Read Geek Speak: Dave Olson, True North Media House in it’s entirety, in context (also archived in this repository). The article runs from one of many photos my pal Vancouver photographer Kris Krug captured of my mug…
Ya know, Stan Smyl is my all-time fave hockey guy – i’ve shared more about this great dude before so in this case, i’ll share a few snaps of hanging out at the beginning of the Vancouver Olympics 2010 at a corporate beer branded event “party tent” where i was invited for some sort of event.
Apparently i was telling Stan about my “Dr” Hunter S Thompson Media badge and/or John Stockton also wearing #12 or that we love to cook “Stan’s Mom’s Perogies” from the 1982 Canucks Family cookbook (note to self: share that precious artifact).
Social media strategist Kris Krug said talks are underway to host the True North Media House in the W2 Community Media Arts Centre.
“We’re just a bunch of kids who are doing social media and online media and we just want to cover the Olympics,” Krug said. “We’re banding together to share sources, resources, photographers, places to work, press briefings.”
Krug and Dave Olson are leading a local new media group that sought access to the Games through VANOC and the B.C. 2010 Winter Games Secretariat.
“We were shut out and frozen out at every step of the way,” Olson said.
Krug said the International Olympic Committee is reluctant to open the doors wide to new media, fearing that it will erode the value of international TV contracts.
They adopted an if you can’t join them, beat them with kindness strategy and conceived the True North Media House.
Tom Sawyer famously talked his gang into paying him for the privilege of whitewashing a fence while he sat by and supervised. In this talk by Dave Olson at SxSW Interactive on March 10th 2012, he shares how companies might inspire their community to crowd source projects by engaging passionate users with a mutually beneficial relationship.
This video – made from appropriately crowd-sourced photos, social posts, and other snippets + music – includes Mark Twain-period costuming, pipes, smoking jackets, board games, old-timey suitcase, mysterious envelopes, audience participation and plenty of laughs while focusing on practical tactics to rally communities with clear expectations, boundaries, rewards, and objectives and importantly – without manipulating.
3 very different project examples provide tangible advice for various campaign timelines, outcomes and audiences, and include:
* True North Media House: a long-planned (and fantastically successful), renegade self-accreditation citizen documentation project at Vancouver 2010 Olympics / Paralympics
* Phones for Fearless: a rapidly planned and deployed initiative to gather dis-used mobile phone/cameras for use by marginalized communities to tell their stories
* Hootsuite Translation: activating global cultures to speedily and accurately translate and localize a social media dashboard using a web tool… with unexpected outcomes
Includes cameos of dozens of bright faces in Austin at the noteworthy event, plus more recent voice over to bring the projects up to date and share more resources to explore further including screenshots from various media appearances, reviews, tweets, and whatnot of the talk and aftermath for extra colour. Continue reading Crowd Sourcing Community Projects like Tom Sawyer at SxSWi 2012: video
My frequent collaborator and co-conspirator on many adventures Kris Krug has a new website. KK is a Vancouver-area based photographer (he lives on idyllic Galiano Island) with creds ranging from conferences to rare bird docs on remote islands to sojourns in distant countries spreading goodness.
We’ve done many projects together over the years including Frederick Varley Vancouver-address photo essay, trip to Jamaica, several SXSW and Gnomedex geekfests and all sorts of goofing around in unusual circumstances.
Kris Krug’s Flickr archive is majestic and his new website is a replacement for his previous iterations which were hijacked via an SMS hack in 2018. So frustrating and a reminder to solid up your security (including SSL) and ensure you are working with a reliable host and domain registration provider (i use Laughing Squid and Gandi for the record).
There are many posts in this archive under the Kris Krug tag as well including lots of Olympic social documentation stuff around the True North Media House project, TEDx events at which we were the “official” documentation squad, longboard hockey for Heads Magazine and a panel about Rock n Roll photography with legend bev. davies.
Included are photos of us for the record.
Leading up to Vancouver 2010 Olympics, filmmaker Andrew Lavigne followed, filmed and documented various stories around social justice and social media. One storyline was the “True North Media House” a renegade media project cooked up by me, Kris Krüg & Robert Scales based on our experiences documenting previous Olympics. In brief, we wanted to create a context in which grassroots bloggers, photographers, podcasters, vidmakers etc. could capture and share stories, reach a wider audience, and (if they chose to) stay out of trouble with IOC.
We aimed to take a non-political, non-denominational, non-everything kind of approach in that folks were welcome to write about whatever they want and participate anyway they wanted as long as they: took responsibility for their own work, published content under creative Commons license, submitted their RSS feeds to our “firehose”. This was unique amidst the adversarial relationship the Olympics built up with various constituent groups in the community. In other words, the Olympics were going to happen in our city, and we had an opportunity to share stories of what life is really like in Vancouver, the neighbourhoods we live in and the changes we saw to our civic society during that time, plus lots of parties
Wisely, we eschewed a physical space in favour of providing a litany of meet-ups, campaigns, workshops, and offering access to our mailing list and other channels to all the PR agencies, hospitality houses, various educational an activist groups and so on providing a wide variety of topics and events for TNMH accredited documenters to document. By the way, to be accredited, one must agree to the three principles above, and print out their own badge, lamination optional but recommended. Overall, so many wonderful people took on this challenge from youth to elders, people who thought they would have no interest in the Olympics to people who were diehard enthusiasts, to activists to people seeking free beer.
Uncounted thousands of stories were created, amplified through some very strategic social media kung fu, and the story of True North Media House became a story for the mainstream media with coverage in dozens of publications. Indeed, some “mainstream” journalists wrote with a glint of envy about our lack of word counts, deadlines and assignments… Yet we were motivated and focused enough to actually create compelling narratives and artifacts.
NOTE: Former VANOC communications chief Graeme Menzies shared his opinions about IOC’s constantly changing policy of controlling social media content (both from athletes and citizens) on behalf of rights holders and sponsors and, (often) against wishes and rights of locals.
Article shared below for posterity along with comment for your perusal. Comment written/posted just after the opening of Rio 2016 Olympics.
Opinion: IOC, sponsors have hijacked social media | Vancouver Sun by Graeme Menzies, June 30, 2016
As the 2016 Summer Olympic Games rapidly approach, sports fans in Rio and across the globe will use social media to observe and participate in the experience. It promises to be, in the words of brand marketing executive Brian Yamada the “largest social media event ever.”
He’s half right. What it’s really going to be is the most branded social media event ever.
Maybe also the most profitable for media moguls.
Perhaps it was inevitable, but I’m nevertheless disappointed that the IOC and all its corporate and media sponsors have hijacked social media for their own purposes.
It certainly didn’t start off this way.
Back in the months leading up to the Vancouver 2010 Olympics — what would eventually become the world’s first social media Games — people had the idea that social media was “the people’s media.” Part of the thrill and promise of social media at that time was that anyone could publish without approval of editors, gatekeepers, or censors.
Everyone could be a reporter. Everyone could express an opinion.
The whole notion of “official media accreditation” was challenged. Some social media activists rejected the officially-sanctioned rules and roles of media participation in Olympic events, and created the True North Media House — a voluntary, self-accrediting cohort of non-tradition citizen-reporters. There was also the W2 Culture + Media House, an alternative media centre located in the Downtown Eastside, which aimed to create a place where both traditional and non-traditional media could merge and meet for mutual gain.
Social media at this time offered a potent, exciting, new way for people outside the IOC family to engage in the Games and to share their views and experiences with each other and the world.
There was a sense that power, and a voice, had been returned to the people. And there was a dream that the sport event audience could become more than traditional observers and consumers of organizational and corporate narratives … that the audience could in fact be co-creators of the event and help define the media narrative.
Oh how innocent we all were.
Things have not unfolded as we hoped they would. The IOC has moved from passive social media observer to dominant social media player. In 2009 they were content to watch the local organizing committee launch the first official social channels. Today local organizing committees take a back seat to the Olympic giant: the @Rio2016 Twitter handle has a mere 295K Followers compared to @Olympics 3.5M
Unsatisfied with dominance over mere organizing committees, the IOC also engages global brand marketing agency VML to actively promote the Olympic movement and help with their social media strategy.
The IOC’s controlling hand extends to persons not on their payroll: during the period of the Games, and especially while on official venues, all athletes and accredited persons must adhere to the IOC’s social media guidelines. Live-streaming applications like Periscope are prohibited inside Olympic venues.
Mainstream media corporations are also getting in on the action, eager to turn sports fans into revenue streams. Comcast has made a deal with Snapchat to broadcast highlights from the Rio Olympics on the NBC Rio Olympic channel on the Snapchat Discover platform. The media giant is also talking with Facebook and Twitter about similar deals. Reports say Comcast has already scored a billion dollars in national advertising sales for the Rio Olympic Games.
Its all big business now. The citizen-reporter, the alternative media centres, are no more.
Sadly, the opportunity for regular sports fans to meaningfully shape the event narrative is weaker now than it was six years ago. We didn’t know it at the time, but that was as open, unfettered, and non-commercial as an Olympic social media experience was ever going to get.
Graeme Menzies is an international youth marketing professional, and frequent writer on sports and cultural topics.
Comment from Dave Olson:
Since Graeme published this article, I’ve wanted to write a appropriate response but, realized that the story of “Olympics and the social media” is almost gone.
It also occurs to me that it doesn’t matter to the IOC who are in the business of hamstringing cities into debt under the guise of utopian amateurism and sport.
Indeed, Vancouver will go down not only as the high point of participatory journalism but maybe as the “last reasonable Olympics” (despite the endless snide comments from foreign media who derided the games as not quite glamorous enough for their fickle tastes).
Each Games is preceded with a barrage of negative news pointing at the organizational foibles and these stories often overshadow the social justice and civil rights issues which locals pound the drum about eager for a voice at the table. Then, inevitably, everyone rolls their eyes at the cost and complaints, until the Games begin and then, through an odd sense of quasi-patriotism (jingoism) and excitement of seeing the youthful athletes making maximum efforts, the negative stories recede after the events end.
The media decamp before the Paralympics begin, the clean up crews deconstruct the endless white tents, and the agencies/countries hosting the hospitality houses count their impact. Then, the various levels of governments figure out the wreckage and the long term impact to the region.
While Olympics are catalyst to create infrastructure (which often should be built anyhow), the social justice issues which were raised before fade as quickly as the black SUVs disappear.
The stories of crippling debt from Montreal to Athens, and the excess and hubris of Beijing and Sochi, leave a sour taste in the most ardent sports fans’ mouth. And now Brasil is next in line to suffer the indignity and abject loss which is part and parcel to an event which is really only bid upon by cities with enough money that the fallout doesn’t matter.
Some folks put forth that the Olympics should rotate around 6 venues or build a special venue to be used each time, but these miss the point… the Olympics are a 2 week+ TV commercial for the host city, and a windfall of contracts for specialized companies to build and organize the events, and another 4 years of junkets for the IOC and their elite sponsors in thuggery. Its just not fun for the regulars.
Keep in mind, from Nagano onwards, i’ve actively contributed content (pod, blogs, snaps etc) to the commentary and dialogue, and did so from a point of view which accepted the Olympics at face value and as “inevitable, so let’s make sure the unknown stories are told” point of view. My efforts included wrangling the True North Media House campaign which resulted in social content produced by hundreds of amateurs on their own to a quantity and variety which eclipsed anything VANOC, IOC or the various protest groups managed. We did the whole campaign for about $15 ($50 if you include beer).
Now, i’m just worn out of seeing cities buy into the scheme and the athletes used as tools for profits of endless parade of acronyms of various sports associations and authorities that, despite legions of bureaucrats, still cannot provide a clean, fair games. Seeing athletes in one sport struggle for any support while across the way, millionaires line up in the “spirit of sport” … just makes no sense how it makes no sense.
Digressions aside, back to the original point about social media: IOC has changed positions and enforcement each Games… both in terms of what athletes and teams can post, but also what spectators, and even regular people living in the host city, can share without evoking the wrath of lawyers. As a result, the story is not complete (the TV networks sure don’t tell it) and the issues which were critical before the Games, vanish afterwards.
The IOC is adding “youth-ish” sports to the games to remain relevant for future generations but they again, miss the point and the zeitgeist of youth and the way communication occurs in contemporary context. But i also realize the TV rights fees and sponsors money keeps increasing which is the IOC’s real game – the sports are just a product to market.
Thanks anyway IOC, but i’m not interested anymore. Go amateur athletes (!) go far somewhere where you are treated fairly and compete on a level playing field which is clearly not the Olympics forte (or purpose).
NOTE: I first met Mr. Menzies (the author of the article) when he was obliged to reply to my offer (on behalf of Alternative/Independent media makers) of assistance, coupled with insistence in being included in an event which impacted our city and tax bills.
NOTE: When possible, articles are shared in full for historical record and annotated with original link when source is broken and/or accessed from Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine or Google cache etc. during Feb. 2017.
## Media coverage about homelessness and Olympics:
Stop the War on the Poor, says DTES Protestors 24 Hours, March 15, 2009 ## Downtown Eastside residents angry at police crackdown via Wayback Machine – original Canadian Press > CBC News, March 15, 2009
About 100 people gathered in wet weather to protest the Vancouver police crackdown. (CBC)
Residents of Vancouver’s poverty-stricken Downtown Eastside protested Sunday against what they see as a pre-Olympic police strategy to drive them off the streets through petty ticketing and random identification checks.
About 100 people showed up outside a police station on Main Street — formerly the department’s headquarters — in the heart of the gritty neighbourhood.
Pelted by wet snow flurries, speakers angrily rejected the police business plan that calls for more tickets to be issued for bylaw infractions such as jaywalking and street vending — laws they say aren’t enforced in Vancouver’s nicer neighbourhoods.
Clyde Wright of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users said members “have been ticketed for offences such as stepping off the curb unsafely, riding a bicycle on the sidewalk, having no helmet, having no bell on their bike.”
The police plan calls for more summons to be issued to enforce the fines, which Wright said are a hardship on residents living on social assistance.
“This is targeted harassment of poor people,” he told the rally.
Protesters set up a sidewalk sale hoping to attract police attention, but officers stayed clear, instead blocking the street to traffic as the rally spilled off the sidewalk.
The police business plan, released in January, outlines various tactics it says is aimed at curbing street disorder in what is perhaps the poorest neighbourhood in Canada.
It sets targets for charges under the provincial Safe Streets Act and Trespass Act and requires each police Beat Enforcement Team shift to conduct a minimum number of identification checks in the neighbourhood.
Another tactic involves not laying charges for simple drug possession, instead seizing the drugs to avoid lengthy paperwork that keeps officers off the street for hours at a time.
David Eby of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association says the crackdown seems to be an attempt to clean up the Downtown Eastside before the Olympics. (CBC)
No one from the Vancouver Police Department was available Sunday to comment on the protesters’ complaints, but spokespeople in the past have said police are trying to crack down on street disorder because residents want to feel safe.
But David Eby, president of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, who attended the rally, said he believes the 2010 Winter Games have a lot to do with the plan.
“It’s hard for me to imagine this isn’t related to the Olympics,” he said. “It’s an entirely new initiative. More tickets than have ever been given out in a very short period of time.
“The goal is to harass the people who are living on the street down here, who are addicted to drugs or mentally ill or just too poor to even survive anywhere else. To harass them into other neighbourhoods and spread the problem out over the city.”
## Alternate Version: Downtown Eastside residents protest police ‘street sweeps’ CBC > The Canadian Press, Mar 15, 2009 ##
Police cracking down on poor: Activists Metro Vancouver News, March 16, 2009 ## Police accused of harassing the poor with nuisance tickets – via Internet Archive Wayback machine – original The Province News, March 15, 2009, Ian Austin
VANCOUVER — Downtown Eastside activists took their protests of police harassment to the steps of the Vancouver police station Sunday.
The activists, who want to know why public money is spent to lay nuisance charges such as jaywalking, set up a garage sale at the entry to the station at 312 Main St.
“At a time when there is so much concern in the region about gun violence, all these police resources are being used handing out tickets to people who will never be able to afford to pay them,” said Ann Livingston, executive director of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users. “I find it unbelievable.
“It is further marginalizing people who are already struggling to survive.”
Under a portable tent structure, a group sold a variety of goods to protest tickets for unauthorized “vending.”
“The poverty in this area has been put on the police business plan as a crime issue,” said David Eby, executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. “People can’t afford these tickets — it’s $100, and that’s almost one-third of the $375 they have to live on each month.”
Priscilla Mays of the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre accused the police of trying to sweep the streets before the Olympics.
“It is not a coincidence that the increased ticketing is happening in the lead-up to the Olympic Games,” she said. “It is happening to ensure that residents live in a state of fear and intimidation so that the [Downtown Eastside] is cleansed of poor and homeless people in time for the tourists.”
City Coun. Kerry Jang said the ticketing is part of the Project Civil City campaign that’s a leftover from the previous city government.
“We are speaking with the police of a different approach,” said Jang. “Our solution is to create more housing.”
Downtown Eastside residents fear they’ll be jailed during Games Canada.com > Vancouver Sun, Feb. 16, 2009 (Press Reader.com version available) ## Some people can’t afford to pay fines given during ticketing sweep for civil disorder Canada.com > Vancouver Sun, February 16, 2009 (Pressreader.com version available) ## Police crackdown not welcome 24 HOURS News, February 16, 2009, by Matt Kieltyka
Downtown Eastside residents are feeling a little uneasy with the Olympics fast approaching and it starts with the police, protesters say.
Supporters of the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre took to Pigeon Park yesterday to protest aggressive bylaw enforcement by police.
The women – backed by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, Pivot Legal Society and Carnegie Community Action Project – say a 50 per cent spike in tickets issued to DTES residents last year is criminalizing poverty.
“People are being ticketed for basically being in the street,” said organizer Harsha Walia.
Walia believes that enforcement – many for acts such as jaywalking and loitering – is being conducted “to make sure the Downtown Eastside is cleaned up for the Olympics.”
BCCLA acting director David Eby said the tickets have a knock-on effect, through court no-go orders, that prevent people from accessing essential services in the Downtown Eastside.
Pivot lawyer Douglas King says his agency is helping people dispute the infractions in court.
He has also called on city council to eradicate former mayor Sam Sullivan’s Project Civil City, an initiative King says has opened the door for aggressive ticketing.
“The city voted against Civil City when Gregor Robertson was elected,” King said.
## Downtown Eastside residents say tickets unfair CTV News, February 15, 2009
The 2010 Olympics are being blamed for police sweeps and aggressive ticketing in Vancouver’s poorest neighbourhood.
Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside — is where addicts can openly inject drugs on the street — but jaywalking is an offense that comes with a ticket and a fine of $25 for people who can least afford to pay.
Activists say police are giving out more and more tickets to clean up the Downtown Eastside in time for the Games. And they claim the tactics are wreaking havoc for the most needy.
“I think that’s ridiculous, they wouldn’t do that on Granville, they wouldn’t do that on Robson, and people do that over there,” said local resident Paula Potter.
Vancouver police issued a flurry of tickets in the Downtown Eastside last year. Community groups say officers are targeting residents for minor infractions.
“We’re seeing things like ticketing for jaywalking, spitting, and “illegal” vending,” said Harsha Walia of the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre.
It’s being executed as part of the province’s Safe Streets Act, passed in 2004 to crack down on aggressive panhandling, and championed by former Mayor Sam Sullivan. The mayor came up with his “project civil city” plan in response in order to deal with public disorder.
Last year, officers issued 467 tickets for violations under the safe streets act, more than double the previous year, the majority of them in Canada’s poorest neighbourhood, the Downtown Eastside.
Residents say it’s all about maintaining an image before the Olympics.
And there are plans to increase ticketing the area even more. According to the VPD’s draft business plan for 2009, the target is a minimum of four street checks per officer per block.
“It’s totally unfair and totally disrespectful,” said Wendy Pedersen of the Carnegie Community Action Project.
“Imagine how you would feel if you had no money and stepped off the pavement and you got a ticket for jaywalking, knowing nobody cares about your safety, that really it’s about scooping you off the streets for the Olympics.”
Not paying the ticket can mean ending up in jail or being banned from the neighbourhood.
The fight will go to court this week. Residents are being encouraged to contest their tickets on Tuesday.
With a report by CTV British Columbia’s Jina You.
## “Downtown Eastside crackdown misguided, groups say” Globe & Mail, February 12, 2009, Frances Bula
If Doug Everitt lived anywhere besides the Downtown Eastside, he doubts he’d be getting the kinds of tickets from police he does.
The 50-year-old construction worker has had five in the past few months, some for riding his bike without a helmet, some for jaywalking on the streets near the residential hotel where he’s been living.
“I just feel like I get targeted because it’s something they can hold over my head so they can get me off the street when they need to, like the Olympics,” said Mr. Everitt, who has had his struggles with drugs and is now on methadone. “And it’s gotten a lot more aggressive lately.”
What he’s noticing is the effects of the Vancouver Police Department’s new 2009 business plan, which set new targets for ticketing and street checks in the Downtown Eastside to maintain public order.
The neighbourhood, home to a high concentration of poor, mentally ill and drug-addicted residents, is infamous for its pockets of chaos, with crowds of people selling random articles on the sidewalk or gathering in alleys to buy and sell drugs.
The police plan, which was initiated in December but made public two weeks ago, is coming under fire from the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and AIDS groups for the way it targets people like Mr. Everitt because they live in a particular neighbourhood.
They say the crackdown, which envisions banning people from the neighbourhood if they accumulate enough tickets, actually endangers people’s health, since it prevents the drug-addicted and marginalized from accessing the numerous services in the Downtown Eastside aimed specifically at their problems.
The groups sent a public letter to Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu objecting to the new plan, which set a goal of issuing 20 per cent more tickets for bylaw offences, 10 per cent more tickets under the provincial Safe Streets Act, and requiring any beat officers to do at least four random “street checks” per block every day.
“This doesn’t solve any of the underlying issues,” said David Eby, a lawyer with the civil liberties association.
His association’s letter, which was also signed by six AIDS organizations, noted that “bylaw offences identified for targeting by the Vancouver police appear to be those most closely associated with dire poverty, including sleeping outside and street vending.”
The police crackdown is also prompting concern from other social-service agencies in the area.
Mark Townsend, who runs a non-profit that operates a number of residential hotels for people who have psychiatric or addiction problems, said many of their residents are getting ticketed. One resident, who is mentally ill, is now afraid to go outside for fear of being arrested.
Mr. Eby noted that a scientific study on the effects of a previous crackdown, called Operation Torpedo, showed that more aggressive policing succeeded mainly in spreading drug and public-disorder problems to Commercial Drive, Broadway and the West End.
Operation Torpedo started in 2003 and tapered off about a year later. It increased the numbers of beat police and even saw officers on horseback going through the neighbourhood.
The police chief at the time, Jamie Graham, said the department was moving to more aggressive policing to create some order in the neighbourhood and make it more livable for residents intimidated by the level of drug-dealing and general mayhem.
But critics say that approach doesn’t really get rid of anything.
“Yes, the Downtown Eastside is chaotic but just because the chaos is spread out over a larger area doesn’t solve the problem,” Mr. Eby said.
Vancouver city Councillor George Chow said his Vision party, which dominates council, hasn’t formalized a specific response to the police plan. But he did note that he and his colleagues are pushing for other measures to try to control street disorder in the Downtown Eastside, like finding indoor places for dumpster divers to refurbish or sell what they have collected.
Special to The Globe and Mail
‘Street sweeps’ protested Downtown Eastside groups oppose ticketing campaign The Province Newspaper, February 16, 2009 ##
NOTE: Link broken, seeking update, not archived by Internet Archive Wayback Machine or Google cache.