Ideas for the online revolution.

Stopping Spam on phpBB Forums

My forum had a massive increase in spam, so I installed the
anti-spam bot mod which got rid of (so far) all the spam.

It asks users a skill-testing question before they register. For instance, "how many red lines are in this picture". The one downside is that it will inconvenience blind users - however they can always email me to be registered manually.

Speaker Database - SpeakOutNow.org

SpeakerOutNow.org did a good job updating their website and made their speaker database searchable. You can search by Name or by Topic. I believe they have the largest database of progressive speakers in the US.

What's missing is things like geography and cost. Also their list of topics misses out on basic Activism 101/202 type workshops (campaign strategy, anti-oppression, how to start a group, etc). My guess is that they're intentionally targetting the speaker market as opposed to the trainer one. Maybe the speaker market is a lot bigger because you can get several hundred to a thousand people to attend (and thus it is easier to justify the $1000 cost of getting someone), but workshops have smaller audiences.

Monitoring Page Load Times

I've been having an on-going problem for the past several months where the site page load times (that use web services) are occasionally 12 seconds, whereas they should only be 2-3 seconds.

For instance, you will see this on a Display Event page, but not on the homepage because that is cached.

The problem is sporadic. So I now run a cron job once an hour to load nine pages using the CURL extension of PHP. Then I can file better complaints to my webhost support. I've been complaining/filing tickets for a long time on this, but they have been either blaming me or not seeing the problem.

Online Privacy

As people spend more of their time online and as search engines try to store more content and provide more accurate ways of searching, our online lives and thus our actual lives, are becoming increasingly exposed.

As I store people's contact information on my website, I often run into people who, after publishing their information online, develop a new need for privacy and want it taken down ASAP. Sometimes people send me nasty first-emails (eg the initial request to take it down is nasty, they don't even wait a couple days for me to take action) which is probably indicative of how important privacy is. I respond to the requests, but there is only so much I can do.

Activism Network Development Cycle

I'm dramatically increasing the number of releases for the Activism Network project. I'm now averaging one release every two weeks.

US election watch 2006

Ok, the US Senate Race for Virginia:

According to CNN (8:50pm or so)
Allen 672,282 50%
Webb 661,955 49%
Parker 14,819 1%
http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2006/pages/results/senate/

According to VA Election Boards (8:50pm)
Allen Republican 679,127 50.33%
Webb Democratic 653,942 48.46%
Parker Independent Green 14,957 1.11%
Write Ins 1,303 0.10%
http://sbe.virginiainteractive.org/index.htm

How can Allen have 7000 more votes at the VA Election board results (that have tended to be more updated than the CNN ones) and Webb have 8000 less votes???

I figure CNN would be getting the results after the VA election board, in which case you wouldn't expect that a canidate's vote count would drop...

Online Grants for Social Change

Yesterday I saw the Front Line (PBS) documentary that covered Kiva whose approach to economic development is to use a website to match first world individuals as lenders with third world entrepreneurs who need micro-credit (aka small loans, ex. $500).

It would be far better if we could match first world donors with third world social change organizations. So people would donate the money instead of loaning it (note: this might be a downside to participation as Kiva was claiming a zero default rate at the time of the Frontline documentary, so the people lending money weren't actually donating it). Also it'd be for social change, so a lot more rewarding than having someone running a successful fruit stand.

Optimizing Website Page Load Time

I'm working on optimizing the page load time for this website, particularly for the homepage, and am achieving great things!

Converting Dynamic Pages to Static
If this is possible, I highly recommend doing it. I converted 20 pages into static html, which is generated once per day (I kept the original copies of the pages in PHP so that people who install this software can automatically customize them -- though on second thought, that wasn't completely necessary).

Conditional Use of Caching
While I cannot always use a cached version of the homepage, since someone migth log-in,

Young People For - Their Network

Young People For (is that name proper grammer?) is an interesting organization in the field of student activism, by which I mean they are well-funded and thus powerful.

They have an insightful breakdown of

who is in their network

The states they chose look random to me, other than perhaps they are going for larger states.

The good thing is that they are going for continuity - hopefully that will help campuses with turnover which is one of the main difficulties that student activists face.

Activism Inc. - How Canvassing is Sucking the Spirit out of Thousands of Young Progressives

Yesterday I read Activism Inc. I strongly recommend reading it. It's insightful and short. The thesis I got from it was that thousands of progressive-minded young people are joining canvassing operations, lasting an average of several days, and burning-out.

These young people could be forming the backbone of social movement organizations, however instead they burn out and find non-activist jobs (like being teachers).

The book argued that conservatives are succeeding in placing young people into conservative organizations, however the left is failing.

I'd be very interested to read a book on what the conservatives have done that works so well for them. I suspect part of the answer is that they may have larger sums of money that can create more organizations and better-paid positions (whereas canvassing jobs in particular, and other leftist jobs are generally lower-paid).

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