Aaron Sorkin: #FreeTheArctic30

Protest Outside The Russian Embassy, MexicoPlease don’t read any fur­ther until you’ve signed the demand to Rus­sia to free my jailed friends, or tak­en some action, any action, of your own inven­tion to fur­ther their cause. THEYRE FREE!!!!!


Aaron Sork­in, I have your next move. You’ve done pol­i­tics in West Wing — show­ing us what politi­cians ought to be as a hope­ful glow and glim­mer beneath the dull and fine­ly observed cloth­ing of what they real­ly are.

You’ve done jour­nal­ism. You’ve shown us the hon­or and integri­ty of the peo­ple who work in The News­room and held it up, in every one of those per­fect­ly penned solil­o­quies by Will McAvoy, as some­thing all of us can aspire to.

It’s time you tack­led activism. Yes, I saw that frus­trat­ed cheap shot you took at Occu­py. But I saw it as tough love. I saw it as the same cocked eye­brow I throw at my own cause, and the organ­i­sa­tion I work for, on any given day when idio­cy or com­pla­cen­cy saps your strength and feeds the teleprompter of your inner voice with sound­bites from your worst crit­ics. But you know as well as I do that’s not what’s real. That’s not what’s at the core. What Occu­py or Avaaz or Anony­mous or 350 or Amnesty at their best have been, and what I saw today from my desk at Green­peace, is a mag­ic I know you can cap­ture: bruised, unbur­nished, and with that ever cyn­i­cal eye that says this isn’t easy stuff, but which res­onates at its core with the music of truth. It’s the sto­ry of ordi­nary peo­ple doing extra­or­di­nary things for caus­es they believe in so deeply that they will go to incred­i­ble extremes, risk impos­si­ble odds, and keep on believ­ing — some­times again­st all evi­dence — that they can change the world. Con­tin­ue read­ing “Aaron Sork­in: #FreeT­heArc­tic30”

Greenpeace: the story that wanted to come true

This is the (most­ly) true sto­ry of a sto­ry that want­ed to come true.

It was Feb­ru­ary 8th, 1970, and a guy named Jim Bohlen was hav­ing break­fast with his wife, Marie, and com­plain­ing about what a bunch of hip­pies he had to deal with. Jim was a mem­ber of the Sier­ra Club in Van­cou­ver.

He was born an Amer­i­can, but he’d moved to Canada to keep his son from being draft­ed into the Viet­nam War, and because of a cri­sis of con­science about his own job. He was an engi­neer with Boe­ing, and had helped design the Atlas Inter-Con­ti­nen­tal Bal­lis­tic Mis­sile, designed to deliv­er nuclear weapons to the Sovi­et Union. Like many of the time, he’d become hor­ri­fied at the prospect of nuclear war, and decid­ed he want­ed no part in it.

Van­cou­ver in those days was a hotbed of peacenikkery. And it was par­tic­u­lar­ly both­ered about a bomb which the US was going to test at Amchitka in the Aleu­tian Islands, which wasn’t very neigh­bourly.

Now this bomb was designed not to test the bomb, but to test the island. The US was try­ing to fig­ure out what the seis­mic sig­nal of nuclear weapons were, and how to dis­tin­guish a bomb sig­na­ture from an earth­quake sig­na­ture. So they’d cho­sen a place where they had seis­mic data on Earth­quakes, because in 1964 the area had expe­ri­enced the Great Alaska Earth­quake, the sec­ond largest earth­quake record­ed in the his­to­ry of the world at that time, 9.2 on the Richter scale. The Tsunami it set off trav­elled all the way across the Paci­fic, and did dam­age as far away as Hawaii and Japan. 133 peo­ple died, and Van­cou­ver suf­fered mil­lions of dol­lars in prop­er­ty dam­age.

So let’s say there was some con­cern about the idea of set­ting off a bomb 400 times more pow­er­ful than the one that destroyed Hiroshi­ma, drilled into the Earth over a major fault line, on an island, in order to test seis­mic reac­tions. You take that and you com­bine it with the fact that this is Richard Nixon test­ing a weapon of mass destruc­tion in the back­yard of the great­est con­cen­tra­tion of war resis­tors, peace activists, and hip­pies ever assem­bled in one place, and you get some idea of the scale of resis­tance the­se tests were fac­ing in Van­cou­ver.

But they’d done every­thing they thought a protest move­ment could do. They’d pick­et­ed the bor­der. They’d waved signs. They’d signed peti­tions. They’d asked Canada to offi­cial­ly com­plain. And the war machine ignored them.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Green­peace: the sto­ry that want­ed to come true”

Greenpeace on-board campaign training

Arctic Sunrise
Arc­tic Sun­rise

It’s 4am in the morn­ing and the Arc­tic Sun­rise lies at anchor just off Den Helder, the last Dutch port before you enter the North Sea. I’m in the cam­paign office, a cab­in close by the bridge that reeks of human beings spend­ing too many days in too close prox­im­i­ty under too much stress. Here the action team has just learned that their last 24 hours of plan­ning and train­ing to stop an oil rig from mov­ing into place in the Arc­tic have been for nought. The rig has got wind of Greenpeace’s pres­ence in the region, dou­bling its speed. We can’t catch them in time to provide the planned dra­mat­ic back­drop to the speech of Kumi Naidoo, our Exec­u­tive Direc­tor, before the Unit­ed Nations to call for an end to oil drilling in the Arc­tic.

What the team doesn’t know is that this is a false alarm. It’s designed to test their sleep-deprived deci­sion mak­ing, strain the team and its lead­er, demon­strate the impor­tance of back­up con­tin­gen­cy plans at sea, and stress their over­all per­for­mance in tomorrow’s action. If they analy­se the data close­ly, they’ll fig­ure out it makes no sense and start to ques­tion it. If they don’t, they’ll spend the next hour being observed to see how resilient­ly they react, what they pri­ori­tise, and how well they lay out con­tin­gen­cy alter­na­tives. Then they’ll learn that the infor­ma­tion of the rig’s accel­er­a­tion result­ed from a com­put­er glitch, and they can return to the plan they’ve cooked up with the crew and spent most of the night prepar­ing, but an hour the poor­er in prepa­ra­tion time and sleep.

This is an On Board Cam­paign­ers Train­ing, a reg­u­lar fea­ture of the Green­peace Inter­na­tion­al Action Team’s cur­ricu­lum to help accel­er­ate the tran­si­tion of promis­ing trou­ble­mak­er tal­ent into sea­soned salty dogs. Con­tin­ue read­ing “Green­peace on-board cam­paign train­ing”

Storytelling for activists

Are we sit­ting com­fort­ably?

A while back, a few of us were lucky enough to have a sto­ry­telling work­shop with Jon­ah Sachs, author of Win­ning the Sto­ry Wars and the cre­ative force behind “The Meatrix,” “Store Wars,” and “Sto­ry of Stuff.” Our sub­ject was what the sto­ry of Green­peace might be in the com­ing year; what new roles we might play in the age old sto­ry of the hero, in which a bro­ken world is mend­ed. In the nar­ra­tive we want to tell, how­ev­er, Green­peace plays the role of men­tor, not hero: the Obi-Wan who sets some­one on a jour­ney or the Lady of the Lake who gives them a mag­ic sword. Much of our think­ing about Greenpeace’s val­ue cir­cled around the idea of awak­en­ing people’s inner rebel, and the idea that the hero is the one who hears the sto­ry, not the one who tells it. We played with audi­ence pro­files, with arche­types, with nar­ra­tive arcs, and were set a num­ber of chal­lenges to tell sto­ries fea­tur­ing some of our fic­tion­al cre­ations. Here’s the pro­duct of one of my exer­cis­es — it was writ­ten pret­ty close to what you see here in about twen­ty min­utes, but I keep com­ing back to it as some­thing I may want to devel­op fur­ther. Encour­ag­ing nois­es, con­struc­tive crit­i­cism, and howls of dis­ap­proval all wel­come. Con­tin­ue read­ing “Sto­ry­telling for activists”

Top 10 tips for infecting your non-profit with the Social Media bug

You’ve got wit­ty, inter­est­ing peo­ple with pas­sion, exper­tise, and the abil­i­ty to talk the bark off a tree. You wouldn’t expect it to be hard to get EVERYONE in your organ­i­sa­tion using Social Media, right? Except some­times it is.

It’s so hard, in fact, that sev­er­al dozen Social Media Man­agers turned up to a work­shop at SXSW to dis­cuss noth­ing but.

Pan­el organ­is­er Beth Kan­ter, author of The Net­worked Non-Prof­it, makes a com­pelling case that the most effec­tive non-prof­its are those in which EVERYBODY in the organ­i­sa­tion does social media pro­mo­tion of the cause, from the Exec­u­tive Direc­tor all the way up to the recep­tion­ist.

Amy Sam­ple Ward did a nice write up of the pan­el pre­sen­ta­tions here, and there’s a Stori­fy treat­ment from Beth here. But the real­ly best ideas came bub­bling up from the col­lect­ed expe­ri­ence in the room, and I keep cir­cling back on juicy tips and tweets that came to the sur­face in this high­ly inter­ac­tive pan­el, and think­ing I should gath­er them up. So here they are as a cheat sheet. Add your own in the com­ments! Con­tin­ue read­ing “Top 10 tips for infect­ing your non-prof­it with the Social Media bug”

Broken Clay Pottery and Shards of Google Glass: SXSW 2013

Pro­to­type device with unclear pur­pose oth­er than trip­ping you up while walk­ing.

The Cur­mud­geon­ly Keynote which Bruce Ster­ling deliv­ers every year at tech con­fer­ence SXSW riffed heav­i­ly this year on the ancient past: the lost desert peo­ple of Wal­nut Canyon, Ari­zona, who, like the flan­nel hip­sters in the audi­ence sur­round­ing me, were once the great­est inno­va­tors of their day. As their cli­mate changed, they cre­at­ed adap­tive tech­nolo­gies: they learned to carve into the cliff faces, to har­vest con­den­sa­tion, to build clay pots to catch and chan­nel snow and rain. They became “the Stan­ford of desert sur­vival tech­niques, the MIT of clay pot­tery.” But they passed. The cold wind blows through emp­ty stone rooms. Their civil­i­sa­tion burned.

For Ster­ling, there’s a para­ble here about tech­no­log­i­cal advance. He had pre­dict­ed a few years back that the blog would be dead by 2017. Four years ear­ly, he asked with some smug­ness, “where at this SXSW were the keynote pan­els fea­tur­ing rock­star blog­gers? What star­tups or roll­outs for blog­ging soft­ware were buzzing at SXSW? Did any pan­el even men­tion a PC?” His point: you live by dis­rup­tion, you die by dis­rup­tion. And when you invent the future, you con­sume the past. So lets leave the shards of Rock­et­Boom and Lone­ly­Girl15 and the lat­est Dell Lap­top on the floor of that adobe cliff home, and con­sid­er what was roast­ing and eat­ing the past with a side of Nokia this year, and pick­ing its teeth with Black­ber­ry bones.

Tim­o­thy Jor­dan of Google prepar­ing his demo at SXSW

This was the year of the Wear­ables and the Print­a­bles. Tim Jor­dan demon­strat­ed Google Glass. He talked com­mands to it and Siri-like, it took his dic­ta­tion and act­ed on it. He tapped through email mes­sages on his ear­piece and sent images of the audi­ence to Face­book. He looked up a word. He gave the sali­vat­ing coders in the Audi­ence tips on how to write a “Hel­lo World” app and four prin­ci­ples for design­ing for Google Glass. There was a super cool video show­ing Pep­si-gen­er­a­tion kids promis­ing our eye­ware will make roller coast­ers more fun.
Con­tin­ue read­ing “Bro­ken Clay Pot­tery and Shards of Google Glass: SXSW 2013”

South by So Far

It tru­ly is the place where the future gets mar­ket­ed to death before it’s invent­ed. Mid­point mini-take-aways: wear­able devices WAY beyond google glass are com­ing soon and present a huge and excit­ing user inter­face design chal­lenge: and a social inte­gra­tion chal­lenge. I love BUMP’s new abil­i­ty to bump a pho­to or video to your Mac by tap­ping the space­bar with your cell phone. Grumpy Cat rules. And I’ve learned tons about African mobile devices, Digifre­nia and Present shock, tips and tricks for hack­ing inter­nal non-prof­it cul­ture to cre­ate a more social-media friend­ly ecosys­tem, Trig­ger-ties as a viral engi­neer­ing prin­ci­ple, and stuff in the Shut­tle busses, lunch tables, and cof­fee breaks about UFO & con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry, Wal-Mart’s social media strat­e­gy, NASA’s space camp, how to build a Lego Tardis, the his­to­ry of Wired’s inter­nal split over blind opti­mism and “The Long Boom,” how Sier­ra Club is struc­tured, the art of mak­ing a smokey mar­tini, and a Tex­as tra­di­tion called “Chick­en Shit Bin­go.” Who knew?

SXSW 2013 Storified

This is a stori­fied cura­tion of most of the pan­els I saw at SXSW 2013, in reverse chrono­log­i­cal order. Next time, I’m going to break the­se up into indi­vid­u­al pan­els, and hang those on a mas­ter file of linked stori­fied sto­ries. It’s dif­fi­cult to nav­i­gate a long piece like this by pag­ing through until you get back to the pan­el you want­ed. The­se served as notes for my wrap-up blog, Clay pots and shards of Google Glass.
Con­tin­ue read­ingSXSW 2013 Stori­fied”

Tweeting from the clouds: new Boeing 777 is Digifriendly

Post­ed this on their Face­book page:

Dear Amer­i­can Air­li­nes,

I’m fly­ing from Ams­ter­dam today to SXSW in Austin in one of your spank­in’ new 777s, and just want to say THANK YOU for the wifi over the Atlantic, and for the pro­mo­tion­al price of… FREE. You should keep it that way! Any mar­gin­al income you might get from a $19 pass would be peanuts com­pared to the good­will and pref­er­ence you’d get from peo­ple like me who live online. I’m plugged into a 220v sock­et so my MacBook’s bat­tery isn’t rac­ing the clock. I’m tweet­ing from 30000 feet about what a great expe­ri­ence this is. Please, please, keep it that way!

I can’t remem­ber the last time I was seri­ous­ly excit­ed about an air­plane. OK, the Wifi was slow of course, and cut out over the Arc­tic Cir­cle, and the promise of iPod recog­ni­tion and USB thumb dri­ve media access on the USB didn’t work. The air­port maps are unread­ably detailed with no zoom func­tion. The Stew­ardess told me there’s a sys­tem for seat to seat SMS-like com­mu­ni­ca­tion that’s not imple­ment­ed yet. And among the bugs yet to be worked out in the plane itself, seat 33C sticks out into the aisle as part of a 3 seat row behind a two seat row, mak­ing for tricky meal cart nav­i­ga­tion. Ow. OW. Ow. 

But the moment when I real­ly felt like I was in the Matrix was on exit­ing the plane. You look out on a sea of seat-back screens and realise that every one is dis­play­ing a dif­fer­ent stew­ard or stew­ardess. Nice touch. 

Never talk to strangers? F@&!% that, this is #SXSW

I’ve got my mophie charged, my most com­fort­able walk­ing shoes bro­ken in, my hotel was booked last August. My live blog­ging book­marks are all assem­bled on the Mac­book, the sched­ul­ing app is on the iPad and I’m shar­ing my cal­en­dar with folks on the Social.sxsw.com site. Got a stack of busi­ness cards for the 1870s retro crowd and Bump, Ever­note Hel­lo, Sonar, and High­light load­ed on the iPhone. I’m putting exclu­sive air­play and heavy rota­tion on Do512’s Bands-that-will-be-there playlist. I haven’t yet cut back my sched­ule to the real­is­tic but what are plane flights for?

I’m ready for the marathon learn­ing cir­cus and cre­ative geek-out which is South by South­west (SXSW) in Austin, Tex­as.
Con­tin­ue read­ing “Nev­er talk to strangers? F@&!% that, this is #SXSW

Upwell’s social media monitoring secrets and superpowers

Today’s best ever work­shop at the Dig­i­tal Mobil­i­sa­tion Skill­share was the ses­sion on Social Media Mon­i­tor­ing with @Rachelannyes (Rachel Wei­dinger) of Upwell.

Upwell has the great tagline “The ocean is our client” and is fund­ed to dri­ve an increase in all kinds of action-ori­ent­ed con­ver­sa­tions about the ocean.

Health warn­ing: What fol­lows are rough notes. There are gaps. There will typos. 

Rachel begins with, appro­pri­ate­ly, an ocean metaphor: “We nav­i­gate the waves of a mias­ma of swirling inter­net­ed­ness in our small boats. But we don’t have a good way to under­stand the cur­rents, the winds, or the weath­er. If we could have a mete­o­rol­o­gy of online com­mu­ni­ca­tions we could make bet­ter deci­sions.
Con­tin­ue read­ing “Upwell’s social media mon­i­tor­ing secrets and super­pow­ers”

The ideas of the many

They’re known as the Mob Squad: dig­i­tal activists, fundrais­ers, face to face recruiters, direct dia­loguers, vol­un­teer and action coor­di­na­tors — Green­peace staff, vol­un­teers, and fel­low trav­ellers from oth­er groups whose job it is to rouse rab­bles, to peo­ple pow­er cam­paigns for the plan­et, to take issue and cre­ate movement(s).

They gath­ered here in a secret moun­tain loca­tion in the south of Spain to fig­ure out bet­ter ways to win the “War on Ter­ra.”
Con­tin­ue read­ing “The ideas of the many”

On Social Media Activism & Brand Ethics

My Q&A at LeWeb in Paris:

And rel­e­vant links:
Detox cam­paign
Detox Zara win
Gang­nam style dutch kids Flash Mob
McDon­alds responds to defor­esta­tion cam­paign
Kit Kat responds to defor­esta­tion cam­paign
Here’s to the Crazy ones Steve Jobs Video

UPDATE: Levi’s became the 11th brand to agree to #DeTox on 12/12/12.
Here’s a clipreel of some of the on-the-ground activ­i­ties from our vol­un­teers around the world that I men­tioned:

Scott Harrison Charity:Water Presentation at LeWeb

I’m at LeWeb in Paris and geek­ing out on this year’s the­me: “Build­ing The Inter­net of things.” But the best pre­sen­ta­tion I saw wasn’t on cyborg anthro­pol­o­gy or smart-phone-con­trolled light bulbs, iPads on Robots or kids toys that can use retired iPhones for their brains (and I LOVED each and every one of those.)

It was this. A sto­ry. By a pow­er­ful sto­ry teller, about an impor­tant cause. Water: