A few thousand progressive bloggers, journalists, activists and politicos gathered in Detroit, Michigan over the weekend for this year's Netroots Nation. The annual conference is host to trainings and panels on how to increase your web presence, become a better organizer and has become the go to event for progressives across the U.S. to network and share best practices.
Given how the right has painted Detroit as a referendum on Obama I thought it was apropos that we take our own look and get a different view of the city, or at least more complete one.
See what we saw below the jump…
Speaking to locals they seemed optimistic about the resurgence of art, shops, and former residents returning to help reclaim the city. Unfortunately though, even as some parts of Detroit see a new Renaissance the city and it's residents are experiencing real continuing problems. On Friday there was a protest led by National Nurses United of the city's emergency management board that cut off the water to tens of thousands of residents for delinquent accounts. Protesters held signs that read “water is a human right” and chanted various iterations.
They were furious that the shutoffs were a potential health risk and that many of those who had their water cut off were among the cities poorest and most vulnerable. Adding insult to injury wasn't just the fact that the city sits on the world's largest non-frozen deposits of fresh water (the Great Lakes), but that hundreds of thousands of dollars were owed by large individual commercial facilities like golf courses, sports arenas including both the Red Wings NHL team and the Lions NFL team, and the city of Detroit itself.
Many Netroots attendees joined the nurses in the march, tweeted photos and showed solidarity with a message that seemed to come straight out of Elizabeth Warren's keynote speech — the game is rigged.
Warren was the star of the show even though the program also included Vice President Joe Biden, who came on stage late and exasperated after having just learned of the crash of the Malaysian airliner and the possibility of American passengers.
But the conference wasn't all emergency response. Other than making some great contacts, eating some great pizza, and finally getting a ride with Uber, the conference offered a wide variety of issue specific discussions and presentations.
Two that I found most helpful were the Upworthy training that focused on increasing your reach with good content and compelling headlines, and a Twitter training that delivered helpful tips to grow your audience and even dipped into some advanced functions.
Both Upworthy's founder and top curator explained that there wasn't any magic fairy dust you could sprinkle to make something go viral, but that it was essential to start with good content. They also said they have never used a headline that including, “you won't believe what happens next,” but they did enjoy a good parody.
The Twitter training (which you can follow at #twittertraining) was an overview by Zach Green (@140elect on Twitter) and helped unlock things like advanced searches to find what the best current content is at any given time. His most memorable advice was “listen before you tweet” and that it was OK to recycle good content — basically what works as good framing today will surely work again down the road.
One of the best lessons over all came from a panel on how feminists fight sexist trolls on line. A panelist said she got a troll to stop harassing her after she started donating to a reproductive justice organization in his name anytime he attacked her.
I like that idea and it also seems to be working for the Mayor of Salem. Infact it also worked for for the city of Detroit, because we went there, spent some money and helped contribute to the rise of the city from the ashes of its former self, not unlike a Pheonix — which just happens to be the home of Netroots in 2015.
Follow me on Twitter at @joethepleb.