Social Networks and WiserTuesdays: The PlanetShifter.com Interview with Kerry Vineberg of WiserEarth by Willi Paul
Social Networks and WiserTuesdays: The PlanetShifter.com Interview with Kerry Vineberg of WiserEarth by Willi Paul

WiserEarth is a project of the Natural Capital Institute (NCI), an organization committed to the restoration of the earth and the healing of human culture. WiserEarth's vision comes from NCI's Executive Director, Paul Hawken, who recognized its need when researching his latest book, Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being, and Why No One Saw It Coming.

"I knew that if we could understand the connections and visualize the breadth of global efforts on behalf of social and environmental justice, we would recognize the largest movement the world has ever seen. WiserEarth is where this movement can begin to see itself." PH

WiserEarth was launched on Earth Day, April 2007. Initial funding for WiserEarth supported the critical phase of building the platform, populating the site with a base of content, and listening to the needs of partners and community members. In the Spring of 2008, WiserEarth went "open source", meaning its technical code was released to the world. Other projects can now customize a full scale website based on this WiserPlatform code without relying on NCI's financial leadership.

Since its release, WiserEarth's functionality and tools have co-evolved with its users. Starting out as a directory, WiserEarth now offers social networking tools and groupware for people to connect and collaborate around issue areas. We invite you to read about WiserEarth's Principles. WiserEarth will always be a work in progress. We hope WiserEarth community members will donate their time and intellectual property to help make WiserEarth a true global resource. The history from this point onward is collaboratively written by all of us - the community.

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What are the key internal values and principles at work at WiserEarth?

WiserEarth values the following key principles: transparency, respect, and community. We also enable networking, collaboration, and visibility. For elaboration on each of these qualities, please visit our principles page.

How does WiserEarth define localization and sustainability?

Great question. In fact, we just localized our site this Monday, May 4, into Spanish, French, and Portuguese. When we think of localization, we don't just think of making our software language or region-specific. We also include content and community. This means that for each language we've launched in, we have also found volunteer moderators and regional coordinators to help us keep track of organizations, resources, events, jobs, etc., and ensure they are accurate and up-to-date. As well, they help keep our local language groups active and relevant. In sum, localization to us is the act of translating the software, community, content, and to some degree applying the "culture" associated with a language.

Speaking of which, members of WiserEarth have also launched a series of face-to-face gatherings, known as WiserTuesdays. They originally began in Paris last September in conjunction with NetSquared and La Ruche (a space for social entrepreneurs in Paris). These gatherings are designed to bring together people interested in social change, sustainability and technology. They have now spread to London, UK and Monrovia, Liberia. It's been great to see these local meetups springing up across the globe!

The WiserTuesday Paris gatherings have actually spawned a Social Innovation BarCamp thanks to a coalition of players including Kiva.org, 27eme Region, Silicon Sentier and FING. The event will take place (in Paris) on June 26, 2010.

We define sustainability, in general, as the sum of practices which are indefinitely renewable, and do not deplete the earth's resources. Sustainability can be applied to nearly every area of our lives, from technology, to business, to development (though some might say this is an oxymoron!), to education, to daily life... Our members have formed a group called Sustainability 101.

How does WiserEarth compare to Care2 and GreenWala.com or other online communities?

The core of it is that each community has a different focus. Care2 draws much of its interest from its online petitions. They are oriented around immediate actions. Greenwala is centered around bringing individuals the resources to make green changes in their daily lives. WiserEarth began as a free online directory for nonprofits, a place to gather and name the players in the environmental and social justice movement, collected by ordinary people. It evolved into a sustainable social network which includes individual profiles, customizable member groups, and for-profits, while retaining its roots as a map of the movement and a space for global collaboration. Its also worth noting that we are quite global, over 50% of our visitation is from outside the US and this is likely to increase as we are available in new languages.

How do you find content exactly?

In the beginning, we went through an intensive phase of research with staff, volunteers and interns to start the base of our directory. We are based on the Wikipedia model in that we rely on our members to post content. However, we also have staff and volunteer moderators to ensure that new content is proofed thoroughly.

How do you measure the effectiveness of Tweeting?

We track retweets through bit.ly. Also, via Google Analytics, we track how many tweets ended up with a membership signup to the site. What has been important in our social media outreach is to get a clear sense of the interest of our followers. Some types of tweets will have greater impact than others. Also we have noticed that our Twitter account is being put in more and more lists, which indicates that people are interested in WiserEarth feeds.

What tools and expectations go hand in hand with the social media online campaigns that you run?

I am interpreting this question to be asking what tools we use for social media, and what we expect out of them. Social media is still a relatively new frontier. In our campaigns, we have thus far used Facebook, Twitter, and our blog to spread the word, as well as Flickr and video sites. For each tool, we use different metrics. Facebook now e-mails all administrators handy metrics for their fanpages. We use an efficient video-posting tool called TubeMogul, which allows you to post to all your video accounts simultaneously after saving your account information once.

At times we coordinate across accounts, such as posting Flickr photos to Facebook, tweeting blog posts we've done, or announcing our videos in WiserEarth itself. But generally we try to tailor the channel postings to different audiences. For example, our Twitter feed has a lot of social entrepreneurs, nonprofits and tech-related sustainable types, and can be a more personal way to reach people. Our blog tends towards social media and community managers, making it a great place for tips and stories. This is different from our Facebook page where we expect our audience to have a somewhat shorter attention span due to the medium.

Our expectation is that our different channels of social media will connect with multiple sectors of our member base, and those that haven't yet become members on the site will have a variety of ways to become familiar with our work and the work of the sustainability movement. It is our hope that they will ultimately feel empowered to collaborate!

Connections -

Kerry Vineberg
415-331-6241
Kerry at wiserearth dot org
WiserEarth