'Community building' Monday 9 July 07

Suw's 'Communities and Constituencies' blogpost prompted a few ORG supporters to gather and discuss 'community-building'. Please help us expand the community by developing and commenting on the suggestions below. You might get into the 'community' spirit by first reading Suw's post. Please make your comments in the space provided below each suggestion - you can either identify yourself or leave them anonymously. And if you have other suggestions, tag them on the end.

1. Identifying the ORG community


We all have assumptions about the ORG community (geeky, male), but are these accurate? To find out, we could do a survey. The purpose would be to better understand the makeup of our community, which would in turn be useful for identifying targets for promotion. (Note of caution: would be optional rather than compulsory. The results may be valuable in terms of growing the ORG community, but our priority is respect for Supporter's privacy.) Suggested questions:

  • What's your day-job?
  • What digital rights issues are you interested in?
  • Why did you 1st join ORG?
  • Why do you continue to support ORG?


2. Localising the ORG community


ORG should not be London-centric, nor get trapped by the dreaded 'Westminster bubble', so must develop more support for digital rights and ORG across the entire British Isles. This would be greatly aided by volunteers coordinating ORG Supporters in their locality, whether that's in their city, town or county is up to you. The main responsibility would be to arrange meetings (fortnightly or monthly?), but also tell the Community what's happening on the local level. We would supply ORG-branded schwag (badges, stickers, flyers), suggest agendas for discussion, even find expert speakers to join your discussion. Ideally, arrangements for and records of local discussions would happen on the wiki and mailing lists.


Running a community group or just coordinating activists in an area can be a lot of work. Here are some ways to make it easier:

  • Help with funding so they can do things like pay for open bars, run slick events, etc. without dipping into their own pocket or spending ages applying for grants;
  • Have a checklist of people to talk to in the local area, such as the local council arts/maps/data officers, LUGs, colleges and universities, existing communities with similar interests (especially activist groups), and so on. They will give you so much advise and help if you're friendly, it's a life-saver;
  • Encourage concrete and fun activities by documenting ideas, we started this with the Free Culture UK Group Guide. I can't emphasise the "fun" enough!
  • Spread the main ORG events out around the country, for example launch a project or report at a regional event (unless it would wreck the launch). This will help build up regional identity and avoid everyone feeling like the "real" stuff still happens in London.

Could link this with student suggestions further down the page, i.e. universities are a great place to set up local groups and could be a focus?

How did the recent meet-up go in Scotland for local supporters there?

Scotland meet up went well -- I definitely don't think that there needs to be any money from ORG involved. Just pick a pub or other venue and meet up and talk about ORG-related issues. Anyone that wants to do something bigger, would need to find other funding (but I don't think that we are talking about anything expensive anyway).

3. ORG @ SNP Conference?


We are planning events at the major (Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat) political party conferences, but do not have budget for the SNP conference in Aviemore. Given the SNP are now the ruling power in Scotland, ORG should be present. How can we attend, but not break the bank?


What is needed in Aviemore is the cost of a booth, cost of travel, and cost of accommodation and subsistence.

Ideas for attending Aviemore: - Find a friendly supporter who can offer accommodation in or near Aviemore - Raise donations specifically to cover costs for the SNP conference

If we can't afford it, what other activities can we do?

- Arrange a meeting with key SNPs - throw some ORG party/event in Edinburgh (expensive but still potentially cheaper than the SNP conference) and invite SNPs, as well as other Members of Scottish Parliament. - Send info packs to their research staff

Any other suggestions?

4. Relevant communities


In discussing the makeup of the existing community, and who we should reach out to in future, we identified three different kinds of community. Examples of communities of interest include open-source fanatics and wine lovers. Communities of locality are bound by geography, such as inhabitants of Brighton or Bridgend. Finally, communities of users are connected by the particular tools they favour, such as Drupal users or Beetle drivers. What communities do you belong to? Please develop the list we've started below, so we get a clearer picture of what our supporters are into.

  • London Ruby Users Group (LRUG)
  • London Perlmongers
  • Linux Users - which particular (local) groups do our supporters belong to?
  • CC-EW and CC-Scotland
  • Open Democracy
  • FreeOurData
  • Civil Liberties groups (e.g. Unlock Democracy)
  • Privacy (e.g. No2ID)
  • Shooting People
  • Zoetrope
  • Free Software Foundation
  • Foundation for Free Information Infrastructure
  • Anyone belong to or know of 'writers networks' - perhaps you belong to other 'creative networks'?
  • Musicians Union
  • CC-Salon
  • 'Open Access' communities
  • Schools/Universities (young people should be aware of privacy issues WRT to websites storing information about searches etc)


5. Promoting the Blog


We want more to increase blog publicity by getting more comments and linkbacks. How should we do this?


  • BoingBoing - Cory Doctorow seems to love this stuff and if you submit worthwhile stories to BoingBoing, there's a good chance he'll link back to you: sent 300,000+ hits to my site in a few weeks.
  • Take advantage of supporters and social news sites? Free Software Magazine sends notifications of articles which are on Digg, with a link to the story and a suggestion that you read it; in the same e-mail they also provide a link to the story on Digg, suggesting that if you found it interesting, you digg it.

6. Highlighting the best org-discuss threads


Our busiest mailing list is full of interesting chat, although is maybe too high-volume for some. If we identified these top-threads, we could somehow extract and link to them for wider enjoyment. We'd like suggestions on whether we could / should publish these threads?


Great idea, IMHO. Not sure what the best mechanism would be though; perhaps a specific category on the blog?

7. Engaging with students


We want to promote our work amongst student communities, and hope to get help from the Students Union to distribute materials around Freshers events this coming September. More particularly we should promote our work with computing or programming groups at universities across Britain. Please help us by identifying student groups who would be interested to hear of our work.


  • Practical "action days" might be a good way to get students, or anybody for that matter, involved.
  • Don't focus just on computing/programming societies. Realise they're likely to be sympathetic/helpful, but might proliferate a stereotype and put people off. Other groups who might be interested - Artists/Musicians, anybody who uses a social networt! etc etc - sorry quite vague.
  • Freshers' Fayres are places where organisations perform massive data captures on new, unsuspecting students. I'm quite tickled by the idea of publishing a light hearted ORG guide to tell students how to get off the databases that they are being put on at every other stall. It would be a genuinely useful thing to provide, and a nice introduction to some of the issues we deal with, making it all tangible.