I spent an hour today talking to people at the Radiator Film Festival about digital rights and putting together an activist group, referencing directly my own personal experiences organising the Open Rights Group. I found myself repeatedly saying "This is how we did it, but I wouldn't recommend that you do it like this."
In a separate conversation with a fellow activist earlier in the week, I found myself in the slightly weird position of having someone else give me the advice I would have been giving them if they were me. There was much vigourous head nodding, much "Oh, I totally agree!", and much feeling that I had really missed some very obvious opportunities to do things better.
Both experiences made me realise that I've been so caught up in trying to get ORG sorted that I've not been telling everyone what we're doing, so this is both my update post, and me putting my hand up and admitting that I've not been as transparent as I'd like to have been. It's not out of any conspiracy, it's just that it's easy to get caught up in your to do list and forget that sometimes, the most important things to do aren't on the list. It's too easy not to see the wood for the trees.
We're still trying to get the supporters sign-up process sorted so that you can join ORG and the database will automatically provide you with either a standing order form, or tie you into the PayPal site if you want to donate that way. We had initially hoped that this would be done by the Digital Rights in the UK event, but we only got it half-done and finishing it off has taken us much longer than we'd anticipated. We're working on it, though, and if the Perl gods smile upon us it will be done soon.
At the Digital Rights in the UK event, I promised to set up a wiki. I finally managed to do this just the other day, although I then promptly managed to break the damn thing half an hour later. It's now fixed and, although logo-less, it's there for you to use.
The only thing up there at the moment is a link to the Flickr set of the photos taken by Lloyd Davis of the conversations captured on index card on the night. The general idea is that you can help transcribe and organise the information in those images, and add to it on the wiki.
We'll be contributing stuff ourselves to the wiki as time goes on, but it's open for you to use as you want. If you have information on current or upcoming digital rights issues that you want to share - or any other relevant stuff, for that matter - then feel free to publish it there.
The mailing list
We have also set up an open mailing list called ORG-discuss which is for general discussion of digital rights issues, ORG, and related stuff. Join, take part, and let's get things moving. If you are interested in volunteering for ORG, then that's where we'll be sending our requests for help.
The blog and website
We know the blog is fugly, and we're fixing it. I will also be writing a lot more content for it over the coming weeks, so there'll be information about how to support us, who we are, what we're doing, our legal status, and all that stuff that may not be thrillingly interesting but which should be public.
Still lots to do
We still have an awful lot to do to make ORG into the kind of group which is going to be useful and effective, although I think we have already made quite a bit of progress in that direction. We got quite a few column inches on data retention and are starting to build up good relationships with other groups. It may not be startlingly dramatic progress, but it's important nonetheless.
One of the points that I made during my talk at Radiator was that we really did all this arse-about-face in some ways, by starting the pledge before we knew exactly what we wanted to achieve or how we were going to do it. It's felt a lot like we've spent the last five months catching up with where people thought we were in July and I think that might be at the root of some of the frustration that people have felt. It's not that nothing has been happening, it's just that we've been so busy trying to get things moving that we've not been as transparent as we could have been, and thus it's looked like we're sitting about doing nothing. This has been a problem all through the process, and all I can do is just say that we'll try very hard to do better.
Indeed, it is through this teething process that we most need your support. We are giving the first 1000 people to donate special status, that of 'Founding 1000'. (Sort of like The 4400, but without the special psychic powers.) What this means in the short term is that you get a warm, rosy glow of satisfaction. In the long term, we'll provide special goodies for you and try to find whatever other perks we can as we go along.
But by becoming one of the Founding 1000 are supporting us with something much more important than money - your giving us your trust too, saying that you believe we will do the right thing by you. It will take us time to finalise the infrastructure that will make ORG survive beyond the first incumbents, and everyone involved is taking a long term view to make sure that ORG is not just a flash in the pan. During that period we may fluff things up occasionally, but when we do we'll hold our hands up, admit it, and then try to do better.
Finally, thank you to everyone who has either offered or help and expertise thus far. We certainly would not have achieved as much as we have in such a short time without you.