How to create a web platform for an international campaign

After more than two and a half years with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons I like to share my views on how to build a web based platform for campaign coordination.

It very much combines bottom-up and top-down approaches: empower bottom-up and channel top-down.

Website

The campaign website needs to be an information hub for activists. It is the main target group since they are the multipliers to spread the word. The main goal is to empower them.

Having an international campaign means that we often have regional or local chapters were activists and/or partner organisations are organised in. We like to give them an easy possibility to have their own sites within our platform.

Something like this can be done with WordPress and its  Multisite function. WordPress is a content management system mainly for blogging and awful to work with if you have more complicated content. But since a campaign often can be broken down into content pieces similar to blog posts it should be fine.

The success very much depends on an own template. It should  be under an Open Source license so other chapters of the campaign can use it, even if they host it themselves. Putting the template on GitHub helps for the further development and brings transparency and structure.

I personally like to work with SASS and Foundation. A base for WordPress templates is JointsWP and currently available with Foundation 6. Use widgets to add features in the template.

Internal Blog

It is 2017 and there are thousands of tools to coordinate a group over the Internet. While Slack became a trendy tool in 2016, there are still things around like mailing lists or a forums.

To choose the right tool is difficult and very much depends on the people which need to be coordinated. What can be agreed on is that there needs to be a channel to share campaign news, materials and coordination. This should be done easily without the need to install or use a special application and have an easy navigation.

For this purpose the main website can have an internal blog- And since it is based on WordPress this can be done simple with easy navigation with categories and tags. There can be even discussions in the comment section of each post.

Since this is something more internal, it should be password protected. Everyone get an account and can login to see the blog. So they are logged in. It means blog posts can include one-click-polls and everyone can also write a post. This enables Interaction and pushes for engagement. Something you like your activists to do.

And it can be configured that everyone get an update via email (for example with the plain post text and the link). A plugin is Better Notifications for WordPress. So there is no excuse not to use it.

Social media

No need to say much about social media. There needs to be the possibility to share over different channels. Either by using plugins like MashShare or adding functions to your template.

Metrics, seo and tracking

Hosting most of the content ourselves and providing local and regional chapters there own websites in our system gives us the possibility to track our success and optimise our content well.

Regarding our preferences an own installation of Piwik or  accounts on Google Analytics can be integrated into our WordPress. The Plugin WP-Piwik can be installed as a Network Plugin so that all data stays within the campaign centralised.

Based on the data content can be optimised and concrete planning be done. Using a plugin like Yoast SEO helps to work with the content, too.

Multi media

One of the advantages of a WordPress Multisite Installation is that the Media Libraries can be shared by the sites. The plugin Network Shared Media enables this.

By doing so the media library from the main website can be used by the other. It helps to translate news to other languages and create content in general. Such a general media archive can be charged up against gold. It provides a fast ways to look more professional and save countless hours of time.

One requirement is to maintain this library well. Plugins like Image Source Control help to add meta data. The better it is indexed the better other activists know when and how to use it.

Events and registration

Adding an event management part provides a central tool for registering and saving dates. Instead of using external services like Eventbrite plugins like The Events Calendar and Event Tickets bring the features to do this. In the basic versions they are free. Payment processors for selling tickets are available.

There is the possibility for registering only for logged in users. It is an easy solution to register for internal campaign events.

Start of Open Data Portal by the Vienna University of Economics and Business

This month, January 2015, the Vienna University of Economics and Business launched a new OpenData portal. It is part of the ongoing project “OpenData@WU”. Currently it contains 86 datasets which includes Courses (41) and Organizations (29). There is a REST API available and weekly updates announced. The data is licensed under Creative Commens Attribute.

With these steps being forward towards a more open und accountable university, I would wish for two more things:

  1. Opening the university with publishing research results as open access and allowing open collaboration has more potential than floor plans.
  2. Allow direct participation in administrative decisions. This can include feedback on facilities, services or equippement (perhaps a “student budgeting”) and even decisions on new additional courses.

 

As a conclusion, it’s indeed a big step into an open university. Still, the more interesting questions stays within different fields. The foundation is set. Now the next steps need to be looked at carefully.

Kolumne netzpiloten: Große politische Schritte kündigen sich an für 2015

2015 wird richtungsweisend sein in vielen politischen Bereichen des Internets und der digitalen Industrie. Doch was für uns logisch erscheint, muss nicht dabei herauskommen.

Für uns in Europa ist Politik im Digitalen häufig europäisch. Das Internet hat wenige Grenzen und so müssen wir oftmals schauen, was sich in Brüssel oder gar auf der internationalen Ebene tut. Dieses Jahr wird es spannend bei so vielem. Gibt es endlich Konsequenzen aus den ganzen Überwachungsskandalen? Wie geht es bei der Netzneutralität weiter? Wird die Verwaltung des Internets transparenter und demokratischer? Und bekommen wir endlich ein zeitgemäßes Urheberrecht? Einige Fragen werden bleiben, aber viele werden 2015 beantwortet.


Warum ist das wichtig? In vielen politischen Bereichen wird es dieses Jahr wichtige Entscheidungen und Richtungssetzungen geben.

  • Im Bereich der Überwachung wird es neue NSA-Leaks geben und grundlegende Rechte neu verhandelt.
  • Der Kampf um Netzneutralität auf EU Ebene geht weiter und Internet-Infrastruktur wird transparenter und demokratischer.
  • Die europäische Urheberrechtsreform wird konkret und das EU-Parlament wird hoffentlich zeitgemäße Vorschläge bringen.

Überwachung und Privatsphäre

Es ist Anfang 2015 und wir sind schon im Jahr zwei nach Snowden. Nach unzähligen NSA Leaks gab es viel Empörung, aber wenig politische Taten. Momentan herrscht sogar wieder ein gegensätzlicher Trend. Der britische Premierminister hat sich am 13. Januar gegen Verschlüsselung und für mehr staatliche Überwachung ausgesprochen. Dieses Jahr muss es stärkere Positionen gegen Überwachung geben und wir können auf neue NSA Leaks hoffen, die diese unterstützen.

Unterstützung kommt auch von wirtschaftlicher Seite. Viele Firmen haben verstanden, dass Privatsphäre ein wichtiges Feature für Nutzende ist. Schon 2014 gab es viele Einführungen von starken Verschlüsselungen wie bei Apple iMessage oder von Facebook mit WhatsApp. Dieser Trend setzt sich hoffentlich fort und wir können gespannt sein, ob es auch mehr politische Unterstützung für Privatsphäre von den Firmen gibt.

Netzneutralität und Infrastruktur

Eine der großen Kampagnen letztes Jahr war savetheinternet.eu. Eine breite Koalition von NGOs rief auf, EU Parlamentariern in E-Mails, Faxen und Anrufen zur erklären, warum Netzneutralität wichtig ist. Daraufhin hat das Parlament ein starkes Statement für Netzneutralität abgegeben. Dieses Jahr gilt es, auch die Regierungsvertreter im europäischen Rat zu überzeugen. Mehr zum aktuellen Stand der Netzneutralität und Aktivitäten in 2015 gibt es in diesem Talk von Rejo Zenger und Thomas Lohninger. Wenn wir Glück haben, wird die Netzneutralität gerettet.

Infrastruktur ist seit vielen Jahren ein Thema. Jedoch betrifft es nicht nur den direkten Ausbau mit Breitband und Glasfaser zum Endkunden, sondern Zuteilung und Management von Domainnamen, IP-Adressen, Protokollen und anderen grundlegenden Techniken des Internets. ICANN ist die gemeinütze Organisation, welche dafür verantwortlich ist. Seit ihrer Gründung vor 17 Jahren hat sie viele Aufgaben übernommen, die vorher unter staatlicher Verwaltung der Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika standen. Bis September 2015 gibt das amerikanische Wirtschaftsministerium die Aufsicht für einen weiteren wichtigen Bereich ab, die IANA. Diese Abteilung ist für die Vergabe von IP-Adressen zuständig und eine der ältesten Institutionen des Internets. Wie wird es dann weitergehen?

Urheberrechtsreform

Der Satz “Dieses Video ist aufgrund von Urheberrechtsbeschränkungen in deinem Land nicht verfügbar” verärgert seit Jahren viele Internetnutzer. Dies ist in der EU umso ärgerlicher, weil es eigentlich einen gemeinsamen Binnenmarkt geben sollte. Im Digitalen sind wir dabei noch weit entfernt.

Die Europäische Kommission hat für dieses Jahr den Start für die Überarbeitung der Urheberrechts-Richtlinie aus 2001 angekündigt. Schon letztes Jahr gab es eine öffentliche Konsultation, welche alle Erwartungen bei weitem übertroffen hatte. Normalerweise gibt es bestenfalls ein paar hundert Einsendungen. Diesmal waren es über 11.000. Dies zeigt, dass es ein bedeutendes Thema für die Menschen in Europa ist.

Um herauszufinden, welche Teile 14 Jahre später nicht mehr aktuell sind und überarbeitet werden müssen, gibt es einen Bericht vom Europaparlament. Am 20. Januar wird der erste Entwurf im Rechtsausschuss vorgestellt. Im Mai soll darüber abgestimmt werden. Es wird spannend, wie weit der Vorschlag gehen wird. Die zuständige Berichterstatterin Julia Rede gibt dazu viele Informationen auf ihrer Webseite. Werden wir endlich ein zeitgemäßes Urheberrecht bekommen?

Der Artikel ist Teil meiner Kolumne Politik fürs Internet und im Internet bei den netzpiloten und erschien dort erstmalig.

The true enemies of Internet freedom are those who invest energy in blaming the US, China or Russia

In a recent article for the Guardian Evgeny Morozov is tripping around the questions whether the US or China and Russia are the greater danger for Internet freedom. Being only an artifical discussion, the more important debate should be how to secure Interent freedom independet from these actors.

Russia takes general a strong grip on their whole media, including the Internet, not just for reasons of internal affairs. Being pushed back by the US after the end of the cold war, they are working closely together with other BRIC states in opposing the US.

The fact that China is heavily restricting and filtering the Internet is nothing new. New is not even the struggles between the US and China in the tech area. The US is accusing China of embedding espionage parts in microchips and other products manufactured China. China just recently banned Windows 8 from all government computers for the same reason. Quite some reasons to work together with other emerging states like Brazil or Russia.

Finally, the US is trying to keep their domination on the Internet related structures and core services. Initatives like giving IANA more autonomy by stepping back from their “special” role are only drops in the bucket.

These are few of the reasons why the current international policy processes in the field of Internet Governance are stuck. Steps ahead were mainly made in more detailed modeling of the multi-stakeholder processes, not the topics itself. This is not just true for UN related processes like th IGF, but also for new initatives like NETmundial. Being organized at the first place in Brazil it was meant to discuss the topic of global surveillance in the context of the NSA leaks by Edward Snowden. At the end it was diluted by US interference and had even a weaker final statement than  the previous anti-spying resolution at the UN.

All of this is unfortunatea and even sad for the sake of Internet freedom. Waiting for a quick solution in the near future is an illusion which only damages the cause. The defence of Internet freedom and rights are up to other countries working hand in hand with civil society. Looking at state like Iceland, Switzerland or Estonia who claim some credibilty in that field, seem a good start to go. Having a core group of countries securing Internet freedom others will join and every addional will create more pressure on the US, China and Russia.

Civil Society and Data Politics in International Diplomacy

Vienna was the centre of nuclear disarment in December 2014. The  Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons brought the new process of humanitarian consequences an important step forward.

Not just on the political stage, it made new ground. It allowed a new level of civil society particpation and openess which is strongly missing in international politics. Whereas the use of social media and other internet services is an already established in new approaches of Diplomacy, the live reporting of ICAN and ICAN Austria set a new benchmark.

The core is a webtool consisting of two parts:

Reporting about the conference online and at the venue itself on large touch screens is indeed something new. The diplomates itself were standing around the screens, attensively checking on their own county assessment and quotes from their statements. And also complaining if their intension is not reflected as desired. The response to this installation shows that there is a need. Having it online that the whole world can follow creates much more credibilty and transparency than a simple video streaming.

Visualising such data is only a first step. In each policy field there is a lot of data from historic archieves, geo data and other open data. Arranging this around political decisions, processes and events will create complete new possibilities. It is hard to predict what impact this can have on the political outcome itself. The only thing we know is that this will change the process itself.

Conclusions Liquid Democracy Meetup: starting a definition

On November 29th and 30th over 50 people from all over the world meet in Brussels on the invitation of MEP Julia Reda. The overall topic was Liquid Democracy (LD). Developers, scientists, politicians, project managers and many others created a diverse crowd.

Main things I learned during these two days:

  1. We are still at the very, very beginning. It is even hard to agree on a common definition.
  2. LD needs to be disconnected from the Pirate (Party). Their self-destruction based on stupidity affects a negative image of LD.

(1) projects

There are amazing LD projects I have never heard about before. Projects worth looking at are:

(2) defintion

One of the most interesting session was the one about a common definition. Bringing together such broad and diverse participants allowed a deep discussion on features and attributes on LD. The conclusion was that it needs further steps and an overview on the differences as well as different fields. In the sessions itself a majority agreed on the following features.

core features

  • equal rights in submitting, delegating and voting
  • optional, (anytime) revocable or changeable delegation of vote
  • continuous election
  • continuous decision-making

additionally or recommended features

  • usually electronic/online implementation
  • preferential voting
  • autonomous (self-managed, self moderated)

As one of the next steps, we will collect and work more on the definition part. Providing different versions for scientific, political, administration and maybe even wikipedia. This meeting was an important step to bring LD forward. Many thanks to Julia for making this possible!

More information and documentation in the pad.

Visualising information for your campaign

The Tactical Tech Collective just published their guide “visualising information for advocacy” on their website.

Using information in nothing is nothing new and widely used to argue and reason. Current technologies are very much supporting it. This book is ago advocates and activists use visual elements in their campaigns. It will explore how to influence issues using the right combination of information, design, technologies and networks.

The first edition of Visualising Information for Advocacy was published in October 2013 and to mark the one year anniversary they have released the second edition for free. Of course, you can still order a physical copy of the bookand if you write a blog post about the book, they will send you a copy for free!

https://visualisingadvocacy.org/getbook

Disclaimer: I bought the book last year already and write about it only I really recommend it. This post is not done to get a free printed book.

Green activist guide on communication encryption

Crypto parties are happening everywhere, even in the European Parliament. In the year 1 after the Snowden-Leaks people are more and more concerned about their privacy. Still the majority acts in the contrary. This is wonderfully described in this Guardian article.

Nevertheless there are people who are politicly active who don’t have the luxury of choice. Having a not-secure communication can mean to danger themselves and the people around them. As a matter of fact, activists in more secure countries like in the west tend to forget that there are places, where a simple email can create harm. So it is not just an issue in less secure regions, but everywhere. Not using encryption is like having unprotected sex. That’s why you can find here a short overview on how to communicate more secure.

The term “more secure” is adequate, because there is no absolute security. If you use encrypted e-mail who do you know that the email app you use is secure? If you use an open source email client who got audited, how do you know that your operating system on your computer is secure? And even if you use a specific operating system like Tails, how do you know that there is no backdoor in your hardware?

You see, there is no absolute security. So as the first step you should think about the risk scenarios. To whom do you like to communicate? What are possible threats and what can you do about it? Choosing the right tools requires to know your needs first.

Tor

A good start is the Tor Project. They are developing a software which allows the best anonymised communication available at the moment. The current versions are quite easy to use. For the start the Webbrowser Tor Browser is very recommended. There is also a live operating system Tails which is preconfigured to use Tor out of the box. It is especially recommended to journalists in crisis regions.

Messanger

Recently ProPublica – a project supporting journalism and journalists, published an overview on the best secure Messaging Tools. There is not much to add. There you can easily find out about the current applications you use and what alternatives are there. Only two short suggestions:

  • Cryptocat: it is for having encrypted chat with your friends, right in your browser and mobile phone. Everything is encrypted before it leaves your computer. Cryptocat is open source, free software, developed by encryption professionals to make privacy accessible to everyone.
  • Silent Circle: it is a commercial service allowing secure calls and messaging. There plans allow also to make calls to outside the network.

Email

Email encryption is only difficult in that sense, that the installation differs very much based on the email client you are using. The standard for such kind of encryption is PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) or in that case GPG (GNU Privacy Guard, which is the open source adaption of PGP. They are using the same technology and if somebody encrypts email with one of it, it doesn’t matter which you are using to open it.

One of the principles of modern encryption is the method of having two keys – one public and one private. The public one can be shared to everybody and is used to encrypt messages for you, which you can only encrypt using your private key. The same process is done if you start a secure session in your browser or in your messanger. In difference, you see it more clearly while handling email encryption. As the most important rule, never ever share your private key with somebody!

A multi plattform solution for encrypted email is via Mozilla Thunderbird and Enigmail, which is very similar on Linux, Mac and Windows systems. A step by step guide can be found here.

If you are using other email clients, have a look on the following pages:

The betrayed revolution

The past days – if not weeks – the german reunion appeared in the media realities like an undead. In Berlin they installed a light installation showing the old division inside the city. The Berlin wall as the notable figure of the division of the two German states.

It started in Poland

Often forgotten in the German stories, the 1980s revolts started in Poland. The independent and governing union Solidarność set the ground for the other uprisings in Central and Eastern Europe, including Easter Germany. It should be mentioned that it all began with Anna Walentynowicz, a person not well known outside Poland. Especially in the West, she stands in the shadow of Lech Wałęsa. With her firing, the uprising started. The spread of anti-communist ideas and followed creation of democratic movements ignited.

The restructuring of the inner circles in the Soviet Union based on the ideas of Mikhail Gorbachev to create a better socialism and be closer on the communist ideal had for sure a large impact. Setting the ground was needed as the Hungarian revolution 1956 or the Prague spring in 1968 showed. Having such a window of opportunity created an environment where the movements could grow to a level of needed influence to start large scale revolts. Windows such kind are useless if not used properly. Luckily it was there.

Forgetting these achievements can be called historical revisionism and should be criticised more often in the German debates and culture of remembrance.

Overcoming a inhuman and repressive regime

What ever the recondition and the politcal environments were, at the end a democratic people movement overcame a repressive and surveilling regime. It needed 41 years to achieve this. No secret service nor censorship or imprisonment could prevent this. There had been democratic elections in Eastern Europe resulting in a democratic parliament and government. For seven month this existed.

The missed chance: Assimilation instead of integration

Ego trunken politicians like Helmut Kohl pushed and still pushing away this own transformation and revolution. Focusing on the reunion process, which neglected these achievements with their own doings. There can be described mainly of being at the right position to the right time.

Always described as reunion, the process happened more as an assimilation. With this came a destruction and devalue of political culture and the peaceful revolution itself. Not just the uprisings and demonstrations in the late 80s. We should not forget the peoples revolt 1953 which was brutally beaten down by the regime.

Taken over by the West

After the reunion West German politicians and administrators were placed at the control centres. A own agency was created to reform the economic by privatisation in a shock strategy. The so called Trust agency (“Treuhandanstalt”) acted with a neoliberal agenda Margaret Thatcher would skyreachingly applaud to. Instead of a slow transformation taking in consideration a social dimension. This included also the few areas Eastern German products were competitive like chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) free fridges. After such systematic destruction a lot of money was thrown at the regions. Even conservative estimations are 1,3 trillion Euro. Going up to 2,0 trillion Euro.

Corruption played a large role and several people profited immensely from these “reforms” leading to damages and losses for the whole country. The democratic revolution got betrayed after all. I would formulate the assumption that this contributes a lot to the current political apathy and growing national socialist parties in the East.

Now, after 25 years the effects got widely neutralised and the area recovered from the transformations and reforms. Since 2008 the local politician Stanislaw Tillich became Minister-President of Saxony. After 18 years of Western German politicians like Kurt Biedenkopf and Georg Milbradt.

Better for Europe – Better for Eastern Germany?

As a result of the reunion a german nation reoccurred in Europe. A construct responsible for two world wars, the worlds largest genocide and deportation of an immense amount of people, especially in central and eastern Europe.

Today in 2014 again Germany is dominating the European continent – economically and politically. This go against everything which was achieved the past decades. As a common vision and way out of dominating nations creating tensions the European Union was founded. The European Union as a common European peace project. Unique in the world.

Merkel currently sacrifices this vision for a pure nationalist and neoliberal agenda. Austerity politics with supply models which the past years proved ineffective. The current economic numbers show that it damaged not just the european countries around Germany, but now slowly the country itself. Shrinking budgets and lawnmower-like cuts creating a impact of German exports. Where is the old vision of a European union as an economic area and example for standards and regulation? From my perspective, a two country solution would have been better for Europe and its power balance.

Looking at other European countries with a socialist past, Poland gives a remarkable example. Getting it’s independence around the same time as Eastern Germany, they have currently a growing economy and strong growing wealth since the 1990s. The difficult times at the beginning should not be forgotten. Still they managed to rebuild the country and create a stable democratic system. The polish self-confidence is very different in comparison to Eastern Germans. As describe before the achievements of a peaceful uprising and revolution got devalued and created feelings of inferiority. At the end it created a whole generation, if not more, of lost people ripped of their identities. Looking to other former countries of the Eastern block, it might have been better to stay with two German truly democratic countries. Eastern Germans would be in a more difficult situation at the beginning but could have been in the situation of recreating a country based on their achievements of their revolution.

Year one after Snowden – reviewing global surveillance

On July the 3rd, I got invited to talk at the International Summer University from the Jean Monnet European Centre of Excellence about the topic “The Surveillance Society and what to do about it!” together with Jackson Barlow, Christian Eichenmüller and James M. Skelly. The following points are a brief summary of my input.

Titel: Year one after Snowden – reviewing global surveillance

Connections between public and private secture

The first Snowden document to be published by the Guardian was a secret court order showing that the NSA was collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America’s largest telecoms providers.

Private infrastructure are importants targets. Not just networks, also data centres and data services. We all create a large digital trail. For example: Facebook. They never delete anything. Old messages, deleted pictures, removed friends – they are all still in their data base and connected to our profiles.

All together, the support by tech companies like Google in joining Civil Society against state mass surveillance is duplicitously. The best thing they could do against state mass surveillance is less collection of user data.

Global surveillance: NSA & Co
The spying programm X-Keyscore consists of several sub-programms (heavily simplefied to illustrate the scope of surveillance):

  • Fairview: US based to collect from other countries like Mexico or Germany.
  • Prism: US based with data connections to webservices like AOL, Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Skype, Microsoft, Youtube, Apple.
  • Tempora: UK based with connections to network opporators like Verizon or Vodefone.
  • EvilOlive: US based with connections to network opporators like Verizon or at&t.

Germany

  • The chancellor Merkel was outraged, but only after she became herself the target.
  • No-spy-agreement failed.
  • Parliamentary investigation committee is slowed down by the government. No decision on Snowden invitation.
  • Attorney general is investigating surveillance of Merkels’ mobile, not general mass surveillance. Not enough evidence.

European Union
The Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) made an investigation after the leaks. The results in the report:

 

  • Questioning the legality of NSA mass surveillance
  • Accuses the NSA of economic espionage
  • Condemns mass surveillance in general
  • Has a long list of demands towards EU and Non-EU countries.

Additional they are naming five reasons not to act (page 37 of the report) which are often used by governments:

  • The ‘Intelligence/national security argument’: no EU competence
  • The ‘Terrorism argument’: danger of the whistleblower
  • The ‘Treason argument: no legitimacy for the whistleblower
  • The ‘realism argument’: general strategic interests
  • The ‘Good government argument’: trust your government

UN

The UN General Assembly adopted an anti-spy resolution in Dec 2013. It was drafted by Brasil and Germany. Legally not binding and very weak due to diplomatic intervention of the US and UK.
“deeply concerned at the negative impact that surveillance and/or interception of communications, including extraterritorial surveillance and/or interception of communications, as well as the collection of personal data, in particular when carried out on a mass scale, may have on the exercise and enjoyment of human rights.”

NETmundial conference in April 2014

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff invited in April 2014 to a conference banning global mass surveillance. The result was a desaster. See my other blog post about it.

 

Conclusion
One year after Snowden there was much talking, some reporting and no real actions to condemn and prevent further global mass surveillance. The whole topic is a big disllussion and disappointment for human and civil rights world wide.

Since the start of this input, the NSA has selected

  • 525 terabytes of data for review (selected for review, NOT collected).
  • 15 minutes with 35 terabytes per Minute. 1 Terabyte = 1024 Gigabyte