30 days, 10 venues, 64 games–along a number of axes.”

The second tool is designed to help you support your team in the Facebook and Twitter arenas: Twibbons. Click here and you can select the team of your choice and bear their flag on your Facebook and Twitter profile. It will be as if you’re carrying the country flag yourself. You could, as I’ve done, split your allegiance and decide to support two different teams. I’ve chosen to support an underdog on my Twitter profile and a favoured team on my Facebook profile, as you can see above. Germany is favoured, right?

Have fun with it! Go Cameroon, go!

Can I Get a “Like” Around Here?

You may have noticed some changes to Facebook this week. Mark Zuckerberg’s brainchild is reaching across platforms so that you can “like” the content you find on the web. In short, Facebook is taking over the world. Well, almost.

Facebook has teamed up with Pandora, Microsoft and other companies to provide you with a “like” tool that connects their websites to your Facebook account. Essentially, you’ll be cruising for tunes through Pandora’s virtual stacks, come across a song you like, “like it” and the news will carry over to your Facebook feed. The idea is to connect people through common interests.

You’ll notice that your fan pages no longer measure the number of fans they have but, rather, how many people “like” it. And you can also see how many of your own friends like that page, too. Your friends’ support is added incentive to like a page yourself. If there was ever any confusion around whether Facebook depended on the human condition to “follow the crowd,” there shouldn’t be anymore.

As Mashable’s Adam Ostrow puts it, the new “like” function is “a small wording change with some potentially big implications.” According to Facebook, people click the like button almost twice as much as they “Become a Fan” of something.

For those of you out there who don’t like change, I wouldn’t worry too much about this new addition. The changes we’re seeing, on a whole, won’t have a major impact on how you connect with your friends. It will, however, open things up and connect more people to common interests, be it an onion ring more popular than the Prime Minister, or Kung Fu.

Be smart. Know what you’re opting into, for security and simplicity’s sake.  Advertisers and brands can use the “like” function to collect a fan base of their own. It’s just another way for them to plug into you. The next time you “like” something, ask yourself, “do I care about this?” After all, it may just be a like, but it’s also a gateway into a company, brand or interest that’s vying for valuable real estate:  your attention.

Community From Chaos

We take more than we give, consume more than Earth produces.

Too many I’s and not enough teams.

From me-to-we an unovercomeable struggle, it seems.

Confusion breeds ignorance, media is negative, and we’re out of excuses.

A bringer of change.

With myriad range.

The Gumboot’s recipe.

For you all to see.

Creative solutions for community!

So there it is. And here we are. I’m not gonna lie, it’s a bit bleak out there. I mean, Obama just brought healthy tyranny to the world’s most important democracy – times are scary. Sure,  “scientists” and “business leaders” and “David Suzuki” will tell you that melting glaciers, rising seas, catastrophic earthquakes, desertification, staggering poverty, and the decline of the honeybee present far more serious reasons for us to fear for – or just plain fear – the future, but some of those ideas are complicated and the words that explain them are hard to spell. Solutions need to be easier!

In the spirit of positivity and community-building, the Daily Gumboot is pleased to provide you, the people, with some fantastic options that you, the people, can consider as we lurch forward. Feel free to apply one, some or all of the options to your life and, most importantly, have fun with it!

Option 1. Embrace Chaos.

THE IDEA: A few weeks ago, I saw Career Development Phenom Jim Bright speak in Vancouver. His theory is Einstein-esque – simple, but nothing simpler – and here it is: there is no linear career path, as where we work has more to do with chaotically interconnected random events – both lucky and tragic – than with education, training, self-assessment, counselling, research, and/or the cultural landscape of our home town (though all these things are important). Our careers – like life – exist in chaos and we need to prepare ourselves for it. Here is the concept explained in video form:

OUR ACTION: Stop trying to plan and control everything, Batman/Kurt. You can’t organize the trillions of random variables – like fuel prices – that make up the enormously complicated fabric of our planet’s community. What we need to do is create both personal and community-based “adaptability toolkits” that allow ourselves and our neighbourhoods to roll with the punches that life throws our way. After all, every neighbourhood needs food-growers/makers, artists, leaders, accountants, builders, designers, fixers, and creators to collaboratively thrive within chaos. So begin preparing your “adaptability toolkit” today!

Option 2. Get to Know Your Business Community.

THE IDEA: Many folks will argue that business got us into this mess. And many folks, myself included, will argue that business can get us out of this mess. Mostly because it has to. Henry Mintzberg’s article, “Rebuilding Companies as Communities” outlines a from-me-to-we solution for the many wrongly-worshipped CEOs out there. “We are social animals who cannot function effectively without a social system that is larger than ourselves,” says Mintsberg. “This is what is meant by ‘community’ – the social glue that binds us together for the greater good.” Mintzberg cites several examples of forward-thinking, people-firsting companies who ‘get it’ – one such organization, federation of Basque super-cooperatives, Mondragon, definitely jives with a les Nordiques as co-operative notion, as told by Gumbooteer Martin Renauld. As it turns out, putting people first is really good for business!

OUR ACTION: All around the world – in business, education or non-profit and with volunteerism, neighbourhoods, families, and politics – the simple, age-old concept of “community” is being re-applied everywhere. So, whether you’re sitting at your work-desk, sipping coffee in your ‘hood, or chatting with your mouth full during family dinner, reflect on this very important question: “how is this activity- this one I’m doing right now – positively contributing to my community?” Because if your idea/action involved a plan to create a superawesome social networking community that specializes in volunteerism and philanthropy, well, Chris Hughes, of Facebook fame and who only 26 years old, stole your idea before you even had one. It’s called Jumo and, like Chris, it’s pretty awesome.

Option 3. Reset Ourselves to Natural Capitalism.

THE IDEA:Termed by entrepreneur and world-changer Paul Hawken, Natural Capitalism seeks to solve the dirty, dirty problems being created by our outdated global system that is driven by Industrial Capitalism. Hawken argues that this can be done in four key ways:

  1. Radical Resource Productivity.
  2. Biomimicry.
  3. Service and Flow Economy.
  4. Investing in Natural Capital.

OUR ACTION: Make love to Mother Earth! Dig a hole in the ground. Put a little water in it. And go to town. No, wait, this is an inappropriate use of natural capital and, more importantly, such action has already been taken by Will Ferrell with great success. Anyway, we basically need to incorporate this stuff called “nature” into our economic formula, which currently employs a ridiculous equation that seems to assume our planet’s resources will keep pace with the exponential consumption of industrial capitalism. Be the change, people!

Option 4. Become a Radical Homemaker.

THE IDEA: Wency Leung presented the notion of Radical Homemakers in a recent edition of an up-and-coming print newspaper called the Globe and Mail. Again, a simple idea: give up the rat race and take care of your families and communities by growing local, organic and, more than likely, healthy food.

OUR ACTION: “In pursuit of a more personally fulfilling and ecologically sustainable lifestyle, these so-called ‘radical homemakers’ are relying less on monetary income and are, instead, picking up domestic skills such as vegetable gardening and cooking to help meet their basic needs,” says Leung. Accept the honest fact that a reduction in income does not necessarily equal a drop in your standard of living. If you need a place to start, check out a recent post by Pete’s favourite Correspondent, Katie Burns.


Option 5. Piracy.

THE IDEA: Forget the global community. Heck, forget everyone outside of your neighbourhood! This option is all about you and your closest friends/family/shareholders. Sure, people outside your immediate circle might vilify you. But, remember, it’s not about them, it’s about you and your very local community.  Somali pirates aren’t really “Somali pirates”, after all; according to over 70% of Somalians, they’re actually a necessary component of a patch-work coastal defense structure!

OUR ACTION: Find some friends. Secure a boat, truck, web server, and/or multinational corporation. Pillage things from people and places without asking and, if necessary, use force, coercion and, possibly, the Internet to do it. Sure, pirate ships were and are bastions of democracy at it’s truest, but they’re also pretty violent. So, any action taken by us, I hope, is conceptual and only literal if necessary.

Have fun with your consideration of such options. May they inspire us all to create many, many more!


The Great Debate at UBC Goes Digital!

Check it out! A Daily Gumboot editor, played by John Horn, joins forces with Get to Know Your Community superstar, Shagufta Pasta, to take on outdated pedagogy in formal higher education. This street fight discussion took place a few weeks ago during Educamp at the Univeristy of British Columbia.

Who wins UBC’s Great Debate on social media in the classroom? I will leave that to you!

Just kidding. The YES team totally won. The revolution isn’t coming, it’s here. Let’s all be a part of it, people!


Facebook – good for your health?

I’ve been watching news reports with shock and sadness over the last week but have also been amazed by the extent to which social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have not only enabled family and friends to contact each other but have also been conduits for millions of dollars donated to a devastated Haiti.

But I’ve been wondering about the Facebook phenomenon and the particular type of online interaction it breeds. Only slightly more than a popularity contest I rather thought Facebook dilutes community and have recently come across some interesting action focused online social networking sites that create space not just for amassing friends but building community – communities of social action.

“Idealist is an interactive site where people and organizations can exchange resources and ideas, locate opportunities and supporters, and take steps toward building a world where all people can lead free and dignified lives.”

Idealist has always been an excellent place to, as they describe it, exchange resources and ideas but they have also recently reinvented themselves and watching this unfold was fascinating. The essence of their reinvention is to building a global network to serve and support those who want to make the world a better place. Lofty indeed but it was the way in which they went about it that particularly struck me. Essentially they posed a question – how can we better facilitate the creation of community online and offline – and invited collaboration in making this a reality.

They do a much better job than I at describing their goals. Check them out for the full scoop.

Tyze networks are personal support networks that facilitate communication and organization. A Tyze network is something that a son or daughter might set up for their parent with Alzheimer’s in order to support, share and coordinate their care with friends, family and health care providers. I have recently started some work with Tyze and it’s through this connection that I’ve become more interested in action based and supportive online communities. Tyze understands that belonging to a social network has tangible benefits, including improved health and their network model facilitates this. They have some great articles on their site.

These two examples are just the tip of the iceberg. I’m excited by the possibility that online social networking will evolve and mature and maybe, just maybe even Facebook will be good for our health.