Foglio's Field Notes

Leif Utne's random rants, musings and meditations

Getting to Know Deanna (An excerpt from the book Share This!)

leave a comment »

[Cross-posted, with minor edits, from the Zanby blog. -LU]

My good friend, co-conspirator, social media maven, and all-round diva of awesomeness Deanna Zandt has a new book out. And it mentions Zanby! Share This! How You Will Change the World With Social Networking (Berrett-Koehler) is chock-full of anecdotes and case studies drawn from her own life as a social activist, artist, and media maker. Deanna illustrates the many ways social media improves our relationships and enables new forms of political and social expression that are changing the world for the better.

One of those anecdotes recounts how Deanna and I met up in Brooklyn two years ago. (And it gives a nice plug for Zanby.) We barely knew each other before that, having met in passing at a conference. But, thanks mainly to Twitter and Facebook, we were able to connect, build trust, and grow a friendship with a depth and speed that would have been virtually impossible just a few short years earlier, considering that she lives in Brooklyn, I live in Seattle, and we see each other once a year, if we’re lucky.

Here, with Deanna’s permission, is an excerpt from pages 41-43 of Share This! where she tells our story:

Your Life Makes History

Now that relationships and trust influence how we receive and manage digital information, we’re becoming more connected, and thus we have the capacity to be more empathetic. That trust-created empathy will lead us away from the isolation and resulting apathy that we’ve experienced as a culture, arising from the 20th century’s focus on mass communications and market demographics.

Here’s a story about how building trust through social networks has worked for me. A couple of years ago, I spoke at a conference in northern California. After my song and dance, Leif Utne, the vice president of community development for the software company Zanby, came up to introduce himself. He was working on a project that he wanted to get my employer, Jim Hightower, involved with. We exchanged contact info and became Facebook friends; later we started following each other on Twitter.

About a year and a half later, Leif messaged me to say that he was coming to Brooklyn for a visit and wanted to know if I’d like to get coffee. Sure! Of course! When we sat down a few days later, I asked him how the baby was–he and his wife had spent a long time adopting a baby from Guatemala, and Leif had even lived there for ten months. He lit up and showed me recent photos, and then asked how my dog, Izzy, was adjusting to life in Brooklyn. I had adopted her from a rescue organization, and we laughed at how the processes for adopting dogs and children were eerily similar.

Leif asked if he could show me a new online service that he’d taken a job with, one that would give groups a way to connect their memberships. Absolutely, I said. We did a run-through, and he talked about some of his company’s successes. I started thinking of clients who could really use something like this tool and offered to put him in touch with them.

My online friendship with Leif is significant for several reasons. Social media enabled a kind of “identity authentication” between us. I was aware of Leif’s family’s work with the Utne Reader before I met him, but being connected via social media gave me insight into some of his values and interests. And vice versa. More important, though, it allowed us to collect seemingly unrelated fragments of information about one another over time, and to create a wide-angled picture of the other person with those fragments. Technology writer Clive Thompson calls this phenomenon “ambient awareness” of the people around us.

It doesn’t impact my life at all to know that Leif is heading to the airport, and he probably doesn’t care that I spent an extra 30 minutes with my dog in the park this morning. But over time, we are able to see a portrait of one another’s lives take shape and feel connected. While Leif’s trip to the airport doesn’t affect my daily life, if he misses his plane, I feel bad for him. There’s the empathy, simply by being aware of another person’s “mundane” activities. Our portraits of one another facilitated an in-person conversation that otherwise would have been stilted and awkward:

“So, you, uh, have kids?”

“No, you?”

“Yeah, one. A little boy.”


Instead, we were able to tap into what we care about pretty quickly, and the landing into the “business” end of the meeting was much smoother.

Admittedly, experimenting with what it means to share different parts of our lives can sometimes be uncomfortable. Chip Conley, the CEO of a family of boutique hotels in northern California called Joie de Vivre, offers a case in point. In 2009, he wrote about the fallout from photos he posted to Facebook from his latest Burning Man trip. Some workers were surprised to see Conley in a tutu and a sarong. The complicated part wasn’t that he didn’t want them online, or that his investors or board members didn’t want them online; it was that some employees struggled with seeing their fearless leader show a carefree side of himself that didn’t “fit” with the standard work environment. We’re all still determining what we each individually consider acceptable amounts of information, as well as what we’ll tolerate organizationally and culturally.

Thanks to the alienating effect of mass communications, our ability to converse directly with one another, and to engage with the larger culture in a meaningful way, has withered. While no one has figured out a precise formula for what amount or mix of sharing creates empathy, presenting real pictures of real lives indisputably frees us from our pigeonholes. Social networks give us the opportunity to reengage with one another.

Order Share This! at your favorite bookstore, or online at Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, or Indiebound.

Written by leifutne

September 14, 2010 at 3:49 pm

Helium Hijinx

with one comment

The UpTake crew – me, Jacob Wheeler and Mike McIntee – sing like the Chipmunks at Netroots Nation 2010.

Written by leifutne

July 24, 2010 at 8:55 pm

Posted in music, videos

Tagged with , ,

I’m going to Netroots Nation 2010

with 2 comments

This week I’m making my first trip to Sin City. On Wednesday I head to Las Vegas for Netroots Nation 2010, an annual confab of 2000+ progressive activists, bloggers, techies and politicos, taking place at the Rio Hotel. According to a press release, this is “the largest gathering of the Democratic base ahead of the midterm elections… Energizing the Netroots was key to Democratic successes in 06’ and 08’ and will be important again this year.”

I’ll be there representing Zanby, which will have a big presence in the exhibit hall. We’ll be showing off the latest version of our innovative platform for online collaboration, group management, and social networking. And we’ll be touting some recent client projects like Rework the World and The UpTake.

We will also be sharing booth space with our friends and allies at Warecorp, a full-service custom web dev shop, The UpTake, an award-winning video citizen journalism outfit (and Zanby client), and Mobile Roots, maker of mobile apps for political campaigns.

So if you’re going to Netroots, drop by our booth and say hi!

More from the press release:

Speakers at the conference include: Senator Reid, Speaker Pelosi, Secretary LaHood, Sen. Al Franken, Elizabeth Warren, Gov. Brian Schweitzer, Ed Schultz, Sen. Jeff Merkley, Sen. Ben Cardin, Sen. Tom Udall, Rep. Alan Grayson, Rep. Raul Grijalva, Rep. Jared Polis, Rep. Donna Edwards, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, Van Jones, Rich Trumka, Tim Wise, Lizz Winstead, Majora Carter, Markos Moulitsas, Tarryl Clark, Bill Halter, George Goehl, Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, Deepak Bhargava, Gerald McEntee, Eliseo Medina and many more.

You can see the full schedule here:

Written by leifutne

July 19, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Posted in politics, tech

Tagged with , ,

The City as Community-Building Platform

with 10 comments

[Cross-posted from the Zanby blog. -LU]

I recently helped facilitate Open Gov West, a two-day conference on “Gov 2.0” organized by my friend Sarah Schacht, executive director of Knowledge As Power. Over 200 open government advocates and practitioners came to Seattle City Hall from across the Pacific Northwest and Western Canada, plus a few from farther afield.

Day 1 was a traditional conference, with programmed panels, a keynote speaker, and “work sessions” where attendees came up with recommendations for action in the areas of open government policy; data and document standards; funding; and working with non-traditional partners. Day 2 was an unconference, where anyone could offer a session on any topic.

At a discussion session on Day 2 titled “The Architecture of Gov’t 2.0,” Vancouver-based facilitator and web strategist Gordon Ross posed a provocative question: “What would the city website of your dreams do?”

The City Website of My Dreams
I’ve been pondering that question for a long time. Here’s what I wish I had said in that session:

The city website of my dreams would not only let me find relevant information, process transactions, lodge complaints, and communicate with elected officials. It would help me connect with my neighbors.

When I move into a new neighborhood, I wish I could go to the city’s website and join a group for my block (or a collection of several blocks) — complete with discussions, event calendar, photos, videos, and listings of relevant city services, businesses, nonprofits, neighborhood associations, and so forth. That way I could plug in and get to know my neighborhood (and my neighbors) quicker than ever. I could browse archived discussions to see what issues have been on my neighbors’ minds, peruse photos and videos from recent block parties and festivals, and check the calendar for upcoming events. And if I moved to a new neighborhood, I could just quit the online group for my old neighborhood and join my new one, taking my profile, friends, and history with me.

Such a platform would give me and my neighbors a powerful tool to self-organize — everything from potlucks to crime-watch patrols, yard sales, childcare swaps, street cleanups and community meetings about city policies of interest to the neighborhood. We could organize car-, bike-, and tool-sharing coops. It would give us a quick way to share alerts about burglaries or fires.

And it would give the city a powerful way of targeting communications to specific blocks. Need to clear the street because of a snow emergency, tree-trimming, or a broken water main? Just send a message to that block’s listserve and word will spread fast. Add an SMS gateway to send text messages to residents’ mobile phones and word will spread even faster. Connect it all to a CRM database and an Open 311 system and you’ve got a powerful tool set for citizens to engage with the city not just as individuals, but as groups, as neighborhoods, as communities.

That’s the grand vision the old community organizer in me has for what a city website could do for citizen engagement.

Pieces of this vision already exist, mostly organized ad hoc on private platforms like Facebook, Google Groups, Ning, and all manner of blogs and email lists. There are a few organized, larger-scale examples. hosts email discussion lists for 25+ communities across the US, UK and New Zealand. Frankfurt Gestalten (“Create Frankfurt”), is a Drupal-based project inspired by the great pothole apps FixMyStreet (UK) and SeeClickFix (US), but with a greater emphasis on groups organizing around neighborhood initiatives proposed by users. The Dutch foundation Web in de Wijk (“Web in the Neighborhoods”) provides a toolkit for residents to create their own neighborhood websites. The explosion of hyperlocal news blogs — like WestSeattleBlog and MyBallard in Seattle — has proven that there’s a hunger for online spaces that support offline neighborhood-level community-building.

Of all the sites I’ve seen, Neighbors for Neighbors comes closest to the vision I describe above. This Boston-based nonprofit has built Ning networks for all 18 neighborhoods across the city, stitched together as a citywide network under an umbrella WordPress blog. City staff, neighborhood activists, landlords, business owners, police, and residents of all stripes are active on the site, using it to organize everything from potlucks to pickup soccer games to public meetings about saving neighborhood libraries.

But I have yet to see such a network of self-organizing hyper-local community groups fully integrated with a city’s website.

Zanby’s Groups-of-Groups Approach
I’d love to build a system like this on the Zanby platform. Our unique groups-of-groups architecture enables the clustering of local groups into “group families” around any criteria — like geography, of course, but also other affinities that might unite certain block groups to others in different parts of the city, like proximity to schools, libraries, parks, transit lines, waterfronts, commercial zones, etc. Those groups could easily network and collaborate with other groups across the city with shared interests by joining group families organized around those interests. This architecture allows groups to network with other groups.

Imagine, for example, that a block in Boston lies within earshot of a freeway, borders a river, has a transit stop on it and is home to many Spanish speakers. In addition to belonging to one of those 18 geographic neighborhood group families, my block could join families for, say, all the blocks across the city that lie along the same light-rail line, or along Boston Harbor and the Charles River, or along highways, or with similar demographics. Those groups might share certain interests and concerns with each other that don’t map to the geographic neighborhood lines.

Meanwhile, a group a few blocks away might not be so concerned about freeway noise or transit safety. But it has a community garden and a retirement home on it. That group might join group families organized around elderly issues and community gardens. The host of a Highway Neighbors group family could create events, discussions, documents, etc. that are easily shared with all of the groups in the family.

The key concept here is that group families allow groups to network and collaborate with other groups.

It’s also fairly easy to integrate third-party tools and data into a Zanby community, using APIs, RSS feeds and embeddable objects. So each block group and neighborhood group family could serve as a social media dashboard displaying discussions, events, documents, etc. generated by Zanby, side-by-side with feeds of info from city databases, video streams of public meetings, live chats with residents and city officials, etc.

The Other ‘L’ Word: Liability
Legal experts have raised concerns about liability when the government hosts open forums for civic dialogue. Government lawyers get nervous about being sued for censorship if, for example, an employee deletes a profane or racist comment on a city blog or message board. And if they don’t moderate such comments, they could be sued for facilitating hate speech. Similar liability concerns were common a decade ago in the private sector, mainly in the media industry, as newspaper and magazine publishers struggled with whether to add blogs, reader comments, and forums on their websites. Those issues have largely been sorted out.

Fortunately, while the public sector may be a few years behind in sorting out these issues, it appears to be catching up fast. In the past year, 24 federal agencies, and many city and state governments, have used IdeaScale and similar apps to create open forums for sourcing ideas from the public. The website of the New York State Senate, a model of open government, now hosts blogs for every senator, including public comments, and allows the public to post comments on bills. The White House also recently published new guidelines for federal employees on how to use social media to engage the public.

Helping Communities Help Themselves
Just like social media is reshaping whole industries by slashing the transaction costs of engagement, it holds tremendous potential to reshape government — or more importantly, the relationship between citizens and government. There was much talk at the Open Gov West conference about how governments at all levels can use social media and online communities to engage citizens in dialogue, to leverage their knowledge, skills, passions, and willingness to volunteer their time and energy to solve public problems and improve their communities.

But as Doug Schuler, of the Public Sphere Project, argued, “We shouldn’t be talking about how government can leverage citizens. We should be talking about how citizens can leverage the government.” After all, the government is there to serve the people, not the other way around, right?

Yes, and to that end the government should be a vehicle for helping people help themselves — not just as individuals, but as communities, providing the social space for civic spirit to grow. I believe that putting tools in the hands of citizens to self-organize and build community — through the government website — is one powerful way to do that. Vibrant civic life requires infrastructure. I hope that one day it’s considered as normal, and vital, for city governments to provide such community infrastructure online as it is to build and maintain parks and town squares offline.

Written by leifutne

April 28, 2010 at 5:36 pm

“Exclusion” – my essay from the free ebook “Thrivability: A Collaborative Sketch”

with 10 comments

Last month at the SXSW Interactive Festival in Austin, I had the honor of helping my friend Jean Russell launch an exciting new ebook called Thrivability: A Collaborative Sketch.

Inspired by Seth Godin’s collaborative ebook What Matters Now?, the book contains short essays and images by 63 big thinkers, each focusing on a word or short phrase that has to do with creating a more thrivable world. Contributors include some of my favorite thinkers, such as Clay Shirky, Beth Kanter, John Hagel, Kaliya Hamlin and Tony Deifell.

The book is available online as a slideshow, a PDF, and a website. Please give it a read. Share it via Twitter, Facebook, etc. And join the conversation.

Here is my own contribution, a meditation on the word “exclusion.” It appears on page 30 of the book. I’d love to hear your feedback.


Leif Utne, – Bainbridge Island, WA, USA

Ouch! Exclusion is such a harsh word. What place could it possibly have in a world that’s open, inclusive, and thrivable?

Like a hammer, exclusion is merely a tool. In its unhealthy forms, exclusion is used to oppress, to avoid accountability, circumvent democracy, and maintain established economic and political order. It brings to mind secret societies, smoky back rooms, nativism, and dehumanizing the “other.”

But exclusion can also be healthy and life-affirming. For individuals, that may mean choosing your conversations more wisely, lightening your load, de-cluttering your mental and physical space, eliminating distractions and focusing on what matters most. It means making space for solitude, contemplation, attention to yourself, to your breath, to nature, to being fully present.

Exclusion is not a choice of whether to exclude, or not, it is a choice of what to exclude.

For groups, healthy exclusion means creating safe containers in which to share and collaborate more deeply. It means being intentional about who and how many you want to share space with. It’s about creating and protecting sacred space. A good host has a talent for appropriate exclusion. It’s the social artistry of choosing who you want at the party, and who you don’t.

Every marketer knows that exclusion is a powerful tool. Done well, limiting access to a place, a group or a product makes it cool. Anyone who has launched a new online community can tell you that early on exclusion is vital — to set the tone and model the kind of interaction you want. It’s a way of establishing a new culture intentionally.

Exclusion can be about useful constraints, which spur creativity, whether you’re answering an essay question on a test or innovating new products. Imagine, for example, a candle. What is a candle without a wick? Without light? Without heat? Without wax? Such a thought experiment can help you identify which properties are intrinsic to something, and think creatively about novel ways to reproduce them.

Exclusion is part of evolution, particularly the conscious evolution we are living through now. It’s about casting off outmoded, destructive ways of thinking and being. And it’s absolutely essential to a thrivable future.

I’ve already gotten some great comments on this piece. One friend suggested “discernment” as an alternative to exclusion. I like that. It has much less of a negative charge to it. But that charge is part of why I find the term exclusion provocative. I like re-framing terms in ways that shift their charge.

Another friend suggested a different frame: pruning. For a tree to thrive, it takes pruning, which means making healthy choices about where to cut back so you can channel its growth in positive directions.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

September Moon (aka Full Moon Outside My Window)

with 10 comments


UPDATE 9/19/2018: The title of this song is actually “September Moon” according to the composer, Chandler Yorkhall. The title of this post now reflects that.

Check out this haunting round I recorded last weekend:

Here are the lyrics:

Full moon outside my window this warm September night
Pulls me into wakefulness far too early.
I’d rather be sleeping, the day’s already too long for me.
I’ll just wait for dawn.

The voices on this recording are me and Irene Ravitz, a 14 year-old girl with a bell-like voice. She and her mother, Marika Partridge (the long-time producer of All Things Considered), taught it to a group of us last Friday at a party at my mom’s house on Whidbey Island that morphed into a wild jam session.

I loved this tune as soon as I heard it. It was the first thing out of my mouth when I woke up Saturday morning, and it kept repeating all day in an endless loop. So I fired up GarageBand that evening and laid it down, lest I forget how it went. After dinner, Irene and Marika came over again for another singing session. So I pulled Irene aside and recorded her singing it once through as well. Then I just copied and pasted the clips of our voices onto several separate tracks, staggering our voices to create the round. Finally, I added a little reverb, exported as an MP3, and voila! Enjoy!

[Photo credit:]

Written by leifutne

April 6, 2010 at 9:49 pm

Posted in collaboration, music

Tagged with ,

Twitter Transcript from ‘The Socially Conscious Geek’ at SXSW

with one comment

The buzz on Twitter about ‘The Socially Conscious Geek‘, the Core Conversation Lauren Bacon and I facilitated last weekend at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival (aka SXSWi). Here is a straight cut/paste of the tweetstream on each of the hashtags for our session — the official hashtag #sociallyconsciousgeek, which we shortened to the more manageable #scgeek.

Tweets on #sociallyconsciougeek:

  1. Pensive_steve_censor_normal stevehopkins @SarahMoran we should totally chat 🙂 would be great. #sociallyconsciousgeek sesh? Awesome! 2 days ago from TweetDeck

  2. Profile_small_normal SarahMoran @stevehopkins dude, I just worked out what you’re actually working on atm. We should talk! #sociallyconsciousgeek sesh at #sxsw was good 🙂 2 days ago from Tweetie

  3. Lb-squarecrop_normal laurenbacon @btruax re #sociallyconsciousgeek – we shortened the hashtag to #scgeek. 4 days ago from web

  4. Twitterprofilephoto_normal pcrampton @hertling Thanks! 🙂 #sxswi #sociallyconsciousgeek #scgeek 5 days ago from TweetDeck

  5. Will-webportrait-2008-640_normal hertling Notes from socially concious geek session at #sxswi #sociallyconsciousgeek #scgeek 5 days ago from TweetDeck

  6. Brianu_ning_normal unflatpdx #sociallyconsciousgeek #slogsxsw bring your socially conscious issues over to the speed blogging event at Maggie Mae’s on 6th. 4:-6pm today 5 days ago from TweetDeck

  7. New_avatar_normal btruax No one is tweeting from the #sociallyconsciousgeek panel? 5 days ago from TweetDeck

  8. Screen_shot_2010-01-26_at_7 annemai Geeks who want do good outnumber nonprofits here at #scgeek aka #sociallyconsciousgeek 5 days ago from Tweetie

  9. Twitterprofilephoto_normal laurencastellon Interesting format: “modified fishbowl” for #sociallyconsciousgeek #scgeek #sxswi 5 days ago from Tweetie

  10. Calliemiller_normal calliemiller #sociallyconsciousgeek now = #scgeek hi all! 5 days ago from TweetDeck

  11. Meandjordan_normal stewarttownsend #sociallyconsciousgeek rm 7 level 3…. Panel discussion but unusual setting #sxsw . Interesting to see the discussion 5 days ago from twibble

  12. New_avatar_normal btruax Time to digest content & research stuff from notes of #designfirst15min & #notrust. Break till #sociallyconsciousgeek @ 3:30. #housxsw 5 days ago from TweetDeck

Tweets on #scgeek:

  1. Bbf_normal brookebf RT @jfinlayson: BTW Good Capitalist Party 4 slactivists #SocEnt Mon7-9 #scgeek @socialedge @changemakers @SoCapitalist 3 days ago from Twee

  2. Sheer_awesome_normal detailmatters @foglio glad ur here #crowdx #scgeek #sxswi let’s keep the convo going! 4 days ago from TweetDeck

  3. 4260450871_e376b8e1e6_normal Foglio uses audience comments on a liveblog to log/filter vid streams of leg hearings & political events #scgeek #sxsw 4 days ago from Tweetie

  4. Sheer_awesome_normal detailmatters #crowdx + #scgeek = the perfect blend for the soln we discussed yesterday. 4 days ago from TweetDeck

  5. Lb-squarecrop_normal laurenbacon Just published my notes from yesterday’s #scgeek session – would love comments from other participants! 4 days ago from TweetDeck

  6. Sheer_awesome_normal detailmatters @andydixn great meeting u #scgeek! I’ll be there for ur session. Want to learn about combating generational prisioner trends 4 days ago from TweetDeck

  7. Sheer_awesome_normal detailmatters RT @brandon_merritt: Any chance of an #scgeek meetup? Would love to continue the conversations in a beer related environment! 4 days ago from TweetDeck

  8. Lb-squarecrop_normal laurenbacon @CathyBrowne Thanks so much for coming to our #scgeek session yesterday – great to see you & say hi! 4 days ago from TweetDeck

  9. Lb-squarecrop_normal laurenbacon @btruax re #sociallyconsciousgeek – we shortened the hashtag to #scgeek. 4 days ago from web

  10. Lb-squarecrop_normal laurenbacon Resources for #scgeek: About B Corporations (h/t @jfinlayson) 4 days ago from TweetDeck

  11. Lb-squarecrop_normal laurenbacon RT hertling: Notes from socially concious geek session at #sxswi #scgeek 4 days ago from TweetDeck

  12. Lb-squarecrop_normal laurenbacon More #scgeek resources: Anti 9 to 5 Guide & 4 Hour Work Week 4 days ago from TweetDeck

  13. Lb-squarecrop_normal laurenbacon More #scgeek resources: Wikipedia: “Social Enterprise” Acumen Fund @acumen 4 days ago from TweetDeck

  14. Lb-squarecrop_normal laurenbacon Ran out of time yesterday to post resources mentioned at #scgeek panel, so here goes: Wikipedia: “Triple Bottom Line” 4 days ago from TweetDeck

  15. Grips_up_close_normal dkrumlauf RT @brandon_merritt Any chance of an #scgeek meetup? Would love to continue the conversations in a beer related environment! (I’m in) 4 days ago from TwitBird iPhone

  16. Alexbeauchamp_normal alexthegirl Really loved the Socially Concious Geek panel #scgeek. Will post my notes/thoughts soon. So proud of @laurenbacon! 5 days ago from Twitterrific

  17. Davehead1paradise2_normal davekerpen @brandon_merritt come to the happy hour @theKbuzz is hosting #scgeek 5 days ago from TweetChat

  18. Buddy_normal brandon_merritt Any chance of an #scgeek meetup? Would love to continue the conversations in a beer related environment! 5 days ago from TweetDeck

  19. Calliemiller_normal calliemiller You know a discussion panel was good when convos are still happening in the hall 30 min after it ended! #scgeek 5 days ago from TweetDeck

  20. Me_normal bunkywu Nice to hear that @acumenfund was getting shoutouts at #scgeek panel! Thanks and wish I were there. 5 days ago from Tweetie

  21. Buddy_normal brandon_merritt By far the best panel I’ve been to at #sxswi is the socially concious geek! #scgeek 5 days ago from TweetDeck

  22. Turkey_pix_normal mattewing Great #scgeek session. Fun to hear about new progressive biz models Nice moderating folks 5 days ago from Tweetie

  23. Subway_normal Dave_Stein #scgeek was great conversation with motivated people. 5 days ago from Mobile Web

  24. Twitterprofilephoto_normal pcrampton @hertling Thanks! 🙂 #sxswi #sociallyconsciousgeek #scgeek 5 days ago from TweetDeck

  25. Will-webportrait-2008-640_normal hertling Notes from socially concious geek session at #sxswi #sociallyconsciousgeek #scgeek 5 days ago from TweetDeck

  26. Picme_normal maximka Best term I’ve learned today: “slow money” #scgeek 5 days ago from web

  27. Davehead1paradise2_normal davekerpen Triple Bottom Line: <– way cool #scgeek 5 days ago from TweetChat

  28. Jillpic_normal jfinlayson @brookebf #scgeek thanks where R U sitting? 5 days ago from web

  29. Robert1er_normal robert1er I’m in a room full of socially conscious geeks who dream of working in non-profits. Good to see folks looking to make a difference. #scgeek 5 days ago from TweetDeck

  30. Jillpic_normal jfinlayson B corps also preserve your mission in case you sell #scgeek 5 days ago from web

  31. Robert1er_normal robert1er I’m looking for an Apple IT pro to help a non-profit hone their hardware infrastructure. #scgeek 5 days ago from TweetDeck

  32. Jillpic_normal jfinlayson Plug for 4-Hour Workweek 4 Day Work Week gives you time to start something on side, still get your day job done #scgeek 5 days ago from web

  33. Purple_flower_normal kiramarch Yes! And np’s need to raise $ to succeed RT: @davekerpen Don’t be afraid to make money. You need to money to make social change. #scgeek 5 days ago from OpenBeak

  34. Robert1er_normal robert1er @dkrumlauf Thanks! #scgeek #sxswnp 5 days ago from TweetDeck

  35. Bbf_normal brookebf @jfinlayson love to meet you – enjoyed your tweets today #scgeek 5 days ago from Twee

  36. Robert1er_normal robert1er @kiramarch You made some great points. Glad to hear other folks are wildly happy doing good work. #scgeek 5 days ago from TweetDeck

  37. Sheer_awesome_normal detailmatters Happy to have found #scgeek at #sxswi hoping for good conversations afterward. 5 days ago from TweetDeck

  38. Jillpic_normal jfinlayson Some #scgeek want to start their own biz so they can do good, make profit. consider being a b corporation 5 days ago from web

  39. Grips_up_close_normal dkrumlauf RT @maximka Great quote from Robert Coombs at #scgeek: “We sleep very well at night, not necessarily on a very expensive bed.” #sxswnp 5 days ago from TwitBird iPhone

  40. Davehead1paradise2_normal davekerpen Don’t be afraid to make money. You need to money to make good social change happen. #scgeek 5 days ago from TweetChat

  41. Robert1er_normal robert1er @maximka Thanks! @jennbc and I are incredibly lucky to be able to work doing things we believe in. #scgeek 5 days ago from TweetDeck

  42. Davehead1paradise2_normal davekerpen Hey fellow geeks ur inpiring! All invited to continue convo @ my Happy Hour @ 6pm #scgeek 5 days ago from TweetChat

  43. Purple_flower_normal kiramarch @Sarterus yes, it’s a great recruiting pitch for me — I’ve hired several PMs who sleep better now 🙂 #scgeek 5 days ago from OpenBeak

  44. Twitterprofilephoto_normal laurencastellon RT @Sarterus: a lot of people here have issues sleeping at night. it’s great people are aware of the impact: they need options to work elsewhere #scgeek 5 days ago from web

  45. Twitter_mp3_10-09_normal SwapMamas Attending Socially Conscious Geek Panel. Inspired. #sxsw #scgeek 5 days ago from mobile web

  46. Profile_small_normal SarahMoran Socially conscious geek session resembles AA session: “my name’s Dave and I’m a socially concious geek” #scgeek #sxsw #socent 5 days ago from Tweetie

  47. Picme_normal maximka Great quote from Robert Coombs at #scgeek: “We sleep very well at night, not necessarily on a very expensive bed.” 5 days ago from web

  48. Brianrowenten_normal Sarterus a lot of people here have issues sleeping at night. it’s great people are aware of the impact: they need options to work elsewhere #scgeek 5 days ago from web

  49. Davehead1paradise2_normal davekerpen RT @dkrumlauf Info on Samoan Circles | Great leaderless process #scgeek 5 days ago from TweetChat

  50. Davehead1paradise2_normal davekerpen It’s not all or nothing. @theKbuzz we offer non-profits & govt agencies 50% off so we can make a living & help world #scgeek 5 days ago from TweetChat

  51. Cb_normal slipaustin Listening to socially conscience geeks makes me super lucky and excited to soon be working at an advocacy marketing company! #scgeek 5 days ago from Twitterrific

  52. Grips_up_close_normal dkrumlauf @davekerpen The KBuzz “socially conscious geek” – here to make $ hive 50% discount to npos #scgeek. 5 days ago from TwitBird iPhone

  53. Purple_flower_normal kiramarch This was me! And I am using my powers wisely now 🙂 RT: @laurencastellon “I went to grad school to work for good, not evil.” #scgeek #sxswi 5 days ago from OpenBeak

  54. Brianrowenten_normal Sarterus I do not see how patenting social media ideas helps anyone. A culture of sharing and open access can make a much bigger difference #scgeek 5 days ago from web

  55. Grips_up_close_normal dkrumlauf Info on Samoan Circles #scgeek Great leaderless process #sxswnp 5 days ago from TwitBird iPhone

  56. Michael_castellon_normal mcastellon RT @laurencastellon: “I went to grad school to work for good, not evil.” #scgeek #sxswi 5 days ago from Tweetie

  57. Brianrowenten_normal Sarterus Corporate ideas: Percent for charity, paying employers to volunteer at NPO’s #scgeek 5 days ago from web

  58. Grips_up_close_normal dkrumlauf NetSquared & NTEN get a good plug at #scgeek #sxsw 5 days ago from TwitBird iPhone

  59. Jillpic_normal jfinlayson c @socialentrprnr State of ForProfit #SocEnt RT @brookebf #scgeek do you have to be nonprofit to be socially conscious? 5 days ago from web

  60. Brianrowenten_normal Sarterus recruiting young people: College cost reduction, power to launch initiatives #scgeek 5 days ago from web

  61. Profile_small_normal SarahMoran Plug for @netsquared‘s net Tuesday and in #sociallyconciousgeek #scgeek #socent #sxsw 5 days ago from Tweetie

  62. Bbf_normal brookebf #scgeek #sxswi, alot of talk on nonprofits, but do you have to be a non-p to be ‘socially conscious’? 5 days ago from Twee

  63. Jillpic_normal jfinlayson More job resources and #SCgeek 5 days ago from web

  64. Picme_normal maximka Great hiring resources from #scgeek: and 5 days ago from web

  65. Jillpic_normal jfinlayson Net 2 Local – great offline meetups of geeks for good #SCgeek 5 days ago from web

  66. Twitterprofilephoto_normal laurencastellon “I went to grad school to work for good, not evil.” #scgeek #sxswi 5 days ago from Tweetie

  67. Jaketha_normal Jaketha RT @CALCASA: It’s always surprising to know how many people didn’t realize they could use their talents for good in non-profits. #scgeek #sxsw 5 days ago from TweetDeck

  68. Cb_normal slipaustin Finally getting to sit and watch a panel and love hearing the passion of everyone here #scgeek 5 days ago from Twitterrific

  69. Jillpic_normal jfinlayson BTW The Good Capitalist Party 4 slactivists #SocEnt Mon7-9 #scgeek @acumenfund @socialedge @changemakers @SoCapitalist 5 days ago from web

  70. Agreenerlife_normal agreenerlifeorg At the #scgeek chat at SXSWi. Neat ideas here! 5 days ago from Twitterrific

  71. Davehead1paradise2_normal davekerpen @SarahMoran you did great! 🙂 #scgeek 5 days ago from TweetChat

  72. Jillpic_normal jfinlayson Biz models 4 doing good @socialedge do good/live well RT @laurencastellon profit 4 purpose” #scgeek 5 days ago from web

  73. Profile_small_normal SarahMoran Just participated in a Samoan circle #scgeek #sociallyconciousgeek 5 days ago from Tweetie

  74. Profile_small_normal SarahMoran @davekerpen thought I should have a go #sociallyconciousgeek #scgeek 5 days ago from Tweetie

  75. Screen_shot_2010-01-26_at_7 annemai Geeks who want do good outnumber nonprofits here at #scgeek aka #sociallyconsciousgeek 5 days ago from Tweetie

  76. Davehead1paradise2_normal davekerpen Very interesting format in this panel: Samoan CIrcle – people in center 4 seats can talk, others can jump in to replace #scgeek 5 days ago from TweetChat

  77. Brianrowenten_normal Sarterus Australia uses profit for purpose. #scgeek 5 days ago from web

  78. Twitterprofilephoto_normal laurencastellon “profit for purpose”. #scgeek 5 days ago from Tweetie

  79. Robert1er_normal robert1er I didn’t know you could make a good living in non-profits until I was doing it. #scgeek 5 days ago from TweetDeck

  80. Calliemiller_normal calliemiller I’m emotional wreck in this panel. People talking about doing work they love & that makes a difference is bringing tears to my eyes. #scgeek 5 days ago from TweetDeck

  81. Jillpic_normal jfinlayson getting over fear of profit by having employees (felt greedy but with others – want to be able to hire and keep ppl) #SCgeek 5 days ago from web

  82. Twitterprofilephoto_normal laurencastellon Interesting format: “modified fishbowl” for #sociallyconsciousgeek #scgeek #sxswi 5 days ago from Tweetie

  83. Brianrowenten_normal Sarterus Social Profit instead of NPO for positive branding #SCGeek 5 days ago from web

  84. Davehead1paradise2_normal davekerpen @SarahMoran i like it – but we’ll see how well it works, eh? #scgeek #sociallyconciousgeek 5 days ago from TweetChat

  85. Jillpic_normal jfinlayson model? nonprofit v no profit: ‘Warm’ or ‘Competent’? Consumers Stereotype Nonprofit & For-profit #scgeek can u b both? 5 days ago from web

  86. Twitter-icon_normal coreindustries Listening to #scgeek. How to do good and still make money. 5 days ago from SitBy.Us

  87. Cb_cathybrowne CathyBrowne Am observing discussions at the #scgeek session, room 7 in the ACC 5 days ago from Twitterrific

  88. Calliemiller_normal calliemiller #sociallyconsciousgeek now = #scgeek hi all! 5 days ago from TweetDeck

  89. Brianrowenten_normal Sarterus Sarterus Attending Socially Conscious Geeks: making money while doing good : #scgeek 5 days ago from web

Written by leifutne

March 18, 2010 at 4:05 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

My SXSW Session: The Socially-Conscious Geek: Makin’ Money While Doin’ Good

with one comment

Are you a socially-conscious geek? Have you ever taken a job you didn’t like because you needed the money? Do you feel like you have to choose between your ideals and your wallet? Or have you figured out a way to make a decent living while making a difference in the world? What are some of your stories of success…or failure? Do you have any tips or tricks to share? Come join the conversation this weekend at SXSW!

This weekend I’m headed to the SXSW (South by Southwest) Interactive Festival, in Austin, TX for the first time. I’ve wanted to attend this geekfest for years, but could never find the time or justify the expense…until now. This year, I’m presenting, or at least co-facilitating a discussion session together with my friend Lauren Bacon, principal at Raised Eyebrow Web Studio in Vancocuver. Here are the details from the SXSW website:

Can you make a living as a geek without sacrificing your ideals? Definitely. These pros have carved out a niche working with mission-driven, ethical clients in both the non-profit and for-profit sectors – and want to show you how to bring your values to work while keeping a roof over your head.

When: Saturday, March 13 at 03:30 PM

Where: Austin Convention Center 7

51612_thumb Lauren Bacon
Raised Eyebrow Web Studio Inc
51613_thumb Leif Utne

If you’re going to SXSW, add us to your festival calendar, and come join the discussion Saturday afternoon.

Written by leifutne

March 10, 2010 at 5:03 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Open Gov West Conference, March 26-27, Seattle City Hall

with 3 comments

Open Gov West is just three weeks away! Hosted by Seattle’s new mayor Mike McGinn and organized by my amazing friend Sarah Schacht, ED of Knowledge as Power, this confab promises to be one of this year’s hottest local/regional gatherings on open government, Gov2.0, transparency, citizen engagement, open data and all sorts of related awesomeness. I’m proud to say I’m a co-convener. If you hail from the Pacific Northwest, or are just interested in Gov2.0 and can get yourself to Seattle for this, I hope to see you there.

Check out the press release below for details. And to register or find out more, visit the conference website,


Open Gov West – setting the standards for Gov 2.0 in Seattle

Open Gov West is a regional two-day conference on open government hosted by the City of Seattle and Knowledge As Power on March 26th & 27th, 2010 at Seattle City Hall. Coordinated by Knowledge As Power and supported by Mayor McGinn’s office and Seattle City Council members, this important gathering will bring together decision makers, technology companies and citizen activists, city and state government, agencies and organizations from across the Pacific Northwest. The conference opens at Seattle City Hall on March 26th with a government work summit, producing open government recommendations and resources.   Day two will be an “unconference” where presentations are given by conference participants. Attendees at day two range from innovative open gov organizations, government CTOs and citizen activists. The two days will provide opportunities for governments and organizations to collaborate, reduce costs, and plan open government strategies.

‘Gov 2.0’, utilizing technology to increase transparency and access to government, is rapidly developing at city, state and federal levels of government.  As yet there are no universal standards for how governments present data, or how citizens can most effectively communicate with government.  Some recent examples of information provided by governmental and agency websites are overly complicated and poorly structured, more confusing than illuminating.

Sarah Schacht is Director of Knowledge As Power, a convener and organizer of Open Gov West.  She began researching the application of web communications in politics as an undergraduate. A decade later, her research and work across the North America has shown why the Open Gov West conference is important: “Governments must meet the needs of modernized citizens seeking greater access and transparency.  The danger is in each government ‘re-inventing the wheel,’ overspending on technology when they could have modernized their systems in collaboration with fellow governments.
This is the time for open gov initiatives to meet the needs of citizens and governments—freeing both from outdated technology”.

Governments throughout the greater Pacific Northwest and Canada have recently launched open government directives. Open Gov West is an opportunity to bring leaders in technology innovation, government and civic engagement together at the start of the open gov process, to establish shared standards and partnerships.

Open Gov West is organized by Knowledge As Power (KAP), a 501c3 whose mission is to help individuals become informed and effective within the legislative process. By providing online legislation tracking and citizen-to-legislator communications tools, KAP helps busy individuals easily and meaningfully participate in the lawmaking process.  KAP’s service currently covers the Washington State Legislature and will soon launch a service for the Seattle City Council.

For more information, contact Sarah Schacht, Executive Director, Knowledge As Power at 206-909-2684 or

Written by leifutne

March 2, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Issue Ads: New way to fund journalism, or a fool’s bargain?

with 6 comments

Last weekend at the Journalism that Matters-Pacific Northwest conference, Bart Preecs proposed an intriguing new business model for funding coverage of the Washington State legislature. He pointed out that issue advertising — those  is the only ad category that is growing right now. Last August, BusinessWeek blogger Jon Fine wrote:

For the foreseeable future, and for that matter probably forever, we are in a world where major legislative battles will be accompanied by major ad campaigns… Through mid-August, $436 million had been spent on issue-related ads this year.

That roiling font of cash is awfully enticing, especially in a down economy where the job category of “professional journalist” is beginning to look almost as anachronistic as “typesetter” or “bootblack.” According to Bart, $52 million was spent in 2009 on lobbying the Washington State government. Just one percent of that could fund a decent online journalistic operation, adding several full-time reporters to the state capitol press corps. To capture that revenue, Bart proposed creating a web-based directory listing all of the organizations that spend that money. Each directory page would include info about an organization and a summary of its legislative priorities and positions. It would also include links to other organizations opposing its positions on those issues. As in the Yellow Pages, the listed organizations could pay a premium to sponsor a large section of the page, which could include their own written statements on the issues, perhaps with links to their position papers, or banner or video ads about their positions.

I have a couple of concerns about this business model:

1. I’m not sure it’s viable. What is the incentive for a lobby group to spend money on a premium listing, especially on a directory page that includes links to their opponents, when they can already get their messages out unfiltered via existing TV, radio, print and online ad buys? Organizations like the Washington Hospital Association or the Washington Association of Realtors are generally more interested in drawing public attention to the issues as they frame them and often shy away from attention to themselves. That’s why there are so many “astroturf” (fake grassroots) front groups. This raises questions about who the intended users of this directory would be. The general public, or political insiders? For the general public, such a directory would be a great resource, bringing more transparency to the murky sausage-making that happens in Olympia. But those advertisers aren’t promoting transparency with their dollars. They’re trying to sway legislators’ votes, which too often means clouding the issues by rallying public opinion around hot buttons like “big government,” “cap-and-tax,” and “socialism!” If, however, the site is targeted at political insiders, maybe a subscription model, or a freemium service would be better.

2. Increasing reliance on issue-ad dollars to fund political journalism may be bad for political journalism (and for democracy). Lobby groups are boosting their ad spending for a reason. It gives them a platform to deliver their messages directly to the public, unfiltered by journalistic scrutiny. The vast (and growing) majority of that money is coming from well-heeled interests often pushing messages that are very harmful to the public and the planet. Consider, for example, the barrage of ads last year against Obama’s healthcare reform proposal, or the Employee Free Choice Act, or the campaigns greenwashing nuclear power, so-called “clean coal,” and companies like Exxon and BP.

Such ads make this progressive’s skin crawl. And the FCC can’t regulate them for truth the way the FDA regulates health claims or the FTC polices truth-in-advertising for consumer products. I fear that creating more real-estate for such messages will outweigh the public good from the journalism those ads help to underwrite.

I realize it may not sound like it, but I’m a staunch advocate of free speech, an actual card-carrying member of the ACLU. And I’m not naive enough to think I can just wish those ads away.

What we need is to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine for broadcast media. For online media like the lobbying directory Bart proposes, we need a code of ethics and some new practices around truth-in-advertising. I’d suggest:

  1. All advertising must be clearly marked as paid-for by the sponsor, for obvious reasons; and
  2. User comments should be enabled on all political ads. User comments would allow advertisers’ claims to be challenged in the same forum where they appear, and would engage the audience actively in the discussion/debate on the issues. Some online ad networks, including Federated Media, have tested ads that enable user comments. I would personally be impressed with advertisers who are willing to engage in a conversation with their audience in this way. But I have doubts about it’s attractiveness to most of the big money advertisers, which brings us right back to square one.

I commend Bart’s initiative. We are all desperately seeking new business models to fund the political journalism that is so vital to a functioning democracy, and drinking from the firehose of issue ad dollars is tempting. But unless we can come up with effective ways to safeguard against unethical ads and promote greater transparency, we may be making a fool’s bargain.

Written by leifutne

January 13, 2010 at 6:25 pm