Ten web tools beyond Twitter and Facebook activists should consider


10:20 am - January 23rd 2011

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contribution by Sean Gittins

Though social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook and blogs are the foundations upon which much online activism is anchored, the evolving demands of campaigns require activists to develop and expand upon this base.

And there are many such tools to help you, even if they appear daunting at first. Here are some websites and explanations on what they can offer activists to gather information.

1. To contact MPs or gather information about Local Councils Openly Local and They Work For You are useful. The latter is an easy way of finding out not only who the MP of a specific area is, but what they have been saying on their constituents’ behalf as well as providing information on recent Commons and Lords debates. The former provides a wealth of information on Local Government and related issues such as finance, councils, councillors, committees and committee meetings.

2. For knowledge of how much public money is spent and where it goes, Where Does My Money Go provides information in easy-to-understand visualisations. Also useful, Write To Them provides a way of finding out who the Councillors, Lords, London Assembly Members, Members of Parliament and Members of the European Parliament are for a given area, whilst also giving an accessible template for contacting them.

3. Promoted by its creators as part of a wider project to maintain honesty in election campaign, Election Leaflets allows users to record and view the election leaflet pledges of those running for election and thereby seeing whether those elected have kept to their original election pledges or not.

4. A large amount of information about the corporate world is also available. For data about lobbyists, who has been meeting and when, see Who’s Lobbying. The site breaks down the meetings between public bodies and lobbyists into individuals, organisations, categories, and industries, so it user-friendly as well as containing copious detail.

5. Also useful is Open Corporates. Ambitiously aiming to have an address for every business in the world, it provides a wealth of data on the location of many businesses based in areas such as the UK, Bermuda, Luxembourg and Jersey.

6. Web tools also offer effective way of representing your own data. The use of online maps as used in the UKUncut movement to show points of action are a prime example of this, and ushahidi.com is a site providing tools to help you go about making your own.

7. Perhaps the visualization of data on web pages and creation of websites is your priority? Although a little knowledge is required to complete such tasks there are some excellent how-to guides available for beginners: this tutorials website has a selection of videos and tutorials from the Knight Digital Media Center – is particularly useful. Providing simple and practical introductions for many online tools used in creating campaigns, the tutorials range from how to use Flash, HTML, Dreamweaver, and audio-recording techniques, to guides for using social media and reporting methods.

8. For analysing, working through and presenting data, the sites Scraper Wiki and Google Refine provide tools to do so. The former provides a way of performing online ‘scrapes’ of web pages and collecting it into easy to manage format, whilst the latter is a way to make, organise, and tidy up any data you may have, and placing it into a more accessible format.

9. Often, getting new information and data can be the key to starting or growing a campaign – Freedom of Information requests have become an essential way of acquiring such data. What Do They Know is designed for making such requests, provides general advice about how any such request should be phrased, and allows you to view others previous Freedom of Information claims.

10. An increasing amount of online technology can be used for reporting protests and demonstrations. Many activists already use social media services such as Flickr and YFrog but increasingly common along similar lines are tools such as those found at QIK, which enables users to video stream live from a mobile phone to a website.

Also worth considering
Looking for a primer on how to set up a media section of a protest? This Climate Camp section has a host of information and advice which covering issues such as writing press releases and dealing with the mainstream and alternative media.

Those more interested in the broader issues of activism should look at Tactical Tech and Information Activism. The latter site outlines a simple ten-step approach to creating and maintaining a campaign and is illustrated in both written and audio format. The former is the website of the Tactical Technology Collective, an international NGO aiming to empower rights-based movements with the tools of information technology. Including a range of toolkits and guides that can be used for most forms of activism, it has a variety of information.

Lastly, the set of tools on show at Center for Investigative Reporting are practicable for many campaigners. It shows ordinary citizens the practical methodologies and skills of an investigative reporter.

The defining feature of online tools is that they provide an infrastructure around which people can interact and express themselves politically and personally.

By expanding upon these inherent features of online technologies we can continue to enhance and build upon the social movements that have characterised the last several months.

—-
With thanks to Chrinon Ltd, MySociety, CountCulture, The Open Knowledge Foundation, Moving Flow, Ushahidi, The Berkeley Graduate School Of Journalism, ClimateCamp, TacticalTech, and the teams behind Electionleaflets and ScraperWiki.

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Reader comments


@Sean Gittins

That’s a fantastic set of resources. Thank you so much for this post.

Good post. I’d also recommend:

http://www.historycommons.org/

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=SourceWatch

And, of course, converting people through that “chat” function of internet chess.

Thanks for this – an amazing list of resouces : )

The key to success is how to combine these socail network together and make most profit. I think…

Good post. Also, don’t forget the UKuncut mobile app! It installs on your iPhone, I’ve not tried it on Android, just point your phone browser to it.

ukuncut.mobi

It uses GPS and Google Maps to tell you where your nearest tax avoiding businesses and ukuncut actions are! Pretty nifty.

Useful guide to internet security here- http://www.schnews.org.uk/diyguide/anonymousinternet.htm

7. George McLean

And try falseeconomy.org.uk for a local insight on the cuts throughout the UK.

Have you ever thought about talking to people, face to face?

OP: “Lastly, the set of tools on show at Center for Investigative Reporting are practicable for many campaigners. It shows ordinary citizens the practical methodologies and skills of an investigative reporter.

The defining feature of online tools is that they provide an infrastructure around which people can interact and express themselves politically and personally.

By expanding upon these inherent features of online technologies we can continue to enhance and build upon the social movements that have characterised the last several months.”

Next week, we will explain this in English.


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  99. britainologist.co.uk » Ten web tools for activists (and scholars, too)

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  107. links for 2011-01-25 « Social Stoke

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  109. Promises to Students Don’t Count « beyondclicktivism

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  110. Tim Hardy

    @fwalloe @markwrightuk88 useful web tools for activists by @sean_gittins here http://t.co/PJPRDRyf

  111. Fredrik Walløe

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  112. Vladimir Rylov

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  113. Sean Gittins

    @gavinthomson I wrote this ages ago but some of the sites might be useful http://t.co/NSQCYpd2

  114. Gavin Thomson

    The lovely @sean_gittins knew 21 months ago that I'd one day ask this, + compiled a list of web tools for activists: http://t.co/teXoXh3P

  115. Joel Benjamin

    The lovely @sean_gittins knew 21 months ago that I'd one day ask this, + compiled a list of web tools for activists: http://t.co/teXoXh3P





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