Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Publicizing the Free Alaa Blueprint

Free Alaa is still going, though slower. The number of people to visit the blog every day has dropped from a high point of 700 in the first few days to about 100, which I suppose is normal as people get distracted by other causes.

What I am wondering now (other than when Alaa will be freed) is how we can open this campaign up for others to reproduce. We have created one of the first international digital grassroots activism campaigns. I don't know exactly what role blogging had in bringing Alaa's case to the AP, Al Jazeera, and the Washington Post, but I'd like to believe that our internet buzz helped focus attention on his particular case and, by extention, on Egypt's ridiculous trampling of human rights.

I'd like other activists to be able to launch similar internet campaigns around their own causes - create a central website or blog, create badges, create an online petition, maybe use Google Adsense to promote the site. I am really ready to start systematizing Free Alaa, to create a central website that would be a resource for activists interested in ways to use the web to spread their message, attract supporters, and lobby the powerful.

We're building a house, but unless we make our blueprint public, we'll be the only kids in the neighborhood.

categories: google-bombing for alaa_, cool tools_

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Move over BBC, here comes the truly professional podcast

Yesterday I listened to the first Global Voices podcast, created by Trinidadian radio host Georgia Popplewell. It was spectacular, complete with intro music, featured segments, and an engagin host. As I listened, I was thinking, "this is as good as the BBC World Service." However, instead of featuring the work of paid correspondents it featured the work of the world's best podcasters (from Malaysia, Kazakhstan, Mexico, etc.) How amazing - a radio show with segments from correspondents around the world produced for free.

What is the implication of the fact that now podcasters can create radio programs with the same breadth and depth of a multi-million (billion?) dollar multi-national corporation? Podcasting is possibly reaching the point in its development where there are enough professional-quality podcasts in enough countries that podcasts will become for radio what blogs already are for the mainstream press - a powerful citizen voice that that can no longer be ignored.

Listen to Georgia's podcast here.

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Monday, May 29, 2006

Chilean Students Use Photoblogs to Organize

Rosario Lizana reports in Global Voices that Chilean public school students are using photoblogs to organize protests against entrance fees and insufficient infrastructure. Each blog is associated with a particular school and most show the same graphic on their homepage (see right), which displays a slogan and the crests of different schools supporting the campaign. The slogan reads: "education is a right not a privilege, let's fight for better educacion." Read the full Global Voices post here.

categories: cool tools_

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Sunday, May 14, 2006

Digg for Alaa

We can all thank Haitham for putting Google-bombing for Alaa on Digg.com. (You can Digg the story by clicking here.) Digg moves stories up in its page rankings according to popularity (ie, according to how many "diggs" a story gets). It's like a google-bomb except its legal and it's easier to move up in the rankings. The top-rated stories have about 200 diggs each and we get twice that many hits on this site every day.

categories: internet activism_

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Open-Sourced Art for Alaa

seif fattahOn Saturday, Mama Junkyard became the most recent blogger to re-interpret art in protest of the detention of Egyptian blogger Alaa Abd al-Fatah. She re-wrote a poem by Guyanese author Grace Nichols called "Of Course When They Ask for Poems About the 'Realities'of Black Women," into "Of Course When They Ask for Poems About the 'Realities'of Egypt." Her new poem is not only a vivid expression of the myth and reality of Egypt but also, subtly, a google bomb, since every instance of the word Egypt was linked to the Free Alaa site. Here is the new poem. It is so wonderful I am posting it in its entirety:
Of Course When They Ask for Poems About the 'Realities'of Egypt

What they really want
at times
is a specimen
of an Egyptian king encased in a British museum

Egyptian hieroglyphics
etched on Egyptian pyramids
guarded by Egyptian Sphinxes
they want an Egyptian body
swaddled in white robes and mummified
and validation
for the stereotype
already in their heads

Or else they want
celluloid myths
of a white Cleopatra

I can say I can write
no poem big enough
to hold the essence

of Egypt
or an Egyptian woman
or an Egyptian man

Maybe this poem is to say,
that I like to see
all Egyptians
free and unafraid to blog

Typing away
with each stroke of the keyboard
the twisted self-negating
history
they’ve inherited

Typing away
with each stroke of the keyboard

This is only one example of bloggers who have re-imagined songs or poems as a way of protesting Alaa's detention. Others include Mental Acrobatics, whose re-writing of the old spiritual "When Israel was in Egypt's Land" appeared in this blog last week. Here is a line of that re-writing:

Stand up bloggers; stand up for Egypt’s scribes
Tell old Pharaoh, Let our people go
In addition, Mshaira re-wrote one of her own poems to make in into a google bomb for Alaa. Although the content of her poem was not political, it also exemplified the ability of a simple meme - the google bomb for Alaa - to be transformed by individual inspiration and creativity.

Re-writing the (credited) artwork of another is the oldest form of open-sourcing. I am so glad this pre-digital form of re-interpretation is being used to give new meaning to the Free Alaa campaign.

These re-writings also give new meaning to the works of art themselves. Now Grace Nichol's poem is not only about the "twisted self-negating history" of black women, but also the "twisted self-negating history" of Egypt. Now "When Israel was in Egypt's Land" is no longer only about the ancient Jews or America's slaves but also about modern political activists.

Open-source means building our own creativity upon the creativity of others. The art grows richer with each voice that tells it.

categories: internet activism_

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Friday, May 12, 2006

Election Blogging: Singapore Blog Censorship Effort Fails

Although Singapore tried to outlaw political blogging before its Parliamentary elections on May 6th, Singabloodypore noted today that this attempt had not succeeded.
So much for the ban on political blogging during elections. That was a great idea and an attempt at bluffing the public that completely failed. I am still waiting to be asked to register this site. Empty words being uttered in an attempt to put fear into bloggers that has monumentally failed.
According to an article from Channel NewsAsia quoted in the post,
During the nine-day election campaign, the number of blog articles on the subject grew nearly 10-fold compared to before Nomination Day, showing the online community's interest in Singapore's general election.

Observers have hailed this as the first election in which the Internet had an impact on Singapore's political culture.

With Singapore being one of the most plugged-in and Internet-savvy countries in the world, it was no surprise that the election was closely watched and discussed online.

One indication was that before Parliament was dissolved, the number of blog articles on the election numbered about 20 a day.

This number doubled to more than 40 after Parliament was dissolved in the run-up to Nomination Day, and it averaged over 190 during the nine-day election campaign.

The interest has not waned even after the results, with 195 blog articles posted daily since Polling Day.... read the whole article here.

categories: election blogging_

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

"Google-bombing for Alaa" as a Test Case in Web 2.0 Activism

I know we have hardly begun this campaign, but it's never too early to sit back an take stock. G-B4A is pioneering ways to use new media/Web 2.o for the purposes of political activism. Let's take a look at the tools we've used and how we've used them.

1. e-mail/online collaboration - this is pretty basic (hardly Web 2.0) but it nevertheless allowed three people in different countries (Morocco, Bahrain, Lebanon) to collaborate and launch a project. Total time from proposition of idea to completion of Free Alaa website - 24 hours. Online collaboration allowed a global division of labor. A man in Holland made a Flash animation. A group in Cambridge made a petition page. A man in Florida started a Wikipedia entry.

2. Blogger (the site) - By using a templated webpage service we able to create a professional-looking website in a few hours

3. bloggers (the people) - Google-bombing for Alaa rests on the fact that now millions of people have personal websites (their blogs). A few years ago, a google-bombing might not have worked very well because people did not have access to websites in order to insert links. Now every person with a blog is also a webmaster, capable of changing the face of the internet.

Blogger culture will also be key in the success of G-B4A (Google-bombing for Alaa) because blogger culture has a built-in method of idea dissemination. Bloggers read each other. It is not necessary to send an e-mail to every blogger asking him or her to post a google bomb. It is only necessary that a few high-traffic blogs post google bombs. Then these blogs will not only serve the cause by google-bombing, but will also publicize the campaign when other bloggers read the google bomb post.

3. Technorati - By asking bloggers to tag their Google bombs googlebombingforalaa Technorati acts as an ad-hoc aggregator for G-B4A posts.

4. wiki - a wiki was created to catalogue all the blog posts that include G-B4A's. Because it is a wiki, anyone can edit the page and add the URLs of new posts.

5. Google - I'm saving the most important for last. This campaign rests most critically on our ability to use the Google algorithm to manipulate the search engine's page ranking for our own purposes. Let's be honest with ourselves here. Even though we believe our action is for a good cause, it is an act of mischief or even vandalism (of Google's beautiful architecture, that is). It is quite possible that Google will find a way to block us. If so, we will have to find other methods. We are trailblazers here, finding new uses for new tools. As I said to Mustapha, this isn't only about the action , it is about the process.

Incidentally:
the total cost of launching a global human rights campaign using digital tools: $0
the total time need to launch a global human rights campaign using digital tools: 24 hours

This Egypt is Egypt only Egypt the Egypt beginning.

categories: internet activism_, cool tools_

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Monday, May 08, 2006

Google-bombing for Alaa

A creative new method is being undertaken to free jailed Egyptian blogger Alaa Abdel Fatah. A group of concerned blogger/activists is trying to start a global Google-bombing exercise. The goal? When someone googles the "Egypt," instead of getting a story about tourism or the British Museum, they will find the Free Alaa blog at the top of their screen.

This is the effect of Google bombing, a method of manipulating the Google rankings. How does one google-bomb exactly? Well, write the word Egypt somewhere on your blog and then link it to the official Free Alaa site (http://freealaa.blogspot.com/). When Google searches the internet for links, it will find that people interested in Egypt are linking to Alaa, so Google will move the Free Alaa blog up in the rankings for "Egypt". The more people that link the word Egypt to the Free Alaa blog, the further up that site will move in the Google rankings for the search term "Egypt."

So, please Google-bomb for Alaa. Link the text Egypt to the Free Alaa blog : http://freealaa.blogspot.com/. (In html, your link will look like this:
egypt.) Then, after you've linked to Alaa, tell all your blogger friends to link to Alaa. No matter where you are in the world, you can use your blog as a tangible force for justice. So go ahead, start bombing.

And, incidentally, Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt Egypt and also Egypt

Background
(from Sandmonkey)

Egyptian Blogger Alaa Abdel Fatah has been arrested alongside 10 others while demonstrating in support of the independence of the Judiciary in Egypt and the release of previous demonstrators who were detained 2 weeks earlier. The Police entrapped them, cordoning off their peaceful protest and then proceeded to handpick the demonstrators that they wanted to detain, beat them, and then arrested them. Al

Alaa and those arrested with him are now arrested for 15 days "pending investigation", which could be renewed indefinitely if the state so wishes. He and the men were sent to the infamous Torah Prison and the girls to the Qanatir prison for the duration. This makes them hardly safe, because stuff that goes on in Egyptian prisons on the hands of the jailors: beatings,
sexual assaults, torture of all kinds.

Currently there are about 48 detained, 6 of them are bloggers, and 3 of them are women. The best known is Alaa, which makes him the posterboy of this campaign - but getting them
out is equally as important. Egypt has fewer than 830 bloggers all in all, 60 of whom are political and less than 30 are politically active. Now 6 of those are in jail - 20% of all politically active Egyptian bloggers - and amongst them one of Egypt's most highly profiled one.

Also...

Alaa's site: http://manalaa.net/

Interview with Alaa on Global Voices

Badges for your blog

categories: internet activism_

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Sunday, May 07, 2006

The New Media Power Shift: Tool Creators to Content Generators

Today I met with some of my collaborators on the Morocco youth podcasting initiative. I hadn't really understood the power of podcasting until we made a sample podcast and posted it to i-tunes. Recording took all of 3 minutes. We made a brief promo for our Moroccan podcasting site, asswat-achabab.com ("voices of youth"). Transferring the file to a remote server and then uploading it to i-tunes took all of 2 minutes. We had produced and broadcast a basic radio program worldwide in the time it takes to boil water using a server with a monthly cost of a single Starbucks Frappacino. I turned to our webmaster, Gar Green, and said, "this changes everything, doesn't it?" He nodded.

Later, as Gar drove Hicham and I home, we continued our conversation of Web 2.0 and new media. Gar, who is preparing his doctorate in ICT, explained how in the past year or two, digital technology has really rounded a corner. Only a few years ago, the cutting edge of digital technology was only accessible to "geeks" - people with high technical competence. Now, Gar says, new tools allow the technically inexperienced to participate.

There has been a power shift, from tool creators to content generators. Previously the internet was only accessible to highly-skilled programmers who wrote programs and created digital tools. Now the internet is available to the masses. Create your own free webpage at MySpace. Write your own free blog at Blogger. Web tools have been simplified for ease of access. They have been made free and low-cost by creative business models. The real challenge now is creating meaningful content. The power to create this content lies not with the power but with the people.

The bar for entry into the global discourse has been lowered radically. New media will change the world unlike any other technological advance since the printing press. However, unlike the printing press, which facilitated the dessemination of knowledge by recognized experts and well-funded content creators, the web and the tools it now provides in effect put a printing press into every home (in the rich world) or into every cyber cafe (in the case of the developing world). The implications for innovation, collaboration, and the democratization of discourse in every field are unprecedented. This is gonna be so much fun.

categories: cool tools_, citizen journalism_, Morocco_, the "developing world"_

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Saturday, May 06, 2006

We Media Redux


I am woefully behind the times in writing about the We Media Global Forum in London this past week. Bloggers more diligent than myself have already made some very insightful comments about exactly how the event was so disappointing. In fact, I'm devoting this post to some of my faves.

Indian blogger Neha writes: "who exactly is the We in We Media?"

Israeli blogger Lisa recounts her harrowing attempt to bring the voice of women or bloggers or people under fifty or any combination of the three to the panel on the Middle East.

GV founder Rebecca expressed her annoyance with the stale "journalists vs. bloggers" debate and points out that, "the question we really ought to be focusing on is: how can citizens and professional journalists work together to create a better and more well-informed public discourse?" Couldn't agree more.

I also found myself agreeing a lot with GV Editor Rachel Rawlins, who noted in her blog that "the "rest of the world" has featured entirely peripherally. One unfortunate panellist referred to the plucky media in the developing world operating in conditions "from the stone age in a mud hut. " I mean WTF?" She also became my personal hero when she took Jeffrey Sachs to task about patronizing and passifying Africans in his attempt to "save" them. A white man's burden for the 21st century?

Also, it's important to note that the "ankle nipping" wasn't only coming from the GV fringers, but also from one self-described "overweight middle-aged MSM suit" who wrote that he "heard a lot of stuff that has been ruminated upon for years - even pre-blog years. Unfortunately the organisers took a rather old media modal - people on a stage talking and people in the audience listening and "if we have time for a few questions …" Pity - I had expected a rather more free wheeling discussion and continuous participation."

When the "suits" revolt you know that something went wrong.

photo credit: www.noodlepie.com

categories: citizen journalism_

technorati tags: ,


We Media Redux


I am woefully behind the times in writing about the We Media Global Forum in London this past week. Bloggers more diligent than myself have already made some very insightful comments about exactly how the event was so disappointmenting. In fact, I'm devoting this post to some of my faves.

Indian blogger Neha writes: "who exactly is the We in We Media?"

Israeli blogger Lisa recounts her harrowing attempt to bring the voice of women or bloggers or people under fifty or any combination of the three to the panel on the Middle East.

GV founder Rebecca expressed her annoyance with the stale "journalists vs. bloggers" debate and points out that, "the question we really ought to be focusing on is: how can citizens and professional journalists work together to create a better and more well-informed public discourse?" Couldn't agree more.

I also found myself agreeing a lot with GV Editor Rachel Rawlins, who noted in her blog that "the "rest of the world" has featured entirely peripherally. One unfortunate panellist referred to the plucky media in the developing world operating in conditions "from the stone age in a mud hut. " I mean WTF?" She also became my personal hero when she took Jeffrey Sachs to task about patronizing and passifying Africans in his attempt to "save" them. A white man's burden for the 21st century?

Also, it's important to note that the "ankle nipping" wasn't only coming from the GV fringers, but also from one self-described "overweight middle-aged MSM suit" who wrote that he "heard a lot of stuff that has been ruminated upon for years - even pre-blog years. Unfortunately the organisers took a rather old media modal - people on a stage talking and people in the audience listening and "if we have time for a few questions …" Pity - I had expected a rather more free wheeling discussion and continuous participation."

When the "suits" revolt you know that something went wrong.

photo credit: www.noodlepie.com

categories: citizen journalism_

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