Farewell Omidyar.net - Bienvenido Razoo!

Thomas Kriese :: Omidyar Network

In response to the question: "Why do you do what you do?"

"I understand that I do what I do for my daughters, so that the bubble of love I raise them in won't stop at my front door, nor at the corner, nor at the end of the pavement. I do it so that this world will be a better place for them."

In the summer of 2004, Thomas Kriese spoke at American University's Institute for Strategic Communications (which was held in tandem with that year's Silver Docs festival) about Omidyar.net - the social network buoyed by Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay. I fell in love. First with Thomas, who is this cute west coaster who was a geek like me and loves his daughters. Secondly with his network. Omidyar.net has been a pioneering community for do-gooders to connect with people who care about similar issues and, ultimately, vie for funding from Omidyar Foundation. The complex but super-ahead-of-its-time platform gave users points to distribute to one another based on quality and number of comments, and to a first-timer would seem intimidating. I was lucky enough to be at Thomas' presentation, and having a first-hand demo of the platform lead to a little fanaticism on my part. Hence the photo of Thomas (above) sitting 3 feet from my face to the right of my monitor at work.

While I've been little more than a "lurker" on Omidyar.net, as opposed to the more active participants, I am no less saddened by its dissolution than the some 20,000 members who have recently come to learn, via this message from Thomas in July, that Omidyar.net is, in essence, dissolving. They're smart cookies: the experiment affirmed the power of ugc (user generated content) and now, with the proliferation of other cause-oriented social networks, they are sending their advocates out to be productive on other platforms. It's the end of an era, and Social Signal summarizes the flagstone moment well.

But when one fly dies, 10 come to the funeral, right? Not that Omidyar.net is comparable to an annoying insect. The point is that there really is a wealth of new blood in the veins pumping the now seemingly plentiful cause-oriented online space.

For example, after recognizing similar inroads and missions, Zaadz - a community for the socially conscious - is joining forces with other communities for the socially conscious (Lime, Conscious Enlightenment and Gaiam), as Omidyar followers have been quick to point out given that their ship is . . . well, I disagree that sinking is the appropriate term, but you know what I'm saying.

Maybe it's a stretch to say that those communities are socially conscious - while a few of them are focused on green living, there's a heavy emphasis on personal well-being which is cool but doesn't totally fill Omidyar's void.

I'd venture that microcosms such as Social Edge, Care2, Idealist and Razoo will keep the Omidyar-ers engaged long after the network shuts down camp for good on December 31.

Social Edge, beholden to the super hip and innovative Skoll Foundation, focuses on all aspects of social entrepreneurship and lets the grooviest of the thought leaders in the field stake their claims and step up to the mic on Social Edge blogs, message boards and feature articles.

Care2, the body of almost 8 million bleeding hearts (nonprofit and corporate pros alike) is an extravagant - yet devoutly generous - hub for people who want to stay connected around similar causes or issues. They hold great happy hours with mariachi bands, but beyond that, provide tools to create and distribute issue-specific ecards and petitions. And holla! - they give you your own email account, profile and Care2 toolbar (like the Google toolbar people!) to stay as connected as possible to the network. I love people like Justin Perkins who do the work for me.

Idealist.org aka Action Without Borders is a rockstar for social causes. They renovated their site earlier this year (I blogged about this months ago) and have created a fantastic web2.0-esque zone to champion any and every mission. They're best known for nonprofit employment searches (yes, you can find your dream 'give back' job there), but they also have a solid base of members who are promoting their campaigns and talking about what's hot, whack and actionable across various groups. I'm pissed that I can't join now that I no longer work at a nonprofit, but how's that for INTEGRITY? Good for them.

Might I also add that Idealist can be read three ways: "Idealist," "Idea List" or "Ideal-ist," which harkens to the nature of the name of this blog: "Evange - List" (or "Evangelist").

FINALLY, Razoo, the newest social network for "people who care" hit the scene officially-ish on August 1. About 200 people including yours truly attended their happy hour tonight at the Play Lounge, and while I missed most of the festivities, people seem to genuinely want to make their new network succeed. Me, too. Nick O'Neill of the un-freaking-believable blog AllFacebook.com (which is only 2 months old but already receiving 1,000 site visits a day) is Razoo's "web guy" and, since I met him a few months ago at a DC gathering of Social Media Club, one of my new professional paramours. Nick and I agree that Razoo has its work cut out in terms of finding a niche against the other groups in the mission-oriented mafia (listed above), not to mention those who have already found their niche (i.e., Network for Good, which is striving to own the online fundraising/donation space).

I hope Razoo and the others hone in on their distinct niches so that the evicted members of the Omidyar family aren't aimlessly scattered to the 4 corners of the world. And I hope that anyone who is considering development of a new "make the world a better place" online community will look to the ones that already exist first, to see if there are opportunities to collaborate rather than be redundant. Like my boss-lady (Alison) says: there are a lot of social networks who have no friends.

In the meantime, my absolute best to Thomas and his crew.

And for the record, I am proud of my dual crushes on Thomas and Pierre, thank you very much. The brothas know how to love mankind.


Jacob Stetser said...

Just wanted to make a note about Zaadz; we've made a conscious effort to make a community based on the idea of making the world a better place. Obviously there are a lot of different ways in which people believe they can achieve that end, sometimes conflicting. So we choose to provide a space for respectful discourse and hopefully action, without pressing our own agenda (beyond respecting the space and the people within).

(To be honest, I read the thread you linked on O.net and was a bit dismayed that it strayed from the posted topic into diatribe and vitriol within the first two or three posts.)

As a result we sometimes get tagged as being too wishy-washy or fluffy by certain groups. (I wrote about radical vs seeker communities on my Zaadz blog around the time I started working there)... and from a 10,000 foot point of view I can see where that comes from.

But the vibrance of any diverse online community is in the micro-communities within, and I see a good mix of activists and thinkers have joined Zaadz since we opened in late 2004; a lot of that exciting work takes place in the 'Pods' which perhaps don't get as much exposure in the main areas of our site as they deserve.

In addition, we're committed to building tools for people set on changing the world and will continue to do so. We're adding a mix of general social networking 'amenities' and more specialized applications and tools for change over the next several months; and yes - it is exciting to be joining forces with several of the big influencers in this arena - but we'll be keeping our focus on this path!

Sorry for writing so much (more than I expected!) But it's a great overview of the O.net transition and the space, by the way - and thank you for pointing me toward Razoo - I personally had not yet heard of them.

bryan said...

Love the Blog! keep up the great work!

Rob Cottingham said...

Thanks for the link to my post on O'net. I too spent much more time in the background than actively participating, but I still find Omidyar's goals inspiring, and the team behind them to be a capable, creative and visionary lot. So I have great hope for that community's future.

Qui said...

Thanks Jacob, Bryan and Rob for dropping in.

@ Jacob - I appreciate your overview of Zaadz focus - I signed up for the site a few weeks ago, but after waiting to be "approved" got distracted and never confirmed by registration. Your comment reminded me to do so, and I am officially a member of the Zaadz community. Your comment also explained what it is I'm actually signing up for! The message on the site is not as clear, or I wasn't able to find it initially. Thanks again!

rebecca carpenter said...

Thanks for the great obituary for Omidyar. They were a true leader in the "social networking for social good" space -- definitely ahead of the pack. We're sad to see them go, and are humbled by the large shoes they've left for the rest of us to attempt to fill.

There are lots of good options for Omidyar alums out there -- you've named a few of the best. Thanks for including us, Razoo, on your list. We're proud to be part of a great group of folks working to make the world a little bit better. And we hope that the former Omidyarians (?) will find Razoo to be a welcoming new home for them.

Good Happens blog: blog.razoo.com

Qui said...

Rebecca - well put. I truly look forward to getting better acquainted with Razoo!

By the way, was it you I met the other evening at Play Lounge when I was speaking with Sebastian? If so, let's find a way to keep connected. My best (and apologies for my spotty memory).

Douglas@ said...

Thanks for writing Idealist.org up! It's great to be mentioned as the rock star of social causes, though no one at the office is sporting any of those Bono-style wrap around glasses just yet.

We've been expanding our focus recently to include Idealist Groups which are a way for informal or nascent groups to list themselves on our site, find more members and put listings up (like volunteer opportunities and events). Basically, you don't have to work at a nonprofit to utilize us!


Qui said...

Douglas - thanks for the note. I received the email from Jenny@Idealist about the launch of your groups, and I wrote back asking whether corporations and government agencies can also join, set up campaigns, etc. Maybe you can clarify that for me?

I'll shoot you and email just in case you don't know I'm replying.

And I'll get my butt back in the game over at Idealist.

Douglas@ said...

Qui- Good question about the groups. The simple answer is no. At the moment, we don't allow government agencies or corporations to list on our site. However, this will be changing as our site evolves. In regards to Idealist Groups, it's not a formal place to list a company or government agency. Employees can list themselves as a groups and what they are doing but it's not specifically a place for promotion of that government agency or corporation. I hope this clarifies a bit!


Qui said...

That makes a lot of sense - I would have been surprised if it was a free-for-all, and do appreciate the pristine environment you guys have created and are continuing to preserve for charitable orgs (sounds like the wetlands!)

I look forward to chatting with you more, Douglas.