Vancouver Net Tuesday NetSquared Live Blog

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Tonight’s live blog is being written and published by Raul of (update your bookmarks!)

“Widgets aren’t just little pieces of portable code. Widgets are about opening up your message to your supporters and the community. Widgets represent a shift towards using online tools, and online thinking, to connect with more people and build deeper relationships with the people you are already connected with.

Vancouver’s 3rd Net Tuesday will explore the stories of nonprofits that are spearheading this revolution as well as demo a new widget platform.” – []

Presenters tonight include:

Jason Mogus, Communicopia
Scott Nelson,
Keith Grennan, Sprout
and the evening will be moderated by Sarah Pullman.

Update: 6.11pm

Jason Mogus from Communicopia starts off.
Re-Mixing the Web for Social Change

Communicopia has been around for around 15 years. They built Greenpeace’s website, and a number of Seattle’s 1999 . One of the earliest grassroots people. By working for a lot of non-profit, social change organizations, that’s how he makes his living. By virtue of showing the challenges these organizations face, he hopes that the crowd will understand how to effect social change through the web.

What do non-profits want? Reach new supporters, build deeper relationships. A lot of non-profits have had ideas about sustainability since a long time ago. Communicopia has been working in helping connect these organizations with youth, stakeholders, etc.

Jason was asked to present to a group spearheaded by Nelson Mandela and Peter Gabriel on how the web can help effect social change. Jason shows the differences between the traditional Web (Web 1.0).

Traditional web:
– Publishing
– Growh list
– Mobilize
– Ask for help

Emerging web
– Conversations
– Reach where they are
– Self organize
– Meaningful participation.

How did this evolution go about? Through…
– Knowledge sharing
– Constituency building
– Real time organizing
– Simple ways, often $$$

Jason is going to show some sites.
Environmental Defense: The Toxic Nation website, a dedicated effort to ban toxic compounds. Their first campaign was very back-room, policy-oriented. The NGO wanted immediate attention from government and politicians. When they first approached Communicopia, they wanted to visualize a new campaign to reach out and managing the feedback, comments and ideas. It’s not only about just starting a new blog. The first step: TELL ME WHAT YOU’RE UP TO. Inviting people to connect and share. They also have a little action-kit to become a Toxic Nation campaigner. An organization needs to think about how do they reach out people. This is like a $ 10,000 site, a low-cost website for an organization. This is considered cheap. Drupal-based.

Nothing But Nets: Collects nets to send to Africa for malaria-preventative efforts, it’s a very participative campaign. Communicopia controlled the message and communicated it. People can create and join a team. The site helps raise funds. They published “spontaneous actions” on their website (for example, an organization raised $ 125,000 in one single campaign!). This is the promise of a participative campaign. The point that Jason makes – share your stories! “We inspire them at the core, but they take it out to the world”.

The Elders: A great organization. Jason is helping them establish their web strategy. These guys are committed to listening and involving global citizens (they can’t talk a lot about this as it is in the design/implementation stage). 8,000 contacts – “what are the Elders suggesting?”. The Elders are looking to listen to what global citizens are saying.

Jason is going to show a little widget. The widget part of this – On Save the Children there is a widget where you can click there, sign the declaration, goes into their database with their name-tag, it is still in the early stages. You can make your pledge more personal.

UPDATE: 6:26 pm Scott Nelson is next. I’ll be updating the links as soon as I can.

Scott Nelson from

When we say “open source” we just don’t mean . They want to make sure that everything is open source (open standards). One of the first things they did was a comparison of the various operating systems at the time. Like most people of the 1990s, they started working with Microsoft (PC) technology.

Scott jumped ship in the late 1990s into the Mac world, and then he started to use Linux (exclusively since 2001, a Linux user). Last year, he helped start the organization Free Geek (taking donations of technology/computer technology, re-furbish and re-install – this is to make technology affordable and accessible to people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford it or access it).

Linux does have widgets. There are some video-editing tools for Linux. Scott describes them but I couldn’t really get all what he was talking about 😀 You can go double-screen on Linux (how cool is that?).

The other thing that Scott is doing – with Communicopia – one of the reasons they started it was a shared concern with Jason for environmental issues, like climate change, transportation. The environmental issues are still very important. Our community (social media) – there are severe social problems that are coming with climate change issues. For Scott, making a change from climate change to social change – very recent change. His current project (started May 1st). The project is FearLess. An attempt to bring these technologies and see what can be done to help the DTES to be a more cohesive community. How can technology be harnessed and work to help strengthen this community.

Scott is working with mobile technology with the residents of the DTES (smart phones). Use these to train and help the residents use them and provide feedback to software companies on behalf of these users (who hadn’t had access to these technological tools). Create community through open source components.

By choosing to use open-source, we are entering a social contract with the creators of that technology, and it is up to us to give back. We choose to give back also to the open source community (which also understands the values espoused – core values – we need to move the world to the place where we want to be). We’ve had enough of the top-down approach, let’s get on with the bottom-up.

And … for the widget part – Linux has also th eequivalent of Dashboard. There are all sorts of widgets for Linux.

UPDATE: 6.38pm Scott is done and let’s move on to the next speaker.

Keith Brennan from Sprout.

Keith has actually built widgets. He will be giving us a demo. (Sorry for the little typo, hehehe). And he only has one slide (yay! helps me concentrate more on his talk).

– Widget builder –

– Very easy to use – build it – publish it, track it.

Widgets are inherently viral, they spread virally in an open web, they have a network effect, the audience increases exponentially.

– Mashup social and data services

Can be used to build social networks.

– Flawless demo (go to the SproutBuilder website for said demo).

Your Sprout can have any number of pages. There’s all kinds of neat things you can add to your Sprout (NOTE FROM RAUL – as a non-geek, this part of the presentation is seriously flying over my head – but I welcome a one-on-one explanation from any of you all geeks who are reading this). You can add Twitter components, Calendar components, etc. Looks fairly easy to learn, and quite accessible even for a non-geek.

– Sprout component platform

Keith shows how you can use Sprout to build content. Impressive stuff. Wow. You can update the widgets you build on to Facebook, MySpace and other profiles. Pretty darn cool. There is an built-in reporting system that you can use to trace how content is being accessed.

Keith is currently showing off some of the Sprouts. (RAUL’S NOTE – I can’t clearly get the links, so I’ll just have to ask him for the links so that you can check them out. Sorry – I am fast, but not THAT fast. Even hummingbirds need some rest.)

Keith is showing the Sprout SDK – building a simple form to collect information. Another widget that cycles through photos and offers inspirational quotes. Another meditation widget – a little promo of sample meditation online. (RAUL’S NOTE – WOW. I’m seriously impressed. Good work. You can design widgets almost for anything you want). There is also Google Gadgets.

Ashlee Simpson Media Player – a cool Sprout that uses animation and music all integrated.

The future is in creating more of a platform. Different Web 2.0 services are integrated. The next stage is opening it up so that any developer can create almost any technology. The whole idea of Open Source. And finally… they are hiring! …

Update: 6.57 pm


(RAUL’S NOTE – I missed the questions that the audicence asked Keith – sorry! a bit too tech-ie for me – but I think those were just clarification questions – the discussion hasn’t started just yet)

When you create your Sprouts they are created on your own credentials, but not on the client’s sites. Keith’s answer – they’ll be ramping them up and having multiple design centers, etc.

The Social Tech Training (Toronto, end of June) – Christina mentioned – full three-day intensive on how to kind of do all this stuff and use the web smartly and sophisticatedly as a tool for social change. Fantastic crew of trainers in the social change sector and technology. The agenda is available online. Speak to Jason or Christina. It’s intended in a lot of ways for non-profits. If you’re interested in social web, and you’re trying to transition into this field. If you feel this is an area where you are interested, you can ramp up your toolkit and be positioned as a real leader in that space. There’s lots of scholarships. If you know people in non-profits, they’ve got tonnes of scholarships (6 in BC alone). Visit

A couple of announcements, including Nancy Zimmerman speaking about their initiatives (Citizens Bank of Canada).

Jason is commenting that they need 1-2 people who are web designers, preferably Drupal-trained.


You can read more from Raul on his blog: Random Thoughts of a Student of the Environment (

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  1. Vancouver NetTuesday for May 2008 recap « Random Thoughts of a Student of the EnvironmentThursday, May 8th, 2008 — 11:35am PDT

    […] I had happily volunteered to live-blog the event for Rebecca (on, who couldn’t make it on Tuesday. It was the first time I’ve done a guest live-blog directly on her site, which made me a bit nervous (I feel better if I screw up on my site than on anybody else’s!), but at the same time, I was very excited. […]

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