A Call to Collaborative Action
By Jacob Shwartz-Lucas
In the first ever televised presidential debate between Nixon and Kennedy in 1960, Kennedy appeared rested, clean-shaven, tan; he even wore makeup. Nixon looked tired, unshaven, and refused makeup. His gray suit compared poorly on screen with Kennedy’s dark suit. Radio listeners believed that Nixon had more substantial things to say, and clearly won the debate. TV viewers felt Kennedy was the clear winner.
Georgists have more substantial things to say than any of the heterodox politico-economic groups on the Internet. These groups have invested a great deal of time, effort, and money in their sites. Georgists websites however tend to parallel Nixon’s appearance during that first TV debate.
It’s time to dust ourselves off and get to the task of cleaning up our Internet presence.
The immediate question on most people’s minds surrounding election season is jobs and the general state of the economy. The Robert Schalkenbach Foundation has recently created this site to promote the Georgist perspective on the issue of creating jobs — and aims to make this site its test for effective use of online media. Please contact me if you’d like to submit articles for the website. We’ve created a Facebook page for it as well, a social media portal to the website itself. Many have clicked the “like” button, and informed me that the website looks great. They feel proud to share links to it with those they are introducing to LVT.
Some readers might be wondering about the sudden enthusiasm for social media. What’s all the fuss about?
Here’s a fact that will get your attention: as of October 2012, Facebook has a billion users! That’s “billion” with a “b.” Not all of those “users” are active, but the majority are. Still more use other social media tools, such as blogs, Twitter, YouTube, etc. Over half of social media users are under thirty and less set in their political views. Many are actively searching Facebook for an economic system that meets their moral aspirations. It’s a vast and fertile ground for outreach. Alas, our movement’s utilization of such Internet tools lags far behind many other groups who have far less substantial things to say.
By this point, you should be raring to explore this site and to register an account on Facebook, if you haven’t already done so. Go ahead, do it
Start by visiting the LVT Facebook group. This discussion group has 336 members. I haven’t yet accepted the 5 requests from people who have asked to join the group since I started writing this article. These are people making formal requests to join our Georgist conversations. If you’ve spent years trying to engage people with awkward elevator pitches, you know how good it feels when people actually seek out your opinion! That happens daily on the Facebook LVT group.
The LVT group is for discussion. For specific action plans, there is also a Facebook group called “LVT Task Force” which requires users to post immediately actionable items such as emailing public representatives, editing specific Wikipedia pages, design jobs, and obtaining help with technical issues, among other things. It is a collaborative crowdsourcing tool for our movement.
In addition to Facebook, a small group of us have been meeting weekly via Google Hangouts. We’ve developed a weekly agenda, set up plans for creating a non-profit and applying for foundation grants. We are working with designers to create branding tools and constituent parts of websites such as video organizers, carousels, 3D text imagers, and other tools that we can transplant to various Georgist websites. We’re hoping to be the technological Johnny Appleseeds of the Georgist movement.
I believe we must invest more effort in developing our web presence. It’s the best way to pull in new activists, skills, and funds.
The great power of the Internet, and particularly of social media, is illustrated by an economic concept called the “network effect.” A network can create a positive externality in which the more users a network has, the more valuable it is to every single user. I really want to make sure my Georgist colleagues understand this — so they can stop feeling isolated in their lonely work! The network effect demonstrates that if we use social media collaboratively, our individual contributions to the movement’s progress can be orders of magnitude greater than the sum of our individual efforts.
Perhaps this flood of new technology feels overwhelming to you. That is what people like Edward Miller, Daniel Syddall, Martin Adams and I are here for. We are eager to provide you with the latest communications tools, to help you! Alanna Hartzok and I recently did a teleseminar on the basics of using Facebook. Alanna has video recorded this, and will soon make it available for all. We plan to have more seminars on using Google docs, which allows you to collaboratively work together using many generic though nearly identical programs to Word, Power Point, and Excel among others.
Make sure to email me — email@example.com — with any questions or concerns. Ah yes, “email” I tend to forget about its importance now that there are all these other important tools. Remember when we were wondering if email did all that much to help us collaborate? This process of revamping our internet image requires trial and error, and the patience on your part to become proficient in all these seemingly newfangled technologies. Learning is what life’s about though, right? Less tech savvy Georgists, you’ve really got to trust us on this one. We need you to fully join us in this space so that you can pass down your invaluable knowledge.