Was talking with Joe Goldman about the uphill nature of bringing dialogue to communities and cultures that are starting to see the need for constituent input and grassroots interaction, but that may not quite be there yet. Often, some "stakeholders" like the idea and some don't. Everyone will hear you out, but few will pull the trigger and create real engagement opportunities for citizens, employees, members. We still see the same thing in the online world. Some groups and businesses are rushing to keep their Internet plans up to date, or to finally overhaul after years of doubt and low priority. But plenty more remain baffled, tentative or misled. And even among groups that start planning with open minds, there often turns out to be more division and ambivalence among various decision-makers than initially thought. This tension between prospects and progress is inevitable. Joe said "We're creating a market," then…

We're obsessesed with the truth, but we've come to accept we'll never know it. Richard Clarke says the Bush team was warned about an al Qaeda threat, ignored it, and pushed for a 9/11-Iraq connection later, even when there didn't seem to be one to be found. Condoleezza Rice says "there was no silver bullet" available to knock out al Qaeda and prevent 9/11, even if they had known it was coming, which she insists they didn't, even though she admits they knew "something very, very big was going to happen." If you ask me, she flirted with double-speak when she claimed an August 6, 2001 memo apparently titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike Inside the United States" was "not a warning." Of course we'd know more if the White House released the text of the memo. Where's the truth? We don't know. Worst of all, we seem content to…

I didn't know when I got laid off in 2001 and landed at a non-profit that a community manager's learning curve would lead so logically to online advocacy. I thought that I was just lucky to find a gig where I could use my relatively arcane knowledge. But, as it turns out, if you're trying to build online community, you're already a grassroots organizer (and a marketing consultant and a copy editor). This week I got the chance to come to the NTEN Non-Profit Technology Conference in Philadelphia, and rub ideas with about 600 people who spend their time helping change the world through technology, or through tech and strategic support to change-making organizations. Danielle Hickie asked me, where do I think this work will be in a year, and I rattled off three things. I know that a year from now there will be wider-spread popular understanding that people…

The Super Bowl was sealed up tight as a drum. Chain-link fences ringed the stadium. A detail of 5,000 police was on hand. The area was declared a no-fly zone. Meanwhile, on the airwaves, CBS had decided to refuse an ad purchase by MoveOn.org, for a spot criticizing the Bush deficit. In our locked-down, buttoned-up age, everything had been done to keep things under control and let the padded gladiatorial tradition unfold seamlessly. No one expected the attack from within, when a pretty white boy who sounds black and pretty black girl who looks white gave CBS and one zillion viewers what they hadn't counted on, a glimpse of unscripted, uncensorable, naked humanity, in the person of Janet Jackson's right breast. This is America, 2004. Millions are spent to shield us from an unseen enemy who may or may not be circling waiting to strike. Millions more go into media…

If I never hear the phrase "self-selector" or "digital commons" again, it will be too soon. But for better or worse, they embody two of the most important principles in my work. The digital commons is the hypothetical virtual space (yes, hypothetical and virtual) in which people of different backgrounds, beliefs and political persuasions encounter each other. It is the public sphere the Internet supposedly makes possible, in which we can live out what sociologist Ray Oldenburg calls our "informal public lives." Self-selection comes up any time we talk about getting a large group of general-interest citizens together online. How do you attract the people not already inclined to join forums, engage in policy dialogue, or just visit your new web site? Today, NYT's Amy Harmon wrote about how self-selection online makes the digital commons unlikely to come to fruition. Instead, the article argues, "cyberbalkanization" is fragmenting the online population…

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