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The Occupy Wall Street movement, now in its second month, is a protest force of nature. Unions, progressive organizations, community organizers, even big ‘D’ Democrats are coming out in support. If your nonprofit or political organization hasn’t come out with a public position on the #occupy movement, maybe you should check for a pulse.

But never mind our organizational homes. As individuals we can jump right in without further ado. And what better way than with our skill sets as digital strategists, online organizers, social media gurus, and branding experts? Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Joining the movement can be a challenge. Existing systems are designed with full time occupiers in mind, not volunteers with an hour, a day, or a specific task in mind.


So here’s a guide, by a digital strategist, for digital strategists. If I've missed some useful tips, add them below.

The Organization of the Occupation
This description is based on the Wall St. crowd, but my understanding is that others are following similar models. While all major decisions are made by General Assemblies, most of the activists, including full- and part-timers, are part of Working Groups. Working Groups might be meeting more than once a week. Those meetings might not be efficient or accessible to newcomers. Still you'll want to join one or more that make sense for your interests, and start digging in to any documents they've posted online and listening to the conversation on their listserv. Finding WG's is easy for the Wall Street folks, might be harder for other cities. There is an effort to standardize names of WG's across occupation.

The Internet and Open Source Working Groups
Here in New York, we have an Internet Working Group (IWG) and a Free/Libre/Open Source Working Group (FLO). The former has mostly worked on developing the main website for internal coordination, www.nycga.net. This site will continue to evolve in ways that serve specific working groups, and developer help is much appreciated. The FLO folks are promoting ‘open sourcism’ as an embodiment of the true principles of the #occupy movement. They also work on the tech infrastructure: hosting, servers, LDAP, a future CRM, wiki and more. The vision is not just to assist #OWS with tech solutions, but to create replicable, robust and secure systems available for all occupations, in the U.S. and around the world. They also welcome your help. A number of core team members are part of both WG's.

On-Boarding for Newbies
Unfortunately, it’s been hard for the IWG and the FLO peeps to incorporate new people and new ideas. New ideas, even good ones, represent a challenge because of the pressure of uncompleted, previously agreed upon tasks. Some of the best work done by techies in support of the movement is being carried out by free agents (www.occupytogether.org) and outside/inside coalitions (www.occupytheboardroom.org) that don’t even try to interface with formal working groups. That said, a corner has been turned, and there are now systems in place to make it easier to onboard new volunteers – and even new ideas.

Start Here
If you want to help, fill out the volunteer form for the Internet WG. If you want to propose something you’ve come up with, read this post first or you might come across as an egotistic time-waster. Finally, learn more about developments already underway at the wiki. (It's not as complete as it should be.) Be aware, that the project management tool Redmine is being used to track projects. Github is being used to manage development. There are listservs for all the WG's, and for even smaller things like the Digital Strategy Team within the Internet WG that I joined.  (Follow the links above, and you'll reach the proper signup pages.)

That said, as an online organizer I’ve noticed that the IWG and FLO teams are full of web developers, sysadmins and coders. Not small dollar fundraisers, CRM experts, digital marketers and solutions consultants. That crowd is likely to wonder where the official public facing website is, or why no one seems to be taking advantage of SalsaLabs generous offer of free services.  (Or the offer of a certain text messaging vendor....) As of this writing, no one seems to have the ability to send mass emails outside of a Googlegroup or Riseup listserv.

There are tech savvy organizers around (I’m refraining from mentioning names, but you've heard of them or their firms/organizations!) They seem to be attracted to the top level strategy questions involving press, media, and tactics for nonviolent direct action planning. I’ve also heard an argument firmly against the use of email list based organizing by #OccupyWallStreet. Who would write those emails? What messages could ‘the movement’ agree on, given the anti-hierarchical bias and refusal to issue specific demands?

While not all the organizers are young, or inexperienced, the vast majority associate CRM enabled organizing with groups like MoveOn or the Obama campaign. Liberals tainted by their focus on electoral or mainstream politics. Many associate the tools with top-down organizing, the antithesis of the General Assembly process.Personally, I think that position is incorrect. The 'movement' is using CRM all the time, as then they raised money on Kickstarter or chose Googlegroups as the primary listserv tool. They just aren't using their own CRM, or taking advantage of all the possibilities.

An emerging area where expertise is needed is in technical strategy more generally. For example: the accounting team was overwhelmed by the needs for trasparency and basic bookkeeping. An expert in nonprofit administration have been able to help with software suggestions. The Outreach Working Group is engaged in marketing, to be sure, but they aren’t far along in developing their marketing strategy. Given limited resources, which communications should be directed at which groups for the most immediate benefit? Folks I talked to weren't thinking that way.

The bottom line is, you don’t need to be physically present to contribute important online organizing skills to the movement. And you don’t have to start something on your own. If you'd like to understand more of what's going on, feel free to reach out to me - I'm easy to find.

Crossposted on Organizing 2.0.

Originally posted to clenchner on Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 08:14 AM PDT.

Also republished by New York State, ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement, New York City, Community Spotlight, and Occupy Wall Street.

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Comment Preferences

  •  This diary is most welcome. (10+ / 0-)

    There are many people with abilities and interest in the movement who cannot participate in occupation camps. This is a movement about fixing the corrupt and broken system. It is not just a movement about camping.

  •  T & R (5+ / 0-)

    and republished to New York State.

    Fuck me, it's a leprechaun.

    by MBNYC on Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 08:54:25 AM PDT

  •  Tipped and Recced. (8+ / 0-)

    I've been to the ga organizing working group site. I'll admit it's all a little to "disjointed" for me. I;m all  in favor of the GA process and the lessening of the hierarchal structure, but I agree with you that this movement is already bigger than they planned (or I should say broader) and they are going to need to figure out these things.

    Remembr they originally wanted 20,000 people in zuccotti. What they GOT was 200. Then 200,000 all over the country. That's a very different animal than 20,000 in one place.

    I'm not sure how I can help. Part of the challenge as I see it is that there are literally Occupy's everywhere in the country.  To my mind they need to centralize things a bit and set up a system almost like a "legislature" where each occupy has the ability to raise funds, make requests, enlist local supporters and  etc. As it stands now, if I want to donate, I get one place to donate. Then I wonder what's going on in the occupy for my area. I think Salsa would be great for this. I can't believe they were offered free services and haven't snatched it up! I wish I could get such an offer on an emerging initiative I'm working on.

    Great post.

    I've become re-radicalized. Thanks a lot you bunch of oligarchical fascist sons-of-bitches. But once again, I have no choice. Bring it the fuck on.

    by mdmslle on Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 11:01:31 AM PDT

  •  As of this past Sunday (6+ / 0-)

    The Occupy Chicago website finally saw fit to post actual notice of time and place. Where and when to show up with your body. Yes, it has been possible to go downtown and try to join them and not find them at all. Get the simple stuff right before you try getting fancy.
    There are now also signposts here and there directing humble readers to the groups twitterfeeds. I've read some there, it is seriously trivial and/or opaque.
    This old person reads this diary and feels that the #occupy movement is anxious for me to die. Quite discouraging.

  •  Very interesting. It seems as if an awful lot (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    angelajean

    of really good work is being done by individuals who are inspired by other individuals. They just go off and do something spontaneously without participating in a general assembly. For example, the guy who took photos of a decaying bridge in MA and plastered them all over the internet, sent them to the appropriate state authorities, etc. He inspired other engineers to do the same thing in their own communities. Or the people in Wisconsin who are videoing the state assembly and sending out the videos of their arrests for videoing. Or the woman who took her dogs out to occupy the tundra. None of this is being organized online. Somebody with an idea goes out and does it. So your advice and links are very much appreciated. But I live so far out in the boonies that I will have to just dream up stuff I can do as an individual.

    I'll probably do a digest of interesting occupations around the country some of which are geographically based and others, such as #occupymarines, which are professionally based, and send it out to my local list serve in the hopes that it will inspire folks to participate in their democracy by #occupying it. I live in a community that doesn't use twitter. We'll have to organize ourselves in some other fashion.

    And even though it all went wrong I'll stand before the Lord of Song with nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah! -Leonard Cohen .................@laurenreichelt

    by TheFatLadySings on Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 08:35:50 PM PDT

  •  Kossacks, please consider signing up at nycga.net (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    angelajean

    This group needs help organizing.

  •  Excellent! And a keen thought to contemplate: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Creosote

    http://twitter.com/...

    Drummond Reed
    #compass11 Mark Bonchek: "the US military has realized that "Shared situational awarenewss enables self-synchronization."

    I mean really, isn't that was OWS has become?  A self-synchronizing FORCE OF NATURE?  All this media we are sharing... sustains a shared situational awareness.

    -

    Related, and needs a watchful eye kept right on it, Gov't requesting removal of police brutality videos.  Googled DENIED those requests.  Keep up the great work, Google!  (Ok, sadly, not sure HOW a watchful eye could be kept on something that only Google knows about... thoughts?)

  •  Liberals Tainted By A Focus On Electoral Politics? (0+ / 0-)

    It is surprising to witness the slow-motion takeover of DKOS by the OWS types.  

    One of the attractions of this site has always been the emphasis on reality-based politics, namely registering voters, encouraging turnout, promoting candidates.

    And now?  Under the OWS banner, people openly disparage participating in elections and argue (erroneously) that the two political parties are the same.  And get mass recommendations!

    And people wonder why conservatives seem to wield such disproportionate influence.  It is because the left implodes on its own.

    Sanity will hopefully return before the November 2012 elections...

    "Hidden in the idea of radical openness is an allegiance to machines instead of people." - Jaron Lanier

    by FDRDemocrat on Wed Oct 26, 2011 at 12:26:30 AM PDT

    •  Surprising indeed, but I have a different take: (0+ / 0-)

      I think most of the OWS diaries and supporters here believe that OWS is a liberal, left-leaning movement that can ultimately be turned into a support machine for the democratic party.

      For that reason among others I view any attempt by kossaks to "help organize" OWS with a high degree of skepticism.

    •  I can walk & chew gum at the same time.... (0+ / 0-)

      And I can support OWS and vote too :)

      •  How do you square the circle here? (0+ / 0-)

        The diarist writes:

        "While not all the organizers are young, or inexperienced, the vast majority associate CRM enabled organizing with groups like MoveOn or the Obama campaign. Liberals tainted by their focus on electoral or mainstream politics."

        OWS disdains a focus on using the ballot box?  A focus on "mainstream politics?"

        Yes, lets rally behind something that self-identifies as being non-mainstream and anti-electoral politics.  That is, let us rally to go nowhere fast.

        This is not walking and chewing gum.  This is chewing gum while chasing your own tail.

        "Hidden in the idea of radical openness is an allegiance to machines instead of people." - Jaron Lanier

        by FDRDemocrat on Wed Oct 26, 2011 at 10:31:46 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Not really.... (0+ / 0-)

          When you rally around a politician, do you do so because you agree with everything they say/want/believe?

          Of course not.  You do so because you believe that they have some very important things to say with which you agree.

          Same with supporting OWS for me.

          Not to mention the fact that I don't agree with a whole bunch of stuff the Dems/Obama have done -- 3 free trade agreements, renewing the Patriot Act etc....  

          In my view, OWS probably doesn't have all the answers, but neither do the politicians (and the banks who buy them).

          •  OWS is not saying anything new... (0+ / 0-)

            The issue is not identifying the problem or agreeing on what the problem is.  The issue is - what do you do about it?

            OWS argues for people to disdain the electoral process and they also argue that the two parties are the same.  It is a formula we have seen before and it is a waste of everyone's time.  

            "Hidden in the idea of radical openness is an allegiance to machines instead of people." - Jaron Lanier

            by FDRDemocrat on Wed Oct 26, 2011 at 03:30:01 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Great post, very informative and just what (0+ / 0-)

    we need here.  I've been following on the Livestream which my favorite, is here:  http://www.livestream.com/...  and the more popular:  http://www.livestream.com/...

    And the main link for all is here:  http://occupyinfo.tumblr.com/

    •  Also, please note that the Livestream can be (0+ / 0-)

      quite addictive.  I have run into a few kossacks including Jesse aka Ministry of Truth.  There are some ridiculous rules such as no mention of politics and isms (I find it trying but it's like a newborn taking baby steps before learning how to walk/run/sprint).  The more voices and the better the movement, both literally and figuratively.   Best wishes and see you there, I hope.

  •  These protestor should be leary of the anarchist (0+ / 0-)

    I feel thier could be mini Tinnamen Square massacre in the US  ,if calmer   head do not prevail,thier is no excuse of people getting killed over  a protest over greedy bankers

  •  Graphic sucks 'cause it gives the wrong message... (0+ / 0-)

    I know this advice will most likely be rejected out of hand but I feel that the graphic plays right into the hands of those who would "demonize" the movement.

    My background:  I have an advanced  degree in Communications, practiced as a professional communicator (graphic design) , and studied with the man who wrote the book and is called the "father of modern communication theory" and to me that graphic will do more harm than good.  

    It is powerful in the wrong way and does not brand the movement in a way that will influence the people you want to influence, but provides a handle for those who want to call us the "devil' and such.  The colors and the image are both wrong.  IMO.

    Just sayin'.

  •  Many astute observations. (0+ / 0-)

    Mistrust of establised anything puts the movement in the position of re-inventing everything. Not only is this painfully inaccurate, it is results in ponderous, primitive organizing, which it is actually hindering.

    I get the motivations behind leaderlessness, but, as a person who has been organizing people in business and volunteer organizations for awhile, I find the impact of quasi-horizontalism and quasi-consensus-building on organizing excrutiatingly painful to watch. My experience is completely devalued in these environments, where frequently decisions are based on inexperience as much as anything else, so I just identify and source needed food and other supplies, sort and organize materials and wash dishes. While the G.A.'s have endearing moments, mostly I find myself fidgeting, biting my tongue and curling up in a mental fetal position over the often-breathtaking naivete, ignorance (not in the pejorative; just the ponderous stating and examination and consideration of bad ideas from people who know nothing about the subject at hand either due to slavish obeiance to respecting every voice or simply the lack of a critical mass of people who do have applicable knowledge, experience and insight as well as the ability and patience to convince a sea of novices, which itself is virtually impossible since you simply will not be given the time necessary to educate everyone), and tragically wasted opportunities. Just hoping somehow this chaos will lead to something, even if only because all it does it get big enough. At the moment, it seems that may be the best we can hope for. Hopefully that will change.

    People Have the Power. Let's Use It! Start by burning the damn deck chairs already. Sheesh.

    by Words In Action on Sat Oct 29, 2011 at 09:07:11 AM PDT

  •  Ditto for communications people. (0+ / 0-)

    Not just online but in the occupy communities.

    Message development (framing) and control. Hard to accomplish through G.A.'s, but in the "you see something that needs to be done, do it" context, there are other approaches. Create the messages, even market-test them, promote them widely online and/or create durable, weather-resistant signs and drop off them off and/or post them in the ground at the local occupation. I've found this effective. There are too few signs for the occupiers, partly due to the fact that the ones being made quickly deteriote. Create good, clean durable signs in quantity and you'll have, by default, a form of message control.

    Constant PR is also desperately needed and contributions can be made by non-occupiers. Traditional, guerilla, viral methods all need to be pursued.

    Most occupies are in dire need of producers to identify, track down and book "talent" speaking engagements and teach-ins, even entertainment. They don't all have to be celebrities, though a big name here and there helps, I believe, in drawing attention, improving morale and stimulating volunteer recruitment.

    People Have the Power. Let's Use It! Start by burning the damn deck chairs already. Sheesh.

    by Words In Action on Sat Oct 29, 2011 at 09:21:18 AM PDT

  •  FLO! (0+ / 0-)

    I've been very glad to see this. Was happy and a little surprised when Occupy Boston started setting working groups up with listservs so people would stop using Google groups, because I agree wholeheartedly with the statement: ‘open sourcism’ as an embodiment of the true principles of the #occupy movement.

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