A river that needs crossing political and tech blogs - On the political side, there is arrogance and ignorance, on the geek side there is naivety and over- complexity

My videos are on these two youtube channels visionontv 3,832,876 views and undercurrents 22,689,976 views

 

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Entries with tag plugandplay .

Breaking the frame gathering

I have decided not to get involved in this activist tech gathering even though it is completely on the subjects that are core to my work. I had tried to interact but with no noticeable affect. 

The is a failer of imagination in almost all atavist tech that shapes a blankness in ideas and almost no real action. Its not that the ideas and campaigns are not important as some of them clearly are, it is more limited framework that these things are addressed with.

This gathering reminds me of the Rebellious Media Conference from a few years back which took up a lot of my time and had no affect what so ever. On balance the RMC damaged the declining alt-media by taking focus and energy, am worried that this gathering will lead to the same outcome.

If you wont to get involved in real alternative tech in action, and while doing thinking about the bigger picture try http://activisttech.org or the develoment side try this http://hamishcampbell.com/en/home/-/blogs/the-tech-manifesto-of-the-omn

Solar vagabond - Smart Phone

This is a setup which will easily charge and run small electrical devices up to tablets in size. The panel Weighs only 0.8 lbs (0.36 kg) and fold to the size of a book.

List of equipment: http://www.goalzero.com/shop/p/79/Guide-10-Adventure-Kit/1:1/

UPDATE: this kit worked very well, now off to a desert island for a month to test it out with some new battery’s and bigger phone.

UPDATE2: it failed the test see this post for more info

The Activists - FUCKED UP USE of corporate social media

It consistently amazed me how activists walked into the trap of corporate social networking. I can understand NGO groups narrowness of focus, its were the funding is. I can understand traditional media's embracing of Facebook, Twitter and the closed ecosystem of app stores as its a perceived as a “safe” place to run from the crumbling business markets they are part of.

Lets look at each in turn:

Corporate social networking is perfect for the less radical charity's as the company's running theses networks wont to be seen to be social responsible and charity’s are the perfect place to be seen to care with out the risk of upsetting sponsors, advertisers and investors.

The more progressive parts of the traditional media, such as the FT have realised the trap they leapt into when building inside Facebook, Twitter etal. And are now back to prioritising building on the open web using HTML5. The less progressive side are now negotiating from a weak postion with these new powerful gatekeepers.

10 years ago Activist media was a worldwide phenomenon, inventing and leading many of the technology and techniques that are now mainstream. But two things happened, firstly they got bogged down in “activist process” and on the other the “lifestyle of geek” open-source culture. These together slowed innovation to a stop, the functionality and reach of such new networks as Facebook and Twitter rendered this moribund activist media less relevant to new generations of activists such as the climatecamp media team. Leaving space for the NGO focus embracing of corporate social media on one hand and the manipulation of traditional media on the other as the main ongoing successful strategy.

Were are we now? I was at the party to cover the celebrate of the death of Margaret Thatcher recently in Trafalgar sq. The were hundreds of cameras both video and stills probably as many people filming and documenting as there party goers or police. But almost no radical media made it online, the was a smattering of wonabe mainstream media such as Vice and Demotix. What interested me was running into all the retired activist and the ones that now work for NGO's it struck me that the is no continuity, no new radical media, it had almost completely ended. Few small exception’s to this are ourselves (visionontv) and ONN who are both small fish.

As I sead at the time, we as activist's fucked up in two ways: in wholesale embracing of corporate social media and in the narrowing of activist tec into geek lifestyle. Can we learn from this? Its time to reinvent grassroots bottom up media – its not to late. 

Hard or Soft is the question

The are two types of security in activism (DRAFT)

The is the outline of what am talking about here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soft_security

Hard security

"hard security for traditional mechanisms like authentication and access control, and soft security for social control mechanisms."

Encryption and anonymity, hiding communication so that people can trust that there interaction is with the people they think it is with and nobody eales. in activist cercals this has a strong tendency to centralise activist infrastructure and activity around a small "shadowy" group. And history tells us this is the easiest place for state, and corporate spy’s to live in these encrypted/secret shadows. Examples dailymail and Guardian

Soft security

"Soft security attempts to discourage harm and mitigate any damage, while quality control attempts to improve a product and weed out non-conforming output. The social controls on the production of Wikipedia documents demonstrate both principles, using discussion pages, accessible edit histories, policies and guidelines, in contrast to traditional document control mechanisms such as workflow and authorization, to achieve both soft security and quality control.[2]

In commercial security, soft security is often achieved through training of staff to manage the environment (1) to make disruptions more noticeable, (2) to make disruptions less socially acceptable, and (3) to create a perceived vested interest in the public.[3]

Openness, activity streams, bring communication into the open to building trust. Using open tools so that you have a very direct and continues inside into what’s going on so you can actual see and trust the popule you are working because you can see them. This builds a secure working relationship and dynamic and effective community of action. Pleapole who have something to hide stand out and are easey to see.

The is a case for hard security in activism and we have tradition to facilitate this - phone, meetups, affinity groups etc. the problem am highlighting here is the online infrastructure that we use to implement so called hard security in activism are almost all based on clinet server infrastructure which in hand with the geek obsession with hard security makes the admin of these centralised services into a fatel weakness - if I was a modern police spy i would be an activist syes admin running the group website and e-mail list and it is very easy to take on these responsibility and stay int he shadows.

For hard security in activism the is a much better model of peer to peer model were the is no centre, it is horizontal web of trust. this is not popular amuncest geek activism for a number of resions probably the most important (unspoken) resign is one of control. An example of a workable open source tool that activist could use is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Retroshare would be good if a group of activist tried to work with this.

The ideas behind soft security is that the open web is simply not an appropriate tool for "spiky" organising and that most of the client server "secure" tools are pseudonymous at best and blatantly open at worst, this would be fine if people understood this but they don’t and these tools are pushed on less techy people as the right this to do. This is both dangerous in a very practical sense and damaging as it makes activism much less dynamic and flexible. The tech tools activist use dampen there effectiveness and lead to a continuation of top-down working practices.

Activist hard security is currently both damaging to the movements from its dysfunctionally and from it pseudonymous. So if soft security is a much better model for MOST activist organising and is actually what the HUGE majority of activist are doing when they use facebook for organising - the question of facebook opens up a hole other connected can of worms.

Very good DRAFT wright up of these issues here http://meatballwiki.org/wiki/SoftSecurity

End of the internet as a open-platform comes much closer

Communications Minister Ed Vaizey anoucment means that the end of the internet as a open-platform comes much closer http://bit.ly/cpDh2j can't help feeling we are sleep walking into this. Though as the undead of the corporate media is riseng from its coffins - we are seeing the peasants with burning torches in the streets #demo2010 but will site such as #fitwatch still be accessible when we lose #netneutrality and do you think your ISP will allow tools like this http://tcrn.ch/c7Ah15 #Adblock any more? As paula at @fossbox says "well, they're just handing the entire UK infrastructure to corporate empires - no discussion, no appeal :( "

Its a HUGE problem, at http://visionon.tv we wont to be at the centre of the open-internet debate do you wont to help make this happen – if you do join the site and make it real the DIY way.

Many films on the background to this subject here http://visionon.tv/plugandplay

The way forward - some simple social/technical solutions

* Nurture basic journalism/story telling skills in alt-media to make better outreach media. LINK

* Linking is key, link to alternative resources where ever you can, the easiest way of competing with corporate news sources is by building a web of connecting linked alt-news sources.

* Aggregation is a way to make decentralisation work.

* Have the main way of inputing to any alt-project at a local level then let the content work its way up to the top of subject/geographic aggregation sites. While always keeping the valid link back to the original source. I know its hard but try and avoid building consensus/bureaucratic publish from the top sites/projects where possible.

* QUOTE “content is just something for conversation” This opens the question of where does the interaction around content take place – this is still a unresolved issue and needs more thought and technical work – for now a diversity of strategy is probably the best way forward. While always keeping the valid link back to the original source.

* This is a controversial point - ONLY use the corporate social media solutions for link building and feeding people into contempery media projects – corporate social media solutions should be avoided as much as possible as original sources of distribution. DO use them and abuse them but its a common mistake to build real companies and communities solely within them. Its easy, publish on a alt-newsite site/blog then publish a link on facebook and twitter, you can use tools that do this automatically.

* Be open to using all tools, but try and come down on using free/opensource and open standards were possible. For two reasons

1) there is an opportunity for people to build things with opensource and openstandards using your project that you DIDN'T think of – this is actually where almost all innovation on the web comes from.

2) all corporate tools are bound up with the need to create profit before functionality and user experience so in the end they all have to sell out and focus on profit before users/content, its just a matter of time, the ones that don't follow this line run out of funding and all your work vanishes anyway.

* RSS and Creative Commons are your friends, use them well in every project you create.

That's really it, let's work together to use the “digital hole” undermining corporate media “to replace it with something nicer” its really not that difficult. Let's all Link and Aggregate based on open standards.

Hamish Campbell, (typed while) camping in the forest at the beach in the bay of Biscay.

StopG8 website - Activist web organising tools are broken

 

The web is fundamentally a peer to peer network, as are human relationships. Let's look at a recent activist website built for the G8 protest in London https://network23.org/stopg8. It is a one way approach – a directing tool for a small minority of unknown and unknowable people to direct the majority of people, with limited ways for the majority to talk back or take part in the web organising.

 

Wordpress the tool used here is a a top-down tool, original a single user blogging platform, thus its useful for hierarchical opaque organising, which goes hand in hand with “closed security” minded geeks and activists - the problem oveasuly lies in the fact that such tools restrict peoples online involvement and this leads to a dampening and shrinking of offline involvement or the moving of open organising onto the closed web of Facebook etc. Wordpress is fine for a noticeboard site or personal blog but not for any form of self organising or group networking, its broken as a way of building a dynamic social moveme

A more obvious activist approach would be to use opentools such as wikis and forums, and self organising web spaces to build a creative movement “open security” model were people could could build “trust” by activity feeds. A tool for this would be single sign in site built on liferay such as http://visionon.tv

“Closed security” gives the dangerous illusion of anonymity were non exists, this both gives control to a small group of unaccountable activists and dampens self organising – the life blood of activism.

 

“Open security” widens ownership and builds spaces for creativity, its based on transparent trust networks. It builds security as the is no foles sense of anonymity – if you wont to organise something “spiky or norty” you whisper at the back of the pub.

 

The is no security in centralised activist infrastructure as you don’t know who actually runs them and you don’t know who is upriver of their hosting providers. The is a clear danger that this pseudonymous is mistaken for true anonymity and this danger comes at a clear organising cost.  At the moment we have a clear failer of activist web culture, which can be seen in the shrinking of activism ( and its replacement with clicktivism) – post a comment if you would like to have a go at fixing this.

 

Lifeboat to liveaboard conversion

Am thinking about getting one of these to covert into a live-in open media centre. They vary from 7-9m in length and have seating (like sardines) for 30-60 people. 

Proposed mission would be to: 
* remove most of the seats to open the space up 
* paint it so it wasnt bright orange (need a good weeks dry weather to 
do this) 
* put in some very basic live in space, bed, table etc. 
* fit some basic solar panels, batterys etc. 
* steam punk it up a bit. 

This would be done wombling style if anyone wont's to help. 


They are fresh off oil rigs so should be in working condition with all survival gear in them.  It seams that one of the reasons the is a lot of surplus lifeboats is that oil rig workers are getting fat (PDF) so the current lifeboats aren't large anufe.

Am going up to Scotland to have a look (and maybe buy) end of the week, then put it on the river lee/canal to do the rest of the fitting out over the summer.

Outline cost of liveaboard in the UK

BSS costs (4 years) £150

insurance (1 year) £120

Gold licence, all rivers and canals (1y) £643 (less for only rivers or canals)

Craning off truck into water on river lee £142

Red diesel Propulsion is about 0.75ppl

 

Licence initially would be continues cruising - Optional cost Mooring £1000-5000 (1y)

 

Here is the law on continues cruising – you can stay for two weeks in many spots http://canalrivertrust.org.uk/media/library/633.pdf

 

Here is the width of canals - Red and blue are good for the lifeboat size wise - Gray likely not http://www.jim-shead.com/waterways/mwp.php?wpage=Inland-Waterways-of-England.htm

The is breakdown cover for boats like the AA - river rescue 

Things to look at:

insulation

Lifeboat dft (PDF) 

BSS handbook

Working on the boat - insulation

Insulation is importent for comfort and to stop rot/rust issues with condensation on boats.

http://www.spray-insulation.co.uk/Measuring.htm

http://www.sprayfoaminsulation.co.uk/services/marine-boat-insulation

The will have an added effect of absorbing/dampening engine noise - as I have herd that the lifeboats can be very noisy. Its going to be expensive - around £500 http://www.foamseal.co.uk/diy-spray-foam/index.php?cPath=3800006 but can leave this till the end of the summer.

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