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A Community Activist Map for Facebook and Beyond


Activist social networks are unlikely to reach more than 1/1000 of the number of people of commercial networks like facebook (Facebook has 150 million active members, service oriented Idealist has 178,000, environmental activist oriented WiserEarth has 21,000). These sites not only lack the membership base, but they are also likely to get fewer page views per member as well.

Thus activists are best off piggybacking on existing commercial networks – especially now that this is possible with facebook markup language and the OpenSocial standard.

(Someday activists might cooperatively form their own network – but that’s going to take advances in standards and a move to people-centric networking where people will be given control over their own information and choose what networks to join, instead of the current situation where the networks and the large corporations that control them have the power.)

There is a theory that the value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of participants in the network. By this theory an activist network that has only 1/1000 of the members of a commercial network, is worth only one millionth of the other network. Even if activist social networks are 1000 times more useful for doing activism than commercial social networks, they’re still going to be 1000 times less powerful (1 million / 1 thousand = 1 thousand).

The Idea
I want to create an Activist Mapping/Networking Platform for Facebook that would also run as a stand-alone website, and could be adapted to other sites (ones that use OpenSocial). This idea is far more complex than any existing facebook application, a far step from "Causes", but yet it is also quite possible.

The Niche
The niche is a facebook application that would create a small community activist map that would appear in your profile. You choose what is on your map.

The Goal
To reach 100,000 users (or more). To empower these people to build a grassroots activist social network and win campaigns.

Map Contents
So what would be on the map? Ultimately, I want to create a platform. So anyone who had data could either get me to add it to the map for them, or they could add it themselves and facilitiate a layer. Map users would be able to add and edit items in existing layers (subject to the layer moderator’s approval).

Some possible layers include:

1. Businesses
-Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs)
-Co-ops (not just food co-ops, but all worker/community run businesses)
-Socially Responsible Businesses
-Vegetarian Restaurants (vegan/vegetarian/vegetarian-friendly)
-Farmers Markets
-Thrift Stores
-Local Currencies (stores that accept them)

2. Media
-Community Radio stations
-Progressive Media: especially community media.

3. Events
-Events (could be tied in to facebook events, making it easier to organize)
-Days of Action
-Venues: places where you can hold events (meetings, performances, films, speakers, conferences).

4. Groups
-Groups: including both groups that have an offline existence, as well as "1,000,000 facebook users for sharing activist data" type of groups too.
-Member Groups of a Network: national networks love maps that show all their groups. There could be a dozen layers for this.

5. Environment
-Power Plants (I’m working on this for the Energy Justice Network)
-Superfund sites
-Sprawl: Walmarts and other big box stores, highways, etc.

6. Misc
-Census Data: race, income, unemployment, etc.
-Iraq War cost for your community (see if the National Priorities Project can figure this out)
-how much tax changes affect low/middle/high income earners in your community (see Citizens for Tax Justice)
-War Causalities (home addresses, photos, perhaps even bios of dead US soldiers)
-Historical Sites
-Skills: find people or groups who are willing to share their skills.

If you have any data that you’d like me to map, get in touch!!!

More Features
Users could add photos, videos, comments, and files (ex. PDFs) on everything.

Social Element
The key to a successful facebook app is making it social. Thus we’d want to emphasize getting users to add photos, video, make comments, add content to the map layers, ratings/reviews of map content, adding non-map content (ex. activist resources), perhaps have political quizzes, perhaps track campaign victories/progress (and write campaign updates), and other things.

Mapping Technology
Unfortunately you cannot use the regular Google Maps API in the profile, but you can use their flash version (which is significantly but not unbearably slower). We’ll probably use – AMFPHP So the small local activist map on the profile would have to use that. The user could click on a link that would bring them to their canvas page, where it is much easier to run a full application (as you can use the regular Google Maps API AND you have more space).

The People
Currently it’s me. Does anyone or any group want to help? I’m looking for partner groups that have data that would fit on community activist maps and people who want to start making maps for their specific community.

Is Anyone Else Doing This?
I’ve looked around and haven’t found anyone else doing this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were. It’s most likely that an organization would be trying to put their proprietary network on to facebook. I’d be surprised if someone else was working on creating an open platform.

How it Helps Your Group
For groups that already have online or offline directories this will help you as it:
-Attracts people to your website (from Facebook) by exposing you to 100,000+ users.
-The software can run on your website, so your existing users will be able to use it without leaving your site.
-More people will add and update existing content making it much easier for you to keep your information current.
-It will publicize your directory/site and thus increase sales.
-People login to Facebook more often than other sites – it will increase the frequency of the relationships to your network or cause.
-Facilitates community networking (strengthening the community will strengthen your work).
-Facilitates inter-community networking.

Funding
I can donate a large chunk of time to this project and pay for minor costs. If other people are able to donate smaller amounts of time, we’ll be able to pull it off. If it becomes the best activist Facebook application, we could reap considerable publicity, donations and grants, or possibly run a small number of ads (ex. ads for local businesses – and they’d be significantly less ads than facebook has on its own).

Other Social Networks
MySpace – just launched their developer platform (Feb 2009) which uses OpenSocial.

Open Source
This project is open source (GNU GPL).

Sharing Data (API)
This project would share its data with other websites using an API (almost everything with some restrictions due to privacy).

Yelp
Yelp has an API that might share some restaurant data.

Privacy/Commercialization Issues
Most of the privacy issues of using a commercial social network are negated by the fact that people have already handed over their personal data to these networks.

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