Stilgherrian: Wherefor art thou, bloggers?

Stilgherrian goes to Tanzania to train ActionAid workers on social media so they can publish a voice online, but it’s pretty well ignored by Australian journalism – citizen and professiona.

Stilgherrian Stilgherrian Wherefore Art Thou Stil? Stilgherrian, debonair blogger and Twitterer and Crikey citizen reporter,  is doing stuff for ActionAid Australia. Primarily training people in Tanzania.


Project TOTO is the “The Overseas Training Operation”. I’ll be in Tanzania from 27 June to 5 July 2009 for ActionAid Australia (formerly Austcare), helping them set up the ability to post words and pictures to their blogs directly from the field.

As usual, Stilgherrian is showing traditional media how it’s done – using his blog, Twitter, motivating other bloggers to cover his trip to Tanzania. But I am wondering if it’s with mixed results? More later on that. 

One of the things I like about blogs is that they are almost as good as a social media press release (and a darn sight better than a normal press release) in that I can usually grab links, images, tweets, videos, anything I need to make my posts media rich. 

ActionAid logo: end poverty. Together.

Follow my travels to Tanzania for Project TOTO.Support ActionAid Australia bymaking a donation.

see? I didn’t have to go and find that ActionAid logo, screenshot it, cut it up in IRFanview or similar, save it to a hard drive, upload it, and so on. All the stuff we have to do normally. 

Have you seen this man? Hah. 

I expected Australian bloggers to get more behind Stil, and I’m a little disappointed they didn’t. A few blog posts on the going away party -we bloggers love boozy tweetups- but no real analysis of the changes that citizen journalism can wrought to this new hybrid of Social News and Social Action. Caveat: blogsearch shows 9 links but Blogsearch sometimes is FAIL on finding stuff (e.g. Servant Of Chaos has a good TOTO post, missing from blogsearch) Of the links, most are about the party but don’t translate into ongoing discussions, one from Fi Bendall (PR Megastar and organiser of #ToTo) writing for MarketingMag and some from people like Archie Law CEO of ActionAid. Oh, and the Tubes one – from Richard Chirgwin. 

Richard Chirgwin decided to devote almost the entire edition of his A Series of Tubespodcast to Project TOTO. It’s now online for your listening pleasure. As Richard puts it, “One word of warning: calling Tanzania involves a game of count-the-codec: there’s Stil’s mobile, followed by a satellite link (I edited out the delays), followed by the PSTN and finally an Internode VoIP service at my end. Some quality issues may be expected.”

I experienced something similar when I went to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for a week to do a keynote and to teach Arabic women how to blog for the iMatter – giving Arabic women a voice project.

imatter bigBlogher, Shel Israel and other non-Australian luminaries picked up on my trip, but hardly anyone in Australia. Certainly no magazines, newspapers or mainstream media. Well, if it doesn’t bleed it doesn’t lead. But nothing much from other bloggers either.  I wonder why? Do we really focus on going away parties and stuff where we are in the photos, videos and story? Can we see outside ourselves, as bloggers? Or is it all about us? I’m not being a grump – there were discussions on Twitter  about Stil’s trip, in amongst Toto as a lottery, Toto as dorothy’s dog, Toto the band – but not much in the indepth content area of blogs, videos, or podcasts. 

Be the next outreach blogger
Do you have what it takes to establish a blog outpost in an ActionAid program country?

ActionAid Australia is searching for an energetic Australian to be our next outreach blogger to give poverty a voice.
Using blogs, twitter, Facebook and more, the outreach blogger will travel to one of ActionAid’s program countries to help locals harness the power of social media to secure their human rights.

You don’t need to be a blogging expert, you just need to have an open mind and be passionate about fighting the root causes of poverty.

Does this sound like you? Register your interest now and we’ll notify you when nominations begin.

Shine a light on poverty and injustice

Social injustice and poverty are easy to ignore when hidden from view. Your mission will be to help bring attention to the scandal of poverty.

As ActionAid’s outreach blogger, you will give poverty a voice by:

– traveling to a remote area of an ActionAid program country

– training locals to use tools such as twitter and blogs to shine a light on social injustice and human rights abuses

– reporting on your experiences on your own blog

Interested? Take action!

And if a blogger is brave enough to head into the big wide unknown, and if you think it’s important, you too can take action by blogging, tweeting, facebooking and social media’ing it. Take Action! 

If you are thinking about creating an indepth post on Stilgherrian’s jaunt to Tanzania to train ’em on bloggin, social media and having a voice online, now would be the time to do it. A little bird (ok, Twitter) told me that Stilgherrian is winging his way home to us right now, as we speak, via Bangkok. Let’s have a surprise for him, shall we?

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  1. Absolutely. Having done a few live blogging world jaunts myself in the past, it is sad to witness ‘un-interest’ from your home base and as you say support needs to go way beyond attending goodbye parties. Also contributions don’t have to necessarily be indepth articles/blogs and I encourage commenting on Stils blog but even more importantly connect to the new bloggers Stil has helped set up back in the poverty stricken areas themselves eg:
    .-= Gary Hayes´s last blog ..Are You Authentic Online? =-.

  2. Thanks for your post Laurel. I must say I’m surprised as well by the lack of support from the blogging community… to date.

    We hope the second phase on Project TOTO (the search for the next outreach blogger along with Stilgherrian’s posts about his trip, once he’s back, will raise the interest levels.

    If not…what will?

    I might as well through the questions out there: What will it take to get the Aussie social media community to engage on issues of poverty and injustice? And what can ActionAid do to help?
    .-= Mark Chenery´s last blog ..ActionAid appoints John Dowd as President =-.

    1. Buggered if I know… 😛
      Oh ok, lemme think…. how about something for US – off the top of my head, a widget that says “I support Stilgherrian”. We copy and paste the code to our blog, linking back to the Hub Content page (I had trouble figuring out of there was a hub content or if it was all spokes). Similar to Yahoo’s An Inconvenient Truth widget. Bloggers are a community of Caring Not Committed – if it’s easy and wins us kudos, we do it.

      Then, those who added the widget get invited to vote on either the next victim err blogger and/or the place they go to, within .reason, multiple choice.. Sort of “The Social Network chooses The Social Action”

      I’ve run out of steam… anyone else?

    2. Actually, I have just thought of something else. Ask us what we think should be done in Tanzania re:blogging – and what we could offer. I would’ve adapted some of my social media courseware/instructions that could be used as powerpoint or PDF or printed (?) if asked. No biggie and I’d have a sense of “ownership” in the program even from a distance. I’m sure other similar bloggers would’ve had stuff too…

  3. Thanks for great post Laurel. Uptake has been slow, but I think to be honest now we have some real actions people can take, nominate, participate in this program to give poverty a voice, we hope for more coverage. People can get involved here
    Banners and badges can be found here
    We are sending out a new alert this week.
    In terms of traditional press it has been an uphill struggle to get traction, a few raised eyebrows at whether bloggers can replace the role of a foreign journalist. I think when we get more of Stil’s content published from TZ I hope this will engage even the most cynical of the trad press outlets.
    We are still pressing on and thanks for your support of a great cause. ” Aussie Blog friends… get out there go overseas with ActionAid and give poverty a voice!” Nominate yourself or a friend.

    1. ayep social media can be slow – everything happens in the long tail of rippled content, rather than the short head of traditional campaign activitiy.

      I’ve added the widget to sidebar – thanks for letting me know! 😛

  4. Hi Laurel,

    Its an interesting project. I would imagine the idea that outsiders want to support people on the ground in Tanzania is very powerful. is apperently the top blog there with being the top blog aggregator there.

    Arusha is the centre for the NGO and legal community for many working on Rwanda related issues.

    TEDGlobal 2007 was held in Arusha and many of those involved could have probably helped give some leverage to this particular project.

    See I follow George Ayittey on twitter now and some of the others. George Ayittey on Cheetahs vs. Hippos was mind blowing at the time and still is. I suspect that many of Afica & Tanzania’s brighest are expats George is based in Washington DC. where i suspect he is much safer than in Ghana.

    Some names from that group – Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, George Ayittey, Euvin Naidoo, and William Kamkwamba. is someone else doing projects like this.
    .-= Jason Kemp ´s last blog ..Vision and Town Planning =-.

  5. Laurel, you say:

    Social media can be slow – everything happens in the long tail of rippled content, rather than the short head of traditional campaign activity.


    It’s a tad premature to start dissecting the entrails of the dead chicken when the egg has only just hatched.

    We’ve only just had the first blogs posts from our new Tanzanian friends — introducing themselves before starting onto the deeper issues. I have yet to write the longer pieces which will perhaps be more likely to generate discussion. And yet this analysis, and others which are appearing, are already talking about the project’s “results” in the past tense!

    I contend that the real results have yet to appear.

    The true value of this project won’t be in superficial posts like “It’s Sunday, I’m in Kilimani, and here’s a picture of me with some random black faces.” I’m actually pleased that our schedule prevented me doing those instant-reaction daily posts. They would’ve been shallow and patronising. What I thought I knew at the beginning of the week was overturned by the end.

    The true value of this project will come from the slow, steady accumulation of interest and understanding — and the slow, steady building of human connections through social media, both within Tanzania and East Africa generally, and between Africa and Australia and the West. That’ll unfold gradually over the coming months, not in a sudden fizz of hype.

    And yet, we’re starting to see discussion of this project’s “results” based on the level of fizz. I think that’s wrong.
    .-= Stilgherrian´s last blog ..ActionAid Tanzania blogs online! =-.

    1. My comments were not directed to the project or the Tanzanian bloggers but around Australian interest in your trip. Thus my quote holds – it’s the long tail of what happens after, not this apparent lack of interest during, that will time will tell… 🙂
      I think the key here, is that if you don’t get Aussie bloggers behind you now, while it’s experiential and real, it’s harder to get them blogging later, when there is less of a “timeliness” to the stories.

      I am not questioning the project nor it’s value, only trying to motivate Australians to blog, and not just photos of themselves at drinkies 😛

      1. We’re actually on the same page here I think, Laurel. 🙂 I think there was plenty of interest in what was unfolding last week. But that’s not the same as triggering the urge for someone to write about it. And what triggers that urge? It seems to depend on so many things.
        .-= Stilgherrian´s last blog ..ActionAid Tanzania blogs online! =-.

  6. I’m quite keen to blog about this, but frankly, I’m more interested in hearing the voices of the Tanzanian bloggers. The last thing the blogosphere needs is more middle-class white westerners drowning out other people’s voices.

    Having done my fair share of new media development for underprivileged groups – Indigenous, refugees, homeless and activists – generating visibility for these projects can be hard. But the last thing they need is social media bloggers guilting other social media people into promoting the project. If I had come across this project being promoted on the blog of a PR person I would have been uninterested, suspicious even. Because I *do* know Stil, I was willing to listen.

    ‘Getting behind’ something can mean being quiet and allowing other to speak up. And insisting that those who ‘want a sense of ownership’ understand the problematic implications of that.

    and finally, I wanted to make sure Stil was out of harm’s way before I did anything to publicise his trip any further. I’ve had to deal with police confiscating footage and servers in order to arrest political activists – I didn’t want that to happen to Stil.

    Much as I think he’s a commie terrorist.

    if you’re interested in an NGO that’s been doing media development – including blogging, podcasting, filmmaking etc – for several years, focused on ground-level support and cultural trust, you should check out

    *that* is how you do the long tail in activism.

  7. As an outsider – I don’t know any of you people – I have to say that the apparent lack of interest in this project has to do with the failure of Stilgherrian to communicate in an authentic voice.

    For someone who, according to the voice he chooses to use in social media, can barely lift the telephone or make it up Enmore Road without a “FFS” about some perceived injustice against his delicate sensibilities, to suddenly become the Mother Theresa of African blogging read as forced, fake, self-censoring and pandering to the politics of his sponsors.

    It’s absurd to be harangued for not getting behind the project when, from an objective point of view, all we saw was an endless series of tweets about getting there only to be followed by more tweets about getting out of there and worrying about getting a decent hotel room in Bangkok.

    It was ridiculous to find one of Australia’s most cantankerous voices on the internet replaced, suddenly, with an apparently calm acceptance of things we know, from experience, he would never put up with in his day-to-day life in suburban Sydney.

    Regardless of how socially significant the project may be – which was never really explained or expressed outside of months of chatter about “sekrit” meetings – its expression read as two-dimensional and insular.

    If you genuinely believe that Australian bloggers outside your network should support and promote this kind of international action, you need to back off from the provocative language and engage a real-world audience with something a little more useful. As it stands, it looks like all that happened was a piss-up and a couple of long drives in the African countryside as narrated by Evelyn Waugh on Valium. Got anything better to offer?

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