Remembering Juanita Nelson

juanita04One of the coolest activists of her (or any) gen­er­a­tion is gone. Juani­ta Nelson’s obit­u­ary is up on the nation­al war tax coalition’s site. My favorite Juani­ta sto­ry was when some agents came to arrest her at home and found her dressed only in a bathrobe. They told her it was okay to go into her bed­room to change but she refused. She told them that any shame was theirs. She forced them to car­ry her out as her clothes fell off. Talk about rad­i­cal non-coöperation!

Update

Pam McAl­lis­ter point­ed out on her Glob­al Non­vi­o­lence: Sto­ries of Cre­ative Action Face­book page that this sto­ry is online. Here’s a bit more of Juani­ta her­self telling that bit:

Sev­en law enforce­ment offi­cers had stalked in. I sat on the stool beneath the tele­phone, my back lit­er­al­ly to the wall, the sev­en hem­ming me about in a semi­cir­cle. All of them appeared over six feet tall, and all of them were annoyed.

“Look,” said one, “you’re gonna go any­way. You might as well come peace­ful.”

There they stood, ready and able to take me at any moment. But no move was made. The rea­son was obvi­ous.

“Why don’t you put your clothes on, Mrs. Nel­son?” This was a soft spo­ken plea from the more benign deputy. “You’re not hurt­ing any­body but your­self.” His pained expres­sion belied the asser­tion.

The essay where that came from is much longer and well worth read­ing.

Quaker Folkways and Being Patterns on the Interwebs

Last Sun­day I have a pre­sen­ta­tion to Had­don­field (N.J.) Meeting’s adult First-day school class about “Shar­ing the Good News with Social Media.” As I pre­pared I found I was less and less inter­est­ed in the tech­niques of Face­book, etc., than I was in how out­reach has his­tor­i­cal­ly worked for Friends.

For an ear­ly, short, peri­od Quak­ers were so in-your-face and noto­ri­ous that they could draw a crowd just by walk­ing a few miles up the road to the next town. More recent­ly, we’ve attract­ed new­com­ers as much by the exam­ple of our lives than by any out­reach cam­paign. When I talk to adult new­com­ers, they often cite some Quak­er exam­ple in their lives – a favorite teacher or delight­ful­ly eccen­tric aunt.

Peo­ple can sense when there’s some­thing of greater life in the way we approach our work, friend­ships, and fam­i­lies. Let me be the first in line to say I’m hor­ri­bly imper­fect. But there are Quak­er tech­niques and val­ues and folk­ways that are guides to gen­uine­ly good ways to live in the world. There’s noth­ing exclu­sive­ly Quak­er about them (indeed, most come from care­ful read­ing of the Gospels and Paul’s let­ters), but they are tools our reli­gious com­mu­ni­ty has empha­sized and into which we’ve helped each oth­er live more ful­ly.

In the last fif­teen years, the ways Friends are known has under­gone a rad­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion. The Inter­net has made us incred­i­bly easy to find and research. This is a mixed bless­ing as it means oth­ers are defin­ing who we are. Care­ful cor­po­rate dis­cern­ment con­duct­ed through long-developed tech­niques of Quak­er process are no match for the “edit” but­ton in Wikipedia or some com­mer­cial site with good page rank.

That said, I think peo­ple still are dis­cov­er­ing Friends through per­son­al exam­ples. George Fox told us to be pat­terns and exam­ples in the world and to answer that of God in every­one. A lot of our exam­pling and answer­ing today is going to be on the thread­ed com­ments of Face­book and Twit­ter. What will they find? Do we use Face­book like every­one else, trolling, spam­ming, engag­ing in flame wars, focus­ing on our­selves? Or do Quak­er folk­ways still apply. Here are some ques­tions that I reg­u­lar­ly wrestle with:

  • When I use social media, am I being open, pub­lic, and trans­par­ent?
  • Am I care­ful to share that which is good and eter­nal rather than tit­il­lat­ing for its own sake?
  • Do I remem­ber that the Good News is sim­ply some­thing we bor­row to share and that the Inward Christ needs to do the final deliv­ery into hearts?
  • Do I pray for those I dis­agree with? Do I prac­tice hold­ing my tongue when my moti­va­tion is anger or jeal­ousy?

What strug­gles do oth­ers face? What might be our online folk­ways?

Wikifying Our Blogging

Con­tin­u­ing my recent post in reimag­in­ing blogs, I’m going to go into some con­tex­tu­al details lift­ed from the Quak­er pub­li­ca­tions with which I’m either direct­ly asso­ci­at­ed or that have some claim to my iden­ti­ty.

My blog at Quak­er Ranter dates back to the proto-blog I began in 1997 as an new home­page for my two year old “Non­vi­o­lence Web” project. The new fea­ture was updat­ed week­ly with excerpt­ed mate­ri­al from mem­ber projects on Non​vi​o​lence​.org and relat­ed orga­ni­za­tions that already had inde­pen­dent web­sites. We didn’t have RSS or Twit­ter then but I would man­u­al­ly send out emails to a list; we didn’t have com­ments but I would pub­lish inter­est­ing respons­es that came by email. The work was relaunched with blog­ging soft­ware in 2003 and the voice became more indi­vid­u­al and my focus became more Quak­er and tech.

The arti­cles then were like they are now: reverse­ly chrono­log­i­cal, with cat­e­gories, tag­ging, and site search­ing that allow old­er mate­ri­al to be accessed. The most impor­tant source of archive vis­i­bil­i­ty is exter­nal: Google. Peo­ple can eas­i­ly find mate­ri­al that is direct­ly rel­e­vant to a ques­tion they’re address­ing right now. In many instances, they’ll nev­er even click through to the site home­page, much less cat­e­gories, tags, etc. As I said in my last post, the­se first-time vis­i­tors are often try­ing to under­stand some­thing new; the great major­i­ty bounce off the page and fol­low anoth­er search result on a mat­ter of a few sec­onds, but some small but impor­tant per­cent­age will be ripe for new ideas and con­nec­tions and might be will­ing to try new asso­ci­a­tions.

But it’s ran­dom. I’m a bit of a nerd in my cho­sen inter­ests and have been blog­ging long enough that I gen­er­al­ly have at least a few inter­est­ing posts on any par­tic­u­lar sub-topic. Most of the­se have been inspired by col­leagues, friends, my wife, and ran­dom con­ver­sa­tions I’ve found myself in.

Some of the most mean­ing­ful blog posts – those with legs – have involved me inte­grat­ing some new thinker or idea into my world­view. The process will have start­ed months or some­times years before when anoth­er spir­i­tu­al nerd rec­om­mend­ed a book or arti­cle. In the faith world there’s always books that are obscure to new­com­ers but essen­tial for those try­ing to go deep­er into their faith. You’ll be in a deep con­ver­sa­tions with some­one and they’ll ask (often with a twin­kle in their eye) “have you read so-and-so?” (This cul­ture if shar­ing is espe­cial­ly impor­tant for Friends, who tra­di­tion­al­ly have no cler­gy or sem­i­nar­ies).

A major role of my blog has been to bring the­se sorts of con­ver­sa­tions into a pub­lic realm – one that can be Googled and fol­lowed. The inter­net has helped us scale-up this process and make it more avail­able to those who can’t con­stant­ly trav­el.

When I have real-world con­ver­sa­tions now, I often have recourse to cite some old blog post. I’m shar­ing the “have you read” con­ver­sa­tion in a way that can be eaves­dropped by hun­dreds.

But how are peo­ple who stum­ble in my site for the first time going to find this?

The issue isn’t just lim­it­ed to an obscure faith blog. Yes­ter­day I learned about a cool (to me) blog writ­ten by a dad who research­es and trav­els to neat nature spots in the area with his kids and writes up a post about what-to-see and kid-issues-to-be-aware-of. But when it’s a nice Sat­ur­day after­noon and I find myself in a cer­tain locale, how can I know if he’s been any­where near­by unless I go through all the archives or hope the search works or hope his blog’s cat­e­go­riza­tion tax­on­o­my is com­plete?

What I’m think­ing is that we could try to cre­ate meta index­es to our blogs in a wiki mod­el. Have a whole col­lec­tion of intro­duc­to­ry pages where we list and sum­ma­rize rel­e­vant arti­cles with links.

In the hey­day of SEO, I used to tag the heck out if posts and have the pages act as a sort of auto­mat­ed ver­sion of this, but again, this it was chrono­log­i­cal. And it was work. Even remem­ber­ing to tag is work. I would spend a cou­ple of days ignor­ing clients to metatag each page on the site, only to redo the work a few months lat­er with even more meta­data com­plex­i­ty. Writ­ing a whole shad­ow meta blog index­ing the blog would be a major (and unend­ing task). It wouldn’t gar­ner the rush of imme­di­ate Face­book likes. But it would be supreme­ly use­ful for some­one want­i­ng to explore an issue of par­tic­u­lar inter­est to them at that moment.

And one more Quak­er aside that I think will nev­er­the­less be of inter­est to the more techie read­ers. I’ve described Quak­erism as a wiki spir­i­tu­al­i­ty. Exhibit one is the reli­gious movement’s ini­tial lack of creeds or writ­ten instruc­tion. Even our paci­fism, for which we’re most well known, was an uncod­i­fied tes­ti­mony in the ear­li­est years.

As Friends gained more expe­ri­ence liv­ing in com­mu­ni­ty, they would pub­lish advices – short snip­pets of wis­dom that were collectively-approved using con­sen­sus deci­sion mak­ing. They were based on expe­ri­ence. For exam­ple, they might find that mem­bers who abused alco­hol, say, or repeat­ed­ly test­ed the dress code might cause oth­er sorts of prob­lems for the com­mu­ni­ty and they’d min­ute a warn­ing again­st the­se prac­tices.

The­se advices were writ­ten over time; as more were approved it became bur­den­some to find rel­e­vant advices when some issue start­ed tear­ing up a con­gre­ga­tion. So they were col­lect­ed into books – unof­fi­cial at first, lit­er­al­ly hand-copied from per­son to per­son. The­se even­tu­al­ly became offi­cial – pub­lished “books of dis­ci­plines,” col­lec­tions of the col­lec­tive wis­dom orga­nized by top­ic. Their pur­pose and scope (and even their name) has changed over the ensu­ing cen­turies but their impulse and ear­ly orga­ni­za­tion is one that I find use­ful when think­ing about how we could rethink the cat­e­go­riza­tion issues of our twen­ty first cen­tu­ry blogs and com­ment­ing sys­tems.

Outreach gets people to your meetinghouse / Hospitality keeps people returning.

Over on Twit­ter feed came a tweet (h/t revrevwine):

seo - Google SearchTo trans­late, SEO is “search engine opti­miza­tion,” the often-huckersterish art of trick­ing Google to dis­play your web­site high­er than your com­peti­tors in search results. “Usabil­i­ty” is the catch-all term for mak­ing your web­site easy to nav­i­gate and invit­ing to vis­i­tors. Com­pa­nies with deep pock­ets often want to spend a lot of mon­ey on SEO, when most of the time the most viable long-term solu­tion to rank­ing high with search engi­nes is to provide vis­i­tors with good rea­sons to vis­it your site. What if we applied the­se prin­ci­ples to our church­es and meet­ing­hous­es and swapped the terms?

Out­reach gets peo­ple to your meet­ing­house /
Hos­pi­tal­i­ty keeps peo­ple return­ing.

A lot of Quak­er meet­ing­hous­es have pret­ty good “nat­u­ral SEO.” Here in the U.S. East Coast, they’re often near a major road in the mid­dle of town. If they’re lucky there are a few his­tor­i­cal mark­ers of notable Quak­ers and if they are real­ly lucky there’s a highly-respected Friends school near­by. All the­se meet­ings real­ly have to do is put a nice sign out front and table a few town events every year. The rest is cov­ered. Although we do get the occa­sion­al “aren’t you all Amish?” com­ments, we have a much wider rep­u­ta­tion that our num­bers would nec­es­sar­i­ly war­rant. We rank pret­ty high.

But what are the lessons of hos­pi­tal­i­ty we could work on? Do we provide places where spir­i­tu­al seek­ers can both grow per­son­al­ly and engage in the impor­tant ques­tions of the faith in the mod­ern world? Are we invi­ta­tion­al, bring­ing peo­ple into our homes and into our lives for shared meals and con­ver­sa­tions?

In my free­lance days when I was hired to work on SEO I ran through a series of sta­tis­ti­cal reports and redesigned some under­per­form­ing pages, but then turned my atten­tion to the client’s con­tent. It was in this realm that my great­est quan­tifi­able suc­cess­es occurred. At the heart of the con­tent work was ask­ing how could the site could more ful­ly engage with first-time vis­i­tors. The “usabil­i­ty con­sid­er­a­tions” on the Wikipedia page on usabil­i­ty could be eas­i­ly adapt­ed as queries:

Who are the users, what do they know, what can they learn? What do users want or need to do? What is the users’ gen­er­al back­ground? What is the users’ con­text for work­ing? What must be left to the machine? Can users eas­i­ly accom­plish intend­ed tasks at their desired speed? How much train­ing do users need? What doc­u­men­ta­tion or oth­er sup­port­ing mate­ri­als are avail­able to help the user?

I’d love to see Friends con­sid­er this more. FGC’s “New Meet­ings Tool­box” has a sec­tion on wel­com­ing new­com­ers. But I’d love to hear more sto­ries about how we’re work­ing on the “usabil­i­ty” of our spir­i­tu­al com­mu­ni­ties.

A social media snapshot

When I first start­ed blog­ging fif­teen years ago, the process was sim­ple. I’d open up a file, hand-edit the HTML code and upload it to a web­server – those were the days! Now every social web ser­vice is like a blog unto itself. The way I have them inter­act is occa­sion­al­ly dizzy­ing even to me. Recent­ly a friend asked on Face­book what peo­ple used Tum­blr for, and I thought it might be a good time to sur­vey my cur­rent web ser­vices. The­se shift and change con­stant­ly but per­haps oth­ers will find it an inter­est­ing snap­shot of hooked-together media cir­ca 2012.

The glue services you don’t see:

  • Google Read­er. I still try to keep up with about a hun­dred blogs, most­ly spir­i­tu­al in nature. The old tried-and-true Google Read­er still orga­nizes it all, though I often read it through the Android app News­Rob.
  • Diigo. This took the place of the clas­sic social book­mark­ing site Deli­cious when it had a near-death expe­ri­ence a few years ago (it’s nev­er come back in a form that would make me recon­sid­er it). When­ev­er I see some­thing inter­est­ing I want to share, I post it here, where it gets cross-posted to my Twit­ter and Tum­blr sites. I’ve book­marked over 4500 sites over the last seven-plus years. It’s an essen­tial archive that I use for remem­ber­ing sites I’ve liked in the past. Diigo book­marks that are tagged “Quak­er” get sucked into an alter­nate route where they become edi­tor fea­tures for Quak​erQuak​er​.org.
  • Pock­et (for­mer­ly Read it Lat­er). I’m in the envi­able posi­tion that many of my per­son­al inter­ests over­lap with my pro­fes­sion­al work. While work­ing, I’ll often find some inter­est­ing Quak­er arti­cle that I want to read lat­er. Hence Pock­et, a ser­vice that will instant­ly book­mark the site and make it avail­able for lat­er read­ing.
  • Flip­board is a great mobile app that lets you read arti­cles on top­ics you like. Com­bine it with Twit­ter lists and you have a per­son­al­ized read­ing list. I use this every day, most­ly for blogs and news sites I like to read but don’t con­sid­er so essen­tial that I need to catch every­thing they pub­lish.
  • Ifttt​.com. A handy ser­vice named after the log­i­cal con­struct “IF This, Then That,” Ifttt will take one social feed and cross-post it to anoth­er under var­i­ous con­di­tions. For exam­ple, I have Diigo posts cross-post to Twit­ter and Flickr posts cross­post to Face­book. Some of the Ifttt “recip­ies” are behind the sce­nes, like the one that takes every post on Word­Press and adds it to my pri­vate Ever­note account for archival pur­pos­es.

The Public-Facing Me:

  • Word­Press (Quak​er​ran​ter​.org). The blog you’re read­ing. It orig­i­nal­ly start­ed as a Move­able Type-powered blog when that was the hip blog­ging plat­form (I’m old). A few years ago I went through a painstak­ing process to bring it over to Word­Press in such a way that its Disqus-powered com­ments would be pre­served.
  • Twit­ter. I’ve long loved Twit­ter, though like many techies I’m wor­ried about the direc­tion it’s head­ed. They’ve recent­ly locked most of the ser­vices that read Twit­ter feeds and reprocess it. If this weren’t hap­pen­ing, I’d use it as a default chan­nel for just about every­thing. In the mean­time, only about half of my tweets are direct from the ser­vice – the remain­der are auto-imports from Diigo, Insta­gram, etc.
  • Tum­blr (Quack​Quack​.org). I like Tum­blr although my site there (quack​quack​.org) gets very few direct vis­its. I most­ly use it as a “links blog” of inter­est­ing things I find in my inter­net wan­der­ings. Most items come in via Diigo, though if I have time I’ll sup­ple­ment things with my own thoughts or pic­tures. Most peo­ple prob­a­bly see this via the side­bar of the Quak­er­Ran­ter site.
  • Face­book. It may seem I post a lot on Face­book, but 95 per­cent of what goes up there is import­ed from some oth­er ser­vice. But, because more peo­ple are on Face­book than any­where else, it’s the place I get the most com­ments. I gen­er­al­ly use it to reply to com­ments and see what friends are up to. I don’t like Face­book per se because of its pater­nal­ist con­trols on what can be seen and its recent moves to force con­tent providers to pay for vis­i­bil­i­ty for their own fan pages.
  • Flickr. Once the dar­ling of pho­to sites, Flickr’s been the heart­break of the hip­ster set more times than I can remem­ber. It has a ter­ri­ble mobile app and always lags behind every oth­er ser­vice but I have over 4000 pic­tures going back to 2005. This is my pho­to archive (much more so than the fail­ing disk dri­ves on a suc­ces­sion of lap­tops).

Honorable Mentions

  • I use Foursquare all the time but I don’t think many peo­ple notice it.
  • Right now, most of my pho­tos start off with the mobile app Insta­gram, handy despite the now-tired con­ceit of its square for­mat (cute when it was the art­sy under­dog, cloy­ing now that it’s the billion-dollar main­stream ser­vice).
  • Like most of the plan­et I use Youtube for videos. I like Vimeo but Youtube is par­tic­u­lar­ly con­ve­nient when shoot­ing from a Google-based phone and it’s where the view­ers are.
  • I gave up my old cus­tom site at Mar​tinKel​ley​.com for a Fla​vors​.me account. Its flex­i­bil­i­ty lets me eas­i­ly link to the ser­vices I use.

When I write all this out it seems so com­pli­cat­ed. But the aim is con­ve­nience: a sim­ple few key­strokes that feed into ser­vices dis­sem­i­nate infor­ma­tion across a series of web pres­ences.

Young Adult Friends Network, v.4

A pro­mo video for the new Young Adult Friends web­site, fea­tur­ing catz and me drink­ing a lot of water at 4x speed (“YAFs” or “AYFs” is the name for Friends rough­ly between 18 and 35).

I think this is the fourth young adult Friends net­work­ing site I’ve put togeth­er, dat­ing back to the mid-90s when I still was a YAF.

Greg Woods intro­duces the site on his blog, and of course there’s a Face­book and Twit­ter pres­ence for the net­work.