Luke Allnutt (RFE/RL): Digital Activism Blogging


Luke Allnutt is not only the Editor-in-Chief of the English language service for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), but he is also a technology blogger who focuses on digital repression and digital activism.  As a freelancer, his work has appeared in  “The Wall Street Journal,”  “International Herald Tribune,” “The Globe and Mail,” “Foreign Policy,” and, amongst others.

The Major Role of Bloggers

One of the major roles of bloggers, according to Luke Allnutt, is to “take a high level of technical understanding and distil down the information to make it accessible for a wider audience.”  Allnutt also thinks that blogging is a fantastic way to educate your amateur-self on any topic that deeply interests you.  To connect with others who have similar interests, but who generally have more expertise, he suggests following people on Twitter, Facebook, and—especially—email listservs.  “Tap into what people write and then add your own ideas,” explains Allnutt.  Even better, slowly curate other blogger’s content as it relates to your specific topic of interest so that others in the field see your link trackbacks and find you in searches.

Finding the Pulse of Evolving Trends

Back in 2009, Allnutt began to (more closely) pay attention to where and how Twitter was used in Moldova, Iran, and other countries going through political movements or revolutions.  All the case studies really got him thinking about the role of such technology.  “(This technology is) fundamentally changing the dynamics of what’s going on,” Allnutt added.  An example of a major change in dynamics lies in Africa.  Since the expansion of broadband sea cables off the coast, web-based and mobile-based communications are more powerful, faster, and affordable to access than ever before.  “That access is for everyone,” continues Allnutt, “for example, farmers in Africa are using it to get weather reports and this can bring change to the way that people go about their daily lives.”

Targeting Readership

Allnutt agreed that he prefers that his readership consist of others that are interested in digital activism, but that he especially wants those readers to feel inclined to link or re-tweet his information so that a general audience has access to the spread of ideas.  Some of his ‘quick hit’ blog items (summaries of news items) are great to create traffic to his blog, but it’s best to create original content in a digestive format.  “The more you put into it, meaning the more reporting or deeper analysis that you do, the better it will be accepted by the (digital activist) community,” Allnutt says, “choose something counterintuitive or something that goes against the grain—controversial topics.”

Using Tech Blogging to Predict the Future

Of course, with a huge amount of Internet users comes a huge amount of data.  The data generated by apps on phones, to web searches, to social media databases that all this data will become available to the highest bidder to be eventually mined for profit.  “The vast quantities of data (being added) is the major revolution that we’re going through right now,” pointed out Allnutt.

Comments Don’t Always Happen in the ‘Comments’ Section

The old school belief is that the more people that comment on your blog, the more popular your content is.  However, today that is just not the case.  “Discussion happens on several platforms: other blogs and across social media,” stated Allnutt.  He suggests joining conversations by responding to other people’s blogs, replying to Tweets or Facebook posts, or replying to videos on YouTube.  While conversation cannot be forced, asking thought provoking questions or providing thoughtful insight can stimulate further conversation.  Everyone’s comfort level is different as well—especially when it comes to as controversial a topic as digital activism and freedom of the press.  “The community is, often rightfully so, overly cautious about the details that they receive or share,” Allnutt noted.

Allnutt’s Advice

“Just do it,” Allnutt proclaimed, “tap into the community (that you’re interested in) … engage with people on social networks and through your own blog, but be humble when trying to get in on the conversation.”




To contact Luke Allnutt: / @lukeallnutt

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(Thank you to Luke Allnutt for his contributions to this post.)

(The foregoing commentary does not constitute endorsement by the US Government, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, VOA, MBN, OCB, RFA, or RFE/RL of the information products or services discussed.)

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April Deibert

April Deibert

April Deibert is the Multimedia Blogger/Producer for the Office of Digital & Design Innovation. Follow her on Twitter: @BBGinnovate and @AprilDeibert.

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