Here Comes Everybody – group action just got easier

Here Comes EverybodyI went to hear a guy called Clay Shirky speak at the LSE earlier this month. More efficient people that me have documented what he had to say here and here.

I hadn’t come across Shirky before, but he’s the author of a book called ‘Here Comes Everybody’ and is regarded as a an expert at online collaboration/online movements.  He’s been advising the Obama team about how to keep the web outreach going now they’re in power. It was an enlightening 90 minutes, not all of it is necessarily relevant to campaigning, as much of it was about how governments engage with citizens.

This summary also comes with a ‘the room was full of tech geeks like me so does it work in the real world’ warning! But a few take home messages that got me thinking;

1 – The central premise of his argument is that the web is that ‘group action just got easier‘, and that the web has lowered the transaction costs. He pointed to the example of Facebook being used by students to close down HSBC a/c when they changed the T+C, suggesting that no longer do companies (and I think by extension but less so, governments) have the information and cooperation advantages that they used to have. The web makes it easier to cooperate and share the information you need (this case about how to close down your HSBC a/c).

2 – He argued that Obama was the first ‘platform candidate’ that is, he encouraged people to take his message and make it work for them. He contrasted the McCain online outreach, which was ‘here are some points to make on your blog’ with the activities that people like will.I.am and others had done to take the Obama message.

The challenge for me from this to campaigners, was how do we do this, albeit it on a much smaller scale. Do we needto more to just give our campaigners some key messages/points and let them work for them, or do we do this already?Are their any good examples to

3 – In the Q+As at the end he got into an interesting discussion about the ongoing value of newspapers, he was arguing that the newspaper model of making people pay for news is dying, because people will increasingly get their information from online sources, often ultra local and more interactive. I don’t know if I agree, but got me thinking about two things, a) what would our campaigning look like if we didn’t have newspapers to try to communicate our messages to decision makers, because that’s in part why we do reports, stunts, etc, and b) if paid for newspapers are dying what about the magazines we produce will people want something different from us, does it mean an end to print publications?

4 – He had some insightful stuff to say about the way that new media needs to be incoporated into an organisation. That it should sit somewhere between the technology and communication teams, but allowing space to innovate was criucial as was regular reviewing of what was working and not. He said that because the web changes so quickly it challenges the traditional planning cycles of many organisations.

5 – Finally he pointed to the recent campaign by mysociety on MPs expenses, as an example of one of the first completely web based campaigns.  More on their blog – Its a fascinating example of not only how to mobilise lots of people in a short time just using the web, but then getting them to translate into action, and one I think I’m going to come back to.

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