Should we blog about this?

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I just learned that a large number of advocacy groups and tech organizations are planning a day of online protest against NSA spying for Feb. 11. The sponsors and details are at The Day We Fight Back. We’ve established that we’re willing to blog about surveillance. The reason we have “opinion” in our tagline and “commentary” in our description is because we got so much positive feedback on that post.

Before I announce support for this, though, I want to give my first impression and discuss it. Most of the big sponsors are organizations that I respect and believe to be on the right side of the issue. There are several levels of participation, which is good. You can simply sign up and post some art on your website. You can sign a petition sponsored by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and others to support an international agreement to place limits on mass surveillance. You can read the 13 Necessary and Proportionate Principles here. I haven’t read them, but those of you who know me well know I am already blocking off time to analyze the document and decide whether or not post it on Facebook and tag 50 people with it.

There is talk of grassroots lobbying:

If you’re in the US: Thousands of websites will host banners urging people to call/email Congress. Plans may change, but we intend to ask legislators to oppose the FISA Improvements Act, support theUSA Freedom Act, and enact protections for non-Americans.

If you’re not in the US: Visitors will be asked to urge appropriate targets to institute privacy protections.

So, my question to you, followers and friends, comrades and contributors is: Should I make this a priority for the next couple of weeks? Do you care about this? Are you thinking about supporting it yourself? If I write about it, will you read about it?

I need to have a discussion and spend a day going over the details before I start changing profile art and adjusting my editorial schedule. I have a few more remarks after the cut for readers who are following the strategic development of these blogs and for collaborators who are supporting me by sharing on other social media.

I will be honest. We’re in the entertainment business. We have a core audience and we’ve built it with well-turned prose about popular culture, seasoned with feminine smartassery and academic geekery. It is a delicious concoction. Our strategy has never been to build an audience rapidly by writing about controversy under provocative headlines.

Our strengths are the quality of our content, our diversity of perspectives, our openness to others, and our ability to post consistently. So far we’ve played to those strengths with the goal of  making memorable impressions, developing an audience of regular visitors, and making the most of opportunities for incremental growth where we find them. I want a big audience, sure. I want it so much I can taste it. But I want to build a community even more.

I need some input on this question: If I decide to go at this HARD, will that upset the equilibrium we’ve worked so hard to establish here? I can support it elsewhere without involving this blog if I need to. Since I do not consider myself the owner of Sourcerer any longer, I have to think about this.

This day of protest is tailor-made for a Thunderclap. (If you are unfamiliar, I have a page that will catch you up.) Here’s why I say this is Thunderclap material:

  1. Feb. 11 is almost three weeks away.
  2. This is something a lot of people care about, and it provides multiple options for an appeal to take action.
  3. It’s a big topic. That means it will be easy to talk about without being repetitive, so we can make lots of opportunities to ask people to support the Thunderclap.
  4. We’ve already pulled one Thunderclap off. We learned a lot of things that will be helpful for this one, and we familiarized a lot of people with the ease and safety of Thunderclap.

I have to say, though, we can’t just take the Rolling with Kings project as a model. We’ll have to deal with a different set of obstacles, but I think if we move quickly, we will also find we have a few advantages we did not have the first time around. I’ll discuss those later if it looks like anyone is interested.

I’ll have to make sacrifices to get this done, though. Come hell or high water, I’m spending a few hours with Isildur this weekend, but after that I’ll have to put Tolkien on hiatus until mid-February and I won’t have time to read what my friends are writing about the Silmarillion. I am loathe to do that, because the Tolkien bloggers I’ve met here have shown me real collegiality, and I don’t want to yank them around.

We have enough other pop culture stuff piled up and I know enough good bloggers to keep us posting about pop culture every day for at least the next two weeks. The overall content of the blog won’t change very much, but Tolkien will be replaced by mass surveillance.

I can take a stab at this and have a reasonable chance of success, but to do it I need support. I would like to have conversations over the weekend with those of you who stuck with me to the end of this post, so that I can make an informed decision about whether or not I have what I need.

The second I feel like I have the support, I’ll start a conversation about what the Thunderclap post should link to and how we should make the appeal.

h/t for alerting me to this campaign –  @pirateorg (thepirateorganization.com)

 image: used without permission from thedaywefightback.org. This is politics, and they are organizers, so I have no doubt they will approve.

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41 thoughts on “Should we blog about this?

  1. Note – Organization is the thing I know best, and if I know anything about organization, I know this: when you see an opportunity that might be feasible, the first thing you do is talk to people and see how much support you can mobilize. I found out about this about five hours ago, and I saw a chance to mobilize. I am in tactical mode right now. I am trying to decide whether what I am proposing here is realistic. I will make the decision on Sunday afternoon, and the decision will be based on the support it gets between now and then. It’s all about traffic cycles and attention span. Tuesday afternoon is too late to set up the Thunderclap.

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    • Update – I’ve looked at the 13 Principles closely enough to be ok supporting them, not because I think they will ever be turned into a treaty, but because it’s an assertion of some very important principles that have taken a beating over the last 15 years. I’ll have a post about it at some point whether we do anything with the day of protest or not. I’ll look into the U.S. FISA legislation when I have time, and if you are following this, there are legal developments in the U.K. concerning the British government’s surveillance programs.

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      • Update – Thanks to everyone who expressed support for this by commenting, liking, or even just reading the whole thing. I’m not making any final decisions until tomorrow, but I am leaning against the Thunderclap. Making Sourcerer an official supporter is still on the table, and I am supporting this personally. I’m just not seeing the interest elsewhere that I need to organize a Thunderclap, but I am willing to support one, and I am monitoring Thunderclap to see if anyone else sets one up. In case you were wondering, I had specific social media metrics in mind to figure out whether or not the Thunderclap was worth a try, and I think the interest is too low at this point to make the effort worthwhile. If this were happening on Feb. 18, or if I had known about it a week earlier, things might be different. I’ll keep monitoring this thread and responding to anyone who want to talk about this.

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  3. Gene’O, I am here for you. I like this Idea and support it all the way. If I can help in any way please let me know. I look forward to this new path and I think It will be beneficial to both the writers and the readers. its an important message that has to get out there and a message that people are taking more and more seriously as time progresses because of the magnitude of the problem. I say go for it, and see where the wave takes you!

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    • Thanks! I’m definitely going to do something with it, I am just not sure what. I am just trying to gauge whether or not this is something anyone other than a few of our contributors would want to talk about. You never know what response you’re going to get on a blog until you post it.

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      • Byour a hundred percent right about that. There are a bunch of things that can be done with this idea. Perhaps all the interested parties can even group together on a new unique blog dedicated just to this topic. Just a thought

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        • That’s not a bad idea. I’d be interested in talking about that. The question would be how many people can we find on WordPress that are really interested? A blog devoted to this one thing, and supported by other blogs, could be very minimalist – just use the Manifest or Truly Minimal theme and focus on text and links. The blogroll could be just blogs who are “sponsors” which means taking an active role in updating it so that no one gets hit by having to run another blog by themselves. Imagine if we found 10 blogs to sponsor. That’s 10 reblogs every time something important enough to warrant that level of cooperation is posted.

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          • I am sure there are going to be some logistics issues for a dedicated blog but the blogroll idea sounds great. If your seriously interests in that then I am in! Problem is looking for others who enjoy and see the necessity of this topic. I am sure there are quite a few, we just have to convince them to get on board

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            • We just need to find them. Surveillance and NSA tags are a disaster because the U.S. Republican party denounced the NSA recently. I’ve been trying all day to figure out where to look for people I can talk to about this. A dedicated blog would not need to be updated daily, about 4 times per week would be sufficient. And are we talking about a project blog supporting this thing on Feb. 11, or are we talking about about a blog that crowdsources mass surveillance coverage on a more long-term basis?

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            • I had a long term idea in mind. But if you were looking for something shorter I’m ok with that as well. Perhaps it may eventually tun into some sort of security news site, the sky is the limit really. Let me know what you were thinking

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            • Here’s an alternative plan that eliminates the need for another blog. We form an alliance. We all list one another on static pages, display them prominently on our headers or sidebars, and use those pages to share links and have conversations. We can coordinate reblogging activities that way. no one has to run another site, and it allows us to integrate our networks. I am thinking longer-term, too.

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            • Not that sounds like a great plan. I will do that later and try to get this set up. Keep me updated with any more administrative details that needs attention

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            • Ok. I’ll create a page for it and think about how to use the pingbacks effectively. That way, it can just be something you and I are doing, and it can grow as we find people to come on board. I’ll drop a link to the page on this thread with a note that the conversation is moving over there.

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            • Sounds like a plan. I will create the page as well soon as well as create an article outlining what we are doing and opening the alliance to any interested parties

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            • Ok, good deal. I’ll have a page here in about 20 minutes. When you set yours up, I’ll use your page URL to link the two together, and you should do the same. I’ll either reblog the announcement or respond to it, depending on what you come up with.

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            • No, just a link is all I am doing. It will be a simple page that says we’re organizing a conversation about Mass Surveillance, and it’s a joint project. With a direct link to your surveillance page once you set it up. I’ll fine tune the language once we figure out what we’re about.

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  4. It seems to me that the SOPA and PIPA protests really had an effect, so it could be worth it to at least put up the banner and email Congress (pending further research of course.) I have little or no extra time right now but I’d be able to do that much, and would certainly be on board with somebody else doing the heavy lifting and organizing and whatnot. I’m only an okayish organizer and leader, but I’m a darn good assistant and supporter.

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    • Thanks! I don’t know what I’m going to do yet. The real question at this point is whether I should go and register this blog as a supporter, or whether I should go another route with the registration and just write about it a bit here. I would really rather just support someone else’s Thunderclap than organize one of my own, but I was looking last night and couldn’t find one that is directly related to this campaign. The last one we did wasn’t a ton of work, but it required continual conversation for 2 solid weeks to get 100 supporters. Our social reach isn’t all that great yet, and it may be too soon for us to do another one. At the very least, I’ll post the art on my personal profiles.

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        • Great. We’re setting up a couple of permanent pages to use for information-sharing and coordination. Not sure what will happen with the Feb. 11 thing, but we’re thinking longer-term. The pages are a way for people to contribute when they have something, and for us to keep track of one another. That way, this doesn’t take over anyone’s blogging life, but we all benefit from sharing information. The Leather LIbrary will have a page soon, and it will be linked to this one https://sourcererblog.wordpress.com/geneo-the-blogger/the-surveillance-project/

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          • Awesome. I’ve been planning to add some pages soon, I’ll see about adding one of these with links too, even if I don’t come up with many posts on my own.

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            • Even if you just drop links to things related to it on one of those pages, that’s helping. As much as anything, this is about seeing how much information we can pile up. The Leather Library’s page is linked now. I’m about to post a little something, but the real announcement won’t come until tomorrow or monday.

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            • If it follows my usual progression, I’ll sit here thinking “Geez, I have nothing to say, I guess I’ll just post a few links,” and then by the end of the week I’ll have 57 ideas and not enough time to research/write all of them. But cool.

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        • hey Hannah, I just want to share this with you as a way of saying thanks for your contribution to this thread, and since I know you have an interest in political science, you might appreciate it. I have three basic principles that I use to make decisions about whether to take action or not. Here they are:

          1. If you see an opportunity to do some good, and it requires mobilization, set the mobilization process in motion immediately.

          2. Never make commitments about specific goals or plans until you check your support.

          3. Once you see how much support you have, make a realistic plan. You don’t want to overreach with your opening move.

          I do it this way because I have suffered many, many defeats trying to figure this stuff out, and because I paid close attention to everyone who ever offered to teach me something about how social movements work. This is important stuff. It’s knowledge that’s in danger of being forgotten or relegated to the 20th century. I had to figure most of it out myself from reading books and analyzing my own failures.

          We have the beginnings of a long term project now, here:

          https://sourcererblog.wordpress.com/geneo-the-blogger/the-surveillance-project/

          And the only reason that page exists is because a few people commented on this post.

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            • Thanks! and cool. No hurry on the page. Whenever you have the time and energy, we’ll be here. We have enough support for this to get it going. Let me know when you do, though, so I can add it to my list.

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  5. Also, just looking at the NSA and surveillance tags, there doesn’t seem to be much interest on WordPress. There are plenty of posts, but they don’t have a lot of social support in the form of likes and comments, and it seems to be mostly a lot of people posting news items and personal rants, not bloggers having conversations. This is our worst-performing post in two weeks, attention-wise, and I think it is because of the tags.

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  6. It always seems weird to me when there is a mass protest about surveillance of the internet on the internet. Because it seems to be a foregone conclusion, and has been since we collectively put up that photo of us and our dog surrounded by smoke, with the tag: “I’m so high, buddy”.

    I’m not a fan of surveillance (I can hardly think of anyone who is) by the government toward its citizens, but I also think I’m one of the last generations who will feel genuinely uncomfortable simply at the amount of things that are available online. The government doesn’t really need to use cloak and dagger tactics against citizens, and I suspect even terrorists occasionally update their tumblrs, because it is just so convenient. The main problem comes in collecting and sifting all this information to find the relevant bits in the hoard we are willingly providing.

    Protesting without a definite cause, other than “We don’t like that you’re doing this, so much,” is counter-intuitive to me. It’s having a cake, posting a photo of yourself eating the cake, and then demanding that only a set number of people look at it. And I think that strange, double-standard-ish feeling comes across to other people, which makes the protests seem absurd and slightly childish.

    Is this way of thinking ridiculous? Is protesting surveillance by signing up with your name, number, and address an effective method? Is there something I’m missing in the discussion (I suspect there is)?

    (Also, completely off-topic: internet spell-check does not recognize “tumblr” as a word, which, c’mon internet. I am trying to meet you halfway.)

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    • I’ve noticed that about tumblr. Part of this is about building support to pressure Congress to influence decisions on specific legislation, but that is just the ACLU’s component, and I haven’t looked at that part of it closely enough to form an opinion yet, so some of the sponsors are using this to ask people to support specific things. And the reason I posed all this as a series of questions instead of making a firm statement is because I want to look into the details more, and was genuinely interested in getting other peoples’ take on it. Thanks so much for stopping by 🙂

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    • And I don’t think that way of thinking is ridiculous – I get what you’re saying. For me this isn’t so much about the personal privacy aspect as about the fact that what is being collected and how it is being used needs to be more transparent, and we need to be able to honestly evaluate how it’s affecting our due process and rights to be secure from warrantless searches. The NSA spying on people it suspects are potentially dangerous is one thing, but I don’t want federal police agencies or state governments using the same techniques to selectively prosecute people, and that is a real risk.

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