DevSummit07:Towards an Activist Social Networking Platform

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Facilitated by David Taylor, Radical Designs, Elijah Saxon,

A number of independent efforts have been brainstormed and hypothesized to develop activist-oriented social networking tools.

Simultaneously, a large number of developers in the nonprofit community have been drinking the Ruby on Rails "Koolaid", leading to wild and expansive visions of rapidly and collaboratively developed peer activism platforms.

This session will be a starting point for discussions on how such efforts might work in concert, share code, and design a framework that maximizes the likelihood of rich reuse.

Notes from session


  • some efforts in this space will be dissimilar, but some will be similar enough that it's worth collaborating and finding points of overlap
  • just to get to know everyone with similar goals

differentiation of platform goals

  • decision making / groupware internal to the organization
  • outreach to membership / community of supporters, empowerment of grassroots

projects and examples

  • crabgrass - key tools: collaborative groupware, making network tools for autonomous groups to federate; could also be used for opposite approach (national group with local chapters)
  • - a distributed platform for organizing in a grassroots way or through an organization
  • facebook is working on a project for grassroots organizing
  • mobilevoter - using on site capabilities of the phone to build networks, didn't build critical mass (could be available to be open sourced)
  • and
  • wiserearth
  • dolphin (a roll your own social networking)
  • open planning project
  • elgg - identity management hub
  • freeherenow - an agreggation of resources
  • hillary and obama new websites

nod to failed projects as a warning - flexomatic


problem with white labeling (building for org specific) - don't think anyone will go, not enough content/users - doesn't build critical mass for community


  • there is a need or a perceived need from organizations, who might already have the community to populate the network
  • benefits from tools are not just the network effects
  • network competition diminishes utility only if the needs are different

redundancy across networks and subsections of networks - creates too much work for organizers

where the data is at is an issue, privacy concerns

misc notes

need for collaboration tools like shared documents and meeting notes perhaps a reputation system would encourage activism (cause it's not money)

individual platform vs group - why people like myspace

how can the platform be used for interesting community data visualization (like open source software vendors in brazil) while maintaining privacy concerns

worthwhile to emphasize how the platform will help do the job you're already doing

marc is working on syndication of drupal content between sites, an xml spec for sharing this sort of information could be beneficial

use of standards, especially re: identity - XRI / XDI

future activity needs to be a list of features

a takeaway from greg (sunlight foundation): organization at an executive level are asking for these tools because other organizations have these tools (and have seen examples of these tools being effective). why are the tools that exist right now not meeting the needs (like mailing lists and google groups)?

response: tools are too separate such that using them is frustrating. tools are inadequate.