What are you doing on Monday?

Cross-posted from EchoDitto

Monday is Dr. Martin Luther King Day. It’s a national Day of Service and a time to reflect on social justice. The crisis in Haiti brings extra focus and intensity to the question of how we care for each other. How did one of the world’s poorest countries struggle to survive just miles off the coast of Florida? Why does it require a massive earthquake for us to turn our attention to Haiti?

King wrote, “Every man [and woman] must decide whether he [or she] will walk in the creative light of altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness. This is the judgment. Life’s persistent and most urgent question is ‘What are you doing for others?'”

We have been inspired by our friend and fellow technology geek Luke Montgomery. Three years ago, Luke asked himself that very question. He decided to build an orphanage, brick by brick for abandoned Haitian children with HIV/AIDS. And he looked to his online community and social media to help him do it through participatory fundraising on his website, WeCanBuildAnOrphanage.com. He raised enough funds to start a successful 10-bed orphanage in Jacmel, Haiti.

Luke is on his way back to Haiti. Because the infrastructure is in such bad shape, he’s planning to fly to the Dominican Republic and then make his way over a rocky and roadless mountain to get to Jacmel. He got some news this morning:

Our kids are alive but our orphanage was totally destroyed in the quake… but again, our 13 children have all survived. Somehow amidst all the death around them, these 13 orphans made it out of the rubble alive. They are now living on the street surrounded by rubble with no food, water, blankets or medicine. Many of them are HIV+. Two are handicapped and can not walk. We are rushing an emergency team to them to care for, feed and protect them. I’m leaving and will be on the ground in Haiti for as long as it takes to rebuild. We need your help. We lost everything.

We’re going to help out by renting a satellite phone for his trip. And we’re inviting you to join us by spreading the word about what Luke is doing. Share this link with your personal networks online (Facebook, Twitter, Email) to help put a face on the work that needs to be done in Haiti: http://tinyurl.com/ykt74rg

The cool part is that he’s a web geek like us so he’ll be blogging and sharing videos/photos so people can see exactly how donations are being spent. You can see the full story of the orphanage in Haiti here: https://wecanbuildanorphanage.com

For years it seemed like only moments of crisis — from natural disasters like Haiti to global warming — could unite us and our organizations in common purpose. But the connective tissues of technology seem to be taking hold in both charitable and corporate boardrooms alike. We’re seeing first-hand in our work across the climate, service, and veterans movements an unprecedented level of openness and collaboration.

Monday is Dr. Martin Luther King Day, a day of national and community service to remember his legacy. After years of working with leading organizations to support service, it’s a real privilege to join with them in a collaborative effort to build All for Good, a joint platform that makes service opportunities ubiquitous.

We’re proud to stand with so many of our clients and partners this weekend — Hands On Network, Do Something, Service Nation, The Huffington Post to name a few — in inviting you to join us in celebrating King Day as a day of service.

Click here to find an opportunity near you – and join us in using a day of service to reflect on Haiti and social justice: http://www.serve.gov/mlkday

Netroots Nation 2009

Overall thoughts from last weekend at Netroots

  • Bloggers are in their teenage years — Blogs and bloggers have come of age, compared to the 2004 cycle when their relevance and potential impact beyond enthusiasts and the uber-engaged was unclear at best. With major ‘wins’ in 2006 and 2008, they’re treated with respect, albeit somewhat reluctantly, by everyone from mainstream media to politicians, businesses, and organizations. That was clear from the vibe this year at NN09, and last year — this was no longer a reunion of people who consider themselves a marginalized population. This was a collaboration opportunity for those who know their power.
    But the blogosphere is still far from a mature space — it’s still a hodgepodge of pros and amateurs, and those unaffiliated with a high-traffic site or sponsored blog still struggle to find the time or money model that would enable them to produce good citizen journalism. And other forms of social media (twitter, online social networks, youtube) have eclipsed blogs at being powerful word-of-mouth engines. They can help to move a high-quality post or piece of citizen journalism, but blogs are no longer the only game in town for moving information.
  • This year was much lower energy than last year. This would make sense, since last year’s event was in the frenzied run-up to the November election. And Austin has a beat that few other cities can compete with. But now that the election glow has worn off, the focus for the NN community was on how to actually get climate, energy, and healthcare legislation through. Seemingly much more challenging and circuitous and complicated than electing a man president.
  • Netroots Nation has evolved. It’s really for any kind of progressive online activist, and related organizations in the space — not just bloggers anymore. That’s a probably a good shift. And as i said above, since this is no longer just a validation event for a marginalized community (some of that still happens), it makes sense that the tent is widening to include all online activists and campaigners.
  • But the mix of attendees creates a motley and somewhat awkward effect. With a variety of organizations, candidates, industries, and consultancies identifying this as an influential audience to attract, there’s an obvious danger in straying from the grassroots and self-organized origins of this event. Sponsors are good, but they need to be handled delicately — yes, the money is needed, and there are worthwhile organizations for attendees to engage with, but placing exhibitors in a dark room in the corner doesn’t send much of a welcome message. Managing the industrialization and professionalizing of this event will be tough. The union presence this year was nearly overwhelming. Yes, we support the steelworks and the rest, but must you keep shoving take-away hardhats in our face?

That’s all for now. See you in Vegas, NN10.

2007 [Personal] Year in Review

You’ve watched the Best Of Best Week Ever 2007. You’ve read the Top 100 Top 10 lists of the year. And you’ve heard the billboard countdowns. Now this correspondent takes his own dip in the hot-tub of reductionism and self-absorbtion by summarizing into a tidy list the most memorable events from his own previous 365 days. In a decidedly unordered list, this is 2007 in bullets:

  • Being selected for — and almost getting to serve on — jury duty
  • Meeting President Clinton! (photo); runner up — meeting Katie Couric
  • Extreme Skiing Colorado (viral video) w/ Jimmy and Dane (+ 6 hrs in the DIA airport bar)
  • An evening with Jack Bauer (story; photo)
  • Bears in Shenandoah (photos) w/ Savage and Steph
  • Superman ride and Six Flags w/ Ficke, Tom, and Emily (story; photos)
  • Co-authoring a book (my first and last) and seeing it on bookshelves
  • EchoDitto 3 Year Anniversary celebration dinner cruise (anniversary poster; official cake)
  • [More than one notable night out, starting with NYE 2006, smartly redacted by the Editors]
  • Italy and Austria, family trip of the decade and most exotic speaking gig to date (photos)
  • Winning an impromptu beirut tournament at a NYC bar with Keith the jeopardy kid and Sean
  • Backstage at LiveEarth NYC (photos); and meeting Ann Curry and Jane Goodall
  • Lake Garibaldi and Black Tusk in BC with Tim and Brant (photos)
  • Google HQ in Mountain View (photos confiscated)
  • Best purchase of the year: countertop dishwasher

Hard to believe that all fit into just one year. To judge by the ultimate criteria, if 2007 happened to be my last, I’d be hard pressed to come up any real regrets; it was an unexpectedly incredible year. And I have to say, the list above doesn’t include work highlights (as if that’s somehow separate…) This was easily EchoDitto’s best year so far. There’s a version of this floating around summarizing the remarkable and world-changing milestones and successes that we shared with our clients and partners this year, but that gushing post will have to wait…Happy New Year!

Ode to Friends Who Can Write BOOKS. Check these out.

All of a sudden, 83% of the people I know and respect in the world decided to sit down and write a book this year.


Having tried my own hand at this writing craft, I’m in awe. At the urging of former Dean campaign colleague Zephyr Teachout, I penned a chapter for the recently published Mousepads, Shoe Leather, and Hope: Lessons from the Howard Dean Campaign for the Future of Internet Politics. This was among the more grueling and painful experiences of my professional career (albeit ultimately rewarding), and I hope never to have to write anything as long as this ever again (i.e. a book).So all of you real writer-people are deserving of a huge nod (or at least a link) —


First on the list: former Dean campaign colleague, friend, and fellow EchoDitto co-founder Garrett Graff released last month what seems to be quickly becoming the authoritative modern history of internet politics (i think there are some visions for the future too, but i haven’t read the second part yet): The First Campaign: Globalization, the Web, and the Race for the White House. Check out this slick review he scored in the NYT just the other week — congrats! Likely the first of many books to be expected from “the astonishingly young Mr. Graff.”


Another friend and internet mogul (where mogul = smart internet-consultant colleague and middle school classmate) Brian Reich released almost simultaneously with Garrett a book that guides business leaders and social enterprises through their use of new media. I can attest that a ton of research went into this book in the form of in-depth interviews with more than 35 business leaders who are exploring and pioneering on this landscape; not to mention a great deal of well qualified personal experience: Media Rules!: Mastering Today’s Technology to Connect with and Keep Your Audience


Bill McKibben has been a friend, mentor, and fellow campaigner for many years now. He’s actually a professional writer, so he’s the last person on this list to potentially benefit from any additional blogospheric mentions. But I want to recommend the book here anyway because Bill is an incredible story-teller (i.e. easy to read) and writes more eloquently in this book about the virtues of Local than anyone else I’ve encountered on the subject: Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. From local food systems to energy systems to social capital, Bill ties it all together. I’m also thinking that this book had something to do with “locavore” making Oxford’s Word of The Year. It’s a great read — esp the acknowledgments page, because that’s where I get an unexpected shout-out.


On a related note, I’ve become a huge fan of the work of the Step it Up gang — an impressive band of recent Middlebury College grads who decided that waiting around for the political winds to change in Washington wasn’t a good way to invest their bottled up energy. So they rented a house in Burlington, VT (not far from former Dean campaign HQ) and got to work tapping the web to organize thousands of local grassroots volunteers all over the country. The outcome was hundreds upon hundreds of political rallies in towns across the country in April and again in November. Both days of action had a tremendous impact both on Congress and on the climate movement at large. And then, because they somehow weren’t tired after a year of 15-hour days, they worked with McKibben to write down all that they learned and heard and published it as a simple guide for local organizers: Fight Global Warming Now: The Handbook for Taking Action in Your Community. Keep an eye on these guys as well — they’re helping to change the way we think about organizations and political advocacy (here’s a short interview that I did on this), and it’s been a privilege to work alongside of this incredible team.


If you couldn’t tell from the previous two books, there’s plenty coming out of my alma matter these days. One of my former professors and fellow climate campaigner Jon Isham just completed a wonderful and long-overdue modern handbook for climate activists and leaders everywhere: Ignition: What You Can Do to Fight Global Warming and Spark a Movement. It has essays from some of the best, including McKibben, Gus Speth, and Jared Duval. Given the great deal of thought and legwork that went into making this book come together, I hope it’s ready by anyone doing any work at all to fight climate change. To crib from Island Press: “Combining incisive essays with success stories and web resources, the book helps readers answer the most important question we all face: “What can I do?”


Finally, I’m in the middle of reading Nordhaus and Shellenberger’s new book, Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility. It’s their first book since their controversial but excellent essay of several years ago, “Death of Environmentalism.” Of all the books I just listed, this one is easily the most dense with new thinking and most likely to make me rethink our entire approach to social change. It’s positioned as the new What’s the Matter with Kansas or Lakoff’s Don’t Think of an Elephant, and I can see why, given Michael and Ted’s backgrounds not only as wicked-smart academics and pollsters but also as “environmentalists.” They do a pretty solid Q and A with Amazon page that’s worth checking out. And it seems to be selling like hotcakes, which is great news. Congrats, guys.

my 15 seconds on NY1

I’d post this as a humor clip if I weren’t in it…. so it’s in your hands to tear apart. The best part is the opening, so be sure to have your sound on. And if some of the quotes don’t make sense, it’s because they cut out the parts where we were incredibly profound and intelligent and left the soundbytes.(Which is good to know for next time: only speak in soundbytes. I’m going to practice only talking in soundbytes and sweeping generalizations this week at work — it should be fun.)Watch: Harish and me on NY1 TV last Thurs nightHere’s a good matchup that I’d like to ref sometime soon: NY1 vs. WTTG (our local Fox affiliate here in DC). Extra points for space-age sound effects, sensationalism, and for using “information superhighway”


Flattering or Frightening? Definitely the latter. Well done, well done. This is what I get for being dumb enough to be out of the office on halloween. But now the bar has been raised… Any current or future Ditto bold enough to be away for Halloween ’07: consider yourself warned!

Famous for 7 Canadian minutes on CBC’s The House

This morning, I was on the CBC’s political radio show, The House, talking about internet stuff and the Howard it’s-not-a-dead-story-in-Canada-yet Dean campaign. It was actually a lot of fun — I went to the CBC studios in DC on Thursday to record the interview in what seemed like a giant podcasting studio. The Canadians running the studio were nice, and they even let me drop internet buzzwords like it was my job. Which it is.Have a listen (fast forward to 15:30):Click here for the audio stream (Real Media)Also, I recently learned that Canadians tend to be extremely humble. Well, were this not my third year in DC, I probably would have been inclined to follow the Canadian example and not post anything here about my newfound Canadian fame. But alas, this is DC, where we’re all proud to be media whores.