New Inventory of Online Youth Civic Engagement Resources

The Center for Communication and Civic Engagement has just released a new report that catalogs and describes many of the most prominent youth civic engagement resources on the web. It is crucial for civic practitioners and scholars to be aware of the wide range of online projects dedicated to youth engagement, and the purpose of this report is to contribute to that goal. We gratefully acknowledge the Surdna Foundation Digital Advocacy Skills project for sponsoring this project, which was researched and compiled by Becoming Citizens interns under the direction of Scott Brekke Davis.

Download the report

August 31st, 2009 at 09:45am

Advice for other youth civic engagement website developers

The following points of advice come from our experience in developing, marketing, and extending the Puget Sound Off youth engagement web site. We hope some of it will be helpful for others seeking to develop youth civic sites of their own.

  • Think carefully about the aesthetic lay-out of your site, and consult youth in its design
  • Take care to align the goals of different partners in the project
  • Ensure technology expertise on your core partner team
  • Be aware of the legal/policy tension between developing an open engagement system and making more conservative decisions based on safety concerns for youth
  • Take care to ensure staff continuity
  • Define the roles of different core partners carefully and keep them in mind as the project develops
  • Plan your site design carefully; bring on a developer in the beginning
  • Create curricula for both teachers and youth
  • Technology access in schools and local organizations may be an issue
  • Be patient regarding barriers partner organizations face to collaborating or quickly incorporating your site into their activities
  • Be aware that youth organizations and schools may be slow to adapt their existing conceptions of citizenship
  • Carefully structure and provide support for good project management
  • Emphasize the planning and development phase of your project
  • Provide more design funding than we did
  • Establish a consistent for of technology for project management and team communications
  • Engage diverse communities and local partners
  • Bring on people with expertise in writing for education for curriculum development
  • Focus on issues that matter in your community on your site
  • Leverage local media to promote your site
  • Plan events and conferences
  • Seek research funding to support your project
  • Develop your project collaboratively between organizations
  • Invest in diverse content during the development phase of the project
  • Involve youth and experts in the site design phase
  • Be patient
  • Define your niche and goals carefully
  • Engage community volunteers
  • Carefully estimate costs
  • Approach youth engagement creatively
  • Approach local funders and corporations
  • Have a strong marketing plan

August 10th, 2009 at 12:21pm

Puget Sound Off Receiving Worldwide Attention and Recognition

The Puget Sound Off (PSO) web site — a joint project of the University of Washington’s Center for Communication and Civic Engagement, the YMCA of Seattle, and the City of Seattle — focuses on promoting and facilitating youth civic engagement.

Recently, won an award from the Public Technology Institute (PTI) for best web and e-government services. The CCCE has worked with the City of Seattle Department of Information Technology and the Seattle Metrocenter YMCA to develop the Puget Sound Off website, curricula, and project partnerships in the community. An array of Seattle youth organizations, including teams at Youth Media Institute, Rainier Vista Neighborhood House and Horn of Africa Services have led the use of the site developing online groups and posting video, blogs, photos and more. The Mayors Youth Council and the City’s Citizens Telecommunications and Technology Advisory Board have also helped in developing the project.

This award recognizes the unique opportunity Puget Sound Off provides for online youth expression and civic engagement. PSO provides area teens with a community networking and online engagement site, together with on-the-ground training in media literacy, cause related journalism and content development. The site also features tips for online safety and a Flash-based curriculum on digital communication skills, which the CCCE has been instrumental in developing through the Surdna Digital Youth Advocacy Skills program. This CCCE curricula has been packaged on the “how to” section of the PSO site in a library of interactive videos to help youth master blogging, digital storytelling, and other multimedia skills.

Many of these curriculum videos were created by undergraduate interns and graduate students participating in the CCCE’s Becoming Citizens Program. The content of these curricula have been informed by CCCE research on digital media and civic learning, supported by the MacArthur Foundation.

Though aimed at connecting Puget Sound-area youth, PSO is regularly being explored by a worldwide audience, with a clear plurality of hits originating from Seattle. The information about who is visiting PSO and where the users are located comes from Google Analytics, a popular web site tracking service that reports a number of statistics about a site’s visitors—where they visited from, which links they followed to reach the site, what pages they visited, and more. We began using Google Analytics to record PSO’s visitor data on February 27, 2009, and here are a few web traffic highlights from the period between then and June 19, 2009:


  • PSO has accumulated 16,744 “visits” in all, which are defined as site use sessions delineated by at least 30 minutes of inactivity. This works out to roughly 148 visits per day, though they are not evenly distributed—traffic tends to dip slightly on the weekends.
  • These visits produced 93,194 “pageviews,” which count the number of pages a person views in a single visit. The average number of pages viewed per visit was 5.57, indicating that many visitors are deeply engaged with the site.


  • A majority (53%) of all visitors come from the Seattle metropolitan area and Puget Sound region. 56% of all visits originated from Washington state, 30% came from US states other than Washington, and 14% came from outside the US.
  • Eight out of the top ten visitor-producing cities are located in the Puget Sound area. The other two are New York City (#4) and Los Angeles (#10).
  • PSO is a truly global site, having hosted visitors from 108 countries spanning every continent except Antarctica over the past 2.5 months alone.
  • PSO is big both at home and at school: the top two ISPs sending visitors are the Seattle Public Schools and Comcast (many of which are undoubtedly home users).

Traffic Sources

  • Roughly equal shares of traffic (totaling 78%) come from search engines and “direct” visits, in which visitors either type the URL in manually or have PSO bookmarked. Many keywords in searches were clearly civic in nature, such as “should the death penalty be legal” (#7), “affirmative action pro” (#11), and “difference between free trade and fair trade” (#16).

Clearly, PSO is having a powerful impact both within the Puget Sound and beyond. We anticipate these encouraging traffic trends to continue as word about the site spreads. Visit PTI for more information on the PTI competition and PugetSoundOff blogs to see an array of new blog posts, video and images on what youth are sounding off about today.

June 19th, 2009 at 08:29am Toby Campbell

Puget Sound Off Competition Results

posted by Kat Catlett

On Jan 10, Puget Sound Off (PSO) members and their friends, families and supporters all gathered at the Metrocenter YMCA to celebrate the end of PSO’s first competition.

“I [got to meet] some of the PSO bloggers and developers. It was so great,” wrote regular blogger Kai Flores.

Overall, the event was successful. A majority of contest participants attended, and one extra member, Tim Chambers, received an unexpected prize that was left over.

The general vibe of the gathering was relaxed and welcoming, with bloggers and developers walking around, shaking hands and commenting on each other’s posts. Parents were also put at ease by finally meeting the developers in real life and being explained the safety features of the open-forum style of PSO. A healthy choice of Thai food was served at the beginning, and everyone seemed to enjoy the food without complaints.

The actual award ceremony at the end, the purpose of the gathering, was also a success. Well organized and full of great prizes, the bloggers and their supporters left very happy. Each category within the competition was explained, while a preview of each winner was shown after they gave a short speech describing why they posted what they did.

“[My favorite part was] winning. What makes the ceremonies good are the prizes,” stated member, and third place winner of the blog category Daniel Wyman. The gathering was such  success, that one member wrote a blog thanking everyone for such a great time. All the members who attended joined in commenting that they had a great time.

Although the competition is over, the end of this chapter, of PSO leads into a new one. Currently, PSO members and developers are organizing a new PSO game, an e-scavenger hunt. While the details are still in the making, the overall layout is set; members will visit a variety of websites to uncover information regarding a certain important issue. While they uncover information on one site, it will lead to another- much like a treasure hunt. There is also the consideration of having a trip to Seattle for “clues” to enable a more hands-on approach.

At 2 pm on Feb 7, members and developers will meet at the Metrocenter YMCA to finalize the new game that will hopefully bring more members and more success to PSO.

PSO contest winners:

3rd Place: Daniel W. “Flaw in our Freedom”

2nd Place: Erin R. “Human Trafficking”

1st Place: Kat C. “Washington State Student Press Rights”

1st Place: Sophie D. “This Is Who I am”

3rd Place: Tatiana P. “Child Abuse”

2nd Place Leda G. “Teens and Politics”

1st Place: Philip K. and Samuel A. “Break the Habit”

February 3rd, 2009 at 09:41pm

The Youth Civic Web: Charting the Learning Landscape

As an illustration of our ongoing MacArthur-funded research project mapping the youth civic web sphere, we have created a brief slideshow containing screenshots of all of the various types of civic content we encountered in our analysis. Our theoretical framework incorporates four learning opportunities (knowledge, expression, joining publics, and taking action) each of which can manifest in two citizenship styles (actualizing and dutiful), and we divided our 90-site sample into four categories: government/candidate, community organizations, interest groups, and online-only sites. This yields 32 possible combinations of learning opportunity, citizenship style, and site type, all but three of which we actually detected in our sample. The PDF slideshow linked below briefly describes the study’s theory and methods and displays one visual example of the actual site content that was judged to merit each distinct coding possibility.

Download the slideshow (PDF format)

January 7th, 2009 at 07:08pm Deen Freelon

Video: Introducing Civic Learning Research, Media Skills and Advocacy projects

As part of the Civic Learning Online Workshop we created a video to showcase several efforts that are related to youth civic Advice for other youth civic engagement website developersonline under the umbrella of Center for Civic Engagement. 

The video features Lance Bennett and CCCE staff members as well as YMCA Metrocenter youth team members.

Video was shot and edited by Jon Hickey.

October 8th, 2008 at 12:54pm Adri

Open Thread for the Civic Learning Online Research Presentation

This is an open thread for the civic learning online research presentation taking place at the Civic Learning Online Workshop at the University of Washington.  Feel free to leave comments below to join in conversation.

October 3rd, 2008 at 10:33am jonhickey

Youth organizing

We are excited to have a few new advisors on board. Kate Boyd and Cristien Storm from If You Don’t They Will have joined our Civic Learning Team. I’d like to invite Kate and Cristien, along with any other interested bloggers to weigh in on the following:

Kate and Cristien have a lot of great experience fostering youth organizing through their work. What are the ways that organizations like PSO can support youth organizing? How does this compare with the activity of organizing youth?

September 19th, 2008 at 11:01am Toby Campbell

All-ages movement, youth leadership

We are excited to have a few new advisors on board. In particular, Josh Powell, Program Director for the VERA Project, has joined our Civic Learning Team. I’d like to invite Josh and other interested bloggers to weigh in on the following:
What are the various ways organizations can foster youth governance and leadership and put power in the hands of the young people they serve?
In what ways do these types of organizations fit into the all-ages movement project, and what does this involvement mean?

September 19th, 2008 at 10:47am Toby Campbell

Activism Style of Millenials

I’d like to follow up on the debate over Sally Kohn’s Real Change Happens Offline (see DailyKos’ georgia10’s response, Allison Fine’s post at Social Citizens Blog, and our own CLO post on the debate), because I think it is rich in the ideas we tangle with here at CLO.

So far, this debate has mainly focused on technology, with the central question being: are Millennials spending too much time on webby activism, and not enough on offline activism?

I want to add to that focus an awareness that, concurrently with the development of the web, citizens have been changing their participation habits to engage more often with looser, networked communities that fit into increasingly busy schedules and complex political identities. (It’s quite clear that this trend started before the web—but can it be a coincidence that many of the tools developed for the web enable just those sorts of online communities?) So there are at least two models of political action—ways of approaching and preferring to engage with the political world—at work, apart from web use. (A number of scholars have theorized those models, including Lance Bennett, whose Dutiful/self-Actualizing approach is being employed in our current CLO research, and was recently blogged about.)

The ‘problem’ is thus not simply that Millenials are online too much, but that many of the forms of action that made sense a generation ago don’t resonate as meaningful. Given this, the most fruitful approach to engaging Millennials may be less to push them to get offline, and more to discover ways in which their starting point on the web leads them to opportunities that are effective in the offline world. Where might such crossovers take place? I’ve been thinking about two recent, very conventionally political actions that tried to engage supporters in the both the online and offline worlds: Howard Dean’s 2004 primary run, and Barack Obama’s current campaign.

Dean’s 2004 campaign looks like an instance in which a mainly online community of support needed to mobilize offline support, a task it did not ultimately achieve. It would be unfair to pin Dean’s collapse wholly on the failure of his netroots to branch out, but as Howard Rheingold points out in a comment to the earlier CLO discussion, it is seen as an important factor in Dean’s downfall. But the Dean case illustrates several of the strengths of an online-only model of action (ease of communication, the possibility of building a coherent opinion community in the face of mainstream ambivalence, the low cost of joining such a community for a political novice, and the ease of online fundraising from many small sources). It also introduced at least one important crossover tool (the famous Deen MeetUps), which offered online activists easy transitions to offline organizing, though that tool did not ultimately foster a compelling enough offline presence to reach the party faithful.

Obama’s relative success makes his campaign an attractive counterexample. However, I see Obama’s campaign less as a mirror of Dean’s (originating in the netroots and needing to develop an offline presence), and more as having developed its online and offline actions concurrently. Unlike Dean, Obama had attained major national prominence before his online campaign was in full swing. Today, it benefits from a well-run conventional campaign,solid online-only tools, and what look like a number of crossover tools, both inside and outside the formal campaign (inside there are the networking and event-creating tools; outside are YouTube mashups, Facebook profiles, etc.).

So we should not assume that Obama has succeeded where Dean failed. (The campaign could have its online activists, and its offline activists, and little exchange between the two camps.) Instead, we should look carefully at whom Obama has engaged, how they are engaged, and how they got there. Especially, I’m wondering, is Obama bringing Millennials to conventional, offline political action via web engagement? If so, how? Which tools offer pathways from online, networked and expressive engagement to offline actions? The voting levels of young people seem a good indication this is happening: what other kinds of evidence do we have?

September 8th, 2008 at 08:06pm Chris Wells

Civic engagement quick hits

Where’s the future of activism?
MoJo infographic

—from the Mother Jones 2008 Student Activism Survey

  • 69 percent of students cited “donating money to a cause or charity”
  • An equal proportion cited “using eco-friendly or ‘green’ business practices.”
  • 68 percent cited “fair labor practices” (down slightly from top ranking last year)
  • Also of note, almost half (49 percent) give brands a hint on what might sway them: social messages incorporated into advertising have an effect.

—from Alloy Media + Marketing’s recently release 8th annual College Explorer study

The Rock the Vote site within the Xbox Live network has downloadable Gamerpics, which can be added to an individual’s Xbox Live profile, in support of Barrack [sic] Obama or John McCain, the presumptive Democratic and Republican nominees, respectively. There’s also voter registration information and Rock the Vote videos.

Banner ads on the Dashboard — the central hub of Xbox Live — will point people toward the Rock the Vote content. After downloading the “I registered” pic, members will get voter registration information via e-mail.

—Seattle Times story on Microsoft’s partnership with RocktheVote aimed at outreach to online gamers

“Hurricane Katrina: Tempest in Crescent City” is a comprehensive social networking website featuring an educational “game” experience where participants are encouraged to act in support of New Orleans residents. The site provides links to a variety of relief groups as well as information about New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina including multiple timelines, analysis of media coverage, and supporting articles for all information presented.

—Press release for Global Kids’ latest civic gaming project

In their first joint appearance since the party conventions, presidential nominees John McCain and Barack Obama will discuss service and civic engagement in the post-9/11, post-Katrina world during the primetime televised “ServiceNation Presidential Candidates Forum” on the evening of Thursday, Sept. 11, hosted by Columbia University in the City of New York, as part of the ServiceNation Summit.

—Columbia University press release on ServiceNation Summit

September 4th, 2008 at 05:04pm Deen Freelon

Blogistics: A Digital Civic Learning Module

If we may depart from our usual theoretical discussions for a moment, let’s have a look at the web-based curriculum profiled in our recent CLO report. This blogging curriculum, entitled Blogistics, is currently available as an interactive Flash presentation. Here are some questions to think about while navigating through it:

  • What works well and what could be improved upon? How effective is this presentation likely to be overall?
  • What do you think of format (interactive web-based slideshow) as a delivery vehicle for civic lessons? Might it work better for presenting some learning material than  others?

Of course, feel free to comment on any other salient aspect of the presentation.


August 8th, 2008 at 10:05am Deen Freelon

New Evaluative Framework for Civic Curricula

CLO has just released a new short report outlining an evaluative framework for civic curricula based on the learning categories developed in our previous report, Young Citizens and Civic Learning. Here is the abstract:

This report introduces the work of the Civic Learning Online Project in developing digital media learning tools. The need for identifying specific online learning goals and opportunities is discussed first. This is followed by the introduction of an online curriculum unit, Blogging in Public, which is evaluated in terms of the civic learning opportunities it offers.

After perusing this report, we would appreciate your input on the following questions, as well as any general feedback:

  • Do you see any major categories of civic learning which our evaluative framework would exclude? If so, what?
  • Do you think civic practitioners are likely to find our framework useful? What can we do to make it more useful for them?


August 8th, 2008 at 10:01am Deen Freelon

Two paradigms of civic learning

We’d like to get a discussion started on our latest report, a literature review/think piece on generational differences in civic engagement practices. Here’s the abstract:

How can civic education keep pace with changing political identifications and practices of new generations of citizens? We examine research on school-based civic education in different post-industrial democracies with the aim of deriving a set of core learning categories. Most school-based approaches reflect traditional paradigms of dutiful citizenship (DC) oriented to government through parties and voting, with citizens forming attentive publics who follow events in the news. While this model may appeal to some young people, research suggests that it produces mixed learning outcomes, and may not capture the full range of learning and engagement styles of recent generations of citizens. We expand upon these conventional learning categories by identifying additional civic learning opportunities that reflect more selfactualizing (AC) styles of civic participation common among recent generations of youth who have been termed digital natives. Their AC learning styles favor interactive, networked activities often communicated with participatory media production such as videos shared across online networks. The result is an expanded set of learning categories that can be used to design, document, and compare civic learning in different environments from schools to online communities.

If possible, please have a look at the full paper. But even if you don’t have time to read the whole thing, I’ve included a couple discussion questions that should make sense based solely on the abstract:

  • Have you seen the AC and DC styles reflected in your own research or anecdotal observations of school civics programs or young people themselves? If not, how would you characterize the new brand of civic engagement popular among youth? Are there other conceptualizations of youth civic engagement not mentioned in the paper we should be aware of?
  • The authors mention Obama very briefly in the paper, suggesting that the youth enthusiasm for his campaign (particularly as expressed through participatory media) defies the typical AC/DC distinction. Would it be more accurate to conceptualize the Obama campaign as an exception to the rule or as a hybrid of the two styles (AC methods in pursuit of DC ends)? Looking toward the future, do you expect that digital media will continue to occupy the AC end of the civic spectrum, or will they diffuse evenly across AC and DC as they becomes more integrated into everyday life?


July 15th, 2008 at 03:02pm Deen Freelon

Digital media: what is it good for?

CLO is a bit late to this particular conversation, but I wanted to spotlight the ongoing dust-up in the civic/political blogosphere over a recent Christian Science Monitor op-ed by Sally Kohn, a youth civic practitioner. The piece, titled “Real Change Happens Offline,” makes a number of controversial claims, some more defensible than others:

. . . Internet activism is individualistic. It’s great for a sense of interconnectedness, but the Internet does not bind individuals in shared struggle the same as the face-to-face activism of the 1960s and ’70s did. It allows us to channel our individual power for good, but it stops there.

This is great for signing a petition to Congress or donating to a cause. But the real challenges in our society – the growing gap between rich and poor, the intransigence of racism and discrimination, the abuses from Iraq to Burma (Myanmar) – won’t politely go away with a few clicks of a mouse. Or even a million.

Daily Kos, the Nation, and CLO adviser Allison Fine have all articulated thoughtful objections to these and other arguments and assumptions embedded in the piece, and Kohn’s response to her critics highlights some of the deep-rooted philosophical differences between partisan Democrats and leftists steeped in critical theory. But I want to sidestep that debate for the time being to focus on an implicit question running through the entire discussion: what, in civic and political terms, is digital media good for? And what projects are better left to the non-digital world?

Kohn’s critics were as quick to dispute the notion that online politics is somehow inherently atomistic as they were to acknowledge the fact that it will never be sufficient to fulfill the goals of most civic and political projects of any significance. Kohn herself seems to view new media as little more than a narrowly helpful supplement to “real” political activity, the vast majority of which plays out offline. But in light of current theoretical understandings and empirical findings, what ought we to expect the internet to do well, and at what point should we begin to curb our enthusiasm? I think we can all agree that new media has made political contributions, petition-signing, and self-expression easier than ever before, but what about changing hearts and minds, civic participation in the legislative process, engaging the disengaged, and hedging against gross concentrations of power (political, economic, cultural, and other)? This question is so basic that we as scholars run the risk of incorrectly assuming that we all agree on the answers, which is why addressing it directly is crucial.


July 15th, 2008 at 03:01pm Deen Freelon

Success and failure in online civic engagement

What determines whether attempts at online youth civic engagement succeed or fail? Eszter Hargittai tackles a question very similar to this one in her recent contribution to a discussion of Clay Shirky’s latest book, Here Comes Everybody. But you don’t need to have read the book to apply Hargittai’s core insight to the issues we’ve been discussing on this blog:

While it is certainly the case that new technologies, tools and services are leveling the playing field, existing societal position and resources still matter. The question is: when do they matter more or less? Under what circumstances do people with less resources still manage to benefit from the new tools in ways that would have been difficult earlier? What are the examples of mobilization that do not involve people with PhDs, ones with noteable techie know-how or one’s with considerable financial resources either themselves or among those in their networks? There are such examples, certainly, but it would be interesting to see systematically what it is that unites them. What commonality is there among such cases that suggests a true leveling of the playing field that goes beyond allocating more opportunities to those who are already considerably privileged? (On a sidenote, these issues are similar to the ones I raised while discussing Yochai Benkler’s book The Wealth of Networks.)

What is important to understand from a youth civic engagement perspective is that not all youth are equally proficient at using digital media. Terms such as “digital natives” and “DotNets,” used by scholars and civic practitioners alike, imply the opposite when applied broadly to the current generation of adolescents and young adults. A better conceptualization of online youth engagement might begin by observing that only some youth fit the tech-savvy “digital native” archetype, and continue by asking how the digitally disadvantaged can best be brought to the virtual table. As a local example illustrating this divide, members of the CLO team have anecdotally observed alarmingly low levels of email proficiency among some of the low-income youth with whom they have come into contact. Instead of maintaining consistent email addresses, they seem to be caught in a ongoing cycle of email address registration, abandonment, and re-registration fueled by chronic password forgetfulness. Reaching these young people via participatory civic sites will remain a Sisyphean endeavor until they learn to master this most fundamental of online skills.

Much of the breathless internet triumphalism effusing forth from the popular press tends to downplay the strong possibility that preexisting inequalities will, in the absence of action to redress them, persist in online contexts (this is not to imply that Shirky’s book falls into this category; I haven’t read it). This holds true for youth civic sites no less than for any other type of participatory media. In addition to Eszter’s general questions, then, I would like to pose a few of my own:

  • What can be done to make online civic spaces more appealing to diverse groups of youth? What are some effective ways to avoid falling into the trap of simply placing a piece of technology into the world and expecting an energized, diverse user base to emerge autonomously?
  • What offline structures need to be constructed to ensure that youth civic sites attract more than just the “usual suspects,” i.e. young people who have already bought into the value of civic engagement?
  • What other online exemplars devoted to youth engagement can we look to that have managed to navigate these issues with a relative measure of success? What can we learn from them?

Edit: According to a recent report from Scientific American, a new University of Minnesota study has found that

even the least privileged kids have profiles on MySpace and Facebook. And they’re on the internet all the time. That finding goes against past studies that have found a ‘digital divide’ between rich and poor kids.

This looks like a pretty egregious non-sequitir to me, as the fact that poor kids have social network profiles is not evidence of the absence of a digital divide. Eszter, I’d be particularly interested to see what you have to say about this. (Can’t find the actual study write-up, but here’s an interview with the PI.)

June 25th, 2008 at 03:39pm Deen Freelon

Civic life, online and off

Here at CLO, it perhaps goes without saying that we spend the majority of our time thinking about how digital media can facilitate civic engagement among young people.  But focusing on digital media in isolation may ignore some of the ways in which youth view their online and offline worlds as fundamentally continuous. Scholars are increasingly finding that many people (particularly youth) tend not to differentiate sharply between what they do online and in real life (Miller & Slater, 2001; Livingstone, 2003; Freelon, 2008). This perspective raises the possibility that young people may not see the value of online civic engagement efforts if they do not include substantial links to unmediated life.

Youth civic engagement practitioners have already begun to think about and address this challenge. One successful example comes from Dan Pacheco, senior manager of digital products at the Bakersfield Californian, the monopoly paper in Bakersfield, CA. He created Bakotopia, a locally-focused youth portal that integrates an event calendar, classifieds, social networking, blogging and more. Over the course of two years the site accrued a solid user base, and Pacheco decided to supplement it with a print magazine that would reprint the best user-contributed content. Somewhat counterintuitively, he found that the magazine began to drive online content production, as content authors enthusiastically jockeyed for a limited number of print column inches.

Although Bakotopia’s mission is not specifically civic, there is much we can learn from its successes. First, by integrating offline and online aspects of everyday life through its primary content (blogs, classifieds, photos, etc.), the site has drawn together a young public around the shared experience of living in Bakersfield. Further, by promising to publish the strongest online content in the print magazine, it has managed to inspire many members of that public to communicate publicly with one another. However, not much of Bakotopia’s content would be considered “civic” under most scholarly definitions. Content authors and commenters appear to be concerned predominantly with the latest news about music, fashion, local entertainment events, and gossip.

This brief look at a thriving local youth site raises several discussion questions for us as scholars of youth civic engagement:

  • How can youth civic sites (YCSs) best connect the offline and online interests of their audiences? Do you agree that this is a major priority for online youth engagement?
  • What role should local institutions such as schools, community centers, civic organizations, etc. play in reinforcing the skills and attitudes learned on YCSs? Are they necessary or can YCSs get along fine without them?
  • How can YCSs leverage the allure of entertainment and other non-civic topics and allow youth to express themselves relatively freely without devolving into a completely non-civic space like Myspace or Digg


June 25th, 2008 at 11:08am Deen Freelon

PSO Programming

We are currently developing PSO media skills curricula at both our partnering organizations, such as the YMCA, and through the CCCE’s Becoming Citizens program ( However, we would love to hear our project advisor’s ideas on the following:

What are some of the programmatic pieces you feel we might want to be sure to include to go along with the PSO website?

What are some of the media pieces that you think we should teach?

Finally, what kind of youth development philosophy would you encourage?


June 10th, 2008 at 12:19pm Toby Campbell

Lance Bennett on rethinking civic learning standards

Lance Bennett (Civic Learning Online project director) discusses the citizen identity shift and implications for civic learning in on and offline environments. If social identities and learning preferences are changing among digital natives, shouldn’t we rethink how young people are introduced to civic life? 

It seems clear that teens are motivated by participatory media cultures, and this includes politics. The volume of multimedia production in the Obama campaign is just one indicator of how public life can become more vital for young citizens when they are involved in creating and sharing media content. Yet civic education in most schools remains largely a textbook exercise aimed at individual evaluation based on conventional knowledge standards. Few students have the opportunity to work in teams, interact with local communities, or communicate their experiences using digital media that capture their imagination. Outside of schools, online communities offer great potential for engaging the creative energies of young people. However, few of those environments are built on any recognized standards about civic learning or civic communication skill sets that users can take away. It is time to rethink skills and learning standards appropriate for digital natives so that practitioners and youth workers can reach larger youth populations beyond those who already bring the requisite skills and motivation with them. Bennett’s report A Generational Shift in Citizen Identity opens this conversation.

May 18th, 2008 at 11:30am Lance Bennett

YouTube Politics

YouTube has rapidly become one of the most popular sites on the internet. The ease in which individuals can upload and share video has allowed citizens to share views and ideas with unprecedented ease. Additionally, individuals have greater access to information being spread by sources they may not have seen before. Both individuals and candidates have been using YouTube extensively for the 2008 presidential election. This medium is particularly effective in getting information out to younger citizens, who may not pay attention to traditional news sources, but spend a good amount of time on YouTube. In a series of blog posts, I will be exploring some of the more popular videos being uploaded and discuss the impact they might have on young Americans.

The candidate most involved with YouTube is Senator Barack Obama. Obama has been posting far more videos than other candidates and has had some very popular videos posted about him. While there are certainly many factors involved with Obama’s ability to energize young voters, his campaign’s competence with social media has certainly boosted his numbers in this traditionally apathetic constituency.

One of the most entertaining videos that came out last summer was this one, named “Crush on Obama.” While the video is clearly a joke, it brings out Obama’s youth and good looks, which are both assets in a presidential election. This video currently has over 8 million views.

This next video is titled “Yes We Can.” Created by of The Black Eyed Peas, this video features a star cast in an inspirational song mirroring one of Barack Obama’s speeches. As of the time of this post, it has been viewed over 14 million times.

This final video is an example of how Obama has used YouTube to respond to widespread criticism. In this case, Obama was attacked because of a clip of his Pastor, Reverend Wright. This now famous speech given on March 18th in Philadelphia has over 5 million views.

Next week I’ll be exploring some of Hillary Clinton’s more famous videos.

May 2nd, 2008 at 12:22am jonhickey

Your Revolution

This year is different.

The media are calling 2008 “The Year of the Young Voter.” Whatever you want to call it, something is definitely happening. There’s a level of excitement this country hasn’t seen in a long time. We have an opportunity to show the world that students can self-organize, and actually start working toward a common goal. We don’t claim to have the answer, but if you’re interested in giving it a shot, read on.

Your Revolution is here. Imagine the power of a social utility like Facebook, combined with the ability to register to vote instantly online, and a set of dynamic tools designed for activists and organizers. Your Revolution has created a Facebook application which takes advantage of Washington and Arizona’s new online voter registration legislation. The Facebook application allows the user to register to vote in a matter of minutes directly from their profile.

The application includes a peer pressure aspect as well, as it scans your friends list and cross references the respective secretary of state website to see who is and who has not registered to vote, and puts this in a visual percentage. The application then gives you the opportunity to invite your friends to register to vote. Even if they are not from WA or AZ they can use the Rock the Vote interface which automatically generates the correct form to complete and mail in for every other U.S. state. Check it at: Needless to say the viral potency of this application the amount of people who will be given the opportunity to register to vote from such an easy platform will be tremendous. We’re taking advantage of the viral potential and huge user base of Facebook to really make a difference in this election, and in politics in the future. The project has already become quite popular, and it’s going to be a serious political force in the months to come, especially among student voters. We’re working successfully with lawmakers in other states to open online voter registration systems (right now, we’re co-authoring legislation in Oregon as part of a wider package of voter access proposals).

We realized, however, that we could accomplish our ultimate goals much better if we built Your Revolution into a more robust application. So, that’s what we did. It now has a full set of features designed specifically for student groups and non-profits. Many activist groups are already using Facebook to manage their projects; we looked at their needs, and developed custom features that allow them to better coordinate with volunteers, organize groups, projects and events, and—most exciting of all—the ability to assign tasks, retain communication with interested individuals, and coordinate with other groups and organizations with similar interests.

A website does not mean that you have a web presence. To be an effective marketer you need to bring the product to the crowd, not let them come you. Facebook has become the most efficient and effective space for increasing and creating visibility.

*68 million users with 250,000 new registrants all day.

*50% of Facebook users are now over the age of 25

* Average Facebook user spends 20 minutes on the site every day, more than Google, MSN, and YAHOO combined.

* Facebook has 85% market penetration in college students

Washington Caucus Example:

Washington State democratic caucuses 2008: On Facebook, one person in our group who spent 90 minutes collecting information and invited 30 people join an event to participate and motivate friends to as well.

*In 4 days over 14,000 people were invited with approximately 2,000 people listed as accepted to attend. Washington State went on to have record numbers at the caucuses all across the state.

* No external evangelism, phone calls, emails or faxes were deployed.

* Over 200 comments, pictures, videos, and testimonials posted.


April 25th, 2008 at 09:12pm Dylan

Public voice: age and sustainability issues

When discussing how digital media can best support civic engagement among youth, it is important to distinguish between the technical capacities necessary to navigate and manipulate various forms of digital media and the civic skills that allow young people to connect with shared issues. Howard Rheingold offers a helpful starting point with his digital skills curriculum, which attempts to demonstrate how technology can serve as an attractive vehicle for what he calls “public voice.” Public voice, as distinct from private voice, comprises all communicative acts that seek to “inform publics, advocate positions, contest claims, and organize action around issues that [young people] truly care about” (Rheingold, 2008). Positioning public voice within the context of digital media harnesses the latter as a tool to teach young people about the former. Because this specific form of communication does not come naturally to most youth, learning it is presumed to require some direct instruction.

We on the CLO team believe that Howard’s approach shows much promise, but wonder if many of its recommendations are more suited for college students than for teens in high school.For example, might the concept of a “public” be too subtle for some teens to grasp, particularly if said public does not immediately emerge to respond to their attempts to address it? Further, given the undifferentiated epistemological landscape of the internet, in which Google results place paranoid cranks shoulder to shoulder with accredited experts, might some digital natives experience difficulty in critically analyzing web content? How often are these young people asked to articulate and defend their own opinions? The answers to these questions may recommend that the public voice curriculum be revised somewhat for younger learners.

  • How could the public voice curriculum for a high-school age demographic? What is it reasonable for youth of that age to be able to understand and accomplish, civically speaking?

A second question that has arisen for us relates to the long-term sustainability of the skills learned in these types of curricula. Decades of education research has concluded that students retain only a small fraction of what they learn, particularly if the lessons are not practiced. Therefore, we are strongly interested in suggestions regarding ways to ensure that the civic skills we teach “stick,” as it were, as opposed to beginning and ending in the classroom.

  • What can be done to ensure that the skills that youth learn in your curriculum become self-sustained habits, rather than one-time lessons?


April 24th, 2008 at 05:13pm Deen Freelon

Features and Functions for Online Civic Learning

Considerable research suggests that while schools are still a major predictor of civic engagement, youth do not gain nearly the civic skills we might hope from their experiences at school. Scholars point to a number of reasons for this:

  • Recent trends in education policy have reduced the time devoted to arts, music, and civic education, in favor of math, reading, and assessment.
  • A lack of resources often prevents schools from offering programs that enable youth to develop and work on their own civic and political concerns and connect classroom learning with extracurricular activities.
  • A disconnect in citizenship styles has schools emphasizing a duty-based style of citizenship to young people who are much more accustomed to using expression tools to craft individual identities.
  • Political pressures lead many teachers and school administrators to limit political discussions and debates, despite evidence suggesting that open classroom and school atmospheres greatly enhance civic learning and engagement.

If young people are not developing civic skills at school, are they doing so elsewhere in their lives? An important question is what role online activities may play in civic learning for the millions of young people online—but most young people only occasionally pursue civic information and activities online, preferring to devote their time to social networking, gaming, and entertainment.

This produces something of a Catch-22: when they offer civic skills, most schools emphasize traditional modes of interacting with government and politics, and they present it in a dry manner. The online world is much more attractive to young people, but only occasionally offers civic learning opportunities.

This situation has us at the CCCE thinking about the potential of the new world of online youth engagement projects, especially as we prepare Puget Sound Off for its upcoming launch. The overarching question we ask ourselves is:

Can online projects create spaces for civic learning that engage young people?

And, more concretely: What functions and features should an online environment have to both hold the attention of young citizens and foster the development of important civic skills?

April 24th, 2008 at 04:11pm Chris Wells

Civic Learning Online . . . For Whom?

In developing our digital youth commons, Puget Sound Off, we have striven to make it attractive both to already-engaged youth as well as to those who are not yet quite as involved in civic affairs. It is certainly much easier to facilitate the goals and preferred methods of those who come to civic sites knowing what issues they care about and how to address them than it is to convince relatively disengaged teens that civics is worth their time. Nevertheless, we feel that it is essential to probe the limits of what digital media can do not only to encourage preexisting civic instincts, but also to inspire new commitments to community involvement.

To that end, I would like to raise two issues that might bear on a youth civic site’s ability to attract more than just the usual suspects. First, our informal and anecdotal interactions with youth have revealed that not all of them share the “digital native” orientation so frequently attributed to their generation. Our team has observed, for example, many young people (particularly those from disadvantaged economic backgrounds) experiencing difficulty with skills often taken for granted in discussions of online civic engagement. These include such fundamental competencies as possession of a regular email address and the ability to format blog posts and comments so that they can be easily read. We would like to compile a working list of potential obstacles like these with a rough sense of their relative importance that can help drive the development of training modules aimed at moving disadvantaged youth closer to par with their more empowered peers.

  • What common technical features that youth civic sites might use pose the most significant obstacles for digitally disempowered youth?

Second, apart from technical considerations, we are concerned that certain elements of youth civic sites—the design scheme, the language used in official communications to visitors, the featured content—may signal to some youth that it is not “for” them. To preempt this possibility, we have already decided to take steps to ensure that minority viewpoints (for multiple definitions of “minority”) are represented on the front page. But are there other steps we might be able to take to make our site more inclusive? And are there any findings that suggest steps we definitely should avoid taking?

  • What can site creators do to make their sites more inviting to diverse youth demographics?

April 24th, 2008 at 03:50pm Deen Freelon

Youth Management Options

There are many challenges that surround the engagement of youth in the management and editorial components of youth engagement sites. PSO partners are actively discussing different ways we may be able to succeed in this capacity.

We’re currently partnering with other local organizations to get their youth involved in using the PSO site when it launches, and we are running school-year and summer youth content production teams out of the YMCA. We’re simultaneously engaged in an active discussion about how to develop youth governance of the site. We have been discussing different strategies and possibilities for engaging youth in the management and editorial process, and we would love to spark a conversation about recommended approaches to this issue.

Do we keep youth editorial and governance teams separate, or do we combine them into regional youth teams? Are team members elected by the youth who use the site, or do we recruit them through an application process housed in partnering organizations? When and how do we kick off this process? Feel free to weigh in on the discussion!


April 23rd, 2008 at 06:20pm Toby Campbell

Allison Fine on Civic Social Networking

by Allison Fine

I find it very interesting how often people believe that social networking sites simply take off on their own, unaided and without any nurturing. I met with an advocacy group that is creating their own social networking site (of course, we all need our own sites since no other social networking sites exist!) They were so very concerned about the functionality of the site - do the buttons work right, is the navigation good, etc. Great, I said, so why exactly do busy people need more friends and if they do, why do they need to be on your site to have them?

I had just read Britt Bravo’s excellent piece on questions groups should ask themselves about building online communities. I think the questions apply whether one is working within an organization or just with a bunch of friends. The questions are easy and clear, although it’s always astonishing to me how seldom groups actually ask themselves things like, “why would our users/members/participants/donors want or need this new tool?” and “how will we engage people?”

If we want people to come together and build relationships around issues, it’s critically important that we designate people to be what Valdes Krebs calls, “network weavers.” The weavers have to give the network purpose, they have to connect people, stoke conversations, share information and organize on land meetings when necessary (and as
much as I hate them, they are actually necessary!) Too often, we think that these functions are simply going to happen, organizers have to make sure they happen. Communities rarely form themselves, they have to be nurtured. As Seth Godin points out here, online organizing is a crucial, poorly understood, but critical position. If I were counseling a young person interested in a career in social change, I would strongly suggest they train and practice being an online organizer since it includes all of the organizing, listening, facilitating, communicating and connecting skills that will make them successful in whatever else they do.

Allison Fine is a Senior Fellow at Demos: A Network of Ideas and Action.


April 11th, 2008 at 03:38pm guestblogger

Lance Bennett on engaging digital natives

Using the Internet for games, instant messaging, and Myspace is second nature to many young people, yet the medium’s rich civic potential for this tech-savvy demographic remains untapped. In this video (available below the jump), Lance Bennett discusses the potential for digital media to connect young people with public life.

For more information, an executive summary of our MacArthur-funded work is available here. Puget Sound Off, the Seattle youth media commons website, will launch in mid March. For more info on the site, click here.

April 11th, 2008 at 03:06pm Lance Bennett

Youth-created PSA for Seattle youth commons

For six weeks during the summer of 2007, a diverse group of Seattle-area youth collaborated to design, implement, and advertise a web site intended to help connect local young people to civic opportunities and public life. They directed, filmed, and starred in this video PSA (available below the jump), which communicates the site’s purpose via a creative visual metaphor.


April 11th, 2008 at 03:02pm guestblogger

Social networking proves its power

It may have not happened here in the U.S. as much, but yesterday there was a massive protest in many countries around the world against the FARC. Over two million people marched in countries like Venezuela, Peru, Japan, and its epicenter: Colombia.

What’s impressive is that the protest were primarily organized in Facebook, with support of other Internet tools. Interesting as well, is that Facebook has put no effort in being a global platform, yet the connections of its users have made it relevant for many parts of the world. Also, other countries are not as aware of the privacy issues that the platform has had, so while I know of people in the U.S. dropping out of Facebook, it seems that it continues to grow in other parts of the world.

This is a wonderful example of how digital media can mobilize people for social causes. Perhaps an instance to look into and understand how it happened, I’m sure that the model will be replicated. This may be the best example to date of the power of social networking.

This is the official website of the organizers:

New York Times

Click here to join the FB group “Un millon de voces against the FARC” (A million voices against the FARC)


February 5th, 2008 at 10:14am Adri

YMCA Earth Service Corps

On Saturday I met with Eric, Zoe, Jamia, Derek, Sam, Talia, and Viena from YMCA Earth Service Corps. We spent 30 minutes together reviewing the PSO summer project, website, design, and templates. The entire group liked the name and color scheme. In addition, they came up with a lot of ideas on how they could use the site to support their Earth Service Corps work - promote events, blog, share information, post articles…

They have signed on to be a testing partner!!!!!!!!!! We need to discuss how we’ll use them to test the site. Do we want to hold a testing day or allow each individual to test on their own.

One question they have is can their be a YMCA Earth Service Corps main group with subgroups (Hazen High School Earth Service Corps) attached to the main group?


January 28th, 2008 at 09:16am Chris Tugwell

Tasks for the BC team

As most know, this quarter we have 10 very talented undergraduates who are spending time working on the PSO through the CCCE. For the past two weeks, they have been learning about the theory behind PSO and other projects. As of Monday, they will begin analyzing the curriculum created by the YMCA and creating more of the curriculum modules that Chris Tugwell sketched out. We also want to give them a fairly solid preview of the other things they will be doing this quarter, so I would appreciate feedback and suggestions on what their role might be. Here are the elements we plan on having them tackle:

1) Understanding the curriculum created by the YMCA, evaluating it in terms of the learning goals, and drafting the curriculum modules that have not been written. This will include standardizing the modules and creating some good PSO-specific templates.

2) Another task will be devising ways for the PSO to fit into the programs in which other interns are working, including Aki Kurose Middle School and the City Year programs. The main task here will be working with the students from Aki to find ways to use PSO in combination with the Project Citizen curriculum.

3) Another task that makes sense for this group is marketing for the PSO. (There are several students interested in marketing.) Some materials we plan to have them create are: Powerpoints for presentations to both potential partner organizations and groups of youth; a plan and materials for advertising over Facebook, Myspace, etc.; and a set of ‘alternative’ materials such as videos and podcasts for the PSO site and the web.

4) Finally, the task that will require more thinking out is how the BC interns might take a lead on establishing the youth management process for PSO, perhaps by becoming regional leaders in different Seattle neighborhoods.

We would appreciate any comments on these ideas or suggestions for others. We plan to present a plan for the quarter to the students on Monday.


January 24th, 2008 at 11:00am Chris Wells


There was an interesting article in the Seattle Times today about MySpace’s efforts to protect kids.

Click here for the Seattle Times Article.


January 15th, 2008 at 05:12pm Chris Tugwell

Power of Hope

Thanks for getting the ball rolling, Toby.

I spoke with Michael Harris today. He has done some research and chatted with some different people since our initial contact with him. One of those conversatios was with Sam. He mentioned it went well and that she helped answer a lot of his questions. Thanks Sam!

Power of Hope is officially a testing partner. Michael Harris will pull a team of staff and youth together to serve as the official Power of Hope testing team. Their web address is

I have a feeling this is going to be an issue that comes up often. I propse that we put together some type of safety specs sheet for our partners to help alleviate their fears; as well as, educate them. My guess is that a lot of non profits are going to be wrestling with safety issues as they embrace emerging (maybe old by then) technologies. Plus, this would be a nice slide to add to the PSO PowerPoint a group of BC interns will put togther.

Any ideas on what we would want to say or should include.


January 15th, 2008 at 04:13pm Chris Tugwell

Curriculum Inventory/Needs

Chris W, Deen and I met. Chris is going to have the BC interns begin working on creating powerpoints for the learning goals identified in the curriculum inventory/needs doc. Download Curriculum Inventory and Needs (XLS)


January 14th, 2008 at 01:25pm Chris Tugwell

Liability, Terms of Use, and other concerns

Is a minor bound to an agreement with the operator fo website where such minor promises to waive liability, to refrain from conduct that may lead to liability, or to other terms of using the website? What does this mean for Youth Commons?

What terms are common among websites with minor users? What are some terms we would recommend Youth Commons include in its user agreement?

What are the reuirements of the Children’s Online Protection Act (”COPPA”) and the Chid Online Protection Act (”COPA”) that Youth Commons must follow?

read entire summary Download YouthCommonsTermsofUseHansonKnight.doc


January 10th, 2008 at 10:55am Chris Tugwell

Tort Liability from UW

Any website featuring content posted by both the site administrators and users should be aware of their tort liability; YouthCommons is no exception. This memo focuses on the tort of defamation under Wash. State law and the related Federal law, including brief description of both. Although the users of YouthCommons may be liable for content posted on the site, as a neutral service provider, YouthCommons itself is probably protected by the federal law described below… read entire document
Download YouthCommonsTortLiabilityHallRingland.doc


January 10th, 2008 at 10:51am Chris Tugwell

Privacy and Photos

Hi all,

This is a relevant thread from Sam’s DigitalAid site which I am reposting to the blog for posterity. ~DEEN
—Hello there.

cameras store, in addition to photographs themselves, some metadata
about the photographs. This metadata is often embedded with the image
itself. This can provide interesting data about a photograph. But it
can also be a privacy issue. Here is a post about this issue:

Question for you:

  • Should
    we strip this data? (no guarantees that all the data would get
    stripped, but there is a Drupal contributed module that attempts to
    strip this data; this applies only to those photos uploaded to the
    site, not any pulled in from Flickr or other 3rd parties).
  • Should
    we print this data along with the photo? (there’s another Drupal module
    that does this so it shouldn’t have much impact on cost/time)
  • Should we do what 99% of the world does, which is neither? (don’t print it, don’t strip it)
  • Or should we ask the youth what they want us to do?

Lemme know!

4 comments so far

Samantha Moscheck Tue, 1 Jan at 12:26 PM

Hi Lance,
I got your email but not because of the reply – to post to the website
project management site you have to click on the link in this mail and
log in. I think there is a way to retrieve a forgotten password but I
can reset if needed.

I could post it to the blog, but the nice thing about the PM site is that
it keeps our email correspondence about the topic threaded and I get
the emails. Does the blog send emails of all comments? Deen?

I wonder, depending how the blog works, if we might use the PM site for
all this stuff and if somebody might, at some point, create blog posts
either copying or referecing the relevant PM messages.

Trying to keep it simple, but also be sure we all get included on the conversation.

Maybe just because of holiday but I didn’t see any response to my blog post about YouTube versus Blip TV - did folks see that?



Vicky Yuki Wed, 2 Jan at 8:32 AM

Vicky Yuki
for the information, Sam. I went to the netzreport site and actually,
there is a link at the bottom for a pdf of various examples where you
can actually see the whole image after it had been cropped.

I believe the site needs to be a safe place for youth to express
themselves and am not sure that they will feel as safe knowing that
images they had manipulated and placed on the site can expose what they
don’t want others to see. I also see this as an educational
opportunity, as I didn’t know that this was an issue with larger

I would like to hear from the Y folks who work directly with kids and whether they have experienced this as a problem.

Thank you!


Chris Tugwell Wed, 2 Jan at 9:21 AM

Thanks for bringing this to our attention, Sam.

do you know why most people don’t bother to strip or print the data? Is
it because they are unaware there is metadata stored on the photo?

The link you provided included a couple of real life scenarios where the
embedded metadata created some problems. I would hate to see something
like this happen to any of our users.

What’s the added cost for stripping photos?

Do you have a strong opinion on what we should do?


Samantha Moscheck Wed, 2 Jan at 12:06 PM

I’m sure most people have no idea. I had no idea either, to be honest,
until I stumbled on a Drupal module that attempts to strip some of it
out, and researched the issue a bit.

My personal opinion is that it is a very good thing to educate youth (and parents!) about. And
that actually stripping out the data on the PSO
site would be a good gesture, but not a whole lot more than a gesture
if we presume that youth are out uploading photos other places too.

Plus, I’m wondering about videos – is there any such encoding on videos? Etc. I have no idea.

I think it would be a very interesting project for a student to research
this issue. I bet there are software programs – probably at least one
free program – that you can run photos and videos through to completely
strip all the information before then sending it on to whatever website
or other place you’re sending it. It might be cool to encourage youth
to do that or to at least know how.

In terms of having the PSO site strip the info from JPG
files: There is a module already that makes the attempt to strip most
of the information – it would have to be modified to make it work with
this site, because I’m using a different and better method for image
handling, but i’ll put together a cost estimate. However, I’m
optimistic that we can get it done within our current development

Naturally it wouldn’t impact video or images from third party sites.

Amazing stuff!



January 4th, 2008 at 09:52am Deen Freelon

Content Policy


Puget Sound Off (PSO) is designed to provide youth with a forum for discussion, artistic expression, and action as a way to empower and encourage youth voice. PSO aims to be a catalyst for increasing youth involvement and engagement within the community. We desire to build community by encouraging expression of one’s beliefs while maintaining respect for others.

Important issues may sometimes require the addition of controversial or sensitive content, but good taste must come first in PSO’s content. PSO will be inclusive and respect the rights and feelings of others. In order to attain this goal, the following content is prohibited on Puget Sound Off:

· Content that is obscene, pornographic, or sexually explicit;

· Content that is violent;

· Post or share any personally identifiable or private information of any third party;

  • Content that is or may be deemed to be grossly offensive to the online; community, including but not limited to, blatant expressions of bigotry, prejudice, racism, hatred and profanity;
  • Content promoting or providing instructional information about illegal activities.
  • Content portraying or describing cruelty to animals

· Harm members in any way;

· Collect or store personal data about other users.

· Stalk or otherwise harass another;

  • Content or other material that contains viruses, corrupted files, or any other similar software or programs that may damage the operation of Puget Sound Off servers or another users computer;
  • Upload, post, email, transmit or otherwise make available any unsolicited or unauthorized advertising, promotional materials, “junk mail,” “spam,” “chain letter,” “pyramid schemes,” or any other form of solicitation;

· Engage in any predatory or stalking behavior.

Postings, blogs, photos, videos, or other content are not necessarily reviewed or approved by PSO or does the content reflect the views of PSO. Failure to adhere to this code of conduct may result, among other things, in the termination of your account and the deletion of content that you have posted on Puget Sound Off, with or without notice. PSO may reject content that, in its judgment, is deemed inappropriate.

This Code of Content is subject to change at any time at Puget Sound Off’s sole discretion.

January 3rd, 2008 at 06:20pm Chris Tugwell

Videos: YouTube vs. Blip

Given our goals with this site, the civic engagement vision, and the concerns Amber expressed in our last meeting, I am re-thinking the idea of sending youth to YouTube to upload their video.

And we’re all in agreement that providing video streaming on this site, at least initially, may not be desirable because it may make the server requirements too expensive.

I’ve done some research on this topic and wanted to share what I have learned. Let me also say that this need not have an impact on cost for web development so let’s not worry about that for now.

This is an awesome explanation of the issues and options:

Prepping and Posting your Video to the Web
Which of the many video sharing sites should you use? The answer really depends on your goals for the video.

I would like to suggest using for the following reasons:

  • They don’t take over ownership of the content. From their Terms of Service page: does not claim ownership of the materials you post, upload, input or submit to the site. Full terms here:
  • They don’t advertise their service, send people to other unrelated videos, etc.
  • They’re just not YouTube.
  • The quality is better and there are more options; for instance videos aren’t limited to 10 minutes in length
  • Kids choose their licensing model when using

Also for the site, regardless of the YouTube / issue, I will be using a module that actually makes it possible to embed video content from any of the following (see below) providers by just posting the URL to the video.

Note that we can disable any of these we wish, and the specifics are a little different for each, so I may later want to disable some of these for greater consistency between the various videos on the site. Or if any of you know any reason to disallow any of these, we can do that too.

  • YouTube,
  • Google,
  • Revver,
  • MySpace,
  • MetaCafe,
  • JumpCut,
  • BrightCove,
  • SevenLoad,
  • iFilm,
  • Blip.TV,
  • Live Video




December 24th, 2007 at 11:30am Sam

Blogging curriculum draft

Here is a rough draft of my blogging curriculum in MS Word format. It makes perfect sense
to me, but I suspect some parts might not be entirely intelligible to
others, so please send any feedback you may have.

A brief note about executing this curriculum—I wrote it with a classroom-based instructional style in mind. In this it borrows much from Howard Rheingold’s digital skills exercises, with two major exceptions: 1) my curriculum assumes less civic foreknowledge and initiative on the part of students, and 2) it attempts to leverage peer feedback as an evaluation mechanism that lets students know whether their messages are being conveyed successfully. The classroom approach is superior to placing the curriculum exclusively online primarily because it is very difficult to inculcate civic interests via the web—that is, I don’t imagine that many kids will come to the PSO site in
search of instructions on how to blog deliberatively. Rather, I believe
that skills such as these are better discussed and taught in person and
among peers whenever possible. That said, I think the technical
how-to’s of blogging would be good to place on the site in a “Help” or
“How to use this site” section, and I also think that some of the video
PSAs might be able to address some of the more normative aspects of my
curriculum. But generally speaking, it’s probably not a great idea to rely on the web site as our primary medium for imparting
civic skills to kids. The learning goals my curriculum aims to fulfill—public voice, issue definition, deliberation, active listening—aren’t the sorts of skills most teenagers can (or would necessarily think to) teach themselves. Actualized citizens will find PSO on
their own and do great things with it, but their less-engaged peers would best
benefit from as much direct civic instruction as we can provide them.

Download YVO-blogcurriculum.doc


December 14th, 2007 at 04:59pm Deen Freelon

Partnering with Power of Hope

I talked to Michael at Power of Hope today, and they are very interested in partnering with us! Michael brought up a lot of good questions about safeguards against predators and youth contact information protection. These are profiled in the post about safeguards below.

He has emailed Jennifer Parker, an old time friend of his at the Y, for more information. I’ve sent him Chris Tugwell’s contact information so he can get on our list for March 15th content posting testers. He and I talked about the idea of doing some curriculum bits on how youth can protect themselves on the internet. I told him I’d file that idea with the group.

The Power of Hope website (designed by Sam too) will be going up in April, so he said that the timeline could work really well for partnering on this front.

Also, to summarize our lengthy email exchange that resulted from my contact with Michael, it sounds liek we’ve decided to have a small group of internal testers (at the Y, for example) work with the February 15th test site, and then we’ll open up testing to partners like Artworks and Power of Hope for the March 15th test launch. It sounds like starting a mailing list for testing partners with a pugetsoundoff-specific email address is an idea that everyone is on board with. It also sounds like MacArthur experts can weigh in on the website after the March 15th test launch, but that they may be presented with some wireframes and site explanation before that test launch.

I’ll leave contact with these partners in Chris Tugwell’s hands after
the end of the quarter so that he can get in touch with test partners
with Sam’s instructions and information.

We’re really moving forward with this! It’s exciting to have some enthusiastic partners on board.


December 6th, 2007 at 12:41pm Toby Campbell

The Service Board?

Do we have these guys on our radar yet as partners? One of the kids in Amber’s class told us about TSB yesterday, and they seem like ideal partners for us. Have a look . . .

In 1994, a young snowboarder named Jay Bateman
was killed in a tragic, drug-related murder. Community members saw this
tragic event as a call to action: no longer could we sit by while kids
grew up absorbing only the messages of consumption and competition. A
group of local activists decided to create a program where young people
could come together to laugh, dream, think, and explore the true
meaning of community: The Service Board was born.
Hard work paid off, and in January of 1995 we opened our doors to
high-school students from across Seattle. Since our inaugural class,
the number of teenage participants, adult mentors and small business
sponsors has grown each year. In fact, growing demand for tSB from
students, parents, and schools led us to launch a pilot program based
in the neighborhood of White Center in January 2005, serving an area
that is among the most culturally diverse in the region, with one of
the highest per capita populations of young people.


December 4th, 2007 at 11:56am Deen Freelon

Youth Information Safeguards

I received an email from Michael at Power of Hope about getting some content from their organization for the launch of our site. He responded with interest:

“I’m about to go in to a meeting with my team here, and will discuss your proposal and get back to you right away. One main thing to consider - in our field we are very protective of contact info for our youth participants, to keep them safe. Is there a safeguard built in to your system that keeps their contact info hidden? Naturally we understand that a safeguard of this kind adds a layer of complexity and ‘web monitor’ time to someone’s plate.”

I wanted to make sure we’re all on the same page with an answer to this important question. Sam’s response was:

“* Email addresses will not be published
* Contact info will not be published other than neighborhood and/or zip code
* IF we want to enable one-on-one email correspondence between site users then we can give youth a contact form that people can use to send them email messages. Not sure if this is desirable. This is not on the feature list but it’s about 2 clicks to set up so it would be easy to add.
* In a wireframe I’d suggested having IM usernames but this was a dumb suggestion given the youth audience; we’re not doing that.”

Let me know if you have anything to add here, as this is a question I imagine we will receive from potential new partners often.



December 4th, 2007 at 10:38am Toby Campbell

Partnering with Artworks

I spoke with Terry Pottmeyer, the Executive Director of Artworks, this morning. She said that they would be happy to share image files of some of the murals their youth have created with us. She asked whether the images would be accompanied by a little blurb about who created it and where, with a link to their organization. I said I thought there would be something like this, although I’m not sure exactly how it will work.

I told her I would follow up via email to let her know specifications of file size, what kind of a blurb we’ll need, and dates when we would need the information by and have it up on the site. We should talk about these things so that we can give a consistent set of information to interested organizations.

Before we spoke, I sent Terry our PSO information page, and the I explained a bit more about the project to her over the phone. She asked why youth would want to use our site over something like myspace. I emphasized the local component and the ability for youth to organize around local issues and/or organize local music/art events. I’m aware that we may want to continue to talk about this so that we can be prepared with a compelling and thorough answer to that question because I suspect it will come up a lot.

So, we’ve got one organization on board to contribute a bit of content for the launch! It sounded like Terry was open to having more conversations as we get rolling and can specify more ways we might be able to collaborate as well.


November 30th, 2007 at 12:26pm Toby Campbell

Experts warn Facebook users of identity fraud risk

David has asked me to post the following article on cybersecurity. It’s definitely worth a read.

Moneybookers, a provider of secure online payment solutions, has said that internet users are at an increased risk of identity fraud, owing to the growth in the number of online social communities.

The company’s security department monitors and analyses internet user behaviour as part of its risk analysis. It says the popularity of Facebook in particular, combined with the privacy settings offered by the community, could be more dangerous to personal identity security than tricksters who resort to phishing.

Facebook uses privacy filters which allow users to choose their privacy levels and the kind of information they would want to reveal. However, Moneybookers security experts have expressed concerns regarding the fact that most users aren’t aware of the risk they expose themselves to by posting personal details on the web. Moreover, they consider Facebooks’ current default privacy settings to be risky, considering the size of the community.

Amongst the many reasons listed is the fact that the user is asked to provide his/her real name, location, company and date of birth at the time of registration. This information is by default available for all the networks and friends to see. In addition, the community is no longer restricted to students.

It now includes a growing number of professionals, a hard-to-resist temptation for fraudsters. Popular networks are pre-selected by Facebook, such as the London network for Londoners, while registering. This makes the profile available to all members of the network by default, unless the settings are changed.

Vigilance and caution is what the security experts recommend. They suggest changing of privacy settings if the user joins a popular network. This way, members will not have direct access to sensitive information. They also recommend that users don’t display their date of birth and do not allow external search engines to index their profile. Finally, Moneybookers advises users to ensure that hints to their passwords are not available on their Facebook profile.


November 29th, 2007 at 10:11am Deen Freelon

Privacy Policy Draft

Below the fold you’ll find a copy of my draft privacy policy. In the document I’ve noted several places where input is needed, so feel free to help with that or anything else you see that needs fixing. The parenthetical citations at the end of most sections indicate the sources of the foregoing text which I modified for our purposes (TIG = TakingITGlobal, YN = YouthNoise, YAN = YouthActionNet). I’ve also attached a Word file containing the same text here: Download psoPrivacy.doc

Privacy policy

What this privacy policy covers
This Privacy Policy covers Puget Sound Off’s (hereafter PSO) treatment of anonymous and personally identifiable information that we collect when you are on the PSO site or when you use PSO’s services. (TIG)

Information collected
PSO collects the following information from members upon signing up:

  • First and last name
  • School
  • Age
  • Zip code
  • ?? (add whatever else we collect here)

This information will only be accessible by the user who entered it and PSO.

PSO also automatically collects certain non-identifying information from every visitor. These include but are not limited to:

  • IP address
  • Internet service provider used to access the site
  • Pages viewed
  • Web browser used
  • Screen resolution

Use of collected info
PSO reserves the right to collect, to use, and to disclose to third parties information about general access to and usage of PSO and any related services, including information gathered during use of PSO. Any information disclosed will be in the form of aggregate data (such as overall patterns or demographic reports) that does not describe or identify any individual user. PSO will not sell or rent your personally identifiable information to anyone. PSO may perform statistical analyses of user behavior in order to measure interest in the various areas of PSO for funding or product development purposes. PSO will not release Personally-Identifiable Contact Information to third parties, except in compliance with the legal process or otherwise with the permission of the Member, Visitor, or other individual user whose Personally Identifiable Contact Information may be released. (YAN, TIG)

PSO may set and access cookies on your computer, used to identify your member account and to allow for the proper functioning of the PSO web site and accompanying services. Cookies are small data files that are sent to your browser from PSO’s Web server and stored on your computer’s hard drive. PSO uses cookies to keep and sometimes track information about you in order to deliver better and more personalized services. (TIG, YN)

Protection for personal information
Your PSO Profile is password-protected. This means that only you will have control over who can access your identifying information. To make the password protection helpful, do not give your password to anyone. If you are using a shared or public computer, we suggest that you sign out of the PSO site and sign off from the computer when you are finished. This will help protect your information. (For example, don’t leave the school or a library computer running and open at the PSO site and sign off before someone else starts using it.) When you create your username and password, please avoid using personally identifiable information such as your name. PSO does endeavor to use secure technology where practical, however, no data collection technology or data transmission technology is 100% secure. Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee the security of information provided or sent to us. Remember, you are participating in PSO at your own risk. (YN)

Changes to this Privacy Policy
PSO may amend this policy from time to time. If we make any substantial changes in the way we use your personal information, we will notify you by posting an announcement as a rotating spotlight and/or similar method on our home page. (TIG)

If you have any questions, comments or complaints about how we use your information, please contact us.
Via postal mail: address
Via telephone: phone number
Via email: email address (TIG)

November 27th, 2007 at 10:48pm Deen Freelon

Leadership Team

(link to David’s original proposal–df)

This posting is in support of David’s proposal to develop regional leadership teams. In my opinion, this is a wonderful way to reach a larger audiance than having one program filtered through the Y. The Y is near and dear to my heart, but we need to engage a lot of youth in this project. The regional leadership proposal has the ability to reach between 50 and 100 youth each year. If we can reach an additional 50 youth through service learning then we are talking 100 to 150 participants a year - that is good, powerful stuff.

Here are few other reasons I like the regional team approach:

As I stated above this approach has the potential to reach a lot of young people. This is great for marketing. Young people encouraging young people to use the site will develop a strong user base, especially if they have a positive experience (summer feedback indicates they will). I also believe our leadership team will participate in guerilla marketing. Hitting the streets with flyers, mouse pads, business cards… is a great way to build interest, and an approach One Economy uses when launching the Beehive in a new community. Southend kids marketing to southend kids is great. They are going to know where and when to reach the kids.

I love the grassroots feel to the regional approach as well. Getting young people to work on issues impacting their community is extremely powerful. Utilizing the Project Citizen model (Identify the problem, gather information, examine solutions, and develop an action plan) on a community/regional, as initial approach, will keep us from overwhelming the kids. They know what is wrong in their communities we just need to equip them with the methodology (like Project Citizen) and tools (digital storytelling, blogging) to share the issues. In my opinion, Improving civic awareness from a commuinty level up feels like the “right” way.

This approach also requires us securing space for weekly meetings. I suspect that the local library would be a great spot to hold our regional meetings. Providing space does not requre a lot of time or resources (staffing), but begins to develop a solid relationship. One that we can develop into something more down the road. In my opinion, a great early approach to involving the library system.

This approach also incorporates capacity building. In my opinion, there are far too many territorial organizations that hoard curriculum and take an elitist approach. Organizations with less resources sturggle when more successful organizations don’t or won’t share best practices or learning lessons. We can help alleviate this problem by partneingr with organizations in need of some assistance (if it makes sense and what we have to offer is valuabel) through a train-the-trainer approach. We provide curriculum and the first round of training and then they can continue the program the next time around.

How do we pull this off (a few ideas):

We will need to localize the application. We can create 4-5 regional applications (one for each team) and ask that providers distribute the correct application.

Partner with community based organizations in the areas we decide to run our leadership teams. One example would be Horn of Africa.

Identify those orgnaizations that we would like to work with or could benefit from a partnership with us.

Target alternative learning environments, like YEP, Opportunity Skyway…

Use the public library or partnering organizations to hold meetings.

Stagger the meetings and we can utilize the Y’s equipment. Utilize some of the funds to purchase more equipment that floats between the partners.

Develop a curriculum menu that we adhere to from beginning to end. For example, we’re all teaching video at the same time.

Turn all curriculum into powerpoint presentations - less expense and more mobile.


We talked about staring the leadership team during the summer. Does this still work if we take a regional approach? How do we manage the 5 group during the summer when BC isn’t around? Do we do a two to four week training at the Y during the summer to teach some of the technical skills, like video production.

Participant retention will hinge on the relationship youth develop with their regional facilitator. How will the regional teams respond when every 11 weeks a new BC intern takes over the group? Is there a way to get one year commitments from BC interns?

How do we get BC interns ready for this type of commitment? What type of training do we offer? Do we need to offer? Is it fair to ask a BC intern to assist with video produciton if he/she has never participated in digital story telling?

If using BC interns is problematic then the Y can make this happen, but it would mean groups meet once per month. Or, we would need additional staff resources.


November 27th, 2007 at 10:11pm Chris Tugwell

Blogging curriculum (comments welcome)

I can speak to the blogging curriculum, as I have been working on how
to organize that. My current thinking is this: the curriculum should be
divided into two parts—one on the technical logistics of posting,
linking, formatting, commenting, etc.; and the other on the normative
ethic of blogging we want to instill in the kids. These two pieces will
need to be taught very differently, however. “How to blog” in a
rudimentary technical sense can be fairly easily written up in
step-by-step FAQ format, with screenshots, links to more information,
and the like. But how to blog effectively, civically, civilly—in other
words, how to blog well, is something that I think would be
very difficult to convey using only words on a screen. I feel strongly
that merely posting a list of do’s and don’ts will be insufficient for
this purpose (though worthwhile in its own right).

Thus, I propose that we put the technical guide (which I’ve already
outlined and need only to convert into kid-language) online and design
the normative piece as a combination of face-to-face (classroom) and
individual exercises. The meat of the latter will be a series of
prompt-based exercises in which we ask kids to freewrite on an idea,
quote, event, or issue of some interest to them. I will start
pilot-testing the general model for the normative component with the
kids next week (assuming Amber approves), and this is what I plan to

  • Give the kids a blogging prompt based on national/local current
    events, a quote, or a recent project.
  • Have them freewrite on a group blog (probably not the PSO alpha
    site as Amber tells me she’s been having problems with it) for 5-10
    minutes, with the goal of producing a 150-200 word post (this can be
    scaled down if kids have trouble writing so much). If they finish
    early, allow them to post pictures and possibly Youtube videos.
  • Assign each kid to write two brief comments on the posts of two
    other kids. Suggest that they agree/disagree (and elaborate), ask a
    question, relate an experience, or add additional evidence or points.
  • Have each kid read the comments they received and paraphrase them
    to see if the commenter and commentee share a mutual understanding of
    what was written. (What I am really trying to get at with this piece is
    to have kids think about whether they are communicating effectively
    with each other. Ideally, the group will be able to identify strategies
    for getting their points across effectively to their peers. I want to
    work on this part a bit to make it less boring and school-ish.)

Through the process of blogging on a series of issues—national, local,
personal, philosophical—the primary hope is to hone kids’ skills in
participation (effective communication) and tolerance (expressing
disagreement in civil ways, arguing and persuading rather than
“flaming”). Since all this will be happening online, we might also be
able to get local kids who can’t come to the Y physically to contribute
comments. They won’t learn as much, but the kids in the class will
still demonstrate a blogging norm that outsiders will hopefully hew to.

I can definitely have an ongoing curriculum finished and partially
pilot-tested by 12/15. We can probably also get one video PSA done by
that time. The trouble is that we have about five kids so far who come
in for 90 minutes every Monday when they remember or have
transportation. So if we get started with the blog curriculum and video
next week, that gives the kids 11/19, 11/26, 12/3, and 12/10 to work. I
think cranking out a 30-second PSA and piloting this blog curriculum
(in addition to doing other fun things to hold their attention) is a
substantial agenda for that amount of time.

But I’m always looking for feedback, so please let me know if anything
I’ve said sounds strange or unreasonable, or if it could just use some


November 13th, 2007 at 10:14pm Deen Freelon

Web marketing (direct to youth) Ideas

As we’ve been discussing there’s a need to start thinking on what we will do to grow the user base of the site once it’s launched. Here are some initial ideas, please add in your thoughts:

WHAT (Marketing Assets)

  • Work with Amber’s and Service Learning kids to develop marketing assets, such as: videos, email templates, web banners, icons, and posters, songs, photos that promote PSO
  • Have kids develop a contest for users to recruit other users that post to the site
  • Develop a widget for FB and other sites
  • Develop some sort of event sponsored by PSO to promote the site?

HOW (Distribution)

  • YMCA youth to recruit friends through email
  • Post information about the Site in high school or community centers that we have access to
  • Have kids post marketing materials across popular sites such as YouTube, Myspace, etc
  • Have kids post widget in sites and tell their friends
  • Have kids distribute postcards or posters through their high school, library, etc.

WHEN (Timeline)

  • The development of materials can start in Jan/Feb 2008
  • The execution could start once the site is launched

WHO (Resources)

  • We need an overall campaign coordinator, perhaps we can have two or three kids be campaign coordinators and one of us coach them?


November 12th, 2007 at 12:37pm Adri

Public Blog Nominees

As a step toward getting the public side of the blog up and running, I have compiled several examples of posts that I think would be of interest to others doing similar work to engage youth civically. Each of the posts below gets at some issue or issues that are not specific to our circumstances. It would be great if you all could offer your opinions on these posts as well as nominate your own in comments. Remember that my list is not comprehensive; that is, a given post’s absence doesn’t mean I think it shouldn’t go public.

Also, I wanted to float the following idea that came to me while going over all the posts: does anyone see any material that we definitely would not want outsiders to see? What I’m getting at is that it seems like the vast majority of posts would be useful for the public blog on some level. What do people think about dropping the password protection and dissolving the public/private distinction entirely? It would make using the blog much easier as well as render moot the selection process for making things public. Let me know what you think in comments.

Chris T’s service learning proposal

Toby’s partnership plan 11/6/07

Lance’s Images of Citizenship and Design Decisions

Chris W’s Model for Future BC Involvement with PSO

Adri’s Reflecting on Teamwork

Toby’s PSO Overall Learning Goals

Toby’s Partnership Proposal 10/18


November 10th, 2007 at 01:01pm Deen Freelon

Update on PSO Website Development Planning

I have sent out an email to the team with instructions on Google Docs for the Website planning process.

We’ve had two meetings in which we are discussing some planning issues
for the website. The two meetings are serving to clarify and align the
group on what we want the site to do. Our aim is to close the planning
phase by Nov 30. Sam will then need ~3weeks to develop a scope and
submit it for review and approval.

PART 1 PRESENTATION (NOV 1, 2007)×7hk2


Google Group Page

(I can delete the google group page if we can figure out how to set up email subscription in the blog with password protection and share documents. But while the blog is private this may not be possible)


November 8th, 2007 at 05:40pm Adri

Service Learning Proposal

Learn and Serve America defines Service-learning as a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities.


Puget Sound Off (PSO) strives to be a catalyst for increasing youth involvement and engagement within the community while encouraging expression of one’s beliefs, respect for others, and a commitment to public service. We believe that if youth are given an opportunity to express their voice, they can better their communities.


Seattle Schools require all students to earn 60 hours of service learning in order to graduate. Our goal is to provide a new, exciting way for


youth to earn their service-learning hours by providing them space to host an issue on the PSO website.


Hosting a group involves:

· One semester commitment

· Willingness to improve your civic awareness

· Identifying a local issue you want to do something about

· Interacting with the following 21st Century learning tools: blogging, video production, photography, social networking, and podcasting.

· Reflection

· Community Action



Local youth, in partnership with the YMCA of Greater Seattle – Metrocenter Branch and the University of Washington Center for Civic Communication and Engagement, will participate in a semester long civic engagement project. Youth will gather for 15 hours of training at the beginning of each semester. The trainings will include: an overview of the project, service-learning 101, an opportunity to identify their issue, blogging 101, video production 101, and other relevant trainings.


After the initial 15 hours of training, youth participating in this project will be paired with an undergraduate student participating in the U of W CCCE’s Becoming Citizens program. Their role is to provide support, resources, and additional training when needed. In addition, all participants will attend a mandatory monthly meeting to engage in additional trainings, and troubleshoot issues.


Each participant will also be required to organize a community service activity utilizing the tools available to them through PSO, primarily social networking tools. The following are a list of possible activities:

· Meet-ups

· Serving food to the homeless

Organizing a rally

November 6th, 2007 at 01:53pm Chris Tugwell

Partnership Plan 11/6/07: Please Comment

Hello, all! Please review the plan of action for partnerships over the next few weeks below. If you could respond with a blog comment to a) let us know whether this plan looks good to you, and b) indicate whether you have any personal contact with anyone at the organizations listed, we’ll go ahead and begin contacting these potential partners.

THE ASK: We will be asking contacts whether they can provide us with content that we can put on our website, crediting them as the source, for our website soft/hard launch.

THE INVITATION: In turn, they will be invited to attend our soft launch party. This will provide an opportunity for them to see what we’re doing, see their content on the site, and to help test the website if they are interested. This is also an opportunity to begin thinking about ways we might be able to work together as the site launches and grows.

THE CONVERSATION: We will use our conversations with potential partners as an opportunity to informally inquire about possibilities for further collaboration in the future, whatever form this may take.

1. Youth in Focus: They produce youth photography. Amber has an existing relationship with staff there we could build on.
2. Seattle Public Library: The MacArthur grant stipulates that we will work with the library, so it is important we continue to explore this option. There may be a way we can get involved with their May All Ages Arts Night, which Toby and Chris discussed with Jennifer when they met with her. Amber will follow up to coordinate.
3. Pongo Publishing: This is a new organization with potential content to contribute. Chris has made contact with them, and they have expressed interest in partnering at some level.
4. Artworks: Have a website but don’t display student work on it. Perhaps they would be interested in contributing photographs of past student work on the PSO website.
5. Power of Hope: Their mission is “youth empowerment through the arts.” They have a website but use it to promote programming and do not post youth works. They may be interested in partnering with us, so it’s worth a conversation.
6. Arts Corps: Arts Corps offers free arts education classes to kids in grades K-12. They have a very limited amount of work posted on their website, so it would be worth reaching out to them to have a conversation.

HOW? Who will contact these organizations in the near future?
Amber: Youth in Focus, Seattle Public Library
Chris Tugwell: Pongo Publishing
Toby: Artworks, Power of Hope, Arts Corps

WHAT’S NEXT? Once we’ve talked to some initial content-producing partners, it seems like the next outreach should be to organizations that explicitly work with diverse youth.

November 6th, 2007 at 10:50am Toby Campbell

Images of Citizenship and Design Decisions

Differences about citizen identity and the engagement goals directly shape the most basic design decisions. Thus, a model based on organizations sponsoring issue pages and bringing kids to those orgs (a more conventional civic model) – lead us to wanting kids to see the whole “news” site when they log in.

By contrast, a sense that personal networking better reflects kids identity preferences and describes emerging forms of political action leads to thinking that kids should see their profile page first and move from there into the site.

The challenge is to find ways to make moving out into the site – visiting/joining groups etc.– attractive to the kids. If the site is going to do something new, it is in figuring out how to make this movement attractive.

November 5th, 2007 at 05:53am Lance Bennett

User Generated content (UGC) Principles

Something to pay attention to, some big companies are trying to pass some new principles to protect copyright infringements in sites that host UGC (youthcommons would qualify as one). Some of this requirements are quite complex.

Electronic Freedom Frontier response:

Blogged with Flock

November 3rd, 2007 at 10:22pm Adri

Partnerships Meetings Update November 2, 2007

Seattle Public Library

Chris Tugwell and I met with Jennifer Bisson on October 5th. We asked Jennifer about possibilities for collaboration, and she focused on the group of teens she is working with at the downtown library once a week (they meet from 4-5pm Thursdays). The teen group at the library this year will be divided into a myspace group, an audiocast group and a marketing group.
We discussed the possibility of letting the library borrow the YMCA’s video equipment or collaborating with them to make videos for their audiocast group. Teens could collaborate on interviews and editing – maybe around authors that come to town. The library also has spring programming planned around theater and hip-hop. May 2nd will be the all ages arts night again. Immigrant and hip-hop focus is likely. We discussed the possibility of posting their student’s book reviews. We also discussed having our youth meet in person. Writers in the schools seemed like a good possibility for doing a joint project as well.
Chris Tugwell followed up with Jennifer over email a couple of weeks after our meeting, and we are attempting to move forward with a small-scale collaboration with them in the short term.

The Vera Project

Toby had the opportunity to meet with several staff from the Vera Project at the end of October. Staff their expressed an interest in concrete partnerships that dovetail well with their current activities and mission. They receive dozens of inquiries regarding potential partnerships each week, so they must be selective and strategic about the partners they choose to work with.
My feeling (Toby) is that we should keep a partnership with Vera in mind for the future. They’ve got a great youth governance structure that we could learn from, and the physical venue space they have for shows would be a wonderful resource to pair with our website and curriculum on civic engagement once the Puget Sound Off project develops further. For the time being though, I think we should hold off on partnering with Vera until we can approach them with something concrete that is thoughtfully tailored to their mission and activities.

Further Partnerships Update

Toby and Chris Tugwell are working together to come up with a short list of partners we would like to reach out to in the near term, and will continue to reach out to new partners in the coming weeks.

November 2nd, 2007 at 12:03pm Toby Campbell

Video PSA Examples

Via Eszter at Crooked Timber (a really great blog on politics from a social-science perspective) come the results of a recent Berkman Center-sponsored contest that solicited video PSAs explaining WWW cookies. A few of my favorites are here, here, and here. I’m planning on using them as examples when teaching the kids how to produce PSAs for blogging and the content rules.

October 29th, 2007 at 03:48pm Deen Freelon

Collaboration Tools

Since we’re not always together and accessible, I suggest we try using some collaboration tools online. They can be helpful when preparing presentations, proposals, or just pure brainstorming.

- Google Docs: basics of Word, Powerpoint and Excel. You can upload docs created in your computer and then share them with people you choose.

- mindmapping tool(great for brainstorms and mapping all kinds of things). Click here to see an example of a mind map I’m developing for one of my classes.

A couple more suggestions for the blog:

  • Can we create a link list to the existing document databases (like Mindshare, Digital aid docs, etc.)?
  • Calendar of meetings? so we can see what’s going on.
  • List of people in the project and roles, so we can contact each other easily.
  • Email subscription option to receive blog updates
  • Login link on the blog to post messages?
  • Also as the blog grows, you might want to consider looking at search buttons

October 28th, 2007 at 10:30pm Adri

Models for future BC involvement with PSO

I want to continue the discussion that began earlier in the week with Toby’s post on partnership development. The next two quarters will be quite important for the Becoming Citizens program, as we design a program that hopefully will complement PSO for some time. As I mentioned at the UW-group meeting on Tuesday, several possible models for doing this have emerged. I want to lay these out in order to (1) ask for feedback/suggestions; and (2) encourage us to think about the BC program as we develop partnership models, which have important bearing on what the BC program can do.

Track A: One model for BC interaction with the SoundOff emerged from a recent meeting with Lois at Service Learning Seattle (we are speaking again soon to look at some other ideas). In Track A, students would be placed directly with an organization (as most are now), and find ways for the work already going on to have an outlet on PSO. For example, with Service Learning Seattle, BC interns would work with public school 8th graders to learn to communicate the work they are doing in their service placements through the PSO. Beyond simply communicating about their experiences, this could also be an opportunity for those youth to connect to more information and deeper engagement about the issue (e.g. learning about a bill in Olympia that is relevant to their project).

Track B: Another possibility would be for BC students to spend their internships facilitating management teams with various organizations around the city. Here, again, BC students would be working with a continuing group of youth at a local community organization or community center (perhaps a library?). They would be working as small sub-groups of the larger youth management team.

Track C: A third possibility would extend the Service Learning opportunities of public school youth to include participation in the PSO, perhaps on a management or editorial team. In this case, the youth would earn their service learning ours directly from us, and BC students would be assigned to work with a group of such youth. I will talk to Lois soon about whether Service Learning Seattle would be open to that kind of partnership.

Track D: A final model for BC/PSO interaction would be the workshops Toby described in her post early this week. This would be the least demanding in terms of BC students’ schedules or the commitment of partners. BC students would intern with the CCCE (much the way the Focus Group interns did in the spring), they would design or at least learn to run skills workshops on various aspects of PSO (e.g. blogging, video production), and they would use PSO as the framework for the workshops. Workshops could be given at organizations either one-off or perhaps in a sequence (like two meetings separated by a week, with an assignment in between). This would give a large number of youth in many organizations exposure to PSO and the opportunities we offer; however, there would be no way to ensure that they continue to use PSO or that further content is produced after the workshop(s).

I think that, at least for the next two quarters, we probably will be best off with a combination of these tracks. Designing a program for BC interns doing different projects should not be a problem. I’d appreciate any feedback, suggestions or new ideas.


October 26th, 2007 at 05:21pm Chris Wells

Reflecting on Team Work

I’ve observed that this team has multiple ways of working together and many different areas, and I find it fascinating how this comes together and translates into action. Note that I come from a highly organized corporate culture where there’s always control on time, budget, and human resources. Normally I’m used to having a project lead/director who is in charge of centralizing and organizing the vision, tasks, deliverables and resources.

Here are some thoughts about this structure, and actions I will incorporate going forward. Please feel free to give me feedback:


  • It engages people at a personal level
  • Free flow collaboration
  • Fosters independent action
  • People can contribute as much or as little as they want
  • Communications lines are open
  • Organic configuration that can adapt as project grows and evolves
  • Everything has equal importance


  • Hard to build and keep track of common vision and understanding of how it all fits together (is there a work breakdown system diagram somewhere???)
  • Unclear decision process (when and who needs to be present, when to use blog vs meetings, who can veto decisions, who can revisit/challenge a decision already taken)
  • How to determine how many people join, when, and what role they play
  • Hard to keep focus on results: what are next steps are for different members and expected deliverables
  • Unclear what is out of scope

Going Forward:
1.Frame Discussion: Because there’s different meetings and people involved, I see the need to spend a little time always giving a bit of background:

  • what I’m doing
  • why
  • how it connects to the rest of the stuff
  • clarify what I want from people (an opinion, a decision, collaboration, etc).
  • clarify whether I’m opening a “vision, long term discussion” or ” right-now, immediate action thing.

2. Decision Log: Deen’s idea was great and I’m keen to start using it after every meeting.


  • When does a “proposal” become a decision?
  • What types of decisions are worth blogging?


October 25th, 2007 at 02:38pm Adri

Marketing Plan Update- 10.24.07

Toby and Adri met to continue work on marketing plan. Given some of the on going discussions we decided to compartmentalize efforts and focus on things we can attain before the site launches and things that are longer term:

Partner Strategy:
1. Toby will lead the partner strategy and divided in pre-launch and post-launch timelines. Agreed on concrete outcomes

2. We developed a partner types (content basic, offline+online collaborators and managed content (TBD, depending on site structure), target partners for this quarter

3. We will modify the last proposal to reflect discussion and incorporate comments to date. Toby to post full proposal next week

Direct to Youth Marketing:

1. Adri will take the lead on this

2. Adri will consult with Chris/Amber on possible integration with classes so kids can develop their own marketing materials and ideas for viral marketing

3. Adri will post proposal on blog next week

We plan to present final plan on Team Meeting in 2 weeks.


October 25th, 2007 at 01:46pm Adri

New category: Decision Log

Hi all, thanks for using the blog . . . I just added a new category
called “decision log” that will allow us to record all decisions made
during our meetings. One way it might work is the following: at the end
of every meeting (whether the entire group is present or not), someone
takes a few minutes to record any decisions that were made. Then,
that person comes back and posts them here in the decision log. The
idea is that we have an easily accessible, regularly updated chronicle
of what has been decided so that we can keep duplication of effort to a
minimum. So, unless anyone is opposed, let’s see if this is worthwhile
by trying it out at the next few meetings


October 25th, 2007 at 10:58am Deen Freelon

PSO overall learning goals

I’ve (toby) started this learning goals document that we can use to articulate the learning goals we have for youth involved in the PSO project over the years to come. Please reply to this with any comments or additions.

I would like to urge you all to think conceptually about these goals; this is not a template for curriculum. It’s a way for us to step back and clarify all of the learning goals we have for youth who get involved in the PSO in any way (outside the YMCA program as well as within it) in the years to come. So, don’t worry about the nitty gritty of curriculum construction yet when it comes to these ideas. Let’s just make sure we are all on board with a set of learning goals first. We can get into the nitty gritty of curriculum construction based on these goals after we’ve done this conceptual work; hopefully this will make that step easier down the road.

1. media literacy

  • Political Economy of the media (in other words, an analysis of the way media is shaped by economic and political forces - ownership, for example)
  • Importance of independent and community media

2. youth voice

  • What is it? Why important? How can we cultivate it thru PSO?
  • How do you present your voice effectively

3. blogging

  • What is it?
  • Threaded discussions via comments - how they work
  • Etiquette
  • How to blog
  • How to manage content and online discussions

4. Video

  • How to contribute to youth voice through video
  • How to make videos

5. Citizen journalism basics

  • Why is this kind of journalism important?
  • How to do citizen journalism - issues reporting

6. Content Management (editorial curriculum)

  • Principles - leadership, content policy

7. Civic Engagement and Organizing

  • What is civic engagement
  • How can youth get engaged
  • Organizing tools workshop

8. Social Networking, Digital Media

  • How can these tools be used to bring youth together around topics and issues


October 22nd, 2007 at 12:46pm Chris Tugwell

Proposal: Curriculum and Becoming Citizens


Folks at the YMCA program have been doing an excellent job creating new curriculum for the PSO team at the Y on the fly. However, more resources allocated toward the creation, packaging and testing of curriculum would be very helpful, especially if we think of this curriculum as leverage – an appealing resource – for new partners down the road. This proposal therefore suggests a way that we may be able to support additional curriculum construction and testing, and to expose potential new partners and youth to the PSO program and site along the way.

Adapting the Becoming Citizens Program:
In the winter and fall, BC interns would work with staff support to develop and test specific curriculum modules. These would be designed in the form of discrete workshops that BC interns would go out into the community to facilitate at youth organizations around Seattle. Each workshop would teach a particular skill and would use the PSO website as a workshop tool whenever possible. In this way, youth and organizations would be exposed to the commons while receiving valuable curriculum and a free workshop that would teach a specific skill to their youth. Additionally, we would have the opportunity to test and refine exportable curriculum modules that we could use to attract new partners over time.

What we’d need to support this:
1. Support for curriculum development (School of Education?)
2. Curriculum subcommittee meetings to decide
-What specific learning goals to address with BC curriculum
-Logistics of how to create curriculum and test it: timeline
-Resources, needs, scope of work



October 22nd, 2007 at 12:41pm Toby Campbell

Partnership Proposal 10.18.07


At this launch phase, our marketing efforts to recruit large numbers of unpaid youth will be effective IF and ONLY IF the site appears active and interesting when these youth visit it for the first time. This proposal is designed to ensure that the website becomes active (an active community of youth is consistently using the site for the kinds of activities for which it was designed, productively engaging in discussions and posting content) and interesting (there is ample, circulating content on the website).

1. Problem: We need content.
Solution: We ask our partners to provide us with content created by their youth.

2. Problem: Why would partners want to provide us with content? What do they get in return?
Solution: We give them the promise that all content posted by their youth will be commented on and discussed by youth using our site who are trained to engage in positive dialogue around youth content. Their youth can participate in discussions that stem from their work.

3. Problem: How will we ensure that all content is being discussed?
Solution: We hire a team of paid youth to comment on and discuss all website content. They receive training on how to positively do this, and we create job descriptions that are very specific about expectations for their positions. They could work out of the Y or even from home.

As we establish these content partners, we will test program collaborations that open up physical spaces for PSO youth. For example, we may collaborate with the libraries to report on their Writers’ in the Schools event, or collaborate with the VERA project to host an arts or music event tied to PSO content. These opportunities will open up on a case by case basis through meetings and correspondence with partner staff.

The purpose of Proposal A is to ensure that the website becomes active and interesting so that a phase two marketing campaign to recruit many youth to the site will be effective.

What do we need to make Proposal A possible?

• Funds to pay youth staff
• Staff work on creating partnerships to get content for when the website launches
• Staff work on structuring job descriptions and training for paid youth staff
• Staff recruit youth to act as paid staff when the website launches


October 22nd, 2007 at 12:37pm Toby Campbell


One of the ideas that came up during our budget discussion was how much money would we be willing to give to organizations for maintaining a project team group. The range was $500 to $1500. I suggested we should look at capacity building and provide an organization with $1000 to $1500 worth of camera’s, video camera’s, software, and equipment; along with digital story telling curriculum.

Our Y did this with Cali, Columbia this summer. We spent a little over $1000 on equipment, put together some basic curriculum, and sent it down with a staff member.

To get the project going we also sent some raw footage of our kids asking some very basic questions like: “what do you do in your free time” and “what does your home look like.”

October 22nd, 2007 at 09:57am Chris Tugwell

drupal sites

spent time this weekend exploring different drupal sites. A couple of the sites incorporated great “Take Action” features - and No sense in reinventing the wheel. Take a look at these to get an idea of what our “Take Action” feature could look like.

October 22nd, 2007 at 09:41am Chris Tugwell

Social Marketing as Project Integration

We have recently (October 2007) added a member of the team (Adriana Gil Miner) to begin a marketing plan to attract more community youth organizations and individual teens to our digital media project, Puget Sound Off. Her approach was to interview every member of the team while adding their inputs to a powerpoint file that covered the project vision and its intended audiences and outcomes.

The process proved incredibly useful, as she illuminated areas of (understandable) differences among the organizing partners in terms of goals for the project. We also identified areas of the site design that had not been clarified sufficiently for the tech developer (Samantha Moscheck) to proceed with finishing the site plan developed by teens in our summer of 2007 design program.

This experience suggests to me that introducing an experienced marketing person into the process fairly early on can help focus the vision in terms of better specifying: the goals, the definition of audience, the prouct features and functionalities, and ways of presenting it to different user groups with different needs and interests. The marketing process helps the project management team think about its evolving story about the project, and this, in turn helps explain it to others, and to see the physical design in terms of what is being emphasized and what is missing.


October 21st, 2007 at 07:51am Lance Bennett

Facebook NSFK (Not Safe For Kids)?

The NYT reports today that Facebook will be revising its child safety
information in response to a recent investigation by the New York state
attorney general’s office. State prosecutors discovered that fake teen profiles created as part of the investigation attracted “sexually suggestive” messages within days. This is something we’ll definitely need to keep strongly in mind, as our site will target kids under 18 almost exclusively. Perhaps this is another reason to outsource the social networking aspect of our project to the experts . . . ? In any event, the upcoming full set of legal disclaimers and privacy policies that Savannah and I are working on will no doubt shed additional light on this troubling issue.

October 16th, 2007 at 06:25pm Deen Freelon


Sound Off Videos