Category Archives: Activist Hacks

Create Printable Checklists With LibreOffice or OpenOffice

(Be advised: For this system to work you need Webdings, or another font that features a hollow square, on your system. Also, I created this on Ubuntu GNU/Linux so your mileage may vary on option placement within menus)

Checklists can have a big impact on your ability to get large numbers of people to do things more precisely and effectively. I wanted to make some printable checklists for Green Party tabling, event production, you name it.

I tried creating a bulleted list in LibreOffice but found that, absurdly, it was missing a “hollow square” bullet graphic. They have solid squares:

…which are not helpful. They even have “checkmarks”

which create, of course, the opposite of the psychological effect I want to achieve with this list. What about the provided “graphical bullets?”

Absolute garbage. So what do we do? I hunted around, and if you click on that “Options” tab you find a screen that allows the selection of a character as a bullet:

Click on that strange, sad little ellipsis box next to “Character” and a pop-box appears:

Select Webdings as your font, and scroll down until you find that lovely Hollow Square. Select it, then select “Ok”, and start making a template using a bulleted list:

Make note that I’ve adjusted the indent of the list. Your team will thank you. Ok, maybe they won’t, but take some pride in your work, dammit! Are you worried you’ll have to go through this song and dance every time you want to make a checklist? Put your fear in my mind-vise so that I may crush it, as we save your work as a template!

Ahh, but templates can be such a pain to find amid your myriad drafts of WALLANDER fan-fic, right? Then we’re going to Import your template file into LibreOffice’s gallery. First go to File -> New ->Templates and Documents. Now you have a new window:

In the pop-up shown above, click “Templates” and then “Organize.” That gives you another pop-window. Click the “My Templates” folder, then “Commands”, and select “Import Template.”

To access this template in the future, select File -> New ->Templates and Documents, then click the Templates icon…and there it is:

Happy checklist-making.

Oh You Have Got To Be Effing Kidding Me…

So, this morning I’m doing some maintenance at GPBK and I notice the contact phone number. Or rather I notice I don’t recognize it. I reached back through the mists of time to a previous regime and recalled we once had a voice mail service, that we let said voice mail service lapse. But maybe we updated the number after the vmail account collapsed? Oh no. It was the voicemail line, only now our former number has been delegated to some sleazy marketer with an AM Radio “Cash 4 Gold” voice.

Luckily I had a Google Voice account tucked away and that service includes free voice mail at a local number. Pretty handy! We even get voice mail notifications transcribed, texted and emailed to us now.

Care and feeding of the organization, my little chickadees! That is what will get you. You’re not a political organization if you’re not organized. That would make you simply political, and a bore at dinner.

In other news I secured meeting space for a GPBK local covering Greenpoint, Williansburg, Bed-Stuy, and Bushwick. First meeting is this Tuesday — continuing last Tuesdays of the month. I sent an eblast out announcing that, among other things this evening, which you can view here.

I’d like to try something, a scheduled web chat with Greens every Thursday night from 7pm-9pm Eastern Time. No idea who will show up. But we need to get creative with community building quick.

Quick Tip: Thunderbird Tags + Trusted Trio = Quick Inbox Processing

I get a lot of email and so do you. Gina Trapani’s Trusted Trio system of email folders is really helpful for sorting and storing whatever comes in. Every email you get either goes into the “Follow Up”, “Archive” or “Hold” folders (or is deleted).

Gina says her system is an adaptation of a Merlin Mann system, and to my eyes it looks similar to Gina’s cooked-down general approach to Getting Things Done.

The idea is we need to sort our email, but an overly-complicated system of folders yields diminishing returns since it takes time and effort just to decide where an email is supposed to go.

Reducing the number of folders to three helps, but it still takes…well…effort to drag those messages (with “Holds” and “Follow-Ups” and “Archives” all mixed up with each other) over to the different folders, and when processing a backlog of messages that can be a pain. And if your IMAP email is on a slow connection it can take a while for each folder to update.

My little contribution to this system, for Thunderbird users, is to use the numeric hotkeys for Thunderbird’s built-in tags for sorting. In my case I use “1” for Follow Up, “2” for Archive and “3” for Hold. These tags will instantaneously markup your email headers, with a neat color code to boot.

Then just use the “View” drop-down button on your toolbar to filter the Inbox by a tag. Then highlight all those “Archives” or “Holds” or whatnot and drag to the appropriate folder in one stroke. Voila! Now it takes only three drags to empty your Inbox, no matter how many messages are waiting.

If the View dropdown is not already there, right-click on your toolbar near the top of the window and click “Customize.” Drag the button to an empty space on the toolbar and you’re ready to go. Tag titles can be customized under Edit -> Preferences -> Display, and then clicking the Tag tab. Happy sorting!

Encouraging Diversity in Open Source (and organizing…)

Q: How do you go about ensuring diversity in an open development project? If all comers are welcome…

The same way any diversity effort happens, I think. Outreach, specifically asking people to engage, having prominent community members whose identities are clear.

Q: That’s interesting. Is that, in your view, an ethos that's coming from the White House?

It was more about what I saw as the failings of the tech industry where people would excitedly say, “You can get people to contribute to an open source app just by giving them t-shirts!” And the choice of t-shirts are men’s medium or large.

via Encouraging Diversity in Open Source | Smarterware.

Free Mission Statement Builder

Mission Statement Builder | FranklinCovey

A fun and useful tool that uses questions about your goals, “what would you do if you could not fail…”, traits you admire in others, your favorite work, and talents to stitch together a coherent and not-cheesy personal mission statement.

It also builds mission statements for your team and family, and there is a “freewriting” option.

You provide a name and email so the results can be mailed to you, and there are options to opt out of the mailing list and sharing your answers with the site’s online community.

On The Pareto Principle, 80s and 20s

Best explanation of the Pareto Principle (80/20 Rule) I’ve come across:

The point of the Pareto principle is to recognize that most things in life are not distributed evenly. Make decisions on allocating time, resources and effort based on this:

  • Instead of 1 hour on a rough draft for an article you may write, spend 10 minutes on 6 outlines for a paper / blog article and pick the best topic.
  • Instead of investing 3 hours on a website, spend 30 minutes and create 6 different template layouts.
  • Rather than spending 3 hours to read 3 articles in detail which may not be relevant to you, spend 5 minutes glancing through 12 articles 1 hour and then spend an hour each on the two best ones 2 hours.

These techniques may or may not make sense – the point is to realize you have the option to focus on the important 20%.

Lastly, don’t think the Pareto Principle means only do 80% of the work needed. It may be true that 80% of a bridge is built in the first 20% of the time, but you still need the rest of the bridge in order for it to work. It may be true that 80% of the Mona Lisa was painted in the first 20% of the time, but it wouldn’t be the masterpiece it is without all the details. The Pareto Principle is an observation, not a law of nature

via Understanding the Pareto Principle The 80/20 Rule | BetterExplained.

“Getting Things Done” For Green Party Activists: Prolegomena

(Screenshot from Time Management For Anarchists: The Movie by Jim Munroe)

Our ability to plan, process information, and manage projects is one of the few limiting reagents on activism that is almost entirely up to us. It costs very little money to get organized, it’s really more about skills and follow-through. And yet many Greens are **awful** at this.

Now, one could turn the nose up at “productivity culture” as a symptom of neo-liberalism’s agenda to monetize and extract value from every available minute, not to mention the decomposition of the institutional workforce into a rabble of self-managing perma-lancers and “independent contractors”. Activism has a long and storied tradition of resisting “productivity” directly: through sabotage, the work slowdown or work-to-rule, because higher productivity often meant more rope for corporations to hang us.

And, of course, many popular notions of activism and counterculture arise from memories of the Yippies and Slacker Nation and don’t-harsh-my-vibe-man, and while those stereotypes chafe modern activists (especially those who never identified with such cliches to begin with), I suspect the anti-corporate spirit we inherited (at least in part) from those forbearers has failed to discriminate between ways of working that shackle our time and hearts, and ways of working that allow us to focus our time and energy with intention.

One might think the Green Party (and when I say Green Party, I’m speaking exclusively about the GP *I* work with in NYC and New York State, though I suspect there are commonalities across the country) would be pretty organized because we run elections, right? I’ve noticed a few things about electoral campaigns, though:

  1. They’re inherently short term: Elections have a beginning, middle and end built into them, all under a year. That’s a far different project than, say, “How Do We Increase GP Enrolment in Brooklyn Over The Next Five Years?”, or even making sure that administrative knowledge and skills for keeping a local running are available outside of the minds of one or two Greens.
  2. They have an inherent hierarchy: The candidate and campaign manager rule. It’s a lot easier to have group cohesion when there is a singular vision and set of goals to rally around. Campaigns have varying degrees of consensus in their operations, but in reality it’s the candidate’s ass on the line.
  3. They tend toward crisis-driven management: The mark of a good campaign team is how far ahead it can plan (and carry out those plans), but the campaign season is full of the unexpected. That goes double for third party, insurgent candidates. Scandals among the opposition, lack of money, windfalls of money, variations in volunteerism, hot-and-cold press coverage — all these normal elements of the election season encourage reactive, ad-hoc decision making that privilege quick turnaround over long-term consequences (see #1).
  4. We are crap at making one electoral campaign build toward the next: It’s difficult, due to the time between campaigns, but Greens are just awful at taking the lessons, skills, and resources acquired during one election cycle and making them available to the next. A lot can happen between election years –key people burn out or move on, for instance– which is why it’s essential that the knowledge of those key individuals be passed on in a reliable way.

The fact is, there will be no “mass movement” or social change without the ability to plan and carry out initiatives over time, with ever-increasing scale and complexity. We can thank the DIY movement for injecting some semblance of project management into our community, the apex being Jim Munroe’s excellent Time Management For Anarchists. But that focuses on individual self-management and, while that is essential, we need to think more about how to stay organized as teams.

There are two invaluable lessons from TMFA, however, that apply across the board and should remove any scepticism about “getting organized”. I offer them here as an appetizer of what’s to come.


When you develop a habit of writing down stuff, and refering to it often enough, you’ll find out an amazing thing: you can let it all go. You can forget about missing appointments, not getting stuff done, and have your brain back to think about creative, interesting stuff. If you’re worrying that you’ll forget to get copies done before some event, then you’re not able to think about what images you’d like to put on the flyer, what projects you want to work on next, whatever. (emphasis added)


Some of the things that will make it onto your to-do list need to be broken down to be approached both logistically and psychologically, because big tasks can really intimidate you. So you have to break ’em down. “Make a short movie” for instance. You might want to give it its own page in your agenda book, and think through what you would have to do for this. Write a script. Send it out to the people you want to be in it. Find locations. Schedule a day for shooting. (emphasis added)

These two ideas –collecting information in one reliable place **outside of our brains** to free up our minds for higher thinking, and breaking down tasks into physical, concrete actions– are the key principles behind one of productivity culture’s hottest systems, Getting Things Done. And that’s what we’ll tackle in the next chapter: “Whose Next Actions? OUR NEXT ACTIONS!”