23 Apr 2015

Social media and the election


With the UK general election campaign in full swing, what effect will social media have on the outcome? While traditional media battle grounds are still important, the influence of posters, television and especially newspapers have diminished with the rise of the online world. Social media in particular is seen as critical for this election, but just how much sway will it have? The 2008 presidential election in the USA is often cited as the first social media election, but social media has grown exponentially since then. There were 1.8 million tweets in total on the day Barack Obama won in
14 Jan 2015

451 unavailable: Campaign for a new error message


Anyone who uses the World Wide Web will be familiar with the ‘404 Page Not Found’ message which appears when you visit a webpage that doesn’t exist. Many of us will also have seen the ‘403 Forbidden’ error message for denying access. One campaign group in the UK is lobbying for a new message to be used on the web. They want a ‘451 Unavailable’ message to be displayed every time a webpage is blocked by a government. Leading the campaign is the UK-based Open Rights Group, a free speech and digital consumer rights group. ‘451’ is a reference to the novel Fahrenheit 451, a dystopian novel by Ray
23 Jul 2013

Which tools are the best for unions to organise with online?


I ran a workshop on digital organising at the recent Prospect Connect Sector Conference and I asked the delegates - union reps in the technology sector - to form into groups and score the online tools we were discussing for effectiveness. I’ve taken the results from the workshop and averaged the scores given by the groups. The highest rated tool was email, with an average score of 8.25 out of 10 amongst the delegates. This was not a surprise, as although email is a comparatively ‘old’ technology, it has some great advantages. In contrast to Facebook and Twitter, almost everyone has an email
22 Oct 2012

What are the most popular union hashtags?


People who use Twitter will be very familiar with hashtags. A Twitter hashtag ties the conversations of different users into one stream, which you can then find by searching for the hashtag in Twitter. For example, searching for the hashtag #union in Twitter brings up the latest Tweets related to trade unions. Television, radio, magazines and websites all use Twitter hastags to encourage audience participation, and so people who are not on Twitter are increasingly being exposed to hashtags. Twitter is very popular in the union movement and union activists have even used hashtags to campaign
18 Sep 2012

10 of the best examples of union branch websites


I’ve managed and developed a number of union websites over the years. However, a project I’ve recently completed presented a completely different type of challenge - building a website for a union branch. Union branches often rely on a small number of volunteers, many of whom carry out union duties in addition to their day jobs. While large union websites can be preoccupied with using the latest social media tools and providing online services for their members, the needs of the union branch website are quite different. As Paul Moore of the CWU’s Greater London Combined Branch put it: “We may
15 Feb 2012

Now YaCy it!


Google dominates the search market. Bing has made an impression and Yahoo still has a loyal following, but Google is king, especially in the West. However, a new search engine has just been launched, and it does things differently. The new search engine is called YaCy (pronounced “Ya See”). Heavily backed by the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE), an organisation that advocates digital rights and online freedom, YaCy aims to de-centralise search by using a ‘peer to peer’ approach. It’s not just a website you visit; YaCy is a piece of software that you can choose to install to become part
18 Jan 2011

Digital activism comes of age


The fallout over the publication of diplomatic information on Wikileaks illustrates how digital activism has come of age. As the US government put pressure on companies to sever ties with the international leaks website, groups fought back with a co-ordinated campaign. One group, calling itself ‘Anonymous’, proved particularly well organised. The credit card company VISA was one of those who suspended services in the aftermath, allegedly under political duress. Soon after, the VISA website was overwhelmed by a “distributed denial of service attack’’ (DDoS) by the group called ‘Anonymous’
14 Feb 2010

Union Island closes down


This week Union Island closed down. If you’re wondering what Union Island was, it existed in the online virtual world called Second Life. Despite the mainstream media preoccupation with virtual weddings and real life divorces, Second Life is big business. Its economy grew by 65% in 2009, to a total of $567 million. Second Life first came to prominence in the Union world in 2007, when Italian IBM workers held a ‘virtual strike’ over a pay dispute, which contributed to an improved agreement. Union Island soon followed, involving the TUC, Union Network International and the New Unionism Network