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Starhawk, the experience.

Starhawk is visiting Eugene for a few days of teaching; it's time to get my old battered copy of The Fifth Sacred Thing signed, I suppose, but I'm really much more interested in the two activist training workshops. She's got a lot of experience in working with activism and spirituality; the benefit to learning from her in person would be immense. It's a big stepping stone on the way to participation, certainly.

Continue reading "Starhawk, the experience." »

Geekcorps, interviewed.

... could we find a way to do skill transfers between people in the IT industries in the U.S. and Ghana ... we basically work with people to build up their businesses ... we are trying to help build up companies that are already competent at what they do ... we completed the project but we've also transferred some very valuable skills at the same time ... we want to help countries get to the point where they're self-sufficient with their own IT needs ...
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If you don't know what Geekcorps is, you can start with the interview; if you want more information, there's notes (and the powerpoint slides, too). Then there's the Geek Activism summit at OScon, as well.

I'd like to hear personal stories from Geekcorps, if anyone out there that's been involved is listening; I'm interested in knowing more.

Meet the School Board: Monthly district meeting for 4J

These are my notes from the school board meeting of Eugene's 4J school district, 7pm @ May 14th. The room's packed -- on one side. Apparently half the room is reserved for.. open space? Freedom of movement by the sitting members? I'm not clear, but there's people in the hallway instead of in the room.

Things start out with the pledge of alliegance; strange, I haven't done that since they stopped doing it in school. A couple of people I know here are looking kind of amused, too; I don't join in, it's far too ridiculous to me personally for me to participate meaningfully. I catch myself mouthing nonsense syllables at one point to avoid seeming "weird", and stop this immediately.

Next on the agenda, they talk about.. PERS. As today's paper said they'd be taking audience commentary on the privacy issue first, they've apparently decided to shift the agenda; people start looking a bit confused, but no one minds.

The discussion's so quiet as to be nearly inaudible if you aren't lucky enough to be in the half of the crowd that's in the room; there's no amplification out in the hallway, but there's active (if quiet) discussion, which is an alternative ? if you're trying to listen.

There's discussion and a vote on the PERS measure -- something about raising an amount by a very small percentage. Not sure what's going on, but I hear the echo of unanimous yays come out of the room. Onward to the next (hah) agenda item, the EBS program.

There's a five minute presentation on the EBS program; apparently there's a movement in the pre-high-school educational system to teach students to be respectful of others. Not clear on what the extra benefit is here; I thought this stuff was being taught all the time! But I guess if it's not already being taught to students, that'd be a better idea as to why things are devolving so badly by high school.

I'm not happy with the direction of the group behaviour instructions, though; it bothers me, some of these examples: teachers standing quietly in line, showing the students how; a kid quoting what's been taught him verbatim, talking about walking calmly and quietly in the halls; where's the life that I remember from my halls in middle school? Quiet is not necessarily respectful. There is a lot of focus on respecting others, which I do appreciate; I'm glad to see it, overall.

Next is the high school report, apparently; students from various local high schools talk about what they're doing this month (?). Interesting to listen to, not really meaningful to non-students; Churchhill apparently did something they haven't done since 1980 ? yay!

(to be continued)

Continue reading "Meet the School Board: Monthly district meeting for 4J" »

Congress thinks constituents don't care about media conglomeration.

When the folks at MoveOn.org talk to Congresspeople about this issue, the response is usually the same: "We only hear from media lobbyists on this. It seems like my constituents aren't very concerned with this issue." A few thousand emails could permanently change that perception. Please join this critical campaign, and let Congress know you care.

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If you're an American blogger, your representative probably doesn't realize that you have a stated opinion on today's current issues: security, rights, media, corporations, war, whatever. The next time you post about something, make the choice to send your representative a copy of your post. Let them know your opinion in the form they're accustomed to getting it in, and maybe they'll actually start listening.

Geostumbling regional activism communities

People On Page: YASNS...

...or Yet Another Social Networking Service. PeopleOnPage is a browser plug-in co-browsing app, which supports two views of other people in the system: Dating, and World. (Gotta love two-category taxonomies...) And they seem to be following the Liz Lawley dictum -- "Its the faces, stupid!" -- by providing a user-created POPCard with a photo.

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Add geographical services, and suddenly you have a live, roaming network of people who's cell phones are searching their local peer-to-peer network for compatible people.

Then you let someone watch your web browser, when you don't mind, and they can decide if they want to talk to you; it's like "hey, what are you reading?", Internet-style.

If all the personals people publish their client databases, minus an email address and location, plus a pgp public key. When you encounter someone nearby, you encrypt a greeting to their public key, sign it with your private key, and negotiate that you're you. They do the same, using the central registry for verification, and you've got basic identity verification.

Add a per-URL site filter, so that they can see when I surf sites that I deem appropriate for advertising: things that are on this list of organizations might be a good start; This would be another. There's a trend, here; I'm choosing how people see me, and they can interpret as they wish.

The web browser proxy software required to do this has been implemented as well, in POE; combined with a new link on the history page, Surf this site publicly. Stir in a Java app installed on my phone, reporting my location every two minutes to my website.

The killer app potential of this is that you can now show people an activism community's traffic, online, live. By tracking each person's individual comments on an issue (through their freely-provided and pre-configured blog), activism becomes a tangible, visible thing. It becomes something that people can see their effect on.

Continue reading "Geostumbling regional activism communities" »

Slashdot your representative

The p2p networks are considering a possible move agianst the RIAA in response to this by using recently enacted anti-spam laws."
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One advantage of not being totally decentralized is that you have influence, legally. Now the Internet community can actively use the laws it's helped pass. There needs to be more of this kind of thing; it just takes a few more votes. Participate!

I propose a modification to Slashdot, such that users who have logged in and provided a name, address, and 9-digit zip code (in the united states) or a 6-digit post code (in the united kingdom) are shown a new link with articles: Contact your representative.

Now the Slashdot effect serves to enable millions of hits a day with the chance to vote. The last figure I remember was hearing was 30,000 unique visitors a day; imagine if ten percent of them each send one fax to their representative. Suddenly they're hearing the voices of three thousand Slashdot users, clearly, once a day.

Now do it more often. For every article. And support the United Kingom efforts, too. Other countries, too; perhaps a distributed network of Slashdot users with modems.

Continue reading "Slashdot your representative" »

Tablet programming

Forever jotting things down on paper napkins, it did not surprise me that Chris went for a pen-based PC. But his use of it is very interesting, namely that he finds it especially useful for mind-mapping during discussions. Chris uses the Windows Journal application to sketch the maps directly in digital ink, whereas the Mindjet software enables actual maps to be constructed that can be operated on and manipulated in many powerful ways (most of which I have yet to utilise except for the ability to transfer tasks to and from Outlook).
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The hardware and software platforms for flowchart programming, provided in a nice, $4,000 bundle (if you can get a tablet, they seem to be rather popular). Rock on. I wonder how well it converts the drawings into structures, and if I can dangle VBA off of each structure. With VBA I can call Perl, I think, and then autobuild the VBA and the Perl through the VBA. The evil is complete.

However, they don't have support for Visio, and they don't have support for Macintosh. Oops. But it's a very nice dream, especially for the Windows folk out there. (And if one comes my way, I'd be thrilled to use review it :) This is a tablet's killer application.

In the meantime, there's always the option of doing it in POE.

America's dwindling renewable resource: participation.

A number of indicators suggest that there has been a sharp decline in social capital in the United States since the mid-1960s. After rising for most of the first two thirds of the 19TH century, formal membership and participation in civic organizations, levels of trust, and charitable giving have all seen sharp declines. There is a strong relationship, across American states, between measures of social capital and educational performance, health, tax evasion and self-assessed welfare. Although this pattern still needs far more detailed analysis, it is pronounced enough to justify further attention to social capital and its potentially powerful implications for a range of public policy issues.

The author of Bowling Alone has written an eerily accurate statistical analysis of citizen participation in communities, here in the states; he uses the phrase "social capital".  It's frightening, if you think about it: the next generation will participate even less than the previous one, by the current trend, and that's a scary thought.  We're already having problems with voter turnout, for instance (40% turnout at the last presidential election, if I trust these numbers).  If 80 million people voted, that's another 150 million who didn't.

150 million people who aren't participating in the democracy.  Of those, I suspect that the highest demographic would be people from my generation: 18-24.  If I stir in Roger's observations, that the younger you are these days, the less likely you are to participate, it becomes clear why Bush had a chance of being elected in the first place.

60% of Americans registered to vote, didn't.  Who are those 60%?

If you're reading this post, and you didn't vote, I'd like to know why not.  Anonymous posting is enabled, so you don't have to provide fake or unreal information.  You can email me, if you like; anonymity presumed unless otherwise stated.

I'm also welcome to ideas as to why 60% of the voters didn't vote, so if you voted and have an insight, or even if you're not a citizen here, I'd like to hear ideas.

How much could the 18-24 generation swing the vote if it participated at the levels that people were seeing in the 1960's?  What if MoveOn.org swarmed the capital once a day, five days a week, for a month? We aren't powerless to change this country, so why does everyone think that?

If you can answer these questions, you can change the world — starting with America.

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