Friends, colleagues, cocktails and journalists mingled last Thursday to celebrate crowd mentality and wisdom and to welcome the re-vamped social rant-and-solve website TheNag.net.
‘Nobody can be a perfect sustainable citizen,’ Jamie Burdett, co-creative director, reassured the crowd at the site’s re-launch in a small gallery in Covent Garden. `It’s OK to just be angry, that’s enough.'
That is the premise behind the new incarnation of The Nag – the radical idea that it is fine to just be angry about something. In fact, venting your various pet annoyances on the web becomes a good thing, breaking open issues to an infinite community that can help you or start to effect action.
For the uninitiated, The Nag, created in 2007 by Cyndi Rhoades, was an online community which people could join in order to be ‘nagged’ once a month to change a particular part of their lifestyle to make it more sustainable. Members could also ask one another for advice on how to go about living more sustainably, but the emphasis was on the monthly nag.
The project attracted over 8000 members and won an international award for best ethical website. But Cyndi felt the site’s potential was not being filled.
‘We hit a wall,’ she said. ‘We realised we needed to change things in order for people to really get involved and for things to start happening. We had to shift from us telling people what to do, to people getting involved and doing it themselves.’
The new site acts as a forum where users can vent spleen about whatever ethical or environmental issue is bothering them. Others then comment, offer advice, spread the word, ‘follow’ the topic or go further to create an action and try to make a change.
By publishing rants, users open issues and start a conversation about them, with every chance of finding a good answer or solution, or instigating change.
‘This website has the power to take one person’s thought and turn it into an action,’ said Jamie. ‘What people really need at the moment is a platform to allow a community to cluster around an idea.’
Cyndi thinks the power of crowds to quickly mobilise is constantly demonstrated by international events, and the ability of large groups with common interests to quickly self-organise at low or no cost, assemble and take action is a game-changer.
‘The Holy Grail for us is to take these forces and get people to act and engage in social and environmental issues on a grand scale.'
Cyndi hopes the ideas on the new site feel more accessible coming from other people than the preaching of lofty instructors. ‘People are sick of being told what to do, but maybe we don’t need the experts to tell us what the solutions are, maybe we have that knowledge ourselves, but maybe we haven’t had the technology to do that until now.’
Andy Gibson, who worked as a consultant on the site says ‘It’s gone from one nagger to many naggers.’ He thinks it benefits from being much more playful and less worthy than other environmental sites, and should sport the tagline ‘Yes, someone else can.’
‘A lot of people are quite busy, lazy and apathetic,’ he said. ‘This is the only environmental website that respects your apathy.’
Apathetic or not, most of us hold some sort of grudge against the world, directing hot frustration at anything from the Russian doll packaging of Easter eggs to the amount of sugar in kids’ cereal. The launch crowd was no different, kicking off the site with a rant from a disgruntled cyclist about the motor vehicle’s undisputed right of way, saying she does not cycle in London because she is ‘not suicidal’.
‘People love a good rant, to get things off their chest’ said Jamie. ‘It’s now about what people can do to make things happen.'
The atmosphere in the room is one of excitement that this time around, people might be persuaded to go a little further than switching light bulbs. ‘This is about stimulating change,’ said Cyndi.