Civic Diary 4/24/2016

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr)

OK I got off a bit on posting on my Civic Diary by a few days.  Pretty crazy week.

So if you’re new to this, this is my experiment in being a better citizen.  I’m posting once a week.  My current major efforts are to be more aware via joining organizations and following them, writing my representatives, and in general contemplating and analyzing what to do next.

So what did I learn

  • First it’s easy to think our representatives do the right thing, but sometimes they do stupid ones.  To wit, Feinstein, one of my reps backed a pretty badly thought out security bill in Congress.  So I wrote her specifically on that.  Gotta take the good with the bad – and I’m glad my continued awareness led me to figure this out.
  • Secondly, as I follow politics the truth of the matter is that to affect politics you have to be in an organization or be involved in one.  That’s it, end of story..  When you watch the protests organized by Democracy Now, or realize how people are involved in awareness and get-out-the-vote efforts, you realize people who get stuff done make the difference.  Yes, these people may be “the establishment,” but you’re not going to change that establishment until you get involved and make a counterpart or become part of it and change it.  Anyway, I think I need to ask more on how I can do my part organizing or being part of an organization – and Martin Longman puts it best, so just read this column.
  • Third, that question of “what more can or should I do” makes me realize the limits so much of us have – time.  There’s a lot of different tensions in our lives, which is a pain, but at least we can be aware of them and find a resolution.  Maybe you want to be an engaged citizen but can only do so much as you’re damn busy – at least you know it, admit it, do what you can, and maybe change what you do when life is less crazy.
  • Fourth, political activity is not a substitute for social activity.  Community work, your friends, family, city, clubs are also important.  I think there’s a kind of continuity we need to find between all levels of our lives to be good citizens . . . and it’s different for each of us.
  • Fifth, the more I pay attention to news the more I realize how much B.S. is out there.  The news is a product and it’s meant to get your attention.  Be selective in your news consumption, and look for real information.
  • First and foremost it’s about Citizenship as Nancy LeTourneau puts it.  Read that column too.
  • A lot of these realizations are pretty humbling.  Asking how to be a good citizen kinda makes you realize where you fail or are ignorant, and suddenly you don’t get so arrogant about your fellow citizens activities.

That’s it for me.  Have you started your Civic Diary yet?

– Steve


Civic Diary 4/15/2016

(This column is posted at, and Steve’s Tumblr)


My latest voyages into being more civicly engaged continue. So as noted my latest venture in being a civic geek were following important organizations, trying to write my congressbeings regularly, and looking for opportunities to be more engaged. I also had focused on the importance of any organizing to promote civic behavior.

SO what’s my findings this week?

  • First, writing to my reps – specifically over the Panama Papers calling attention to tax shelters around the world. Though the (incomplete) Panama Papers didn’t implicate many big US names, it still calls attention to tax dodges, and I figured it’d be good to prod them to do the same.
  • I should probably follow up on NC and Missisippi’s idiot Bathroom Bills as well. As there’s talk that NC may have suddenly made itself ineligible for federal funding, it might help to push that.  Note – I wasn’t aware federal funds could be withheld under conditions like that, so I learned something.
  • Following all these organizations makes you feel less alone politically. That’s a great benefit – but I can see where people get into cultlike devotion even to good causes.  Just realizing someone thinks like you do is something.
  • Once you start following organizations that keep you politically informed and find ways to be active, they often refer to other organizations and so on. Politically active organizations network and refer to each other, so you’ll find new and interesting was to stay informed and get active.
  • On the subject of being civicly active, it only took a few weeks for me to realize if I followed every lead I’d never have time for anything. I’ve had this happen before, so be warned – diving into being civicly engaged may be overwhelming. Pace yourself.
  • Since I started doing Civic Geek, and more and more as I do this, I realize a lot of the world survives on diverse, networked groups. From charities to political groups, official organizations to unofficial networking, there’s a huge amount of people keeping things going. It’s kind of hopeful, to be honest.
  • I’ve also come to realize how many people think just commenting on things is “activism,” as if leaving a sentence of feedback actually does anything. I think “protest” of any kind has become enshrined as something that’s always good as opposed to its potential to be wrong, annoying, or terribly misspelled.
  • A lot of people don’t appreciate the value of voting locally. So do it, damn it.
  • I’ve noticed my civic posts get some attention on Tumblr. Thinking Tumblr may be an untapped source of networked political engagement, like Twitter.

– Steve

– Steve

Geek As Citizen: A Retrospective

Many Worlds

So I’m working along the Geek Catalog – though life at times has conspired to challenge this “once a week” plan I had. Still, even now it’s chugging along and I’m learning a lot.  Glad I got an update this week.

So I wanted to share what I’ve found.

Now before I go on, I’ll answer the inevitable questions, yes I want to make it into more of a database anyway. But I’m going to save that challenge for later.

But as to what I’ve learned by cataloging geeky charities and civic engagements . . .

There Are Some Pretty Specific Ones – It seems that I keep finding some specifically fandom-based ones that surprise me or that I hadn’t heard of. Fandom-specific groups, banding together to do good works, often leveraging their social structure or even the ideals of the media.  It tells me there must be many more to find.

Some Are Well Known – In Their Spheres – Some of the highly fannish charities are “ones everyone knows” – but in there spheres. So some people think they’re known – and may be surprised someone had never heard of them.  There’s probably a lot of siloed fandom communication.

There Are A Lot Of Geek Causes – If you’re a geek and you want to get socially involved there is something for you and your individual geek. Coding, green, education, writing. If you like it and you want to use it to change the world, there is something there.  I may not have found it yet, but it’s probably there.

These People Are Serious – The folks I run into are serious, even when having fun. Be it lack of representation in STEM to improving technology access in impoverished areas, the people I meet are dedicated.  People want to make a difference.

These People Are Nice – The folks I’ve met are almost universally nice. They’re ready to be reached out to – though they’re often kinda busy.

A Lot Of These Causes Don’t Know Each Other – What gets really strange is to see how many geeky causes, events, charities, etc. don’t connect with each other or know about each other. Often they seem to be off on their own and not realize there’s more.  This isn’t just fandom silos, this is almost entire cultural silos.

There Are Some Surprising Resources – Things like Scistarter, and assorted charity guides are out there. If you are looking to be a civic geek there are places to help you get more engaged.

Go Local – There are many geek causes that are local – sometimes that’s part of their calling. Fix-it shops, computer repurposing, and so on operate locally (indeed they have to).  Others may have a dedicated geographic location like a museum. If you’re looking to be more engaged, it might be not too far outside your door.

Levels and Levels – Many geeky charities and causes have different levels of involvement. Some are charities, some raise money for charities. Some are local (as noted above), some national or international. If you look only on one “level” you may miss many.

Many “Geeky” Causes That Aren’t Fannish Aren’t As Aware Of The Scene – I meet people who are in geeky causes often unaware of the larger geek scene. I humbly suggest you get these people introduced to cons, cosplay, etc. and other things that can leverage your compatriots.

As I’ve explored options for Civic Geekery it’s been heartening and fascinating. There’s a lot out there, entire worlds and layers we may miss, a lot going on, and a lot of potential to change the world. The people have been nice, understanding, and committed.

If you want to change the world, there are plenty of folks out there who want to do it with you.

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at, publishes books on career and culture at, and does a site of creative tools at He can be reached at