Broadband for civic engagement: Facebook Live easy tool to broadcast public meetings

I am the newest, biggest fan of Facebook Live. It allows a person to livestream video from their phone. You just need a Facebook account, a smartphone and enough broadband to maintain a connection. You point your camera – click on Live – and it starts broadcasting.

I had an opportunity to use it to help out a friend this week. She was planning a conversation on homelessness in Dakota County. I figured I could help spread the word by livestreaming it for her. Amazingly 220 people showed up Monday for the event!. BUT another 250 tuned in live online – and since the event (three days ago) more than 1000 people have viewed the post and video. Again, amazing!

Recently I used Facebook Live to record a House Committee meeting too. I’ll be using it more often.

I like it because the video livestreams so it doesn’t reside on my phone, which means I don’t run out of memory. It drains the battery but not much more than taking (and not streaming) video. You will want to be on WiFi or you may hit some data caps and big bills. Once the event is finished, the video is archived. You can embed the code into your website or download the video and upload it to YouTube.

It is a great way to broadcast government meetings on a budget. Or as a citizen to record open meetings or event to share with folks who can’t attend and to have an archive for later. I spoke with Matt Ehling at the Coalition on Government Information – he let me know that as an observer, you can life-stream a public meeting that you are attending under the First Amendment.

If you use this trick to broadcast a broadband event – please let me know!

There’s another advantage of Facebook Live – the immediacy and public nature of the broadcast. Think of the livestream video of Philando Castile’s last moments posted by his girlfriend. I remember hearing an interview with her soon after the fact and she mentioned that safety was one issue she streamed video. She wanted people to know she was there and in distress. After the fact, that video has served as a record of the events.

I have also heard of people who will livestream a walk to the car at night or in a parking ramp alone. It’s not the same as having someone walk with you but it is a deterrent for unwanted attention.

Digital Storytelling Show and Tell: 2015 #MNBroadband Conference

We were pleased to see youth share their experience and learning from Wednesday’s Digital Storytelling Workshop. Moderated by Frank Odasz, Lone Eagle Consulting, and made possible through a donation from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.

  • Fond du Lac Ojibwe School: Jacob Ammesmaki, Mary Ammesmaki, Dakota Barney, Brea Hoagland, Michael Sayers, Quintana White
  • Leech Lake Boys and Girls Club: Steven Bruce, Alivia Christopherson, Amber Headbird, Keith Howard, Dedrick LaDuke, Dacia Staples, Ramona White, Donavin Wittner
  • Nay-Ah-Shing High School
  • Onamia School: Deilyah Dexter, KC Merrill, Aiyanna Mitchell, Bella Nayquonabe, Megan Saboo, Madison Sam

Their teacher describes the motivation:

You can see the results of their efforts online.

Here are some videos from the session: 

Social media bridges gap between weekly rural newspapers and news

According to the Rural Blog

Rural areas typically only served by a weekly newspaper are seeing an increase in Facebook pages that offer up-to-the-minute local media alerts, Able Allen reports for Mountain Xpress in Asheville. In the past year in rural Western North Carolina, “almost a dozen local alert pages (some with affiliated websites) have cropped up in various rural counties in the region, and some are already attracting followers in numbers comparable to the established print outlets’ circulation figures.”

The local shift reflects a national trend, with a Pew Research Center study saying 30 percent of adults say they get their news from Facebook, Allen writes. The difference in rural areas is that the news is localized, mostly concerning traffic, weather, Amber alerts, arrest reports and information about public events and meetings.

Social media (Facebook, Twitter even an online blog) seems like a natural fit to keep rural areas in the know between editions of a weekly newspaper. It’s something worth considering if your community doesn’t have an online news channel. It’s free, which is almost a necessity. (I am on the board of an online newspaper in the Twin Cities. I know newspapers can be tough to sustain.) It just relies on people reporting the story.

There may be some decision making there. Do you allow anyone to post news? Or do you continue with the newspaper model and find an editor to post or at least approve/disapprove citizen input. I suspect the answer will be different for different communities.

Sunshine Week March 15-21: Celebrate open government and freedom of information

I know there are a lot of open gov, open data, freedom of information folks out there so I wanted to share this info early. Pass it onto your friends and colleagues or maybe even plan your own local Sunshine Week events!

A little bit like virtue never tested – our information policies (open data, freedom of information) are only good when we test them.

The sun has shone and the sun has hidden behind many a bureaucratic and political cloud since the launch of Sunshine Week a decade ago. The decade has experienced cosmic change ranging from Wikileaks and Snowden to the emergence of open government groups such as Code for America to the President’s National Action Plan for Open Government to a last minute failure of the 113rd Congress to pass the FOIA Improvement Act.

Constant vigilance inspires Sunshine Week sponsors to join forces to plan for Sunshine Week 2015, March 15-21.

A bit of background: Sunshine Week is a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Prime movers are freedom of information proponents including journalists, civic society groups, libraries and archives, schools and universities, and an expanding cohort of advocates for transparency and accountability at every level of government. Key players at the federal level are the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the American Society of News Editors, organizations that welcome inclusion of the broadest possible circle of interest and activity.

By tradition, Sunshine Week is scheduled to coincide with the birthday of James Madison who was born March 16, 1751. Sunshine Week 2015 is supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation along with The Gridiron Club and Foundation.

Sponsors and past participants in Sunshine Week offer a host of ideas and support materials, including an Idea Bank of “bright ideas” from a decade of Sunshine Week experience and a “Toolkit” rich with op ed pieces, editorial cartoons, logos, icons, sample proclamations and more. There is also a virtual catalog of Freedom of Information in action – samples of how federal and state freedom of information laws have been put to work to expose and resolve real life problems.

Most recently, the good people at have gathered a treasure trove of freedom of information quotations, arranged chronologically from the 18th Century to the present. ( “Light on ponderous material from the preambles of laws” the listing of quotes is lively, inclusive, and open-ended, inviting those who care about such things to add their own.

The other indispensable resource for Sunshine Week planners is the abundant assistance provided by Debra Gersh Hernandez who has been the illuminating presence since the pre-dawn of the national Sunshine Week initiative. Deb is responsible for the Sunshine Week website ( and for the steady flow of tweets that keep the ideas and energy flowing from Sunshine Week planners around the nation.

Harking back to the time and philosophy of James Madison, it is worth considering what our forefather might offer to this year’s Sunshine Week planners. On the one hand, Madison would hold the nation’s leaders’ feet to the fire, demanding that they move on passage of the bipartisan Freedom of Information Improvement Act sponsored by Senators Leahy and Cornyn. He would also stoke up the heat under the President’s commitment to transparency as stated in the National Action Plan for Open Government.

Madison would definitely applaud the unstinting work of state coalitions and national civic society efforts to keep the heat on – and to work with global freedom of information initiatives. And he would welcome the energy and commitment of the nation’s newest open government enthusiasts who are raising issues and developing new tools to make government information more accessible to more people. Most of all, he would work with leaders to make sure that all the players and stakeholders are at the table, talking with, not past, each other.

With specific reference to Sunshine Week 2015 Madison, the global thinker, would concur with his contemporary, British philosopher Jeremy Bentham, who wrote that “without publicity, no good is permanent; under the auspices of publicity, no evil can continue.” (1768)

Community Technology and Entrepreneurship Networking webinar

This is a quick reminder of the webinar happening today between 3:00-4:00 on Community Technology and Entrepreneurship Networking. I’m posting some materials for the webinar below. Once the webinar is archived I will also post that here. Haven’t signed up yet? It’s not too late to register!

Blandin Community Broadband Program Webinar Series:
Community Technology and Entrepreneurship Networking Resource Material 1
October 10, 2013

Introduction In places like Silicon Valley and in the emerging North Loop of Minneapolis, there are many opportunities for technologists and entrepreneurs to network – at formal events like industry association meetings and at technical seminars or, less formally, over cocktails at the local watering hole happy hour. We know that when people get together, they share ideas, find common interests, and cook up business plans.

In rural places or even in suburban communities, these networking opportunities do not naturally emerge. In fact, entrepreneurs and technologists in rural areas may feel isolated and unsupported and, as a result, move out of the community or give up on their technology advancement goals. To counter this trend, it seems advisable for community economic developers to create and promote networking opportunities so as to better connect these job creators, knowledge workers and innovators.
Here are some examples that might work in your community…

• Social media breakfasts are events that combine a bit of education and lots of networking around business use of social media strategies. The concept is simple – a sponsoring business/speaker from a tech consulting firm or a local firm with a positive message on technology, excellent and plentiful coffee and food and an audience interested in technology applications.
Social media breakfasts, or SMBs, are a rapidly growing phenomenon. By searching online, you can find social media breakfasts in many Minnesota communities, including the Twin Cities, Duluth, and a hotbed of SMB activity in southwest Minnesota with organized efforts in Redwood Falls, Hutchinson, Willmar, Lakefield and Pipestone. Some communities, especially those trying to get a younger technology crowd, might want to meet for happy hour events rather than breakfast! Here are some examples of breakfast events.

• Hackfests or Hackathons are events where technologists and collaborators gather to share and gain information and skills. Hackfests last multiple hours to multiple days. Teams of coding experts, supported by graphic designers, writers and others, work to create technology solutions, sometimes for prizes, always for community benefit. Hackfests serve to connect technologists to each other and to potential contract work, employment and entrepreneurial opportunities. in-minneapolis/
• Co-Working Centers are places where technologists and entrepreneurs can gather in a location with bandwidth, equipment, working space and networking opportunities. Co-working centers support entrepreneurs and people who tele- work with flexible and affordable rents, offering a variety of spaces to include quiet areas, collaborative areas with couches and conference rooms.
o Twin Cities,,
o Grand Rapids
o Rochester
o Duluth
• Community Technology or Broadband Advisory Councils may begin as ad hoc groups formed to study and provide recommendations to city councils, but they can also play an ongoing role as a networking group. The members may find opportunities to collaborate, with government partners or not, on a full range of activities from shared infrastructure development, shared facilities and/or workforce training. The City of Eagan has had a technology group for over ten years.

Blandin Foundation has been facilitating and supporting cross-sector community leadership teams around broadband and economic development for many years, including through the Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities and the Blandin Broadband Communities Program.

1 Blandin Foundation is proving this information as a courtesy and does not endorse any of the technology processes, products or vendors provided here.

Minnesota Senator Al Franken big voice for Net Neutrality

Ara Technica recently interviewed Senator Franken, one of the more vocal proponents of Net Neutrality in DC. The interview is brief, but I thought I’d pull out just one question…

Ars: You have called network neutrality the “First Amendment issue of our time.” We had a lot of push back on that from readers who are upset about other issues in the last decade such as warrantless wiretaps, Patriot Act misuse, the new COICA censorship legislation… why is net neutrality really that fundamental?

Sen. Franken: Well, because if you have a few ISPs essentially running the whole show and they’re charging for a fast lane, then really the information that people are going to get is going to be corporate information. People are getting more and more of their information on the Internet and this will mean that the speech will be controlled by big corporate interests. They’ll be the only ones able to pay for the faster access, and that essentially will be what people get. That’s why I call it the First Amendment issue of our time.

Although he has addressed the topic often, some readers may remember that Senator Franken spoke passionately about Net Neutrality at the FCC Public Hearing in Minneapolis last August

MN Broadband Stories of Success: E-Democracy email lists

According to their web site, E-Democracy uses online tools to support participation in public life, strengthen communities and build democracy. One of the tools they offer is community-based email lists. (They’re available on the web too.) They have done this for more than 15 years. Sometimes conversation on the lists gets heated around policy, sometimes it’s banal – but that’s life with your neighbors. I like best when conversation online makes a difference in the real world.

Recently Steve Clift, E-Democracy’s Executive Director, pulled together a list of examples where lists have made a mark in the real world. With his permission I am sharing his list as a Minnesota Broadband Story of Success. I know you don’t need broadband for email – but you do need a computer and a connection and many surveys have shown that for many households the computer is the barrier. Maybe engagement tools like these will help make a computer more appealing. It’s also worth noting that while these examples are taken from the Twin Cities, there are lists in rural Minnesota (and around the world) as well…

In Minneapolis’ Powderhorn Park, our Neighbors Issues Forum, led by volunteer Sara Bergen, connects about 15% of households everyday (500 forum members in an area with 3,400 household, 9,000 residents with a big urban park in the middle). The recent drive-by shooting of a teen girl and now the recent sexual assault in the park (two incidents, three victims by juvenile attackers) have been major topics of exchange. The Minneapolis Star Tribune picked up on a post from the sexual assault victim and it is now their most viewed news story. The powerful post from the “the ‘mother’ in the news” on the forum.

Her first person report is markedly different than the local media reporting rapes. There was also a on the planning for vigil on Dec 1 in the park. We didn’t create our forums narrowly in response to crime, but promoting safety is one huge benefit of well-functioning neighborhood forums.

Three other examples from just the last couple weeks:

  1. In Nokomis East, a burglar is scared off by someone who cites the forum as alerting her to their methods:
    Post 3 –
    Maps shared –
  2. In Standish Ericsson, someone tells of being a victim of burglary:
    (Click arrow to see full post on web site)
  3. In Seward, neighbors react to poor television news reporting on the safety of their community after a shooting:

For those not familiar with the “Neighbors Online” movement, some 12+ million Americans adults participate in neighborhood e-mail lists/forums/social networks on top of those who visit place blogs. See Pew Internet numbers and my analysis:

Our model is somewhat unique in that our forums are be designed “public” so as to attract as many people as possible via Google searches, we require real names (like Facebook but unlike most blog and online news commenters), and we have a city-wide forum where more political issues can rise to a larger more political audience. So, with the mother’s post, it is open and accessible for all to see including the local media. The Powderhorn forum has attracted nearly 50 new members to reach 500 in the last few days due to our intentional openness.