Killing The Act of Killing

<Update> Later in the afternoon, shortly after a piece about the matter appeared in the online version in the English language paper Jakarta Globe, both sites were accessible again. At this point I don´t know the reason why exactly the sites were down in Indonesia. The change.org petition is still up and running. Maybe it should be changed to petition Menkominfo to actually watch the film?

 

 

Looks like it is starting: the websites of the film “The Act of Killing” as well as the film production company behind it  (Edit: “Jagal” is the Indonesian title) Jagalfilm.com, can no longer be accessed (from Indonesia)

Joshua Oppenheimer, the film´s director, tweets on Fr. January 11

 

Director Joshua Oppenheimer first asked followers to test from various devices and locations, and two days later, on Sunday, January 13 at 16:01 WIB Detik.net came out with an article opening up speculation about who might be behind the blocking.

Here is my rough translation of that article:

 

Has the website of the controversial film “The Act of Killing” been blocked?

Ardhi Suryadhi – detikinet

Jakarta – the site that hosts the controversial film ‘The Act of Killing’ by Joshua Oppenheimer is reportedly not accessible any more. After it has been tested from various providers, it seems like the site at http://theactofkilling.com/ is no longer online as it should be.

This is what the filmmaker, Joshua Oppenheimer states: “Interesting. Many report that the site #TheActofKilling/#Jagal can not be accessed without redirection via a proxy” he writes on twitter.

“It seems that http://jagalfilm.com & http://theactofkilling.com can no longer be acessed from Indonesia. Who did this?,” Oppenheimer continues.

Besides the director, other twitterers directed questions regarding the unavailability of the website of the film that was screened at Toronto Film Festival towards the Minister of Communication and Information Technology, Tifatul Sembiring.

“Hey Mr. @tifsembiring, why can´t the website of the act of killing not be opened? What´s wrong? Is this on purpose?” asks another twitterer.

“If this happened on the order of Menkominfo, they have to explain their reasons. Thus far, blocking is only allowed for porn sites, gambling and blasphemy,” says Megi Margiyono, a cyber law specialist from Indonesia Online Advocacy (IDOLA)

The film The Act of Killing’  that was shown at Toronto Film Festival tells the story of the situation after the “30 September 1965 movement”. It shows the involvement of Medan youth in the killings of suspected PKI members.

In the film, one of the executioners is Anwar Congo. Anwar confesses that he was involved in the killings, but because the situation was dangerous. He reasons that if at that time he had not killed PKI members, he himself would have been killed.

 

 

Response by MenKomInfo appeared on br68h.com as of SUNDAY, 13 JANUARY 2013 20:19

Here is my rough translation of that article:

Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (Kominfo) denies blocking the website of „The Act of Killing“

KBR68H, Jakarta – The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (Kominfo) denies having blocked access to the website of „The Act of Killing“. The speaker of the Ministry, Gatot S Dewabroto, claims not to know that the website of the film that sparked controversy can not be accessed by the public.

„I did not know about this, I have not even seen the film, we are also not aware that the site has been shut down. We always inform the public in a formal procedure if there is a site which we shut down. This means, we would for sure come out with a public report.”

The website of the film The Act of Killing cannot be accessed in Indonesia. The director, Joshua Oppenheimer, questioned the shutting down of the site via twitter. This question was then taken up by other twitter users, and directed to the account of the Minister of Communication and Information Technology, Tifatul Sembiring.

The film that was screened at Toronto Film Festival tells the story after the „30 September 1965 Movement“. The film shows the way members of the Communist Party Indonesia (PKI) were killed by activists of the Pemuda Pancasila (Pancasila Youth) in Medan.

 

 

Soon after, a change.org petition was started by  Megi Margiyono, asking the govt to explain / take a position on the speculation of the site blocking

Here is my rough translation of that petition:

Petitioning Mr. Tifatul Sembiring, Minister of Communication and Information Technology of the Republic of Indonesia

Menkominfo (The Ministry) has to explain the blocking of the websites www.jagalfilm.com and www. Theactofkilling.com

Arbitrary blocking of websites violates human rights, specifically the right to freedom of expression and the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds.

To: Mr. Tifatul Sembiring, Minster of Communication and Information Technology, and Head of PR Mr. Gatot S Dewo Broto
With respect,

 

Since January 12 2013, internet users in Indonesia are no longer able to access the websites jagafilm. Com and theactofkilling.com. Both sites are used to promote the documentary film with the title “The Act of Killing”, with the Indonesian title “Jagal”. The film is a documentary about Anwar Kongo, a personality that became the executioner of people suspected of being members of the Communist Party Indonesia (PKI) in 1965. The film by Joshua Oppenheimer is of great historical importance, and is very useful in creating awareness about human rights in Indonesia.

There are suspicions that the two sites have been blocked by several Internet Service Providers (ISP), so that the websites cannot be accessed from Indonesia. The problem is that there is no transparency about the blocking of sites in Indonesia so that the public does not know which sites are being blocked. This is the same for the owner of the sites, they are also not being told about their sites being blocked.

The practice of blocking and filtering in Indonesia does not adhere to the principles of transparency and due process of law. (The Ministry) never provides information to the community about which sites are and will be blocked. In addition, the blocking procedure (in Indonesia) does not follow a formal legal process through a court order. Not only that, even the criteria for content to be blocked are increasingly unclear. Initially, the only content that can be blocked are pornography and gambling. Then, content containing blasphemy (Blasphemy) could also be blocked. Now, it seems content containing political material such as films about 1965 can also be blocked.

We are worried that blocking without clear criteria, without a procedure that is following basic rules, and without transparency about the list of sites that are being blocked will give rise to e regime of internet censorship in Indonesia. If this happens, we are in the middle of a serious threat towards the freedom of the internet.

So we are asking you to explain whether it is true jagalfilm.com and theactofkilling.com have been blocked by the government? If it is true, what is the legal basis for the blocking of those sites?

 

Sincerely,
[Your name]

 

3 Month Work Summary

A little over 3 months at Goethe-Institut.The job has been colorful and exciting so far. What else to expect when the “products” you work on are language classes, concerts, performances, exhibitions, festivals, workshops and creative competitions and the people you’re surrounded with are teachers, writers, filmmakers, illustrators, dancers and musicians. Yea… it´s kind of cool.

From the very first job interviews, it was clear that as PR Coordinator (my official job title) I would have to be Jill-of-all-Trades. They wanted a person who would manage classic PR work that comes along with a cultural institution, but, specifically, to take the online activities of the GI Indonesia to the next level.

It’s obvious why a strong online presence is of importance in a country like Indonesia. Adoption rates of social networking sites and mobile internet have been phenomenal, with Indonesia present in the Top 10 tweeting cities worldwide with not 1, but 2 cities – Jakarta leading and surprise candidate Bandung wedged between New York and Paris.

Image courtesy of semiocast.com

Also, Indonesia’s island geography and weak transportation infrastructure makes it particularly difficult for people from remote parts of the country to take part in cultural activities in the capital or other big cities. All the more important to reach out and offer opportunities online.

What I found. Assessing the situation

Goethe-Institut is, per definition, a network organization with establishments all over the world. It is partly funded by the German government, yet an independent entity. It additionally acquires financial help from the private sector and public funds. While the headquarter in Munich offers resources and guidelines, the sister institutions abroad have a lot of individual freedom in executing and documenting their activities.

When the GIs in the SEA region saw the need to quickly get active in social media in order to keep up with their audience, this, unsurprisingly, led to the mushrooming growth of various facebook pages, groups, profiles, blogs and twitter accounts to fulfill immediate needs. There was little time to devise any overall strategy or coordinated effort. I believe many institutions with a similar network setup such as the GI will find themselves in this situation.

In my first discussion with the team (meaning everyone that administers, or engages with, one or more of our many many social media outlets), I actually found an impressively deep understanding of social space, of the benefits and possible pitfalls of “conversation” rather than providing information, and a general positive and open attitude towards “social “channels.

While there were a lot of great individual efforts, the main problem I saw was the inconsistency with which content was offered, the lack of a structured approach in working together as a team, and the lack of, or not yet identified need for measurable goals.

Developing goals

In our first workshops as a team, we talked about the overall goals for the social media activities for each of the departments. Why did we think we need to be active here? What kinds of conversations were we hoping for? Would we be using social media as replacement for some other form of communication, for example ticket reservation via email?

As the result of the workshop we were left with three main goals, which now serve as guiding principlse until the next assessment.

Goal 1 “engagement” – being social as a goal in itself

As a non-profit and unlike a company with a physical product, our “product” is experience – something intangible and certainly difficult to measure in hard numbers. Our products: learning the German language, experiencing art in all forms, taking in literature or other media content, happens as a result of people interacting with each other. It dawned on us that, when culture is your product,  facilitating conversations is a strong goal in itself. This means that – perhaps more so than in the social media channels of commercial brands – we are allowed to pat our backs with a growing number of fans and conversations. And Goethe-Insitut’s slogan “language, culture, germany” makes a pretty good guideline for the content mix.

Measurement: growing number of fans/followers, increasing  interactions

Goal 2 promoting events

Looking at the number of signups for the language classes and at the number of visitors to most of our events, we can say: this is looking good. Since the institute is the venue for most events and language courses, there is a natural capacity limit. And the language classes as well as events are usually full, if not overbooked. This puts us in the luxurious position of not really having to use social media to promote anything – but we sure could use it to make event promotion and registration more efficient. Especially for larger events that do not take place in our house, we need to be able to pull a larger crowd. We need to start using online ticketing, which simplifies the process, and gives us an idea ahead of how popular the event is going to be. The next opportunity to introduce social media promotion and e-ticketing is coming up in October, so we’ll definitely be testing it out soon.

Measurement: sign ups through social media, incl. measuring effectiveness of individual channels

Goal 3: Virtual / real interaction

The final goal is related to the first, but goes further. Ultimately, our online presences should be able to offer genuine online experiences for those not physically able to attend, and it should offer “real” value. While the language department is leading the way in the form of offering online classrooms and German language-learner communities, the culture and information/library departments still need to figure out which formats and topics are most meaningful to their audiences. On the long run, I want to use social media to create windows of opportunity for dedicated individuals to get involved with GI’s program from far away: this could take the shape of having smaller remote cities “apply” for hosting cultural activities, which would then be brought there by GI, or regularly inviting interested people from further away to see cultural events produced by the GI. Creating campaigns around “city battles” or invitations to events will also help increase visbility and number of fans and followers.

Measurement: usage/readership of online products, impact and participation during social media ‘campaign’ periods

Implementation

While coming up with grand goals is comparatively easy, implementing the processes to achieve those goals is the challenge. We have to take into account the different experience levels of the team with social media and its tools, as well as the “heritage” of social media routines that have evolved in the past.

These are roughly the steps I took in the past month to steer softly in the direction of where we want to be heading.

3 months (May – July) Framewok for consistency

In order to work together towards a shared goal we needed to establish a sense of being a team first. We rounded up all people with access to and active roles on any of our social media outlets, branded them the “social media team” and set up a weekly meeting.

We invented new gimmicky roles among us, such as the “wearer of the twitter hat” for someone responsible for managing interactions, keeping up with the stats, assigning tweets, and live-tweeting from events in a given week.

The twitter hat is an actual paper hat with a twitter bird on it, intended to make it’s wearer feel self-conscious and awkward, meaning they won’t forget about the tasks they have that week

We invented the “facebook gardener” for someone whose responsibility it is to tend for a particular facebook page or group.I find that using playful images such as these helps people identify with the role and makes the tasks that come along with it come naturally. Of course – the gardener “weeds out” bad comments, highlights particularly interesting posts, decides which posts go where etc.

Also, in order to understand how we were tweeting and who was tweeting, (all sharing one twitter account, @gi_indonesien) we decided to start using initials after each tweet. Although it sounds like a clumsy workaround and a waste of characters, it has helped us learn from each other, avoid double tweeting and improve the quality of our answers to our followers.

In another step towards consistency, (still work in progress) we are streamlining the content flow from one channel to the other, and developing unique but consistent ways of writing for facebook and twitter.

Spending some time on building the team and workflows was important: to have a strong team that knows how to hold effective meetings, how to formulate goals and move towards them, is at the basis of everything…

6 months (August – October) – Increasing quality with tools, measuring effectiveness

In the coming three months, I want to focus on increasing the the number of interactions, keep a stronger focus on stats and implement  more advanced tools such as e-ticketing for a pilot event and working with a contest app for a photo competition engagement campaign. Starting in September, I will also focus building 2 “communities within the Goethe community”.  One is targeting German-Language-learners in South East Asia. The other is the already existing comiconnexions platform for comic/graphic novel fans, which needs to go into phase 2.

Lastly, we will start setting the necessary internal foundations (commitment, timeframe, budget…) to work towards goal 3.

 

Week 3 – Roundup

Three weeks now since my arrival in Jakarta! The shockwave of being transplanted has passed, and I am starting to grow new little roots.

Here are some of the topics that have kept me busy:

Apartment Search

In the past, whenever I visited Jakarta I always had a place to go to, either my mom’s house or my sister’s. Now that both of them no longer live here, I have to establish my own homebase. Which is easier said then done. None of my friends are currently looking for a shared-house situation, and none of them had a spare room to rent out. Just bad luck.

Apartments, as it turns out, are pretty expensive. Everything is expensive after living in Berlin. Of course there are many people here who earn MUCH less than I do. And how do they get by? Surely there must be an affordable lifestyle? Yea there is. But this involves staying in the house of your family, having a two hour commute to work – one way – and not being able to participate in much of what the city has to offer. Being poor here is damn tough. And if you want to keep up a lifestyle of barhopping, visiting friends in other neighborhoods on a regular basis, living close to work and eating well, this is costly.

Back to the apartment search. In the end, I found a little place, not much more than 30m2, in an apartment complex. I will pay more rent than for my 135m2 (shared) flat in Berlin. But I will have the luxury of having access to a large pool area, sauna, tennis courts and gym and a marble lobby with 24hr security. That’s the thing. Glamorous or poor (the real poor, not the Berlin coquettish kind of poor) The in-between is there, but hard to find.

I call it rat´s nest - my new home

Work

Work has been a wild ride, so far! Goethe-Instiut Indonesia is buzzing with action. There’s exhibitions, concerts, movie screenings and other events going on several times a week. Add a number of web-products such as a jazz community, a comic platform, the house-own facebook page and web pages into the equation, some of them requiring coordination with other countries in the region, and you can tell I will be very busy. As “PR coordinator” my job is to help the team to make what’s going on at the GI visible and tangible, with a special focus on strengthening that part of PR which is interactive, networked, and community-driven.

I will dedicate separate posts to what I experience and learn at my workplace. For now, all I can say is: truly awesome colleagues, exiting topics and a huge challenge ahead.

News

The fun part about moving is being exposed to different set of news and discourses. This is a rough rundown of some of the headlines and quirky news items that have been floating around as sort of ambient information:

Traffic, traffic, traffic. Jakartans talk about traffic like others about the weather. The hopeless congestions have made life in the capital extremely stressful. There´s a mayorship election coming up, and for sure a new mayor will have to address this. Newspapers are dedicating whole series to the subject of (failed) transportation- and city-planning.

Related to that has been a news item of viral qualities: Minister for “State-Owned Enterprises” Dahlan, angered by the fact that he was waiting in a long queue to enter the toll road, while only two of the toll booths were operational, got out of his car and ushered cars through the gates – without paying – himself.

And I don’s know it it’s just coincidence, I find the news strangely gruesome here. For instance the case of 3 Indonesian workers killed in Malaysia. Apparently they were shot by Malaysian police for unclear reasons, trespassing of some sort. As if that’s not enough, it was suggested that the bodies may have had organs removed, implying that this may have been a case of intentional murder for organs. I haven’t really followed up on this story and have not yet heard a conclusion or fact clearance. The whole story was all speculation and hair-raising quasi-facts.

Another crazy random news item was that a Dutch man set himself on fire in front of the Dutch Embassy in Jakarta. Another minister (or rather the deputy-minster for energy natural resources) died mysteriously on a trekking tour. There has been a series of deadly shoot-outs in Bandung (the city my mom lives in). Two Russian men (one of them a yoga teacher in Bali) were caught at the airport with a couple of dozen capsules with hash (!) in their stomachs.

On a more serious note: the book presentation by a canadian author, invited to talk about her book on (liberal) Islam at cultural centre Salihara, was stopped by the police because a protesting mob was getting out of control. The main cause of protest was the fact that the author is a lesbian. Ugh. Shouldn’t the police have protected her rather than stopping the event?

And, of course, there was the Sukhoi place crash. This has pretty much dominated all TV channels the past days.

Before I moved into my new place, I took the train to work. Lucky I did not have to get into this one, mine was never quite a crowded.

Events and People

In my spare time, between work and apartment search, there’s even been time to check out a few things. I was at the small gallery of panna foto for a talk about photography and social media. I went to watch a special avengers screening organized by the Indonesian Marvel community. Full costume!

I went to the Jakarta edition of Pecha Kucha (which still lives on after I introduced it here in 2008!!). There I encountered Jakarta’s graffiti and street art hero Darbotz, was introduced to the Indonesian Spreadshirt and learned that there will soon be an Indonesian kickstarter. And so many more cool initiatives.

To my (and my spine’s) relief, there’s a pretty good yoga studio not far from my office with classes after work hours almost every day. So even that’s taken care of. I have managed to to 1-2 times a week.

And of course I went to some parties and bars, locations and friends I already know well from previous visits. All in all, 3 exciting and action packed weeks.

Night market at Fatahila

 

Berlin, I still love you but I have to move on

Wow – it’s finally official! In just two short weeks, my relationship with Berlin will come to an end.

Or, to make it sound less dramatic: I am going to relocate my physical operating range to… South East Asia, with my future homebase in Jakarta.

CC license by Dennis Lee

Now Jakarta isn’t exactly foreign territory. I was born by a beach just outside of the city and eventually went to school there. The prospect of returning now feels like bumping into a highschool crush: More than a decade later, both grown up and matured, you realize you still have a lot in common. You feel infinitely giddy about all the stories you have to catch up on.

meatspace, mindspace

I suppose “moving” in this connected world isn’t such a big deal. From my twitter stream I get the impression that half the world is constantly on the move, traveling from Europe to the US to Asia and back with the same ease as people on a daily commute from the suburbs into town.

CC license by Shreyans Bhansali

And maybe that’s all it is.

Who cares where someone ‘lives’, as long as their mind is istantly available. Our permanent connectedness has made being physically somewhere else much less frightening and strange.

CC license by Azizul Ameir

Mindspace knows no borders, but the lagging behind of meatspace in this matter is obvious. Visas, languages, timezones, jet lags, incompatible mobile phone carriers. And then the actual meatspace comes crashing in, taking the form of noise, smells, humidity, and the lack or overabundance of certain infrastructures we have grown to take for granted.

CC license by joe71102

Are those just annoying, ridiculous little artefacts of the past in an otherwise seamless rendering of the self?

In perfect mindspace, we live fluid lives, detached from time and surroundings. But I believe that for now, the artefacts of meatspace will impact me, and little by little, I may find myself  changed by my new environment.

choices, branches

Why is it necessary to make choices? Try to imagine the possibility of simply creating an instance of yourself, whenever difficult decisions come up, and simply walking down both paths at once, as is suggested in Charles Stross’ novel Accelerando. Each instance could explore the option, soak up the experience and reunite with the main branch at any point. How would this affect identity construction, I wonder. Instead of being “spoiled by choice” – surely one of the sicknesses common to the generation growing up with endless options and opportunities – living each choice to the fullest. Could possibly drive us even further into insanity.

CC license by sqala

goodbyes

For now, the choice is made, the promise of opportunities weighed one against the other. Who knows where this will lead to, but I’m definitely looking forward to the exciting times ahead!

Thanks to all the nice people who have made my time in Berlin worthwhile. Flatmates, friends, colleagues from work and uni, the twitterverse, random party folk!

I’ll see you all online, with just 5 hours of head start in the summer. I can now spend more time exploring and writing about what interests me in art, technology, and science  from a new Southern-Hemisphere angle.

And I’ll keep you updated about my new job, which is to help the Goethe Institute Jakarta transition its online communication to become more dialogue-oriented and community-driven.

 

Bird-Dog-Human-Horse

Just had a chat with my flatmate who told me about his sister’s new dog, Kadu. Kadu is a Vizsla, a sporting dog commonly used for hunting, with genetic origins in Hungaria.

Source: WIkipedia

Vizslas are bred to near-perfection for their hunting job: they are well mannered, loyal, extremely intelligent, have extremely good sense of smell and direction and practically thrive on being trained and executing tasks. In Kadu’s case, he will be trained to be a falconer’s dog – and this is where me and my flatmate started to get confused. What exactly is a dog’s role in falconry? Heck, how does falcon hunting work anyway?

point, hover, scare, hit and retrieve

Turns out, falconry is a complex collaboration effort between bird, dog, and human. The dog’s job is to sniff out and locate the prey, typically a pheasant or other fowl. The dog then “points” in the direction of the prey, letting the human know it is time to get the falcon (or hawk, or eagle) ready. The falconer lifts off the falcon’s blindfold and lets the bird soar into the sky. When the bird is in the right position, hovering above the dog, the dog gets the signal from the human to go and scare out the prey. As the prey tries to escape by flying off, the falcon immediately detects it and plunges from the sky to make the kill. Now the falconer summons back the bird (it is conditioned to do so, knowing that it will get fed), and the dog wraps up the job my retrieving the kill carefully and handing it over to the human.

Honestly, how amazing is that? As a born-and-bred big city girl it is hard for me to imagine how such a perfect cooperation between entirely different species could have been thought of, much less achieved through training by making the most of each species’ unique capabilities.

Add a horse into the equation – a human on a horse, travelling long distances, with the dog at the horse’s heels and the falcon on the human’s shoulder. A pretty impressive team.

Now I am not a fan of hunting, but I guess I find it ok that some people care about preserving this tradition of falconry. It seems to me to be more of a sport and interspecies bonding exercise, not a senseless wild chase with the goal of killing a maximum amount of living flesh.

Eagles can kill wolves, too

So while in most falconry the prey is fowl, in Mongolia people have trained golden eagles to hunt wolves. The eagle is released once the wolf is spotted. It drops down onto the wolf from above, grabbing its spine with one claw and the snout with the other, immobilizing it. The hunter then comes to finish the wolf off.

Animals as tools

Of course rifles and other tools have long surpassed dog, bird and horse in the efficiency to fulfill certain tasks. But still fun to think about what humans have achieved by making animals their tools, breeding for certain traits, training them by gaining knowledge about what the animal wants and how it can be persuaded to do certain tasks while still making sure it stays happy and healthy. Now add a little genetic engineering, more sophisticated training and conditioning methods and who knows we might end up with the next generation of self-replicating super precise power tools…

 

Berlin Awesome Grant #5

The Winner

To those who missed it: Last Thursday we had a great award ceremony, we chose this guy Robin Sukroso (aka Rainer Hirl) out of the three finalists as our trustee.

His plan is to build a simpler, ready to plug in version of his custom made techno guitar. We think he’s amazingly talented and his idea has a real potential. We hope you like our choice!

Runner Up

Rebecca Loyche‘s project is an installation called “circadian project”. It’s basically a room full of light. She says lights like these are used for therapeutic purposes to treat depression, especially in the nordic countries where going without daylight for weeks has bad effects on your health. She proposed to create this room as a public space, a place you can go to to recharge your batteries in winter.

Rebecca Loyche - Circadian Project

Runner Up

The third finalist was Dickon Stone, an adorable guy who lets bugs compose music. His project Bug Box Drum Machine is a type of installation, a white canvas which attracts bugs at night. As these bugs fly around they hit sensors which in turn trigger various drum samples.

He explains this idea comes out of something of a Zen approach to music, letting the ego of the composer step back and instead using the intellect to let nature’s beauty shine.

Dickon has made a similar instrument called “Bees in a Sitar” – using the hollow of a sitar to house bees and enabling them to create sounds.

 

Why Nonprofits should think more about communities

Thanks for setting up the Fundraising 2.0 conference, dear organizers Alexa Gröner and newthinking. I was lucky to be able to come, if just for one day on Friday the 20th.

As a community manager, I wanted to find out how community is discussed with you in the non-profit and creators sector. It seems to me that building a strong, healthy community would be extremely beneficial, especially to smaller NGOs, artists or informal groups with niche topics and minimal funding, so I was expecting to hear a lot about the topic.

Yet, to my surprise, the word “community” never fell once during the presentations (at least not those I visited). Rather, there was a strong focus on instruments and tools, talks about optimizing landing pages and donation forms, up to the color of the buttons (yes, the color makes a significant difference). And of course was also talk about using Twitter, Blogs, Facebook as “Marketing Channels”, being present and allowing interaction.

I found the focus a little off. These are all merely tools which enable you to find, understand and foster your COMMUNITY. The community being: people who care about your topic, and, in some cases care enough to get involved with your cause. Without your community, it’s like you’re building a huge palace which then stays empty.

I think a lot can be gained from viewing your entire communication through the perspective of creating community – think of it like being pioneers together in a some grassy plains. You’re basically creating a civilization from scratch.

Here are some first thoughts off the top of my head.

5 Tips for Nonprofits who want to build up community

1. Find people who already care about your cause.

The world is huge and that means that there are already groups, clubs or individuals who care about your cause and may even be active in one way or the other. Your first goal should be to identify those people, see what they have been up to, and think about what you could do to help them achieve their goal. Since their goal is the same as your goal, this is a good thing. For starters, just try a twitter search on a topic that is relevant for your organization, such as #wastemanagement or #alphabetisation.

2. Connect people not just with you, but with each other

In a community, it is important to strengthen ties within the network. Instead of putting yourself in the limelight and attracting many connections to yourself (your organization), connect the people supporting you, by introducing those of similar interests to each other, or creating situations in which your community learns about each other and can team up to work on something.

3. This works only if you know who you’re talking to

This point is extremely important to me. Even though your interactions are through facebook or other social media, this does not mean you are talking to some faceless mass audience. No, each like and each comment comes from an actual person, who could potentially become a loyal supporter to your cause.

Really start to think about your audience as individual people: who are they, what drives them, what is the best way for them to engage with you? Who keeps coming back, who haven’t you seen around for a while?

4. Be a good gardener

When you start out with building up your social media channels (better: building up your community!) things will go slowly at first. Growing a community takes time… you will probably start out with friends and your network. Give them specific tasks, use them as guinea pigs in your communication environment. They’re your friends, so they won’t mind!

It is important to get a sense of what interactions feel like in your environment. If need be, create your own “fake” conversations, to give others a sense of whats possible and to kickstart conversations. But use this method only if absolutely necessary, because it will come across as super phony if overdone. As you start inviting more and more newbies to your community, this ensures there will already be some content to look at, there will be a sense of life inhabiting your environment, and this life attracts further life.

Make sure to greet newcomers accordingly and make them feel at home. Its ok to tell them that your community is only just starting out, and that they are pioneers in this environment. Those people who start the community with you can become extremely important as your core members, and you can rely on their honest feedback and support later on.

5. Think about those below the surface

As in any community, only a small fraction of the people who have liked your page or signed up to your newsletter will be active and responsive all the time. There’s the good ‘ol model called the 90-9-1 rule  according to which only 1% of your sign-ups are active users, while 9% are intermittend users and the vast majoroty of 90% never does anything at all.

I’m not sure weather that ratio has to be true for all communities, I believe strongly that activating more of the ‘lurkers’ to become at least slightly active IS possible and that is is worth focusing on that effort. Acquiring new sign-ups is expensive, and after all, those people have ALREADY liked, signed up or followed you at one point. Try to find out: why did they stop being interested? Are you not providing what they need, can you change anything about that?

Community first

To bring this to an end, a last thought of why I think community is so important in this sector. Crowdfunding has become a huge thing, and I have witnessed some cultural projects relying on this new ‘tool’ to get their project off the ground. Yet often, crowdfunding fails – because you can’t crowdfund without an already committed community.

I would love to explore this topic further… for example as in developing a simple 10 Step Guide for NGOs and creative projects to handle their community building. Please leave comments if you’re interested!

 

Awesome Award call for Applications

Awesome Berlin is back on February 2, 2012, applications start now! (open until Jan. 25th 2012)

The  Awesome Fund Berlin is a EUR 1,000 grant awarded several times a year to a truly awesome project taking place in or around Berlin. The Award winner will receive the money upfront in cash, in a brown paper bag. This grant is provided with no strings attached and claims no ownership over the projects it supports. Its sole purpose is to help make awesome ideas happen.

Who can apply?

Anyone can apply if they have an awesome idea and if they’re sure they can pull it off. It is hard to define awesome, but we’re sure you know what we mean. We’re looking for ideas that are unseen,  captiavitng, and that manage to inspire audiences.

How?

• go here: http://awesomefoundation.org/submissions/new
• Choose Berlin Chapter
• Fill out the application form
• Send!
The Trustees of the Berlin Awesome Foundation review all applications and will contact three applicants to make it on to the shortlist. These three finalists are invited to present their project in a short 5-minute talk at the day of the award ceremony at Betahaus, Prinzessinnenstr. 19, Feb. 2, 2012, 9.30am. The Trustees will  announce their decision shortly after the presentations. The winner takes home the brown paper bag with EUR 1,000 cash.

Previously funded by Awesome

Birdhouse building workshop and turning election campaign posters into birdhouses flashmob – coordinated by Jay Cousins

 

 

Parts of Graffiti Research Lab Germany’s Light Rider projection bike

 

Community Welcome Mails

Signing up for a new service usually means receiving at least one little ‘welcome’ email. Often it requires you to confirm your email address, or simply tells you about your next options.

Most of the time I open these kinds of mails blindly, skimming the text until I find the confirmation link or any other important call to action. These mails always look the same, an go something like this:

“hi xyz, welcome to xyz, the best blablabla.  Please…” and so on.

Sometimes these mails are sent from a no-reply address, signaling: “it’s an automatic system talking to you here, don’t even think about getting in touch, just read the manual and be on with it. Ok, if you really need help [idiot] there’s the support center.”

BUT there are exceptions to the rule

1) founders2be welcome mail

From founders2be, I got this nice personal letter, the sender introduces himself as one of the co-founders and uses a regular email address with his name. He tells a little story about how the startup was born and convinces me to fill out my profile information because this will increase the value of the experience. I think the mail was personalized to the specific status of my profile information. It wasn’t particularly nice looking or fancily html formatted, it just looked like any old email from a real person who wants you to make the most of the service you’ve just signed up to. +1!

 

2) Gidsy keeping early sign ups happy mail

Some services allow registration before the actual launch. In some cases you end up forgetting you ever signed up because nothing happens, or you get frustrated by boring, newsletter type emails promoting a service you don’t feel attached to yet. Gidsy however have treated their early sign-ups really well, inviting them to a test round of the newly available features. The email is layouted in a subtle way, still looking like an email and not newslettery. Also notice the please-reply address – nice pun.

 

some REALLY mess it up

While what feels like at least 90% of messages of this type resort to the mediocre, standard variety, there aren’t only those who stand out as positive deviations from the norm. No, there are also the really annoying ones which make you lose all appetite for a service before even using it.

1) Pistachio blackmail

When pistachio pitched at betahaus the other day, they invited the audience to tweet for an access code. I found the concept interesting enough to want to test it. But instead of access to the service, I got this mail. They thank me for requesting an invite. Um… no, actually YOU invited ME, remember? Then they go on to ask me to invite more friends to the service. In fact, they blackmail me with what sounds vaguely like a threat: “the more friends you invite, the sooner you’ll get access”. You know what… I never really liked pistachios all that much.

I’m sure my colleague Jeroen had made  a very similar experience when he tweeted this just a few days ago:

 

 

Women I admire! (random list)

I’m not exactly a feminist. I’m not even a very political person. But I’m a woman and I suddenly realized I don’t really know that many women and there are definitely more men than women in the group of people I would call my “professional network”. That sucks! Which is why I went and joined  the recent netfeminism meetup here in Berlin. Hopefully, strengthening the ties among each other and making us more visible, in a way, will lead to less male-dominated events and conferences and more and more women being recognized for the good stuff they do, online and offline.

So while I’m on this train of thought, I made a mental list of women that have inspired me lately and which I truly admire. Why not write this down here and repeat the exercise every now and then.

Here we go:

1. Régine Debatty

I don’t know her personally at all, but from the outside it looks as though Régine leads the life of my dreams! She’s the main writer of one of the coolest blogs I know, we make money not art. She reports on cutting edge technology, arts and sciency stuff, right up my alley and she’s always on the move. I can check into WMNA any time of day, any day, and I’ll find a mind boggling story worth exploring. I got in touch with the Open Sailing collective after reading a WMNA article, and though this project is at the moment dormant for me, I’m so glad to have met César. Oh and I have tried to get Régine to speak at Pecha Kucha Berlin during my time there, but unfortunately it never worked out due to scheduling problems. Doesn’t matter – one day I’ll meet you, Régine, and give you a big long hug, hehe.

2. Mercedes Bunz

She founded de:bug. Nuff said. Too bad she’s left Berlin for London but on the other hand good for her. She still writes some incredibly smart stuff.

3. Tina Fey

I was never all that much into 50Rock or knew much about Tina Fey until I heard some podcast with her as a guest. Somehow that intrigued me to find out more and then I got the audiobook version of “bossypants” read by herself and I realized I find her sooo funny that I’m even giving 50Rock another chance. Too bad she’s not on twitter. (Yet? Yet??)

4. Gina Trapani

Gina is my favorite person on this week in google! While the guys are sometimes bragging and repetitive, Gina is always modest, funny, sharp as a knife and always has an interesting perspective to add. She’s a hacker, entrepreneur and what not. Yay!

5. Jane Bussmann

Although I was only at one book reading of hers in Berlin, and that was by accident, the memory of that evening is still fresh in my mind! I mean, who is gutsy enough to go to Uganda – alone – in some sort of investigative journalism mission and turn that whole experience into an extremely funny book? Uhh.. no one? Except Jane Bussmann? Read the book, or go to one of her shows!

6. Dr. Kiki

I listen to Dr. Kiki twice a week, at Dr. Kiki’s Science Hour and This Week in Science! The first is an interview show featuring one guest on one science topic, the other is a weekly roundup of the craziest and most relevant science news which she does together with a (sometimes a little annoyingly self-confident) male co-host. Dr. Kiki definitely holds together both shows. And she’s also a role model for showing how to be a scientist, podcaster and mom all in one. Sometimes her baby cries a little during the recording sessions, but that’s ok.

7. Ela Kagel

A networker and enabler of ideas and events, Berlin wouldn’t be the same without her! She was a curator at transmediale, made tons of events happen, like the workshop series “Free culture incubator“. Can’t wait til her new project space Supermarkt  finlly opens – this will be sometime in November. Will be a reason to make the trip up to Wedding more frequently.

I now realize I probably should have done this post on Ada Lovelace day – like Mercedes Bunz did in this article for the guardian! Next year, then.