Thursday, March 31, 2011

Why so many downer articles on using technology for improving things?

"Technology is not the answer.That's the conclusion I came to after five years in India trying to find ways to apply electronic technologies to international development. I was the co-founder and assistant director of Microsoft Research India, a Bangalore computer-science lab, where one of our objectives was to research ways in which information and communication technologies could support the socio-economic development of poor communities, both rural and urban."

The author complains that people didn't know how to use their technology, their local culture (of greed sometimes) precluded activating the use of the technology, and other whining.  I don't get where all this whining about technology is coming from.  It's just a tool!  Of COURSE technology did not get rid of Mubarak. People did. But what were the tools they used?  Sheesh. Do people talk this way about carpentry?  "The hammer did not build this house."  What?  No, a carpenter did. But he USED a hammer!  Why?  Because it was the best tool for what he needed to do.  Why disparage the hammer?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ushahidi; keep track of your ICA progress!

Ushahidi is another free software program for keeping track of a collective action.  "The platform allows reports from cell phones and Web-connected devices to be collected and displayed on Web-based maps.  Now Ushahidi is adding a concept borrowed from location-based social networking, as well as layers of private access—functionality that could make the service more efficient and useful in politically charged circumstances. It could allow groups like aid workers or election monitors to keep track of one another, note their progress in deploying resources, or enter notes that can be formalized later, without making that information public."

I could see this being used at a large protest to see where people are, what are any hot spots that need attention, etc.  Great stuff.

An alternative view on the Egyptian revolution; ICA not so much?

Below is a response to the above article found in the comments section.  It's by "anon masri" and it says the ICA portion of the Egyptian revolution was not the important part.  At the risk of being an arm chair debutante, I'll disagree a bit.  A good portion of the organizing for the protests happened on the Internet.  Useful information was spread through the Internet and cell phones (while they were working).  I don't think you can take one portion of that multi-day protest and say THAT is the important part.  You have to say that each person's contribution was important.  Some people may have played more pivotal roles, such as anon masri did helping to keep the thugs out of Tahrir Square.  But I don't think he has the right to say the contributions of other protesters was less than his contribution.

* * * *

I respect that you are all trying to figure out how social media can help us educate and empower the people.
My personal experience proved to me that Mr. Gladwell was more correct than he knows. I believe that social media will have a negative effect on empowering the people going forward.
I am a New Yorker. Was born in Egypt and love it so when I heard about the revolution I bought the first ticket I could get. I was there for the pivotal day of the revolution Feb 2nd. The western media calls it the “battle of the camel” That is a pitiful, informative and racist label.
Feb 2nd was the day the defenders of Tahrir Sq held back the Bultagahyah and saved the revolution. Over 100 Egyptian Freedom fighters died that day alone in Tahrir sq yet no one talks about it. All we hear is rev 2.0. camels and babies named Facebook. I am disgusted by that.
We have all seen the pictures of Egyptians wearing make shift helmets and armor. That was to keep us alive from the hail storm of rocks raining down on us from Mubarak’s bultahgayah. Bultahgayah means paid thugs. Mubarak sent a horde of released prisoners under the command of his plain clothes police. The thugs had rocks and moltovs, the police had machetes and later we found out guns. The horses and camels were just a side show early on. The real fight went into the early morning.
We fought them back for hours. There were thousands of them and only about a thousand of us and by the early morning our numbers were very thin. several hundred were wounded and over a hundred killed.
Everyone there was fighting. I saw a guy on a wheel chair throwing rocks. The women helped tremendously as they played the part of messengers. They saw when the bultahgayah would try and surprise us by breaking through a thinly guarded street and yelled to signal us. We would all run to back them up and keep the bultahgayah from breaking into the square.
We made barricades from trash, broke off the street to make rocks, carried them to the front lines and battled all night like that. it got so desperate that everyone started screaming about jihad. We thought were were going to die, They were wearing us down and if we didn’t get help they would take the sq, kill us and clean up the mess before morning. The end of the revolution.
Thankfully we got a big break and were saved and you’ll never guess by who. Sure as hell was NOT internet related.
Wael Ghonim is about as qualified to speak about the revolution as an Egyptian Expat living abroad, which is what he was and still is. He posted to his FB page from Dubai and the only reason we speak of him now is because he got arrested while hailing a cab in Cairo. His activity with the revolution was purely on Facebook and blindfolded in a jail cell. Naturally all he knows is the internet. Take what he says with a grain of salt. There is a reason the speakers kicked him off stage in Tahrir. Many paid for their lives to save the revolution and many paid with their lives to start it, yet he keeps talking about facebook and 2.0 bs.
The internet as it is now doesn’t help people mobilize, it prevents them from mobilizing. This revolution went into high gear when the internet was taken down. It forced people to get off the pc and hit the streets. Imagine that!
The psychology of the internet and social media will only hold back any true democratic movement now. Gladwell was right. I’ve got the scars to prove it.
All social media hipsters who want to argue this point, put the keyboard down, go walk outside and get into a fight. Then come back and tell me how much your tweets and status updates helped.

Monday, March 28, 2011

collective action to neutralize rumors

"The Skype chat was abuzz with people sharing and validating information in near real-time. When someone got wind of a rumor, they’d simply jump on Skype and ask if anyone could verify. This method proved incredibly effective. Why? Because members of this Skype group constituted a relevant, trusted and geographically distributed network."

Another use for ICA; rumor neutralizing!  We already have a more slow-paced, web-based rumor control center, snopes.  But I could see the need and use for rumor control, such as the nuclear leak going on in Japan.  People geographically, educationally, and otherwise useful could link up to challenge any rumors that could be harmful.

The Chaos of ICA

"Leaderless revolutions without organization have a magically spontaneous momentum that is harder to crush."

I learned about this aspect of ICA from Kevin Kelly's book Out of Control.  When you have a collective action, it is leaderless. This puts you closer to chaos than a structured organization would be.  But systems that live closer to chaos are more adaptive (p. 402).  And they are less predictable, which makes it harder for anyone working against the system to try to counter it.

Project Chanology started off as just people doing the usual adolescent attacks on Scientology; pizza orders, black faxing, Ddosing, etc.  For some unknown reason, the swarm decided to listen to Mark Bunker (Wise Beard Man) when he suggested that they nonviolently protest in front of the church properties.  Bing. Sudden agreement.  And gradually as the protests have gone on they have taken on a general form.  Out of the chaos that is Anonymous came Project Chanology, somehow.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A couple of tools for collective action

Create a network of people via cell phone.

coming soon; a "panic button" to wipe your address book and send out an alarm to your friends if you get arrested protesting.

The Internet's role in deposing dictatorships

"On the Internet, every individual who wishes to can be an author, artist, musician, student, businessman, employee, and activist. He can run laps around the efforts of governments to catch up with his activities, and he can assist in bringing down the more egregious governments by exposing their errors, fabrications, and atrocities in the free marketplace of ideas."

This is a nice short article explaining the advantages of the internet to the individual, and the disadvantages to the authoritarian government.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

counter-protest organized quickly on the net

"The Brown Daily Herald reported that the rally quickly attracted the attention of local Brown University students, who organized a counter-protest using Facebook, text messages, and emails. The students carried makeshift signs and handed out rainbow flags and pins."

Here's a case where students saw a need, organized quickly and out protested the original group!  ICA at its finest.

Syria and China use the Internet to go after activists

"This massive clampdown shows that the Chinese government is rattled by the example of people’s movements abroad using the internet to fight for their freedoms.  Instead of being afraid of unrest, the Chinese authorities should encourage more participation and uphold people’s right to express diverse views, in order to tackle the country’s problems with social justice, corruption and inequality."

From the article it looks like China is going WAY overboard going after bloggers and such on the Internet for just even mentioning something that might be related to something they may be only thinking of doing.  This is sad.

"The government is using cookies and is creating bogus Internet links to trace addresses of online individuals ... At times they join online groups and pretend to be anti-regime activists just to collect more names and trace more people," an unidentified Syrian resident told al-Arabiya.

Shouldn't this be expected though?  Gandhi was all for doing things in the open, so I think I'd be for publicly posting an event in most circumstances.  For instance, Gandhi publicly announced the Salt March, wherein he exposed the monopoly the Brits had on the sale of salt in India.  This was done by having the police club quite a few protesters until it was obvious that the Brits were not the Moral Overlords they claimed to be.

There are ways to post anonymously though.  I've not tried to overthrow a dictator before, so I don't speak authoritatively, but I think I'd post plans anonymously of a very public event that is the least confrontive to the government but still shows collective action. Like (taking a real example) everybody go to the park on Tuesday morning and eat ice cream.  Good times.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Social media and advertising don't mix well?

I think the point of this article is that Internet social media is not a good business model.  I think I'd agree with that. Social media is people talking to each other. What happens if you try to stick an ad into the conversation?  Probably, no one notices the ad except as a distraction.  

Nice quote here though:

'As one Cairo activist put it: "We use Facebook to schedule the protests, Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world."  I also use a hammer, wrench and screwdriver to build a table.  The point being: without the will of the people, the tools are meaningless.  The value is in the end result, not the tools.'

Monday, March 21, 2011

getting around internet censorship

"Though we still have far to go in developing easy and effective ways of getting around a complete shutdown of the Internet such as the ones we saw most recently in Egypt and Libya, there is a growingly sophisticated toolbox for getting around the restrictions put in place by authoritarian governments of countries such as China as well as some democracies such as South Korea, to use two examples from my own experience."

Useful tools for some ICA actions, Tor and VPN.

technology is unnecessary to revolution, therefore unimportant, says professor

"This is the globalisation of revolution, and these are the histories within which the Tunisian example belongs, the example that so inspired the Egyptian people. News of it might as well have arrived in Egypt by caravan as by fiber optic cable, it would still have been electric, the very idea that the solitary stand of a fruit seller could bring down the big men. The agency was human, the act political."

Dr. Barkawi misses the point of ICA.  Technology is a tool that makes revolution easier. It is not a necessity nor a guaranteed game-winner. Like-minded people can meet and link up much more easily. Organizing is quicker and cheaper.  Useful information is passed on instantly instead of by boat, as happened in his examples. Aren't these important advantages to starting and running a revolution?  Dr. Barkawi wants to dismiss technology because it was people who win revolutions, not technology.  Well, then, are you suggesting that people not use the tools they have available?  I really don't get the point here.

ADDITION: And here's another longer, more neutral article:

and here's one about the Madison, WI protests successfully utilizing social media:

the death of crowd sourcing?

"Ultimately, crowdsourcing underscores the fallacy of free information: It violates the basic principles upon which our entire economy and culture is based."

This article doesn't really prove anything except that you need to set up a crowd sourcing system correctly.  It should be non-profit, for one thing.  Huffington Post's example is a good one where people contribute for free and others reap the benefits.  This is simply poor design.  The owners not only reap the financial rewards ($315 million!) but control content to a large degree as well.

Also, crowd sourcing should be self-policing but monitored, if that makes sense.  Wikipedia, for example, is open not only to additions, but to corrections.  But above that is a sort of wikipolice who can step into clashes that are not being resolved.

Some sites like and are designed well and simply reward input by having a link upvoted.  I guess these sites are for-profit, but in this case the owners don't control content, the readers do.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Japan use of ICA

This is a web site where people can upload information about radiation readings in their area.  You can go through the map and see what locations have high readings.  This is a perfect example of ICA, where people give a little input themselves to aggregate an important useful product.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

butthurt over leaderfaggotry!5783173/inside-anonymous-secret-war-room

Two ex-Anons have released chat logs from an Anonymous chat room during the time of the HBGary actions.  They seem to indicate that a few of the participants there have claimed leadership roles to one degree or another. My guess is that this is really why the ex-Anons got pissed off enough to try to expose the participants of this chat room.

"While Anonymous describes itself as a leaderless collective, the #HQ channel had a clear head honcho, a hacker who goes by the name of Sabu who claims credit for conducting the HBary hack."

When I was researching Anonymous I never went to the chat rooms so have little knowledge on the subject.

This article and another on the Forbes blog indicate to me the problem of being leaderless.  First, some nutjobs can claim they are acting on behalf of the group when in fact the group hates what they are doing.  Secondly, anyone who tries to directly or indirectly assume leadership pisses off a lot of the other activists, leading to the above.  It's all pretty tricky and chaotic. As Kevin Kelly's book Out of Control shows, if you have ICA you will be close to chaos.  But that's ok.

As for what to do with "leaderfags" this article shows what I've seen done in Project Chanology, you beat down the guy claiming to be a leader.  In a collective action, you're all equal, or else.

Friday, March 18, 2011

peer to peer (P2P) and ICA

This web site I think over-reaches with its views of what all peer-to-peer actions can accomplish. But I'd like to just point out P2P as related to Internet collective action.  I heard of peer-to-peer as a computer networking system, but apparently some people are using this term for social networking as well.  Something to look into.

Here's a more clear-cut explanation:

"The second requirement is alternative information and communication systems which allow for autonomous communication between cooperating agents."

"The third requirement is the existence of a 'software' infrastructure for autonomous global cooperation. A growing number of collaborative tools, such as blogs and wiki's, embedded in social networking software facilitate the creation of trust and social capital, making it possible to create global groups that can create use-value without the intermediary of manufacturing or distribution by for-profit enterprises."

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Anonymous goes forth

I got interested in ICA from my study of Project Chanology, the branch of Anonymous that took on the Church of Scientology beginning in 2008.  I didn't make any predictions about the future of Anonymous, but I did predict more ICA.

So where is Anonymous 3 years later?  In the news like crazy. Mostly, they've been Ddosing things like Visa and Paypal for dissing Wikileaks.  They've exposed HBGary after their head Aaron Barr threatened to out the "leaders" of Anonymous.  They've helped Iranian, Egyptian, and other revolutions.  So they've been active, which you can follow somewhat hereProject Chanology has been plugging along with their monthly protests and informational programs to expose Scientology.

Anonymous has mostly maintained their anonymity.  One "member" named ColdBlood went on BBC radio, and was summarily outed, then raided for alleged DDosing activity.  Gregg Housh did some media interviews saying he was in touch with Anonymous, not a member himself (the media didn't catch this sometimes).  Others have come forward doing two things Anonymous is not supposed to do; 1) lose your anonymity and 2) talk about Anonymous.  But the anonymity is still a major feature of Anonymous.

Project Chanology's survival after three years is impressive, since Scientology hammered away at quite a few anons, outing them, trying to get them in legal trouble, etc.  It just goes to show that leaderless movements can survive quite a while.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Gene Sharp writes the definitive work on nonviolent revolution

Gene Sharp's book "From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation" is a short but jam-packed explanation of how to get rid of an authoritarian government.  He explains how to plan ahead, how to spread out labor, what to do after you've succeeded, and on and on. It's just a dry but thorough how-to book.

Sharp doesn't deal with ICA, since the book was written in 1993. But an important point he makes is that for all your work and planning, it might not work anyway.  You might have to step back and try again later.

The military crackdown in Libya shows what can go wrong when a dictator decides he wants to stay no matter who is telling him to leave (in this case, everybody).  In Zimbabwe people may face the death penalty simply for watching videos and discussing what happened in Egypt.  This article gives several reasons why protests in Algeria will probably not succeed at this time (including their recent history of brutal crackdowns). 

So besides recommending Sharp's book, I'd also again like to stress that ICA is a tool, not a guarantee of success.  It is a tool that makes things cheaper, faster, and better connected.  It makes collective action more probable. It may even help lay the groundwork for success as well as doing it.  But even if you have the safest car in the world, you can still crash. 

It's good then, that there are resources like Sharp's to help think through any potential action.  When we protested Scientology in Clearwater in the 1990s, we would spend weeks ahead of time thinking up "what if" scenarios.  What if they physically assaulted one of us?  What if they infiltrated our group?  We were not thorough enough with this, because we never thought of "what if they tear up their own sidewalks?"  But it was still a helpful process.  One advantage of ICA is you get the resource of every brain involved.  Fewer things get missed that way.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Why aren't sub-saharan countries revolting?

" For decades, under colonial rule and since independence, many leaders have exploited their peoples' ethnic rivalries and linguistic differences to sow division and maintain their ethnic group's hold on power and the country's purse strings. To this day, in many such states, ethnicity has greater resonance than national identity."

This is a useful article that tries to explain why some African countries probably won't have an uprising like Tunisia and Egypt, even though they have dictators running them.  The author, Wangari Maathai, does mention an internet-organized protest in Angola, but generally, much fewer people have access to the Internet in these countries than in the northern countries like Egypt (though even there it is still a small percentage with Internet access). 

I should say that I don't think there's a direct correlation of Internet access and revolution.  I see the Internet as a tool that makes organizing much cheaper, faster, and easier.  Anything cheaper, faster, and easier is more likely to happen.  But of course there are other factors that this author covers that could negate the Internet advantage at any rate.  And it's impossible to know when all the necessary factors will align so that an ICA will not only happen, but succeed. 

There have been revolutions before the Internet, and there will no doubt be some that hardly utilize the Internet.  But the Internet makes collective action more likely.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A couple of articles on recent news and ICA

"The rise of social media made a set of online tools for revolution readily available and accessible to the largest demographic in the Middle East — youth. Put a powerful tool of communication in the hands of a handful of highly motivated, highly educated activists with the potential to reach the largest and most important demographic of the society and add to it the spark of what happened in Tunisia — and you have the perfect storm."

"The North African revolutions and remind us that citizens aren’t so much political or apolitical as they are politicized or unpoliticized at any given moment; even people who don’t like discussing politics in their spare time can turn out in the Tahrir Square when the serious business starts." [Clay Shirky]

Monday, March 7, 2011

history of collective action tools

This is a great read about how different tools have been used against authoritarian regimes through history. It ends with speculation about what future Internet tools might be used.

"At the dawn of 2011 there is again hope that technology can birth the barricades of the 21st century. Perhaps the most exciting direction for activism is the increasing politicization of flashmobs. First capturing the public imagination in 2003, flashmobs are the sudden appearance of dozens, sometimes hundreds, of individuals who carry out a synchronized action that ranges from the absurd to the disobedient."

The author's web site looks useful as well.

useful software for ICA?

Has anybody used this? It looks useful for smaller actions. Better than using twitter?  At least when the net goes down you can still use this for communicating.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Stand Alone Complex

I really like the Ghost in the Shell anime.  There are 3 movies and a TV series.  Basically it's a ways in the future, and humans and cybernetic beings are becoming more and more alike.  Humans have cyber parts, and cyber beings have minds quite close to human.  So do the cyber beings have souls?  And do the humans with cybernetic replacement parts still have a soul?

   But I digress (but still watch the movies!).  One important concept in the series is the stand alone complex.  I don't get it completely, but basically it's like a meme that starts which then gets picked up and runs viral through society.  People pick up the idea and copy it.  This isn't exactly ICA, but it is a sort of collective action in that people spread an idea throughout society until it is accepted as fact.  Here's a video that tries to explain it a bit:

   If nothing else, it's a great program. Enjoy.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

I try to define Internet Collective Action

I got the notion of Internet collective action from my study of Project Chanology. This was a group of the network known as Anonymous who decided to protest the Church of Scientology.  I spent about 6 months writing a paper on them.  Clay Shirky's book "Here Comes Everybody" was especially helpful to me.  In that book he lists levels of working together.  The easiest is sharing, which is like putting up a photo on  Next is cooperation, which is like me selling something on ebay; you win the bid, I send you the item.  Finally, collective action requires distribution of responsibility, coordination, planning.
So here is an attempt to somewhat codify what my blog is about.  Internet Collective Action is a loose-knit network of people communicating principally via the Internet who choose to accomplish a simple goal together.  This network has the following features:

* It is non-hierarchical.  There is no center. 
* Membership is open.
* The degree and length of participation is up to the individual.
* Decision making is done by open argument and consensus.
* The action lives close to chaos.
* When the goal is accomplished, the network dissolves.
* Their formation is difficult to predict.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

in which I respond to Dr. Tufekci's article on leaderlessness

Dr. Zeynep Tufekci is a sociology professor at the University of Maryland.  She wrote an article titled "Can 'Leaderless Revolutions' Stay Leaderless: Preferential Attachment, Iron Laws and Networks" that was published online Feburary 14 [].  Tufekci claims that there is an inescapable mechanism that drives all organizations to create a hierarchy or leadership.  This article has bugged me from the moment I finished reading it. I wrote a study of Project Chanology, which is an Internet collective action against the Church of Scientology that started in January of 2008 [].  Project Chanology has never had a hierarchy and in fact almost by definition of the group cannot have one.  So right away I have this example of a group that has never had leadership for three years.  Why does Tufekci think this is not possible?

Her main point seems to be "it is wrong to assume that open networks 'naturally' facilitate 'leaderless' or horizontal structures.  On the contrary, an examination of dynamics in such networks, and many examples from history, show that such set-ups often quickly evolve into very hierarchical and ossified networks not in spite of, but because of, their initial open nature."

Movements naturally evolve a hierarchy through random and meritorious selection, and "preferential attachment," which is defined as "the more followers you have, the more followers you will add, ceteris paribus –  i.e. even if the merit of your tweets is the same as someone of fewer followers, your followers will grow at a faster rate."

She uses the number of twitter followers a group of Egyptian activists have to show this mechanism in action.  "Let’s do a short-hand conceptualization and accept the number of followers in a Twitter network as a measure of importance."  Basically, some people become more popular than others, partially by just being the first with the most.  Apps on Facebook similarly spread and become popular by the three methods she delineates (random, meritorious, preferential attachment) and thus some become popular while others fade away.

 I really don't think twitter following is a good example here. Just because you follow someone on twitter, it does not make them your leader. You might follow them over others because they give reliable information. Or you might be related. There are lots of reasons for having a big following on twitter.

Groups, such as a revolutionary movement, naturally develop people who are listened to more than others.  Ok, I'll agree with that.  If a random group of people give random dates and times for a protest, then that would be quite useless. So some person or group gets the job of distributing when the agreed-upon (by whom?  some sort of consensus) time and place.  I agree that this is natural.  Another person may be the philosophical expounder of the reasons for revolution. This person would get a huge twitter following.  Yet is that a leader?  Kufekci doesn't define "leader," so this may be part of my problem with her article. I assume leadership is first people agreeing with you.  Then they consider your words of importance.  Then they either do what you suggest (meet here at such and such a time), or they promote your ideas.  And THEN, and this is what I think Kufekci's means by the word, you might gain a hierarchical position of power.  And this last step is not the case in Internet collective action or the recent revolutions. 

Kufekci does take a step back and admits that yes, Iran's revolution was a mass-revolt rather than one based around any particular leader. Ok, and so is Tunisia and Egypt, probably.  But then she's back out there punching for leadership:  "However, few revolutions remain leaderless—which is exactly why it is very important to understand that the diffused nature of this revolution is hardly an inoculation  against the emergence of this dynamic; in fact, it might even contain the seeds of extreme hierarchy."

So now she grabs the top 10 tweeters involved in the Egyptian revolution.  Ghonim comes out on top.  "Ghonim is the one that has been crowned the 'leader of the leaderless revolution' by Newsweek and he’s the one who is tweeting about meeting with top generals in the military."  Although I quake to quarrel with Newsweek, Wael Ghonim works for Google. He was arrested early in the Egyptian movement and held for twelve days.  During that time his arrest became a cause celebre as he had a popular facebook page. 

So, does this "leader" consider himself a leader?  "Ghonim revealed that he created the Facebook group that has been instrumental in the ongoing movement in the country. 'I didn't want anyone to know that I was the admin,' Ghonim said in a conversation with Mona El Shazly on Egypt's Dream TV. 'I'm not the hero.'" [,2817,2380402,00.asp]  This is strange for a leader. He wanted to remain anonymous!  60 Minutes called him "the symbol of the leaderless revolution" when they interviewed him after the fall of Mubarak.  "Ghonim told us he has no interest in politics, and he wants to go back to work at Google."  Again, strange of a leader to relinquish his position.

Remember the title of Tufekci's article is "Can 'Leaderless Revolutions' Stay Leaderless: Preferential Attachment, Iron Laws and Networks."  Her point is that leaders will naturally arise.  Ghonim is her star leader in the Egyptian revolution.  Yet Ghonim rejects that title.  What can we make of this?  Tufekci admits that Ghonim does not consider himself a leader; "Wael Ghonim especially has been careful to talk about how this is a revolution without heroes because so many are heroes."  But then she argues that they are leaders anyway, because of the "iron law of oligarchy."  This law states that with every organization, if you wait long enough "a group of insiders emerge and vigorously defend their turf, and almost always succeed."  This happens so often in history that it can't be discounted, even if social media are now involved.

And here we come to the crux of the matter. Kufekci sees no difference historically between the pre-social media and current social media times.  This is a mistake.  Project Chanology, a branch of Anonymous that took on the Church of Scientology [], has been going on for three years now and still has no hierachy.  Internet collective action is a new thing with great changes in how such actions work socially.  I'll just let you read that article to see my points there.  Most academics and media still do not grasp these changes.  For instance, the media kept asking the Egyptian protesters when they were going to appoint a leader or leadership.  Consistently the protesters kept saying things like "There is no need for leadership. People are organizing themselves." (protester on Al Jazeera TV, Feb. 4).

Finally, the end of the collective action is important. The revolution's main goal was to remove Mubarak.  They had seven points altogether, but this was the one that bound everyone together.  When this was accomplished, that chapter in history was over. It was time to move on to organizing a country. And this is definitely where you need leaders.  But now they can vote for those leaders.  Too bad Ghonim doesn't want to be one because he seems to be the type of person Egypt needs in a position of power now. 

The revolution was an Interenet collective action.  It used Facebook, twitter, youtube, email, etc. to quickly and cheaply interconnect people and information.  It had simple goals, no hierachy, it was extremely connected and flexible. This is a new type of organizing that has yet to be clearly understood.  But we will see more and more of it.  We should not try to apply the old models to the new system.

3/5/11 addition: here is Ghonim speaking at TED Talk:

some more thougtful articles

I don't really think Al Jazeera was much more in the know about when future protests were coming than anyone else. Heck, even the protesters wouldn't have known when the right spark would come along, at the same time that they were equipped and prepared to move.  But Al Jazeera is much better at actually getting out into the community to see what's going on rather than U.S. media, which prefers to let officials and corporations tell them what's going on.

"Social media alone did not facilitate the Arab Revolution, but was a successful catalyst when combined with myriad methods of digital and traditional media. Technological advances like cell phones, video cameras, blog posts and Facebook, in conjunction with more traditional media outlets like Al Jazeera, created the circumstances for such effective information dissemination."

This article makes a great point that only a small percentage of people in the countries now in revolution have ever been on the Internet.  But they explain how Al Jazeera TV and just printing pamphlets of things from the net reach the bigger percentage of people.  So I'd still say these revolutions are Internet collective actions because their main source of information, as was Al Jazeera's, comes from the Internet.