Facebook-Native Politicians – Slides, Webcast and Live Hangout Q and A Dec. 3/4

Minneapolis City Council Members - Source MinnPost

Are you ready for something completely new?

Introducing the “Facebook Native Politician” … meaning someone on Facebook from their teens or college days now entering elective public office. Facebook user first, politician second.

In my view, Minneapolis has the most exciting 24/7 “Facebook” engaged City Council in the world.

With this embryonic case study, you can decide for yourself, explore the lessons, and adapt them to your community.

This unfolding story is about what happens when you elect seven new city council members with an AVERAGE age of 33 who are Facebook Natives. This is combined with 6 returning council members and a new Mayor who in their own right  are also quite social media savvy and engaged online with their constituents.

This is no longer a story of using social media to gather votes and then going silent once power is gained. This “engagement generation” sees things differently.

You may have heard about #pointergate. Now check out the deeper context of social media engagement in Minneapolis public and political life and join our live online Hangouts and Facebook Group topic to share Facebook engagement stories from your elected representatives around the world.

Image Credit: MinnPost


Watch the snappy half-hour presentation by E-Democracy Executive Director Steven Clift hosted by Involve with the University Westminster’s Centre for the Study of Democracy  (Clift starts at 5:15):


Google Slides (includes updates)

SlideShare (as of Nov 18 2014):

Blog Posts

About this event/presentation:




UK Engagements 2014 – Consultation Institute, SOCITM, Involve, Norbiton, MozFest, mySociety and more

Steven Clift, our Executive Director, will be visiting the UK on a speaking and engagement tour from October 20-28.

My Facebook Native Councillors presentation starts at 5:10 and goes for 28 minutes:


While I will not be offering my Neighbors Online seminar on this trip (unless someone would like to sponsor it the morning of Oct 27 or on Oct 28). These current slides and and two earlier video options, one with discussion mixed in and the other with discussion at the end, are available.

Poplus – E-Democracy supports collaborative civic coding, Chicago gathering


PoplusCon Partcipants
PoplusCon participants say, join in!

Special event: Join us in Chicago on Tuesday, August 5 for information session on Poplus and learn about Open Twin Cities and service design as well.

E-Democracy is a big supporter of the global Poplus civic coding federation. In particular, we are gearing up to help with strategic outreach for the highly interactive online group and related committees.

Check our slides from the Chicago event to learn more. Includes short video clips.

New – Video from the Chicago event thanks to the Smart Chicago Collaborative – Forward to 8:22 to skip E-Democracy 1994 mini presentation:


Below is a guest blog post by Myf Nixon from mySociety about Poplus.

Poplus: reusing code across international borders


All around the world, governments work to different models. The problems that citizens face differ, too. So it’s something of a surprise, perhaps, to realise that their democratic or civic needs can be broadly similar.

In any nation, people benefit from being better informed about what their politicians and rulers are doing on their behalf. In any regime, transparency of information is a boon. And everyone wins when citizens can report problems within their own community.

It is with these broad parities in mind that Poplus was founded. Poplus is a new international initiative to promote the sharing of code and online tools that meet the needs of citizens everywhere.

It was originally conceived by the UK’s mySociety and Fundación Ciudadano Inteligente in Chile, and is now an international federation that is open for anyone to join.

Civic experience

mySociety has been creating civic websites and tools for a decade. During that time, we’ve gained a lot of experience and learned from a lot of mistakes. We knew we could help other groups around the world who were attempting to do the same things we do: hold governments to account, make freedom of information more accessible, and open the channels of citizen to government engagement.

Our code has always been open source and free for anyone to use, but over the past few years we’ve come to realise that this isn’t enough. If we really wanted to help other organisations, that code needed to be supremely easy to install, and it needed to work with as few modifications as possible, no matter what the political landscape.

So in 2012, we partnered up with FCI to create Poplus to tackle this problem face on. Poplus aims to support coders to make Components – bits of interoperable code that should be easy to implement, are non-country-specific, work alone or with one another, and are available open source.

April of this year saw the first Poplus conference in Santiago, Chile. Delegates came from 27 different countries. There was a mix of coders and campaigning organisations, all with differing experiences, differing needs, and a thirst to communicate.


Poplus Conference video round-up

The conference was a great way to kickstart the initiative, putting together people who make code and the people who need it, and then sending them home to every corner of the world, with a mandate to both stay in touch with one another, and help spread the word about Poplus.

Since then, communication has been via a lively mailing list, its members meeting the challenge of shaping an international federation across many different time zones, different languages, and working entirely online.

This network brings us many strengths, so it’s worth overcoming the logistical difficulties.

Global growth

Clearly, with people all around the world we can spread the word about Poplus more quickly. We can learn from one another, and that will feed into making Poplus Components more shareable and usable in every type of jurisdiction. We can tap into translation resources. We can find the local groups who will most benefit from our work because we have people on the ground.

Right now we’re very aware that Poplus is in its infancy. It’s an idea that has a lot of buy-in, and several concrete projects that organisations can start using. We would like to see Poplus grow, with many more Components on offer.

We’d like organisations that need software to come to us, and if there isn’t already a Component that can help, we’d like them to be able to explain their needs to an ever growing pool of coders, some of whom might take up the challenge of making it.

Everyone is welcome to join Poplus, whether you are a coder, an organisation that would benefit from using code, or just someone who is very interested and would like to help. The first step is to join our mailing list and introduce yourself.

– Guest blog from Myf Nixon, mySociety

Connect with E-Democracy’s Steven Clift Across Europe – Nov 25 – Dec 2 2013


Now that CityCampMN and Give to the Max Day are behind us, I (Steven Clift) can focus intensively on preparing for a ten day speaking trip across Europe. This all started with an invite to participate in the World Forum and then others stepping forward to sponsor additional stops and gatherings. I am grateful.

These wonderful invitations provide an opportunity to both share lessons from our inclusive civic technology work and synthesize some “it really matters” trends combined with big big questions challenging us to ensure that open government/civic technology/e-democracy actually make democracy BETTER and fundamentally embrace all by engaging new voices.

For the next week via my Democracies Online Newswire (and other online spaces) and @democracy Twitter account you will see me reaching for examples and reactions – I fundamentally believe that the intelligence is in the network, but sometimes it needs the right questions to spark an outpouring of insightful conversation.


This trip is sort of a “back to the future” experience for me. Prior to my Ashoka Fellowship in 2006 and grant support from the Ford and Knight Foundations, I used to use speaking and consulting to support E-Democracy’s then all-volunteer network. One of my goals with the embryonic New Voices Working Group exploration is to develop funded programming that will bolster E-Democracy’s convening role that remains informed by cutting edge online civic technology work in the field like our BeNeighbors.org effort. We see this as a grounded one-two punch for the future of democratic engagement online.



Updated Rules Adopted


After months of extensive participant input including blog comments and an online survey, Forum Manager and volunteer consultation, and Board deliberation, the final version of our updated rules (terms of service) were adopted by the Board on April 26, 2011.

The major changes include:

  • Setting Better Expectations – We added text throughout to clarify where the rules come from, the power and responsibilities of forum managers,  where to complain, etc. We are honored to have you as a participant on our site, but we need to be clear that these forums have leaders. Base on our legal filing with the U.S. government, since 1994 we’ve had a self-appointed Board and have never been a membership organization with elected forum managers or leaders. This will disappoint some.
  • Sharing Content More Widely – We’ve officially adopted the Create Commons with Attribution copyright license. Our previous rules were functionally the same, but we believe we are among the first online community sites officially entering the “commons” by default. If you are posting something you only want shared on E-Democracy.org but not any further, just add “Copyright 2011 Your Name” to such posts, documents, or images.
  • Moderation Limits – We’ve greatly clarified the use of limited moderation for new members and for cause. We eliminated two month, renewable moderation and replaced it with flexible up to one week moderation for any reason, not renewable and now allow moderation in lieu of suspension after two official warnings. Our goal is to avoid moderating people who do not want to be moderated. We saved many people from warnings and suspensions with our past system but it caused unsustainable administrative burdens. So, if you can’t follow our very strict civility rules or stay within the local scope of a forum, you may find yourself losing the right to participate based on warnings that we will no longer prevent with moderation.

With our 59 survey responses (thank you!), the responses received were overwhelmingly supportive of the draft rules except in two areas – the “two posts a day rule” and comments questioning the execution and interpretation of our civility rules.

We want to make it clear that the volume constraint is a local choice and setting that can be changed by your local Forum Manager (or if you have an active local volunteer team they can make that choice in conjunctions with their Forum Manager). Some forums have higher limits. Our default use of e-mail and clashing online user cultures of web forums/blog commenting make this a complex issue. In short, it is our experience that overall volume must be limited or we will lose our e-mail participants and by encouraging forums to use two posts in 24 hours, conflict is significantly reduced because the harder edged debaters hold back on their second posts after more voices are raised in the process. While your daily experience might be limited, do you really need more than 700 opportunities to post each year? With so many sites offering “sound off” opportunities, we prefer to enable in-depth exchange with many voices.

With our civility rules, we tweaked them, but they are largely the same. Real names with strong civility is our cornerstone. Improving how forums are managed is an ongoing effort. Almost without exception the few but strong complaints come from the most partisan participants on both sides of the spectrum on our city-wide and up political forums. It is our experience that many partisans like strong debate and cross over into name calling more frequently. It is also our experience that this style of conflict drives away the participant base and power of the forum to reach government and community leaders. We’ve clearly chosen participation and power over unfettered debate as our model.

We are drafting a new volunteer Forum Manager selection policy to provide further clarity. In the end, the execution of these rules and volunteer labor capacity to deal with the most vigorous rule violators has to be sustainable for these online public spaces to exist. If you find that our freedom of assembly and our collective freedom of speech choice to not allow name calling, etc. is too restrictive on you personally, please remember that your real freedom online is on sites that you individually own and operate. The vast majority of our participants cite our stand for civility as a reason they participate. Without it, the audience we’ve gathered wouldn’t be here to listen to your speech on our site.

If you have questions or comments about the rules (after you read them in full) either drop us a note or add a blog comment below.

Online Survey – Comment on the Updated Rules Draft by March 15, 2011

Every few years, our Board seeks input on rules changes and reflects on how they have worked in practice so they can be improved.

Online Survey (NOW CLOSED) – Read the proposed rules and comment section by section. Or read the full draft.

The rules govern participation on our Issues Forums and guide our growing network of online communities of practice.

Thank you. We received over 60 responses via our survey. Now the input will be reviewed.

The cornerstone of our rules are:

  • Real names to build trust, ensure accountability, and enhance participant power and influence in local democracy
  • Promoting civility by prohibiting name calling of any kind and limiting the number of posts a person can make in a day (typically two)
  • Forum by forum geographic or thematic “scope” to maximize the audience and therefore forum influence (about local issues, not local people talking national politics)
  • Volunteer forum manager facilitation, rules enforcement, and the ability to suspend participants based on warnings for limited amounts of time rather than removing rule violating content

Unlike most private online spaces, these rules intentionally limit arbitrary and unaccountable management action. While we aren’t a government or a democracy (we don’t vote people off the island so to speak), we operate forums to improve democracy, openness, and to foster community building. These rules have evolved since 1994. In order for E-Democracy.org to fully establish your right to participate in forums that we legally own and operate, the rules are quite lengthy (sites with short rules reserve all the rights for themselves and rarely assign themselves any responsibilities like we do).

Below the quick rules summary is our analysis of the major changes from our perspective from the current rules.

Online Survey (NOW CLOSED) – This is your chance to comment on specific draft rules language or propose amendments to our Board. To be fully reviewed by the Rule Committee, you need to use this survey form (public comments on this blog post are more than welcome, but put them in the survey as well).

The full draft rules are available here for printing.

Thank you. We received over 60 responses via our survey. Now the input will be reviewed.

Previous blog posts and comments helped the Board think about this set of revisions.

Draft Rules Summary

1. Real Names Required: Register and sign posts with your real name and community.

2. Right to Post and Reply: Sharing your knowledge and opinions with your fellow participants is a democratic right.

3. Limits on Posting within a Forum’s Purpose: Two posts per day per member on most forums. Forum charters determine geographic or topical scope.

4. Be Civil: No name-calling. Respect among people with differing views is our cornerstone.

5. No Personal Attacks or Threats: This keeps the forums welcoming and safer.

6. Private Stays Private: Don’t forward private communication without permission.

7. Avoid Unsubstantiated Rumors: Asking for clarification of what you’ve heard in the community can be appropriate if issues-based. You alone are responsible for what you post.

8. Items Not Allowed in Forums: No strong profanity, pornographic content, chain letters, unsolicited commercial advertising, etc. Forum charters may detail examples or exceptions including allowing commercial exchange and advice.

9. Public Content and Use: You are sharing your content under the E-Democracy.org selected Creative Commons license unless you state an alternative copyright.

10. Warnings and Suspensions: You may receive informal or official warnings. The volunteer Forum Manager is responsible for facilitation and enforcing rules. With your second official warning in one year, you are suspended for two weeks. You may appeal all warnings after a third warning that brings a six-month suspension.

11. Forum Managers: Each forum has a manager with responsibilities and technical privileges to meet those responsibilities. Disputes with Forum Managers may be brought to E-Democracy.org through various mechanisms.

Major Changes Overview

The most significant proposed changes in the rules are:

1. Moderation Use Limited – The period allowed for special moderation is changing from two months to one week with exceptions specified. Forum Managers will also have the option of offering moderation in lieu of the first two week suspension for repeat rule violators with the goal of keeping them as forum participants.

2. Warning Tracking – While official warnings are given perhaps five times total a year on our 20+ neighborhood forums, our more political city-wide, state, and national forums generate more heat and complaints. To improve our tracking of official rule violations, we are proposing an internal rule tracking system. While there were some calls for public transparency on all issued rule warnings, there were others who asked us to protect their privacy. We are trying to strike a balance where publicity of early violations would outsize the penalty required and the calls for transparency in our dealings (mostly) with repeat rule violators. The draft now makes public forum notices which name the member suspended with third warnings (which results in a six month suspensions) required but leaves the process private “as is” for the first two warnings. We hope that such notices will help assure participants that such removals are extremely rare and reduce the number of times people from different parts of political spectrum think they are being singled out for their political views when they receive official warnings. Use the survey section on XYZ to tell us what you think.

3. Creative Commons for Sharing – We are proposing that content shared by participants – unless marked otherwise in their post – is now copyrighted for open reuse across the Internet with the attribution Creative Commons license. The rules always allowed forwarding of posts, but this makes it more standardized. Most sites claim ownership of what is posted on their property, we do not.

4. General Expectation Clarifications – We more clearly state that these forums are about our collective freedom of assembly and our right to engage in effective speech with civility. Some suggest that their individual free speech rights trump our voluntarily applied civility rules. We’ve made it more clear that if you don’t agree with the rules now or later that this is clearly not the case. No individual or government can deny us our right to define our own form of group political expression. The Internet allows everyone to do their own thing and we embrace that as a democratic actor online with clear civility goals and not as simply like a host of other people’s individual expression on their own website.

5. Forum Governance Input – While some have the impression or expectation that the name E-Democracy implies a membership organization with elections, dues (taxes), etc. our legal non-profit registration from 1996 established a mission focused self-appointing Board and volunteer empowered governing framework. We are a democratic education organization with a view on how to facilitate online public engagement and not a representative organization with voting members. That will not fundamentally change. Our position on this is relates to our direct experience with the resources required to operate a local chapter that had elected officers and the like and ongoing lack of volunteer capacity beyond the role of our dedicated volunteer forum managers who do the heavy lifting across 35+ forums. To encourage distributed community leadership and local volunteer “team” engagement where there is volunteer interest without creating difficult to meet obligations for every community, a separate Forum Manager appointment and oversight policy is being drafted for future Board consideration. This will encourage local volunteers to activate their local volunteer teams (most communities have internal team online groups used during forum start-up and that almost without exception go dormant once a forum opens) to become more active in Forum Manager oversight and support. In places where local volunteers do not actively support the forum with their time (recruitment and outreach, content gathering, fund raising, related civic engagement programming, etc.) the Forum Manager will remain the single authority on the local charter and lead nominator for their replacement when they retire. (The policy will also allow for the replacement of local Forum Managers for cause.)

As we only dig this deep into our rules every few years (and this was the deepest review in a decade), the online survey is your chance (through March 15, 2011) to offer comments straight to our Board’s rules committee before we make any final revisions based on your input and adopt the new rules in late March at the full Board of Directors level.

Neighbors Online Video, London Networked Neighbours and CityCamp Unconferences

Here is a video of most of my presentation at the Networked Neighbourhoods event in London the other month. I start on the third minute. Unfortunately my FlipCam filled up so the rest of the even. Also see the blog recaps by Networked Neighbourhoods, and Kevin Harris. This was part of my UK trip in July.

Also, speaking of the UK, Networked Neighbourhoods is having an unconference on September 25th and CityCamp London is October 8-10. E-Democracy.org is a big supporter of CityCamp and host the ongoing online exchange. We invite those attending the London neighbourhoods online event to join their international peers on the similar Locals Online exchange.

Neighbors Online Presentation from E-Democracy.org on Vimeo.

Below are the slides from the Activate Conference which I adapted for the presentation above. Sorry about the abrupt end to the video. Want more? How about a 90 minute webinar reviewing the field? After I concluded with comments on our Inclusive Social Media efforts and Neighbors Online stats, the event went into discussion mode. It was a great event. Thank you Kevin and Hugh for making it happen.

Real Names – The View Shared with BBC Radio 4 and more

BBC Radio 4 LogoBBC Radio 4 LogoThe other day I had the privilege of participating in a debate on BBC Radio 4’s You and Your’s program about anonymity in online commenting. Have a listen.

At the Guardian’s Active conference I asked, why major online news sites are so content with empowering the angriest people in society with the design of their online news commenting systems. I am personally most interested in the local level where I see the mainstream media with online news commenting essentially promoting division and discord by intent online in local communities. They are not reflecting a conflicted society, they are giving mega phones to the 1% on the extremes and allowing the other 98% of us to be driven away. At some point I hope media sites begin to survey their communities on the damage to their own reputation for poor stewardship of online interactivity. Our own experience is that simply promoting real names as the default (and I recommend pre-moderating those unwilling or unable to stand behind their words with their real name) deals with 80% of the incivility problem.

While I certainly oppose government requirements that people must use their real names online, I strongly encourage democratically spirited organizations to promote real names because it gives people far more power and influence not to mention making online spaces more attractive with greater civility. Facebook is eating the interactive lunch of online news sites stuck in the 20th Century of “no one knows you are a dog” online. That said, I don’t care if World of Warcraft uses aliases or real names (link to Guardian article that tipped off the BBC).

Update: Listen to my interview on the Guardian’s podcast starting at minute 14:00.

UK Week – Bristol, Activate Conference, London Neighbourhoods Event, Pub Gatherings, and More

UK Parliament

Thanks to the folks at The Guardian and their Activate 2010 conference I’ll be in the UK next week.

The “official” Twitter hashtag I’ll use for updates during the week is #edemuk – I’ll use this for logistics and announce any spontaneous opportunities to connect.

My big message all week will be Local Matters, Civility Matters, Inclusion Matters. In terms of “what’s new” and exciting since my last UK visit are the emerging digital inclusion lessons from our Inclusive Social Media efforts in lower income, high immigrant neighborhoods. If you can’t make any of the event, watch my recent webinar.

  • July 1 – LondonActivate Conference – Watch the video preview of my keynote speech. Other speakers include Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, Tom Steinberg with mySociety, Clay Shirky, Beth Noveck with the White House, and many more. My job, as described so well recently by a BP official, is to tell the story of how we “small people” are using the Internet to empower ourselves. 🙂
  • July 3 – London – E-Democracy.org UK Meeting – At 10 a.m. on Saturday, our UK-based Board Members Mary Reid and Edward Andersson invite any of our local Issues Forum leaders and volunteers (potential volunteers welcome too!) to join us near Kings Cross. Contact us for the full details. (Mary Reid is new Board Chair of E-Democracy.org, blog announcement pending.) No plans as of yet for Saturday evening, but I hope to connect with some of our Newham forum friends.

How to Make Effective Use of E-Democracy.Org Issues Forums

For a long time, E-Democracy.org has been trying to put in place something to better educate and prepare forum participants on how to effectively make use of our forums, both in terms of managing their time and effectively communicating their ideas and opinions. We finally have a FREE online class in place designed to do just that.

Issues Forums 101: Making Effective Use of Your Local or Neighborhood Issues Forum will help Local or Neighborhood Issues Forum members to:

  • Better understand the history and ideas behind Local Issues Forums
  • Better understand the strengths and corresponding limitations of Local Issues Forums
  • Better understand the kinds of local culture that can develop in a Local Issues Forum and how to navigate it
  • Better manage their time when using Local Issues Forums
  • More effectively communicate their ideas within a Local Issues Forum
  • Understand the key rules and guidelines for participating in a Local Issues Forum and why they were put in place
  • This class is great for newcomers to Issues Forums, but will also serve as a great refresher course to some of the veterans who have been posting in our forums for many years. Those veterans will also have an opportunity to share some of their own ideas and suggestions during the class.

    We also recommend the class to anyone interested in possibly starting a Local Issues Forum in their neighborhood or city or anyone just interested in Issues Forums in general. In short, the class is open to the public.

    We’re currently working with Cool Tools (a new company led by long-time E-Democracy volunteer Tim Erickson) to host and manage the classes, who in turn are using Adobe Acrobat Connect as their classroom. The instructor will be able to transmit his voice and image, display presentation slides, and share his screen when necessary. Participants in the class will be able to ask questions via chat, chat with other participants, and possibly use their computer microphone to speak during the class (as needed). To test your computers compatibility with the Flash based online classroom Visit Here.

    We currently have classes scheduled at various times of the day, in a hope to make the class accessible to users in the UK, New Zealand, as well as the USA. We currently have three sessions of the class scheduled over the next few weeks (use drop down menu to find the time zone closest to your own):

  • Option 1:
  • Option 2:
  • Option 3:
  • See registration page for addition dates and times as they become available.