Zeitgeist Netherlands: a new website

At Zday 2012 at Vinkeveen (Amsterdam region) we were happy to launch our new website. It is much more interactive, dynamic and offers great new functionalities. It's easier to find people in your region, to self-organize and to develop an ever better understanding of our zeitgeist.

Before I get back to all the neat stuff, why a new website? What were the needs and how did we get there? It's the culmination of our last year's experiences and efforts that helped shape it. It's hard work done by passionate volunteers, of which I name some; not to boast about them, but to give acknowledgement for earned hard work. May the new website be the tool for further growth we hope it to be.

The year 2011 has been a great year and many things were achieved. For example, an article on sustainable living and economic collapse by Jos van der Veen (who coordinates the northern region of the Netherlands) made it to the front page of one of our national newspapers: 'One day there won't be any money coming from the ATM. And then?' The Town Hall-meeting organized by David van Oudheusden and Gilbert Ismael caught the interest of a professor at the VU-university of Amsterdam, resulting in the participation of a psychology study into 'Leadership qualities within civil organizations’ where Zeitgeist is one of the four participating organizations. From Labour Union to 'new social movement'. This goes to show that not only is The Zeitgeist Movement being recognized as an 'organization', its leaderless structure is also being recognized as a new social phenomenon and maybe even revolutionary. I myself was one of the initiators of Occupy Amsterdam (1800 people at its height), which led to a lot of attention from mainstream media. An eight-page article explaining my view on the world led to informal, interesting and long talks with two members of parliament about subject matter relevant to what we talk about in the movement.

Naming just these few examples does not do credit to all that each of us undertook in the spirit of zeitgeist. It's all our efforts combined that create a new consciousness - the actions each of us take go beyond the moment itself and change society.

However, I'd like you to realize all of this time and effort comes on top of the already busy lives of those few that facilitate and keep things going. With new interest, the ability to cope gets harder. Things don't get done, ideas not picked up, etc. The forum offers no workable way for the willing: activism strands in non-productive discussion or is hard to filter out. (A new consciousness in future oriented, hands-on thinking within the movement itself, however, made forum moderation obsolete. With only little participation of the very active, this is well worth mentioning.) And those taking the effort to email us with questions or ideas are placing an extra load on the active few. Time for a more enduring solution!

A new website (link)
Zeitgeist Beweging Nederland banner
The first noticeable difference is for those administrating the website. The move from a joomla to a drupal system makes it easy to create new articles for the news feed or any other content for that matter. Overall this makes the website much more accessible for those not familiar with IT. Dennis Ruhe especially is to thank for the great amounts of time and energy put into this website and tirelessly realizing the many requests.

The first things noticed when visiting will probably be the fresher look and the more dynamic front page followed by a new site structure and its more interactive approach. Let's go through these!

Except for the forum, the old website was very static. If you're not into forums and/or don't want to wrestle your way through all the posts, odds are small that you'll be coming back soon. We felt we were really missing out on a great number of people and potential in this way. Therefore we made the homepage much more dynamic and active with randomly suggested videos, a regularly updated newsfeed/blog, an agenda on which anyone can submit events, and finally Facebook, zeitnews and forum feeds. This all makes it more worthwhile to visit our website more regularly.

All other pages are now sorted into four sections with the intention of creating an easy, natural and logical way of navigating through these/getting familiar with Zeitgeist. We've chosen to use a menu structure for our new website that represents the stages from first learning about zeitgeist to becoming an active TZM member: '0. The Movement' -> '1. Discover/learn' -> '2. Change' -> '3. Get-active'"

The '0. The Movement' section is where information on the Zeitgeist Movement itself can be found. 'Start here' introduces Zeitgeist in a nutshell and explains the site. Something we learned from the Italian chapter is the 'Who are we?' page. It shows the active members with photo, information and contact details. It makes contact easier and brings it closer to home: it gives Zeitgeist a face. This first section answers the questions on Zeitgeist and replaces them with new ones on society.

The '1. Discover' section takes off from here. There is so much more to learn and discover, 'Discover' offers the space for better understandings. It has a video, book, text and self-education section. Each video or book by itself has the possibility to reply to, allowing discussion and more interaction.
The better understandings offered by 'Discover' will answer questions (more completely) and raise new ones. They change the way we view the world around us.

The '2. Change' section bridges the changing world vision to a way of living differently. A better understanding can lead to a change of mentality and lifestyle. How can I change the future by changing my way of living? What can Í do?

When we '3. Get Active!' and find each other in discussion and action is when developments accelerate. It's where we can shape change together. Nothing motivates more than working on your passion, sharing it and getting appreciation for it. This is where we find each other in meetings, ideas and activities and start to realize that what I do makes the difference.
One thing learned over the year is that when we are all responsible for a wide range of tasks, we all do nothing. Each page on the website has the 'feedback' and 'suggestions' link to corresponding forum topics. Each page also shows who is responsible for the page. Earned trust (in communication) gives this person the freedom to coordinate his page as seen fit.

And... a new website (link)
For the activism part we have a separate site. We used the open atrium collaboration management tool that Australia has been using for a while. With groups per region or team it offers the possibility of finding each other in your region or your passion.

Regions that have no chapter have open groups that anyone can join. Regions with chapters have moderated groups. The regional coordinator will approve your request to join, allowing him the chance to get to know the new person. All the coordinators are in an invite-only national group, on read-only for the rest of the world: may transparency be combined with efficiency.
Each group has a section where other members can be seen and contacted, a blog to share your activities (no discussion! → forum), a task and project management tool: who does what, before when and what is the status?, group calendar, a notebook for common texts (chapter meeting report) and some other features. The calendar offers a great way to spot activities as all that gets added per region ends up on the front page calendar of the main site. The blog offers material from these activities to be presented on the front page.

Time for a holiday
The idea behind the website was to make the workload less for coordinators by providing a way of self-organizing. Common emails like 'I live in … Who lives near me?' 'What do you think about the action/idea of …' require management none are capable of doing. Connecting the dots becomes impossible. The question is always 'how do you organize and coordinate a movement loyal to a train of thought?' It implies a de-centralized character and bottom-up approach.
The de-central character of the Internet provides this answer. The activism-site is a good example of this. You can look up who is in your region and meet up; you can join an idea/action or start one. If something has not been done, you can see whose task it is in the task manager and approach that person, not one of the few already-busy coordinators.

The main site works the same way with the page-responsibility. You know who to contact. The suggestions/feedback links offer a lateral way of building page content.

With this new platform it's up to each of us to start getting familiar with the new website and learn to use the website as a means of communication.
Besides a great website, it's the friendships and a stable network that have been created to support this move. As this also makes me more and more obsolete, my upcoming three-month 'stand-by break' leaves me with the wonderful feeling of trust that all will be fine. Thanks everyone for your time, energy, love and hard work.

Seth Lievense

Update: Though not finished, we are working on an English version of the main website.
Any chapters interested in the website, please contact Dennis.