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Community Is Not Clubs: How We're Segregating the Internet

Community is not clubs

Lately there seems to be examples everywhere of how we are segregating the internet into exclusive cliques and clubs instead of communities where we share real human moments. Statistics from the 2014 Employee Diversity Reports for our major networks show that online giants like Facebook, Twitter, Google, Pinterest, Ebay and Etsy all fail to hire employees or leadership that reflect the diversity of their users. With thousands of makers, artists, and creative types fleeing Facebook for the faceless Ello at the rate of 31,000 sign ups per hour alongside news of “The World’s Most Exclusive Online Community” Netropolitan with it’s $9000 buy-in and $3000 annual membership fresh in my mind, this post burned a hole through my head, into my heart, and out of my hands.

The problem with all our social networks, no matter how awesome they seem to be, is that we don’t own them or make them-we just use them. The people who do own them don’t speak for us or care about community, they represent private interests who commodify our lives for profit and have turned the promise of an open internet into a private gold mine. From where I sit it seems like most of us are okay with every social network from Facebook to the new Ello being owned and directed by the same tiny demographic. They are allowed to buy and sell our private lives because we’ve forgotten one important truth: we are not users or consumers, we are makers and all of this is ours. 

Fellowship, union, shared responsibility and common ownership are community, anything else is just clubs. 

Community is inclusive

You can see exclusion at work in any inner city playground where kids group up just like adults do. Sporty ones there, creative ones there, outcasts waaaay over there, while a tiny crew with the best toys, clothes, food and tools rules the whole yard. Unless it is a very good school, one that values inclusion and community, kids can easily forget they are all sharing the same playground and have equal rights. Our online and offline communities are no different-unless we constantly work to remember everything is a common resource we forget this playground is ours and that it is everyone’s responsibility to make sure we share it fairly and create a legacy for future generations. Otherwise we break up into tribes, bullies & hustlers take over leadership, and it’s all Lord of the Flies in no time. Our communities can be as exclusive and elitist or inclusive and diverse as we choose to make them, we’ve always had that power.

Community is and must be inclusive. The great enemy of community is exclusivity. Groups that exclude others because they are poor or doubters or divorced or sinners or of some different race or nationality are not communities; they are cliques – actually defensive bastions against community. M. Scott Peck, The True Meaning of Community 

Clubs have a place on and offline-we need to meet up with people who share our interests and specific goals like running creative businesses, sharing pictures, getting crafty, changing the world or a million other things. The problem is when these clubs get confused for community or we allow cliques to buy and sell connection and loose our common spaces.

Citizenship is for everyone

It’s time to take back the internet as a community. As citizens of this shared global resource we have the right and responsibility to advocate for and create spaces that represent and respect our true diversity. In a world that is increasingly divided showing we can manage shared resources ethically has never been more important- or harder to do.

If we can’t create multigenerational, multicultural, & multigendered communities together online how can we ever hope to do so in our cities and streets? 

We have the right to vote with our heads, hearts and hands for the kind of world we want to be part of on or offline-that is the beautiful difficult wonder that is citizenship. We can contribute to closed cliques and clubs or constantly do the work of asking how we can be good citizens if we exclude our neighbours.  When we use our time to vote for another network like Facebook or Ello we help segregate the internet a little more by choosing a tiny minority to profit from all of us.

Community for the Head + Heart + Hands

For years OMHG has been reaching out to make a stronger community for everyone together. On May 1st we held an Annual General Party to start the process of becoming a cooperative. In July we partnered with Communifire to give members a complete social networking platform limited only by our imaginations and effort. We offer ALL the features and then some that the exclusive Netropolitan charges it’s members $9000 to access or that Facebook and Ello appear to offer for free-if you don’t mind giving up your freedom (or your face). Unlike other networks the OMHG community meets up weekly on Twitter, stays in touch on Instagram, builds friendships on Facebook, visits on Skype or Google+, makes real tangible projects together, connects offline and has proven that people make communities, the platforms just host us. We are building a common space, made and owned by us, for everyone who wants to be a citizen of a community for the head, heart and hands.

As citizens we can write the terms of use, choose our platform and build our interfaces, we can decide to invest our profits into each other and our local communities, we can use our collective skills to create a common resource, we are responsible for being inclusive, hate-free, ad-free and awesome. 

We need thinkers, dreamers and makers of all abilities and ages to create a new community model that is diverse from the beginning. Elders, parents, adults, young people you are invited to become citizens and founders. Bring your ideas and skills to OMHG, help build our spaces, write our terms, lay a legal foundation, develop our democratic process and show that community is indeed possible. OMHG needs more variety in gender, ethnicity, age, talent, culture, and perspectives all willing to share a common space and some simple principles that we work on together.

So before You Sign Up for Ello…

Or the next big thing online, ask yourself if you want another online empire where the founders profit from you as a user or if you want to be a maker creating  warm, supportive communities where you are citizens with rights and responsibilities. Whether you become a citizen of OMHG, support or start a different network I hope this post will be part of a larger conversation about the difference between cliques, clubs and communities. At the very least maybe it will get us to take a closer look at who runs our networks and stands to profit from them. For the last 4 years the vast majority of OMHG profits have been invested into the site or community projects like our community art prints, Maker Mail and our Maker’s Retreat this October where we are gathering to make a movement. I’ve drawn a small salary from OMHG in order to continue our simple life raising children in a 200 year old house in rural Canada while travelling North America to find ways for us to connect in person. There is nothing faceless or mysterious about OMHG, we are regular, exceptional people who are making a community and want your help.

Social network founders can look like me (and you)

I don’t look like a social network founder and that is a problem, we need to see founders that look like me and you. I’m a 31 year old African American, Cherokee Indian, Jewish, Scottish, Canadian mother of two. I am a high school drop out, grew up in the inner city with few resources except for my single visibly diverse mother and survived addiction, multiple kinds of abuse and extreme losses before my 17th birthday. I dedicated my life to children and communities when I was 18 and have never looked back, I came to tech from offline cooperative, non-profit + community making and a lifetime spent including people everyone else left out. I know nothing about building a corporation but I have time to help our community find houses, learn to breastfeed, talk about suicide and support their projects- these are the only qualifications that really matter to me. What qualifications matter to you in our social network founders?

Share your thoughts on how we can have more communities and less cliques + clubs by talking about this post, leaving comments, starting conversations using #communityisnotclubs on any of the networks or becoming part of the OMHG community. Anyone can register for OMHG for free or pay a small monthly or annual fee to become a citizen, learn more about joining our community here:



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Afroretro School of Uganglish
Hey all my name is Anna and I am one half of sister designer/maker team AFRORETRO. We started our making journey about a year ago and we have had so many highs and lows, but facing them with your little-big-sis holding your hand makes it somehow easier. It also means in your darkest hour when it all hits the fan and every instinct in your body says quit and run, having your sis standing there holds you firm. We are definitely stronger together, so for my Academy of Goodness submission I am going to write a gratitude piece on my sister and our latest venture.

Lilly is so amazing and she doesn’t even know it. Growing up in a poor council flat- no paint on the walls with a part time dad you wished was non-existent could have lead to a negative, debilitating experience. But I have to say I had the most inspiring and creative childhood, mainly thanks to my sisters and my mum. But Lilly, the other half of AFRORETRO, was always somehow there for me, nurturing my creative self, teasing my imagination out and making me feel strong and secure in my play and creativity. She taught me to draw, paint, sew, write stories, sing harmonies, dance to MTV, write inspiring job applications; she taught me to reach for the stars and not look back. So it seems fitting that we are embarking on the impossible together now 20 years on with our Fashion and craft business AFRORETRO.

We design and make accessories, upcycled t-shirts, hand made jewellery and making and creating kits to help others make for themselves. This has also lead to us holding workshops across London. We hope to inspire others to be creative and make items that are not only useful but also beautiful, all inspired from our Ugandan and British heritage with sustainability at the root of all we do.

It is this that has lead us to launch The School of Uganglish. Ugang…what? Yup- Ugang-Lish. We at AFRORETRO have been very fortunate and worked very hard to be given a month long residency as part of MBE Yinka Shonibare’s Guest Projects Africa Initiative. The initiative:

“…creates a platform for African artists of all disciplines…It is a laboratory of ideas, a testing ground for new thoughts and action”. 

The School of Uganglish from AFRORETRO on Vimeo.

So with a manifesto like this and our imagination set to the sky we felt it was a call to arms or more precisely a call to every inch of creativity within us. We wanted to share this journey so we invited artists we knew or those that serendipity had brought us towards, to play within the ideal of Uganglish but with their own art form; be it music, textiles, design, food or craft. Uganglish is the creative space we inhabit, not quite Ugandan enough not quite British enough, but using this space in-between to celebrate our cultural mash-ups through creativity and empowering others.

So with less than two weeks to go it’s all coming together. The events and workshops are sorted, the invitations are making their way along fibre optic cables under the city and the best thing is that people are talking about it and are excited by what we’re planning. It seems creating a safe space to share and play within someone else’s culture is what the world is about.

AFRORETRO, School of Uganglish

I know that some of you reading this are far from London so may not be able to come a play in The School of Uganglish space. So we would like to invite you to come and celebrate your cultural mash-ups with us virtually.

All through The School of Uganglish we will be asking visitors to the space to print the story of their life on fabric. We will then hang these throughout the space creating a tapestry of colour, lives, experience and sharing. We would love you to join us by creating your print at home then sending us a high res picture. We will then display your fabric prints through the studio space and online.

Print the Story of Your Life

1. Join the School of Uganglish by downloading the PDF tutorial + watch the video of the Mono Print your Life workshop in action to see how it’s done. 

Mono Print Your Life with the AFRORETRO School of Uganglish

2. Create your print and submit it to + share the photos by tagging them #uganglish!

We are still fundraising to keep most of the workshops free and the other events as low cost as possible. We have a Kickstarter campaign and are rapidly coming to the end of its time (5 days and counting) So please, please, please take a look at our film and pledge what you can, even the price of a coffee and piece of cake can make the difference.

The School of Uganglish is enrolling now- bring your culture and lets get our creative-on!

AFRORETRO School of Uganglish, Anna & Lilly

AFRORETRO are British Ugandan sisters Anna & Lilly. A fashion and craft cultural fusion brand, they design and make hand made jewellery, fashion and textile crafts using Upcycling, sustainability, natural Ugandan materials and London life as their inspiration. They love making so much that they have also developed a range of making kits. They hold UpCycling & making workshops across London to share the love and empower people to make and create.


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01-header Hello, I’m Arianne, and I am “Captain & Founder” of a web and graphic design studio called Aeolidia. I’ve learned over the past few years to quit calling it a “small design studio,” now that there are 21 of us. Though I did get a little flustered introducing myself to someone over the weekend and saying that I “work for” Aeolidia – like I’m the receptionist or something (note: I do not have a receptionist)! Do you ever have a hard time noticing how far you’ve come? Jess kindly offered to let me share our anniversary celebration with the wonderful Oh My! Handmade readers, and of course I leapt at the chance, because I think just about most of you will delight in our manifesto and are well aligned with our company values. Aeolidia clients are bright burning flames

Our clients are handcrafters, designers, artists, oddballs, perfectionists, entrepreneurs, hard workers, bright burning flames! We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Is that you? Oh good. Read on!

A week of giveaways

Aeolidia loot giveaway Aeolidia manifesto freebie To celebrate our anniversary and the launch of our new site, we are smack in the middle of a week of giveaways. Don’t worry! You can still download the freebies and enter to win any of our giveaways. I’m going to give people time to check everything out, and then choose winners. If you see an entry form on the blog posts, you’re welcome to enter, because we’re trying something new this time: instead of having a set limit of winners, we are just trying to help as many people as we reasonably can.

Schedule of events

Please nose around our new site and enter to win as many as you’d like!

Monday: A celebration of the new site, and an adorable merman swag giveaway.
Read about our new site and get the swag »

Tuesday: A celebration of our clients, and free wallpapers and a manifesto you can print out and put on your desk.
Make your computer or phone pretty »

Wednesday: huge list of tips for improving sales on your website, and a free website evaluation.
Improve your site and enter to win »

Thursday: We help as many businesses as we can plan their next best step.
Ask us your burning questions »

Friday: We help as many business as we can set up a Shopify website.
Learn more about Shopify and let us do the setup for free »

Please share with your friends!

Our posts have some “pin-able” content and downloads – I’d love to have your help spreading these all over Pinterest and Instagram! We’d like to cast our net wide on our free service giveaway posts, so as many people as possible can enter to win. We will be reviewing websites, making “next step” plans for businesses, and setting up new Shopify sites, all for free, and as many as we can possibly fit in. I hope we can help your friends with their businesses. Please let them know. Thanks so much for following along over the years. I’m feeling happy!