#mooreandme and #p2: learnings for progressives on Twitter (REVISED DRAFT)

Draft, work in progress. Feedback welcome!

Last updated February 5.

#p2 logo

Twitter is an opportunity to engage with communities currently marginalized by the “progressive blogosphere”. Demographically and stylisticly, Twitter is far less male-dominated than the big blogs of the progressive blogosphere …

– Tracy Viselli and Jon Pincus, The #p2 Hashtag and Strategies for Progressives on Twitter, February 2009

Twitter is, quite possibly, the best available medium for this particular kind of protest. The format has a number of features that level a playing field that tends to push women into the outfield.

- How #Mooreandme Worked, Lili Loofbourow, December 2010

Twitter was an instinctive choice for #MooreandMe, because it made the target of the protest accessible and ensured that he could hear us. But I liked it as a medium for #DearJohn too, because it was really equalizing, it wasn’t hierarchical, it ensured that voices and perspectives could influence the conversation regardless of how well-connected or well-known they were, and it was a very visible, trackable way to register dissent.

- Sady Doyle of Tiger Beatdown, interviewed in where is your line?, January 2011

@myrnatheminx and I put a lot of time into our proposal for #p2, including discussions with the folks from #fem2, #rebelleft, and #topprog.  The first few months were exciting times.  #taxcuts.  #fairpay.  #askpres.  Gina Cooper and Jim Gilliam (along with me and Tracy) started up TweetProgress.   Presentations like Building Engaged Communities that Act and Cognitive Evolution and Revolution and a series of chats (1 , 2, 345 ) and blog posts discussed activism and diversity. Chris Mesarole developed TweetLeft.  Great stuff!

Since then, even though #p2 has continued to be the largest progressive hashtag on Twitter and more than 5,000 progressives signed up for TweetProgress, momentum seems to have stalled.  Pity.

Feminists, by contrast, continue to take the lead.  The recent #mooreandme campaign is a textbook example.

How it should be done

Tracy’s recent experiment with #taxcuts and Jon’s with #digg it illustrate another strategic possibility: activists need to refine techniques for Twitter-based “flash actions”.

– Tracy and Jon

So thank God he’s on Twitter. He is @MMFlint, in fact! And here’s what we’re going to do: We’re going to use the #Mooreandme hashtag to tell him why what he has done and said is wrong.

- Sady Doyle, #MooreandMe: On Progressives, Rape Apologism, and the Little Guy, Tiger Beatdown

A lot of the people reading Sady’s post knew just what to do.  Tweet about it.  Tell your friends and get them involved.  Tweet about it some more.  Blog about it and tweet the links.  Retweet links to everybody else’s blog posts.  Get word to journalists who like to write about stuff like this — or feature it on their TV shows.  And tweet about it.

As #rebelleft co-founder and early #p2 stalwart @matttbastard observed in Still Waiting at the Foot of the Tower, the majority of participants on the hashtag “appear to be progressive feminists/feminist allies.”  And these folks have worked been involved in a lot of Twitter-based activism campaigns together,  as early as November 2008 with #motrinmoms, the AAUW-led #fairpay activism, using #diversityfail to engage with technology journalists conferences, the #Whittier moms…. and much much more.   So people are following each other and key hashtags like #fem2.

Which makes it easy to see when something’s happening and get involved.  And everybody’s also developing instincts for what kinds of campaigns are likely to work.

In this case, the results were pretty astonishing:

After one day, #mooreandme had the attention of Keith Olbermann, among others — including NYT reporter and Half the Sky co-author Nicholas Kristof; CauseWired author Tom Watson; Jezebel, Slate, Salon, Mediaite, and The Washington Post online.

- Kate Harding, Why I’m on Board with #mooreandme

Last night, I did something I hadn’t done in a very long time. I took a long, hot bath…. Because I could do that, sort of. Because we won one.

- Sady, And Then He Came Down

Yeah really.   And as Bryce Covert’s #mooreandme Worked.  So What’s Next? on where is your line? discusses, #mooreandme has also been a starting point for #toshpointno, #DearJohn, and other activism.  Self-organizing campaigns like this get a lot easier with practice.

There’s a lot of other stuff that Tracy and I got right two years ago.  Lili’s descriptions of how Twitter’s communication styles make it harder for loud-voiced guys to shut others out of the conversation and how trolling actually wound up reinforcing #mooreandme are great examples of our point that “some classic dominance techniques are much more easily defused in this environment.  And Michael’s “thank you” to Sady ties back go something we quoted Maegan Carberry about: Twitter’s tone makes it much easier to bond with people you might otherwise have discredited.   Yay us!

Recommendations

Many people write off Twitter before really understanding it.
– Tracy and Jon

I’m also sick of hearing that this is somehow a bullshit protest because it’s happening on Twitter instead of the street.
– Kate

Twitter remains a great place for progressives interested in diversity.  And yet progressives haven’t invested much in Twitter, and a lot of many of them continue to dismiss Twitter activism.  Especially with the new #1u hashtag and the upcoming launch of DK4, now’s a great time to start changing that.  Twitter remains the ideal place to engage with a diverse community to gear up for the political battles in DC and the states in 2011, and begin organizing and building capacity for the 2012 election.

In aid of that, what can we learn from #mooreandme, the many other US and international Twitter activism campaigns, the first two years of #p2?

  • prioritize Twitter: invest as much in it (or more!) as blogging and mailing lists.

More specifically, the first two recommednations Tracy and I made a couple of years ago still apply:

  • adopt and improve on Twitter best practices: insiders providing information regularly, backchannels at conferences and workshops, regular Twitter-based chats by organizations and bloggers, a wiki with contact lists and learning materials, developing skills pitching to journalists who prefer Twitter, using Twitter to help with Digg, etc.
  • refine techniques for Twitter-based “flash actions” Social computing technologies are tools; we need to learn to use them effectively.

Jim Gilliam observes that “Building a community around the #p2 hashtag provides an infrastructure for promoting progressive ideals and actions items.”  Indeed!  There are some very good techniques for deepening community on Twitter:

  • restart #p2 chats,  and begin planning for a one day event like the Women Who Tech telesummit or February 2009 Feminism 2.0 conference.   As a starting point, the suggestions for how the privacy community can leverage a weekly chat for advocacy and activism apply equally well to progressives.
  • leverage and create new technologies: take advantage of Twitter lists to complement TweetProgress; use paper.li and Flipboard to create #p2-based progressive newspapers and magazines; experiment with Nation Builder, attentive.ly and other community-focused engagement tools; create an engaging site like #latism’s new casita; prototype new solutions where existing technology falls short — for example in keeping trolls from interfering with conversations.

And finally, progressives should learn from our friends who are far ahead of us in their use of Twitter.

  • organize joint events with #fem2, #latism, and other natural allies, and issue-based communities like #privchat, so we can better support them — while learning what we should be doing better

As Tracy and I said a couple of years ago, there’s a lot to be done.  But the upside is huge.  What are we waiting for?

jon