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November 26, 2006


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Thanks, yes. Another good link would be Martin Kearns at networkcentricadvocacy.org. Giving online is a transaction, an important gesture and helpful, but atomized, a consumerstyle activity. Building online networks of conversation, shared stories, shared heroes, and shared symbols, solidarity, common purpose, and also giving of time, money, energy, intellectual property, referrals, connections, encouragement, jobs, etc is a dear dream indeed. I am not sure, even at Omidyar.net that I see any sites or networks of sites that really advance that vision. Gifthub tries, theworldwewant.org does, you do, Tracy Gary's InspiredLegacies.com does, but in general we are talking rather than coming together in flows of money, ideas, and action. (Another possible site in this list would be the newprogressivecoalition.com. Tides might come to mind too. There money does move, and community is built, but mostly offline in "safe spaces" by those with money and clout.)

Thank you for the kind words.


Personally, I'm a bit of a contradiction in all of this. The Omidyar Network is a website I participate in. It is still unclear how they are positioning themselves in this space, but they have resisted initiatives from the community to make things more democratic and community run. I also reluctantly participated in their Q4 funding thing, and intend to make a gift for the match part of this to benefit a local project. I won't be giving on-line, but sending a check and recording it in a community workspace to qualify for the matching funds.

Some points to note:

1. I won't use PayPal because they take a cut off the top that doesn't go to any charitable purpose, not to mention the credit card fees.

2. Historically, we haven't done much contribution of this sort. The existence of the matching funds and the fact that the beneficiary is connected to and supported by people we really respect.

3. The network I'm part of is connected to the event that Phil sponsored and that he started Gift Hub to support. For this network, Omidyar Network is a tool and a place to meet, unless and until they change their stance an community involvement in governance.

4. We are gathering next week in Blaine, WA to work together and strengthen our networks.

Does this fit the models that the on-line giving pundits predict? I doubt it. On-line giving may well grow fat by traditional marketing and sales strategies, but the real action is in these ad-hoc networks of personal connections, just like it is in the world of elite givers. The more significant gifts are that of our time and attention to work on issues within our communities and to support each other across geographies.

Albert Ruesga

Good points all, Gerry and Phil.

Has anyone ever speced the killer app for social networking? I know the features I would want it to have (very different from what's currently available on myspace, for example), but has anyone ever polled a community of nonprofit activists, say, about the online tool that would most help them find one another, talk, collaborate?


I think that is what Omidyar wants to do. It is also part of the mission for those of us who will gather in Blaine next weekend. We would welcome any input from you about the feature set. Feel free to participate via any of the links above. Would love to see you there but I know it is late to make such arrangements.

Our little collective takes a strong stand on the necessity of community ownership, so none of the commercial efforts will do for us. We can use them as tools until and unless they become too restrictive, but it doesn't make for a virtual home for grassroots instigators.

Albert Ruesga

Thanks for the links, Gerry. I checked out the Blaine meeting and it's hard to tell from the description and agenda what you hope to accomplish there. I'll e-mail you my questions. Safe travels.

et alia

Specs for the killer app for social networking can be found here. It's the people, not the technology.

A rule of thumb: if you want to automate something or provide software support for an activity, do not, Not, NOT talk to managers, but to the people who do the work. The true success of a such piece of software is measured by the degree it reduces or eliminates supervisors, not line workers. I can't think of a piece of business software I've had to implement that didn't entrench managerial roles in an organization. Start with that and go from there.


Hmm. How do you sell that to the managers who write the check that pays for teh software development?


I agree with et alia about eliminating the supervisors but still feel that the proper software has the potential to do wonders for the social networking cause. The commercial sites (e.g., myspace) are set up for exhibitionists, not people who want to find one another and talk.

et alia
How do you sell that to the managers who write the check that pays for teh (sic) software development?

You don't. And you don't need to, either. The search for the killer app for social change is like ‘shock and awe’/effects-based operations in military strategy—an amazing solution that doesn't solve any existing problem.


Er, yeah, but how do you sell that to the managers who write the check that pays for teh (sic) [sic] software development?


Blogs work for me. I keep asking myself what are we missing? It doesn't seem to be software, more like critical mass of links, conversations, shared stories, a common resolve that comes from endless recycling of issues among friends. A social identity so formed. The courage of the convictions so tested. A willingness to take the semi-hidden "private transcipt" of blog chatter into the public transcript of our official lives. Seems that we are getting there.

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