My Idea Du Jour: 10,000 Tweets

Before Christmas, while working on the Save the Great Bear campaign, I had an idea for a Twitter-powered site that could, if successful, be an effective engine for spreading news and calls to action for social change causes. I talked with sundry people about it, including Rochelle and Geoff (they made Twemes), Joe, Boris, James and so forth. Everybody seemed to think it was a good idea. So I submitted it to this contest on (please consider rating my idea on the site–no registration required). Even if nothing comes of that (and the odds are against me), I’m hoping to build it.

What is 10,000 Tweets? Here’s a hastily-made one-minute video that (hopefully) explains what it does:
My Proposal for Changemakers from Darren Barefoot on Vimeo.

Focusing Online Attention on Good Causes

That’s it in a nutshell. After the jump I’ll excerpt some text from my submission, which explains and expands in text what the video summarizes. Just to clarify, there’s nothing at–the thing hasn’t been built yet. is a lens for hyper-focusing online attention on good causes.

Twitter is a ‘microblogging’ platform that has enjoyed tremendous growth and attention over the past two years. It already has several million users, and is expanding at an astonishing rate. In essence, it’s a near-real-time network for spreading news about one’s day, sharing links and chatting with friends and colleagues.

News spreads incredibly fast on Twitter, and enables web-savvy users to provoke rapid actions–whether motivated by profit, goodwill or just fun–in their online network. In January, 2009, Toronto-based PR expert David Armano engaged his Twitter network to raise over $15,000 for a needy family in less than 24 hours: aims to harness this defacto rapid-response network for good. It’s a simple website built using access to Twitter’s API. Each week, it displays a call to action that Twitter users are charged with spreading or ‘retweeting’ (repeating the message to their own Twitter network). An example might be:

Please retweet: Sign the petition to save the Great Bear Rainforest:

The website displays the weekly message, and also shows a counter of the number of times the message has been broadcast. A call to action is considered a ‘success’ when it’s been retweeted 10,000 times. The site would be paired with a Twitter account ( which would become essential to the process of disseminating the weekly message to a network of keen Twitterers would be the first degree of ‘retweeters’. would also feature a kind of polling mechanism like Digg or Reddit, so that the community could vote for their favourite cause for the following week’s call to action.

Talking to smarter people than me, I’ve been assured that it would be pretty simple to implement. What do you think? Does this site already exist? Do you think there’s a spot in the Twittersphere for this sort of thing?


  1. I’m really ambivalent on this one …

    One one hand, Twitter is an excellent platform for disseminating ideas and messages in the manner you’ve described, and I could really see this working.

    On the other hand, my internal “chain email” alarm is going off. Your graph shows a tree with direct parent/child relationships, with no other relationships between each node.

    What if I follow both Tom, Harry and Mary? I’ll see the same message retweeted 3 times … and even though I know it’s for a good cause, it’ll *feel* like I’m being spammed. From people I know. Just like when my parents forward me those chain emails. 😉

  2. @Mike You make a good point. I’d hope that given that it would be a kind of once-a-week burst, users would be forgiven of a little repetition. Plus, if you follow Tom, Harry and Mary, you’re probably following dozens or hundreds of other people, so it would have a relatively tiny impact on your river of tweets.

    The other, sometimes unfortunate, truth about those email forwards is that they’re effective social marketing. They can change people’s minds about things. Unfortunately sometimes that’s the inaccuracy that President Obama is a Muslim. Hopefully wouldn’t have that issue because the social change causes, whatever their politics, would be vetted.

  3. Nice. I had a moment of the same concern as Mike, but agree that seeing this only once a week, would make it much more palatable – and perhaps compel people into action (in addition to action hopefully becoming part of the social norm etc.)

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