Using the Net to organize (pt. 3)

From the comments on the initial post. (Pt. 2 is here),

From Marik

A useful tool for cyber-political organizing, in my mind, is the wiki format. The wiki has potential for a couple of reasons.

It’s incredibly easy to edit and work with a wiki. Basically you click on something and enter a text and you’re golden – it’s easier then HTML. But more importantly, in my mind it takes the medium from a one way communication into a two-way dialogue (two way between audience and author). Indeed, the wiki strives to bring the audience into the author role. This has clear implications for the anti-imperialist movement; isn’t that one of the ABC’s of communist organizing (bringing the audience into the dialogue.)

Excellent point, a wiki draws people in. Even if they don’t edit, they know they can, and just knowing it changes the experience from one-way to two-way. That makes it easier to get people involved.

From Dave Riley

In the immediate term as I suggested before I think harnassing the power of RSS is important because all our web pages and pretty dress ups won’t mean much unless they’re syndicated.

Yes, that’s the huge power of blogs, the syndication. Because blogs also output their content into RSS, which can easily be read and parsed by other sites, the content can go anywhere. Someone can find a site by searching in Technorati or Digg, they can add it to My Yahoo, or read it it any of dozens of RSS newsreaders, whether they be online or on the desktop. Not too mention the zillions of social bookmark sites. So even an obscure leftie site can get noticed.

But after being a blogger for a few years, and noting its limitations, drudgery and potential I’m keen to promote Performancing â┚¬â€ a blog composing extension for Mozilla Firefox â┚¬â€œas a tool to generate collective blogs and I’m looking for some projects that can explore that.

WordPress and Movable Type allow for collaborative blogging. Higher-end software like Convio allows entire site design and content publishing with multiple levels of backups. The technology is already here, except for Blogger, that is.

However, in talking up web use by the hard left you need to consider the world wide Indymedia project as an example of what can be done while also noting its limitations. In many ways Indymedia is being eclipsed by new technologies and the new platform of user generated content. At a recent poll and discussion at Sydney Indymedia here, contributors were active in marking Indymedia down for features that are built into its pages. It’s totally open contributions policy means that you cannot trust the journalism in all cases and it is so easy for Indymedia to deteriorate into character assassination and baiting and flame wars. But as a means to create news content on a very frequent basis, the format works extremely well I think. Indymedia also teaches us that editors are important. But then, the model is different, as the hard left â┚¬â€ us socs â┚¬â€ tend to have more a didactic rather than a consensual, unbridled access, approach.

Indymedia is great for fast-breaking local news, but their anarchist “let anyone publish” philosophy does let flamers and trolls in. It’s not unlike the problems that wikis have. If anyone can post, then anyone can and will. A hard left group will want more control than that. It’s difficult to get your message out if flame wars are erupting constantly on the website.

Dave also notes that blogs are superb one-off vehicles for chronicling major events (like the tsumani) or a journey somewhere, say Palestine.