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Dispatches from NetSquared -- Day 1

Wow. Day 1 was amazing.

The conversations were inspiring, the presentations were interesting and very lively, but overall, the best part by far is hanging out with all these cool people. Having worked remotely on the NetSquared site for the last 6 months, I've developed great relationships with a lot of the folks at Techsoup and Compumentor, so it's been awesome to finally make f2f connections with these super-super-super people. And meeting the 'strangers' in the room has been equally amazing. It's impossibly exciting to me to be in the company of so many people doing good work in the world. 

It's exciting to me to see all the activity that's been happening on the NetSquared site, too -- site traffic is through the roof, the community blog is on fire with people  live-blogging and commenting on various sessions, and the remote conference rooms are totally buzzing. The community has really come out. If you haven't checked it out lately, you really should. It's awesome.

I've been taking some notes on the conference sessions I've attended. As I mentioned above, there are lots of folks doing a great job of live-blogging and notetaking the conference, so I'm not going to try to re-create the sessions in great detail. But I do have a lot to relate, and I'm excited to go over the high points of my day. I'll try to include notes for finding more info where I can. I'll start with the morning sessions, and I'll post about the afternoon sessions later today. Ok, here goes...

Blackwell Conversation 

The conference opener was an introductory conversation with Angela Glover-Blackwell from PolicyLink, an American nonprofit policy research organization. She spoke very articulately and passionately on the importance of scrutinizing elected representatives, industry leaders and policy-makers on the basis of their progressive social agenda first, and their use of technology second. To paraphrase:

"look to the people who lead with their social agenda. Don't get snowed by tech-savvy-ness or cutting edge use of technology for its own sake. Look to the folks who have real, big ideas about people. Because if the progressive and compelling social agenda is there, the progressive technology use will follow. It has to. It's in the air now." 

For more info on Angela's session, check out her session page on NetSquared. And be sure to check out the great work she and others are doing (particularly around race issues in the US) at

Making the most of disruption 

The first plenary session of the day was about disruptive technologies (technologies that cause significant changes in the way that individuals live, businesses operate, or society behaves). Howard Rheingold and Paul Saffo were the panelists, and for experts on disruption, they were exceptionally well behaved. 

They took us on a kind of casual tour through pivotal disruptive technologies of the 20th century. One of the most interesting (IMO) themes that emerged from their talk is that tools are tools, and they're nothing more until you use them.

To illustrate the point, Paul related a great story of early thinking on the implications of air travel. Apparently there was a wide-spread and popular conversation going on after the invention of airplanes about the fact that from the air, one can't see natural borders at all. And the implication of this observation, of course, was that if we can't see natural borders anymore, their importance will diminish, and we'll (finally!) see the emergence of a truly global community. Airplanes will usher in a new age. Airplanes for world peace!

Obviously (and not all that shockingly), though, airplanes have not actually brought us world peace. Similarly, emerging tools will not bring us peace on their own -- tools, however cool, don't do anything on their own. Revolutionary changes come about through the strategic use of these new tools to achieve the greater good. In a room full of technologists & tool-geeks (among others), this was a brave and welcome sentiment, and it helped to set a great tone for the rest of the day.

Check out the session page on the NetSquared site for more info. 

We the Media: the rise of grassroots & open-source journalism

Next up was a great panel discussion on citizen journalism featuring Dan Gillmor, Hong Eun Taek and Ethan Zuckerman, moderated by Michael Rogers.


This was perhaps the most familiar conversation of the morning for an Indymedia wonk like me. It was interesting to hear someone like Hong Eun Taek (from the Korea-turned-international news phenomenon speak about the power and popularity of citizen-driven media, especially when it comes to predicting the future of media, on and offline. One of the nice highlights from the session was this comment from Ethan:

Whether we ask them or not, people will make media. And they'll do it before the media gets there. This idea -- the citizen witness (& the citizen witness with a camera) is not a new phenomenon. (remember JFK?) But nowadays, where formerly there was maybe one image from one observer, there are now thousands.

 The conversation went on to outline some of the new and interesting ways that people are contributing to and creating media, including Wikipedia, mashups & the ever-popular internet video satire, as well as blogs, vlogs, podcasts & the like. Plus, Ethan Zuckerman (of Global Voices) is a real 5-star speaker. Check him out.

For more info on this session, check out the session page on  


Well, that's the morning. As I said, I'll post more about day 1 later today. For now, I'm back to paying attention to the ever-inspirational Amy Goodman of DemocracyNow. Awesome!

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Now en route to NetSquared

Rob and Aaron are both heading down to San Jose this week for the NetSquared conference. For the past eight months, we've been working with the CompuMentor/Techsoup team that is behind this event. 

The conference aims at pushing nonprofit engagement with the "social web" (aka "web 2.0") to the next level. The web site (which we helped develop) has built an online community around the same agenda, and will now link the online community to the San Jose conference through a two-day remote conference.

I'm holding down the virtual fort from here in Vancouver, but look forward to hearing updates from Rob & Aaron. And if you're going to be at NetSquared yourself, be sure to say hello.

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May 30 & 31: NetSquared's online conference with nonprofit leaders

as posted on Corante's Civic Minded blog

Where can you find inspiration for online advocacy, guidance for online faclitation, and gossip about online politics? On Tuesday May 30th and Wednesday May 31st, NetSquared is hosting a remote conference featuring live chats and Q&A sessions with leaders from across the nonprofit web.
Find me at the Net2 Remote Conference

The remote conference is happening at the same time as a two-day confab in San Jose. After eight months of work on the NetSquared project, I'm heartbroken that I won't be there in person (something about not travelling in the ninth month of pregnancy, mutter mutter grumble) -- and absolutely determined that the online event will be so fabulous that when my colleagues return from San Jose, they're going to be jealous that I was the one who got to hang out in the chat room.

And what better way to get over that morning-after-the-Memorial-Day-before feeling than to spend the day chatting with leaders in nonprofit technology -- leaders like:

  • Judith Feder on "Health care and web 2.0 patient communities"
  • Rolf Kleef of Greenpeace
  • Micki Krimmel of Participant Productions on "Media that Mobilizes: An Inconvenient Truth, ClimateCrisis and more tales from"
  • Beth Kanter on "Tagging in the Nonprofit World"
  • Robyn Deupree of Bloglines Lisa Stone of BlogHer
  • Alexandra Samuel of Social Signal on "Building Online Community: Behind the Scenes at NetSquared"
  • Mike Linksvayer of Creative Commons on "Leveraging Technology for Free Culture and Your Nonprofit's Mission"
  • Enoch Choi of Palo Alto Medical Foundation on "Tech Tools in Medicine: Personal Health Records, Mobile Devices, Blogging,Podcasting, Health Search & Tagging @ Google Co-op"
  • Boris Mann from Bryght on "Open Source and your non-profit"
  • Scott Heiferman from
  • Nancy White of Full Circle on "Online Facilitation Open Discussion"
  • Edward Vielmetti from the University of Michigan School of Information on "Superpatron: viewing libraries from a patron's point of view"
The remote conference is open to anyone with an Internet connection. And feel free to drop by the conference hallway for even more remote conference-y goodness.


NetSquared is a major conference and online community initiative undertaken by CompuMentor, a non-profit organization that provides software and technology assistance to more than 80,000 non-profit organizations across the United States and Canada. NetSquared aims at dramatically expanding the strategic technology capacity of these organizations by engaging them in a series of online community activities, culminating in a May 2006 conference.

Social Signal was retained by CompuMentor to develop an online community strategy that would engage its diverse user base in a process of online learning and discussion about the latest generation of online technologies and technology strategies. The strategy we developed outlined recommended content and activities for the eight months leading up to the NetSquared conference, and specified the technical and staff requirements for a web site that would support those activities. Our involvement was subsequently expanded to include the implementation of many aspects of this online community strategy, including setting up the NetSquared web site, configuring major web site features, managing custom development work and writing and editing site content. We also conceived and created Net2Learn, a companion site that allows NetSquared community members to create resource centers on different topics related to nonprofit technology strategy.

NetSquared has rapidly become one of the web's most visible forums for exploring the social web's significance to nonprofits. The levels of interest generated by the online community has led to the successful launch of NetSquared groups in San Francisco and other U.S. cities, and to an overwhelming demand for conference registration. That success has confirmed hopes that NetSquared would give rise to a durable, vibrant online community, taking a key position at the heart of CompuMentor's future online plans.

NetSquared North at Northern Voice Moosecamp


NetSquared North: Nonprofit tech bootcamp
February 10th, 2006
UBC Robson Square, HSBC Hall

Does your nonprofit want to reach more members or a broader public -- and could use the Internet to help? Are you an activist looking to get your message out to a larger audience -- and could use online tools to do it cheaply? Do you work with technology yourself, and want to share your skills or knowledge with organizations in your community?

NetSquared North is your chance to find the knowledge, skills and people to strengthen our community's use of online technology. This one-day tech bootcamp will gather local nonprofit leaders, activists and community organizers alongside local and visiting bloggers and tech experts. Hands-on, user-driven sessions will help you:
  • expand your strategic thinking about how to use the web as a communications and organizing tool
  • extend your tech skills with tips and techniques for blogging, online collaboration, and online outreach
  • enrich your strategic and tech support network by making new connections with other local and visiting community organizers and tech experts
NetSquared North will be part of the second annual Northern Voice conference, Canada's leading blogger gathering. Last year's Northern Voice offered a great introduction to blogging for beginners, and lots of opportunities for experienced bloggers to expand their knowledge and networks. This year, Northern Voice has launched Moose Camp as an open space event so that people will have even more opportunities to learn from one another. We're taking this opportunity to have our own Canadian version of the NetSquared nonprofit tech conference that will happen in San Francisco this May.

As an open space, NetSquared North will be driven by you: your challenges, questions and goals will set our agenda and inform how we use our day and our sessions. All of the sessions will be interactive and practical -- no panels of talking heads! Some of the sessions that have been proposed so far include:

Please e-mail if you have ideas for other session topics, questions or skills you want the bootcamp to cover, or could volunteer as a facilitator or expert resource. Or add your suggestions to the NetSquared North wiki.

And please register to be part of this community event! Northern Voice is filling up fast, so if you want to participate in Friday's NetSquared North bootcamp, attend other Moosecamp sessions on Friday, and/or come to Saturday's blogging panels, please sign up soon.

We hope NetSquared North will be a great opportunity for community organizations in the lower Mainland to expand their strategic, communications and tech capacity. Please forward this e-mail to local colleagues and friends, or to people who will be in town for Northern Voice – and thank you for your part in making NetSquared North a great event for our community.

Please note this information from the Northern Voice organizers:
  1. There will be no day-of registrations. Saturday is essentially sold out, and Moose Camp is headed in that direction. As such, we won't be accepting any day-of registrations.
  2. Unless you've already registered for Moose Camp, you'll have to register to attend NetSquared North, whether you're a speaker, panelist or attendee.
  3. Online registration closes February 6th at noon. We need a few days to print badges and the like.


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Introducing Social Signal: collaboration for communities

I'm delighted to announce the launch of Social Signal. Social Signal's goal is to support online communities and distributed collaboration networks -- networks of communities that share content and relationships by using the latest generation of web tools.


Net2 - share build collaborate Net2 is an online community created by TechSoup in support of its upcoming April 2006 Net2 conference. TechSoup is the largest provider of software and services to America's non-profit sector, with over 50,000 participating organizations. Net2 aims at supporting these organizations as they move into a more strategic, interactive, community-driven approach to the Internet -- an approach that will leverage tools like RSS, blogs and tagging as a way of facilitating knowledge exchange and community participation. Alex has helped to launch the Net2 online community, and will continue to work with TechSoup in creating an online environment and approach that will maximize community participation and contribution.

Social Signal on...

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Work Smarter with Evernote

Get more out of Evernote with Alexandra Samuel's great new ebook, the first in the Harvard Business Press Work Smarter with Social Media series!

Available on Amazon, iTunes and HBR.