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January 19 2012

20:25

For immediate release: Beautiful Trouble: A "how-to-think" manual for 21st century activism

This is likely to turn out to be one of the most important projects I worked on in 2011 and that I will continue work on in 2012. It’s hard to believe that this project is now a reality, or that it all started as quite a casual conversation with Andrew back in September 2010. Seeing my name in a list of contributors that includes people like George Mombiot and Starhawk is also kinda’ mind-blowing. The work that Andrew and Dave — and more than sixty other amazing contributors — have put into this project is nothing less than awe inspiring.

The release is below. Please circulate widely!

There is 20% off pre-orders for the physical book, e-book, or both until January 30, 2012.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Publishing April 1, 2012

BEAUTIFUL TROUBLE

A Toolbox for Revolution

ASSEMBLED BY ANDREW BOYD WITH DAVE OSWALD MITCHELL

A “how-to-think” manual for 21st century activism Prank websites. Militant carnivals. Flash Mobs. Virtual sit-ins. Guerrilla musicals.

From Cairo to cyberspace, from Main Street to Wall Street, today’s social movements have a creative new edge. Social activism in the digital age is melding prank and PR; blurring the boundaries between artist and activist, direct action protest and pop art. These principles that make for successful creative action are more common today than we realize—yesterday’s Wikipedia blackout in protest of #SOPA is one of many prominent examples—but their foundations rarely get hashed out or written down.

Until now. In the irreverent, activist tradition of Steal This Book and The Anarchist Cookbook comes Beautiful Trouble, out April 1, 2012 from OR Books.

In Beautiful Trouble, seasoned pranktivist Andrew Boyd assembles the accumulated wisdom of decades of creative protest in order to place it in the hands of the next generation of change-makers. Part manifesto and part reference guide, Beautiful Trouble is the anti-textbook—a dynamic, 21st century how-to that brings together ten grassroots groups and dozens of seasoned artists and activists from around the world. Among the groups included are Agit-Pop/The Other 98%, The Yes Men/Yes Labs, Code Pink, SmartMeme, The Ruckus Society, Beyond the Choir, The Center for Artistic Activism, Waging Nonviolence, Alliance of Community Trainers and Nonviolence International.

Beautiful Trouble is not another how-to manual; it’s a how-to-think manual. In the shadow of austerity and ecological crisis, the urgency of this political moment demands resources that will transform outrage into effective action. Click here for a look inside.

Andrew Boyd is an author, humorist and twenty-five-year veteran of creative campaigns for social change. He led the decade-long satirical media campaign “Billionaires for Bush.” He co-founded Agit-Pop Communications, an award-winning “subvertising” agency, and the netroots movement The Other 98%. He’s the author of three books: Daily Afflictions, Life’s Little Deconstruction Book and the creative action manual The Activist Cookbook. You can find him at andrewboyd.com.

Dave Oswald Mitchell is a writer, editor and researcher. He edited the Canadian activist publication Briarpatch Magazine from 2005 to 2010, and his writing has been published in Rabble, Reality Sandwich, Rolling Thunder and Upping the Anti.

Beautiful Trouble: A Toolbox for Revolution, Assembled by Andrew Boyd Publication date: April 1, 2012 Paperback, $25, 978-1-935928-57-7 E-book, $10, 978-1-935928-58-4 400 pages Visit www.beautifultrouble.org

For more information, or an interview with the author, contact Fern Diaz at fernanda.diaz@orbooks.com or (212) 514-6485.

June 13 2011

23:20

A beautiful book sprint for Beautiful Trouble: Tips on collaboratively writing a book.

I’m just heading back to Toronto after what I would consider to be an incredibly successful “book sprint” for the Beautiful Trouble project.

What’s a book sprint?

Basically, we brought together a group of fourteen (incredibly talented and generous) contributors — both physically in NYC and remotely — for a weekend of focused writing. People came from far-and-wide: from as close as Brooklyn, Cleveland and Pennsylvania, and as far as Berlin, Denmark, and Paris.

At the end of the weekend, the group had started work on more than 70 articles and written more than 30,000 words. I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say: we crushed it.

If you’re working on a book or documentation project with many contributors who are working on discrete pieces of content, here are a few tips on how to run your own book sprint.

First, from the venerable Allen “Gunner” Gunn channeling the venerable Adam Hyde:

  • Focus: The key to the overall success of the book sprint is focus. Staying focused on the tangible outcomes, and the steps that need to be facilitated to get there, helps to ensure that actual work gets done.

  • Deliverables: Be clear about what you’re asking people to write. To accomplish this, we wrote example content and created templates (with word counts, etc.) for each type of content. We asked participants to work from those templates and examples. We used Google Docs for all of this: the templates, examples, and assignments.

  • Output: Put the attention of the gathering on output — generating the raw number of words necessary to gather some momentum. Not everything is going to be great, but that is what editors are for.

  • Distractions Probably the best advice that Gunner gave us is “make sure the work sprint doesn’t turn into a brainstorm sprint.” We really took this to heart and had people focused on writing for about 70-80% of the weekend. The brainstorming we did do was not about the book’s content.

Logistically, we made sure to:

  • Have one person that is facilitating, not writing: This was Andrew and his role was to coach people, spot edit, and to put wind in our sails. Basically, he said “if you’re blocked, come talk to me.” He and Duncan also used a bullhorn to berate us with calls to work harder (or to take group yoga breaks).

  • Make remote participants visible (and vice-versa): To bring the energy of the in-person sprint to our remote participants, I used Ustream.tv to broadcast a continuous window into what was happening in the room in NYC. To bring remote participants into the conversation, I used Skype (with somewhat limited success) and the live stream chat tool. For the next sprint, I’ll probably use an audio conferencing system instead of Skype for our larger group check-ins to ensure that both the people in the room, and the remote participants, can talk to each other.

  • Make editors available: Our tireless editor Dave Oswald Mitchell did a fantastic job working through articles from Paris, but — ultimately — just having two editors for the weekend was a bottleneck. Ideally, we would have had more editors available at the in-person event to work with contributors. Having contributors read each other’s work was helpful, but needs to be facilitated to ensure that peer-based work is useful and not counter-productive.

  • Make progress visible: Allen had suggested that we announce when finished pieces where coming off the pipeline as a way to keep spirits up, especially for the remote participants. However, I took that a step further and created a regularly updated “Book Sprint Leader Board” (screenshot at the top of this post) to add a little fun competitive energy into the mix. Next time, I’ll probably take that a bit further and have it list the number of pieces in progress and completed by author, along with their total word count and something like ‘velocity.’ I’m probably getting carried away — but hey!

Format-wise: We started with a really long day on Saturday — started early and finished late —and limited the post-event socializing to ensure that contributors had lots of energy on day two.

On day two, we started early and finished early. We did a large group brainstorm that day on where we wanted to take the Web compendium of the Beautiful Trouble book — perfect timing, as the folks in the room had be immersed in the content all weekend. Then we encouraged people to not start anything new, and — instead — to focus on finishing up any articles that they had already started.

At the end of day Sunday, we went out for celebratory drinks, food, and — for the exceptionally brave — a screening of Super 8.

There’s our recipe for a successful book sprint. Your mileage may vary.

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