My choice, from an early age, has been to engage in social change from the ground up, using the power of organized nonviolence. A distrust of the political process was firmly in place by the time I was 15. As a daughter of Quakers I pledged my allegiance not to a flag or a nation state but to humankind, the two often having little to do with each other.
Fascinating article breaking down the stats on alcohol use in the Washington Post in 2014.
Here are the two pieces that strike me: The “top 10 percent of drinkers account for over half of the alcohol consumed in any given year” and this top 10 represents people who drink an average of 10 drinks per day.
I’m not a teetotaler and I’m glad stats also show that most Americans are light on the alcohol — 30 percent don’t drink and another 30 percent are moderate. But 10 drinks per day average is a serious alcohol problem — with serious social implications and costs. Half of the industry profits come from these drinkers. The article quotes an expert:
If the top decile somehow could be induced to curb their consumption level to that of the next lower group (the ninth decile), then total ethanol sales would fall by 60 percent.”
From a 1956 issue of the then-newly rebranded Friends Journal, an explanation of the ethics behind providing a fixed price for goods:
Whether the early Quakers were consciously trying to start a social movement or not is a moot point. Most likely they were not. They were merely seeking to give consistent expression to their belief in the equality of all men as spiritual sons of God. The Quaker custom of marking a fixed price on merchandise so that all men would pay the same price is another case in point. Most probably Friends did this simply because they wanted to be fair to all who frequented their shops and give the sharp bargainer no advantage at the expense of his less skilled brother. It is unlikely that many Quakers adopted fixed prices in the hope of forcing their system on a business world interested only in profit. That part was just coincidence, the coincidence being that Friends hit upon it because of their convictions; the system itself was a natural success.
— Bruce L Pearson, Feb 4 1956
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 QuakerQuaker.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 (Quakerranter.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 (QuackQuack.org). I like Tumblr although my site there (quackquack.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).
- 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 MartinKelley.com for a Flavors.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.
A few days ago the NYTimes ran a fascinating early look-back at the relationship between social media and the largely-nonviolent revolution in Egypt written by David D Kirkpatrick and David E Sanger. I doubt we’ve seen the last twist and turn of this tumultuous time but as I write this, the world sighs relief that longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak is finally out. Most of the quotes and inside knowlege came via Ahmed Maher, a 30-year-old civil engineer and a leading organizer of the April 6 Youth Movement, who became an activist in 2005.
Lesson One: Years in the Making
The Times starts off by pointing out that the “bloggers lead the way” and that the “Egyptian revolt was years in the making.” It’s important to remember that these things don’t come out of nowhere. Bloggers have been active for years: leading, learning, making mistakes and collecting knowledge. Many of the first round of bloggers were ignored and repressed. Some of them were effectively neutralized when they were co-opted into what the Times calls “the timid, legally recognized opposition parties.” “What destroyed the movement was the old parties,” said one blogger. A lesson we might draw for that is that blogging isn’t necessarily a stepping stone to “real activism” but is instead it’s own kind of activism. The culture of blogs and mainstream movements are not always compatible.
Lesson Two: Share Your Experiences
The Egyptian protests began after ones in Tunisia. The context was not the same: “The Tunisians faced a more pervasive police state than the Egyptians, with less latitude for blogging or press freedom, but their trade unions were stronger and more independent.” Still, it was important to share tips: “We shared our experience with strikes and blogging,” a blogger recalled. Some of the tips were exceedingly practical (how to avert tear gas – brought lemons, onions and vinegar, apparently) and others more social (sharing torture experiences). Lesson: we all have many things to learn. It’s best to be ready for counter-tactics.
One of the interesting sidelights was how the teachings of American nonviolence strategist Gene Sharp made it to Cairo. A Serbian youth movement had based their rebellion on his tactics and the Egyptians followed their lead, with exiled organizers setting up a website (warning: annoying sound) compiling Sharp’s strategies:
For their part, Mr. Maher and his colleagues began reading about nonviolent struggles. They were especially drawn to a Serbian youth movement called Otpor, which had helped topple the dictator Slobodan Milosevic by drawing on the ideas of an American political thinker, Gene Sharp. The hallmark of Mr. Sharp’s work is well-tailored to Mr. Mubark’s Egypt: He argues that nonviolence is a singularly effective way to undermine police states that might cite violent resistance to justify repression in the name of stability.
As an aside, I have to say that as a longterm peace activist, it tickles me no end to see Gene Sharp’s ideas at the heart of the Egyptian protests. America really can export democracy sometimes!
Lesson Three: Be Relentless in Confronting Lies
The Times reports that Maher “took special aim at the distortions of the official media.” He told them that when people “distrust the media then you know you are not going to lose them. When the press is full of lies, social media takes on the fact checking role. People turn to independent sources when they sense a propaganda machine. The creator of a Facebook site was a Google marketing executive working on his own. He filled the site We Are all Khaled Said “with video clips and newspaper articles [and] repeatedly hammered home a simple message.”
Lesson Four: Don’t Wait for Those Supposed To Do This Work
Most of this social media was created by students for goodness sake and it all relied on essentially-free services. Everyone’s always thought that if Egypt were to explode it would be the dreaded-but-popular Muslim Brotherhood that would lead the charge. But they didn’t. They scrambled not knowing what to do as protests erupted in the major cities. Eventually the Brotherhood’s youth wing joined the protests and the full organization followed suit but it was not the leaders in any of this.
When we’re talking about popular organizating, money and established credentials aren’t always an advantage. What’s interesting to learn with the Egypt protests is that the generation leading it doesn’t seem to have as strict a religious worldview as its parents. This came out most dramatically in the images of Christian Egyptians protecting their Muslim brothers in Tahir Square during times of prayer. This is having ramification in copycat protests in Tehran. Iranian leaders tried to paint the Egyptian students as heirs to their own Islamic revolution but it seems practical considerations are more important than setting up an Islamist state (stay tuned on this one – protests have begun in Tehran on one hand and the Muslim Brotherhood might well take over from Egypt protesters now that Mubarak is out).
On a personal note…
It’s interesting to watch how the three-year old Save St Mary’s campaign has mimicked some of the features of the Egyptian protests. Their blog has been pretty relentless in exposing the lies. It’s attracted far more media attention than the professionally-staffed Diocesan press office has been able to muster. There’s been a lot of behind-the-scenes talking with churches in other regions to compare tactics and anticipate counter-moves. As far as I know it’s one of seven churches nationwide with round-the-clock vigils but it’s the only one with a strong social media component. It’s average age is probably a generation or two younger than the other vigils which gives it a certain frank style that’s not found elsewhere. The Philadelphia Archdiocese is exploding now with arrests of recent Diocesan officials and revelations from the District Attoreny that dozens of priests with “credible accusations” of pedophilia are still ministering around kids and while church closings and the pedophilia scandals are not officially connected, as a non-Catholic I’m fine admitting that they arise from a shared Diocesan culture of money and cover-ups. Again, “repeatingly hammering home a simple message” is a good strategy.
One of the big bits of tech news yesterday was a leaked slide showing that Yahoo was closing down Del.icio.us,
the social bookmarking system that helped define. Yahoo must not do
Twitter because it took them till today to finally respond. They now say
that Del.icio.us doesn’t fit their strategy and that they will be selling it.
we care? Should we care? When it started in 2003, Del.icio.us was something
innovative and quirky. It helped teach us that our online behavior
didn’t need to be secret and locked away on our hard drives but could be
shared. Indicating that you thought a website was worthy of a bookmark
could be a recommendation to friends. Even people bookmarking a site was
an indication of it’s real world value. For us techies, Del.icio.us
opened our eyes up to a world where everything could be an RSS feed and
in 2006 I jiggered the social aspects to create a human-powered
editorial aggregator QuakerQuaker.org.
When Yahoo bought it we
were all a bit nervous but it seemed like a good move. Yahoo could bring
server resources and a userbase and take Del.icio.us to the next level.
When corporate decided to rename it Delicious.com, it stripped the
quirkiness but perhaps signaled a willingness to take this more into the
Alas, it didn’t turn out that way. Delicious settled in
and stopped innovating. Eventually the founder left Yahoo. Things got so
bad that it seemed exciting when it essentially got a design make-over a
few years ago. Competing services sprang up but none were different
enough to make many of change our habits.
So yesterday’s news is
perhaps a good thing. I’ve been looking at those other services. Diigo.com looks really fabulous. I tried it when it launched in 2006 but wrote it off at the time as a Delicious clone with high ambitions. But they’ve been working hard. They’re onto version five now and they’ve been
adding the kind of cool features that an independent Delicious might
For example, you can add a note to a webpage that you’re bookmarking and then send a special URL with the site and note. They make it really easy to Twitter this. Last night I bookmarked and tweeted about an online radio service I’ve been using:
Listening to a lot of Radio Paradise lately. Good background work music, interesting selections: diigo.com/0e8gw
That Diigo link will take you to Radio Paradise’s homepage with the note I added. That’s really useful.
Diigo just a few moments ago put out a Transition to Diigo FAQ. Exporting from Delicious is really easy and importing it to Diigo is easy too – though not instant, it was about twelve hours. I’m confident enough about Diigo that I’ve upgraded to the $40/year Premium account – partly chipping in since I imagine they’re being hit with lots of new accounts today.