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"Peace News has compiled an exemplary record... its tasks have never been more critically important than they are today." Noam Chomsky
Web against war
Since Wrexham Against War(now Wrexham Peace & Justice Forum) came into being in 2002, we've made a conscious effort to document what we do - through photographs, saved press releases, a website and our newsletter. Wrexham Peace and Justice News has now been going for four years, and the next issue will be our 21st.
We haven't always succeeded in our documentation project; for instance, keeping the photos up to date on the website in the days before photo-sharing services was a nightmare, while publishing every press release on the web during 2003, when we were doing at least one action a week - often two or three - proved more work than anyone had time for, and was eventually abandoned. I've often asked myself whether it's really necessary or worthwhile to keep a record of what we do. How many website “hits” are we going to get? Is anyone really interested in what a tiny peace group in Wales gets up to?
The importance and value of recording our actions was brought home to me a few weeks ago, when I decided to write an article about the Snowball Campaign at the nearby Capenhurst uranium enrichment plant.
Many people from Wrexham took part in this campaign in the 1980s, a time when very few of us had computers at home and the world-wide web didn't even exist. Consequently there was very little about Snowball on the internet, so I went out and did some good old-fashioned interviews with people who'd been involved to get the information I needed.
Hearing people's reminiscences first-hand was wonderful and the internet can never be an adequate substitute for this, but it would have been useful to have been able to find some more background information, to check dates and events, to get hold of old photographs and press releases on the net.
I'm not assuming that anyone in the future will necessarily want to know what we did, but if they do then the information will hopefully still be there for them to find and browse, and maybe people will come across it by accident from time to time.
In this respect, our documentation project is something for the future - a way of saving and sharing our experiences.
I also see it as a resource for now - inspiring people to take heart and take part. In the current political climate, it's easy to become despondent, and I know from our newsletter feedback that people do appreciate reading about our work and that this does, just occasionally, inspire others to act.
Over the past few months, we've been working on a new website for WPJF. The results, not perfect by any means but hopefully adequate and useable, are found at www.wpjf.org.uk
We have pages for latest events, diary dates, links, “contact us” and “support us”. Poems and cartoons have their own pages, we've made use of photo-sharing service Flickr to organise our photographs, and by the time this goes to press we should have finished archiving all our newsletters. We also have a blog (web diary), which we hope will be an easier way to record things as they happen than publishing a report on the website every time. At some point, we'll try to catalogue and upload our archive of press releases and action reports.
You don't need any great technical skills to make a simple website, to set up a blog or to put your photos on the web - just a bit of patience and a willingness to learn some new skills.
I would recommend that all local groups find some way to make a record of what they do, and to make this available to others on the internet. Then send the web address to Peace News, so we can all read about it!
Free internet resources campaigners may find useful...
- With Circleup you can email a question to a group of people and get back a single result with everyone's answer: “>http://circleup.com
- Tinyurl shrinks long internet addresses to a manageable size: “>http://tinyurl.com
- Yousendit is a way to send enormous files when they won't go by email: “>http://www.yousendit.com
- Multimap finds maps from postcodes, and gives you directions on how to get to that important meeting: “>http://multimap.com
- As well as train journey planner, National Rail offers Live Departure Board, so you can keep track of when your train is actually leaving for that important meeting: “>http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/ldb/
- Google Docs & Spreadsheets enables users (with a Google email account also free) to write documents online collaboratively with other people: “>http://docs.google.com/
- Skype internet telephony, enables free computer-to-computer calls (over broadband), and phone conferencing with up to five people: “>http://skype.com
- Google, the default search engine, allows you to search the web for document, for news, for images and more: “>http://google.com
Internet Service Providers ISPs provide internet access, email accounts and hosting for campaigning websites:
- GreenNet http://www.gn.apc.org
- Mythic Beasts “>http://www.mythic-beasts.com/
- The Phone Co-op “>http://www.thephone.coop/
- Riseup “>http://riseup.net/
Email lists Are used to send out newsletters, or to host discussions in your group/campaign.
- Riseup offers free email lists for activist groups. Mythic Beasts and GreenNet charge.
- YouTube has political video: “>http://youtube.com