The Cute Dog Theory

What the heck is the Cute Dog Theory? It is a remix of the "Cute Cat Theory of Digital Activism" which was the title of a talk given by Ethan Zuckerman at O'Reilly's E-Tech Conference in March, 2008 (notes from Ryan Singel of Wired Blog). In this talk, Ethan points out that the Web was invented so physicists could share research papers, but Web2.0 was invented because people want to share cute pictures of their cats. These same tools become very powerful in the hands of activists. Ethan's presentation takes a look at creative uses of well-known Web 2.0 tools from outside the United States that help digital activists evade Internet censorship and promote human rights issues to a wider audience.

These social media tools - like blogs, photo and video sharing, Twitter, and of course, social networking sites like Facebook - have made it easier for people share photos of their cute cats because of two twin revolutions going on - the ease of creating content and the ease of sharing it with local and global audiences.

This got me thinking about the adoption challenges faced by nonprofits in embracing these new tools. Many nonprofits are just beginning to use them as part of the Internet advocacy and organizing strategies. They are learning what works and what doesn't for nonprofit organizations here in the US. And, no there isn't yet a predictable template or formula. It takes trial and error to figure that for each organization as issues, causes, and audiences differ. However, based on observing nonprofits that have been effective - there are definitely some patterns of success for social media adoption.

The funny thing is that as I started to look closer, I discovered that many of these nonprofit Internet strategists are Dog lovers! Take for example the photo below of Jonathon Colman who is the Internet Strategist for the Nature Conservancy. There's even a photo sharing group on flickr called, "NpTech Dogs." A few years later, it is now the Cute Animal Theory

I still love dogs. Here's a few of my favorites on social media from nonprofit colleagues.

The Met: Dog Pinboard


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And there is Lexi, one cool Labrador (May she rest in peace)


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Meet Bella, a wonderful dog owned by Carie Lewis, who is the Social Media Director at the Humane Society of the US. Bella and Carie are featured in the first chapter of my new book, 'Measuring the Networked Nonprofit" The case study shares how Carie and her organization use experimentation, metrics, and learning to achieve success with social media and networked approaches. See more wonderful dogs who like measurement here.

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Meet Izzy, Deanna Zandt's dog who had to be bribed with cheese. Read her piece on relationships and engagement featuring puppies.

Carie's photo of Bella with the book inspired many photos of cute animals posing with the book.


Dirk Slater and cute dog ..

History of the Cute Dog Theory

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Jonathon Colman, Nature Conservancy