Tak-tak-tak is an online project to create a “crowdsourced citizen survival guide” for Russians.
Posted by Alexey Sidorenko on Dec 03, 2010
Tak-tak-tak was created by a group of Siberian journalists and a small web development company as an online meeting place for parties interested in social change. The creators intend their project to help people self-educate and to create what they describe as a “crowdsourced citizen survival guide.”
Tak-tak-tak, an accidental name for the project, offers everyone a platform to submit a story, a claim or a problem. Most importantly, users offer solutions (called “algorithms”) to overcome most typical issues. “The medium of direct engagement” — as Viktor Ukechev, one of the project’s founders (interviewed below), calls it — is supposed to fill the gap between journalists, citizens and civil society activists to provide a new format for the relationship with the government: the control of society over the authorities, something unimaginable in Russia for centuries.
The main activity of our offline organization, the Institute of Press Development, is training and consulting for journalists. We’re not a university, we don’t give diplomas, but we’re working on improving the qualifications of journalists.
In our current phase, we are aiming to help regional journalists and to develop citizen communication so that the journalists can meet their consumers, the readers, while allowing the readers into the journalists’ kitchen. So the readers can form the agenda. Unlike other news sources, we put an accent on the theme of human rights, so that the people will shape the information agenda of the day. This way, people help journalists attract attention to real, painful problems. Together they can discuss these and find solutions.
Instead of a “traditional” vertical format of communications, we’re offering a new “horizontal” format for journalists and their readers. We call it “media of direct engagement,” a tool of direct democracy.
Currently in Russia, people are excluded from the process of decision making and we want to enforce people’s right to be a part of the decision making process.
First, we made the portal for journalists only. It wasn’t even called “Tak-tak-tak.” Later we decided to turn it into a social network, so it would live by its own laws. Only then it would be useful for its participants. It started a year and a half ago. We received a grant from the European Commission to work with the local press and decided to use the money in this project.
Of course, we want to be around for a long time. The vision is to create an important social network where people can enter with their own ideas, other people can join them, and they can discuss everything. A meeting place for citizens, lawyers, civil rights activists and journalists.
Right now a lot of civil rights organizations have their own websites, but they’re hermetic, centered on themselves, their leaders, and their opposition to the authorities. Common people don’t join them, only when they’re desperate. Mass media also don’t often make contact with such organizations. There’s no place where all the actors can meet.
We want to make a meeting place for those who know something, who want to help, who know the solution, where everyone is motivated to share.
There are success stories, but not many. If you look at our “Library” page you will see several types of messages: “Algorithms” (how people can solve certain problems), “Precedents” (court decisions) and “Success Stories.” We have about six algorithms, nine precedents, and one success story (plus one more will be published soon). We consider stories “successful” only if they led to success with the help of our site. There are a number of ongoing stories but we can’t call them a success as yet.
Our one success story is a rally in Omsk. The authorities don’t like rallies and don’t allow them on the conditions proposed by the demonstrators. The rally didn’t lead to anything, but the success is that the citizens made this rally happen — they fulfilled their right to the freedom of assembly.
Our main obstacle is a mentality problem. Our compatriots don’t fully understand the idea of human rights. Neither the authorities nor the citizens have this understanding.
Another problem is institutional: the lack of understanding between civil rights activists and journalists. They still can’t get together. Civil rights activists say to the journalists: “write about us,” and the journalists reply: “first deliver us some success stories or pay us.” Unless we show examples of successful joint actions we will not break this vicious circle.
There is also a lack of trust between citizens and the authorities. They can’t work together on an equal basis. Public control over the authorities isn’t common for our society. It’s difficult to introduce this kind of relationship. That’s what we want to do — tell that this kind of relationship is possible. The authorities should understand that this is useful for them.
Another issue is access to information. For example, the authorities publish a budget, but instead of highlighting the crucial information they just upload a 150-page document with no commentary or visualization.
First, we’re working together with our partners. One of our partners — the Institute for Information Freedom, from St. Petersburg — works on the issue of access to information. We held two seminars on this topic. We’re trying to solve it with the help of seminars and training. After that, we will send results of our work to the mass media and publish it on our website.
Different groups of people use it for different reasons. Some people like to complain, and seek for a place where they feel comfortable. They’re not interested in discussing other people’s problems. There are also people who have not fully discovered their abilities for improvement. They feel that “if I help tomorrow, someone else will help me another day.” It is a smaller group. Right now, these people can’t express themselves in a newspaper, and that’s why they’re using our project.
I must be honest with you. The initial idea was that people would post their stories online, and journalists would pick them up and make a big issue out of each little story. So far, it hasn’t worked this way. There are two or three stories that were developed with the help of journalists. At the same time, there are unusual cases. For example, there are two policemen who are willing to give advice. And they’re doing it not to defend the honor of the uniform but just to help people.
For the time being, we don’t have any relationship with the government. We applied three times for presidential grants (grants assigned by the President to help civil society), but we didn’t succeed. Instead, several very “traditional” projects won the money. The network is much too unpredictable, since it’s open for any ideas and for any people. Right now, the government isn’t ready for projects like Tak-tak-tak. But for our offline projects, like the seminars, we invite local authorities and it works pretty well.
We don’t know of any such cases.
No, it’s not a replication of any project.
We work with the Institute for Information Freedom, based in St. Petersburg.