130317-IdleNoMore4-m20Since I began conducting routine analysis of online activity of Idle No More, I’ve offered insight into what was going well for the movement and what was working against it. As online activity began to plummet in mid-January, most of my analysis became focused on chinks in #IdleNoMore’s digital armour. My intent is not to be critical of the movement. Instead, I’m offering these thoughts to identify what I feel are possible reasons for the apparent shrinking of the movement and decline in public and media interest.

There are a few signals as to why the movement is continuing to lose online momentum. Among them, the inceasing breadth and nature of the issues that continue to find their way into the chatter. Idle No More seems to be a movement which has taken to gobbling up new issues. It’s possible this might be an effort to nibble at opportunities to regain public support. Still, it reminds me that former Prime Minister Paul Martin once said that a government with too many priorities is a government with no priorities.

In my view, this is an indication of two specific problems with modern grassroots movements.

No hierarchy

A flat organizational structure is a point of pride for modern grassroots movements. It’s a way of proving there’s no need for central command or message control. The people will decide what the movement stands for and what it will achieve. Idle No More exists in a culture of equality. It’s an intriguing and energizing idea with which I have some experience. I participated in Ottawa Web Weekend modeled on this idea a few years ago. My sense is it’s an organizational idea which doesn’t scale well; certainly not on the scale Idle No More achieved in January. We observed a similar challenge with the Occupy movement.

No focus

I understand from news articles that Idle No More is going through a re-focusing exercise. The movement’s future depends on that. As I look at the number of issues being discussed online by the shrinking numbers of participants, I can’t help but notice the upcoming Global Day of Ceremony and Resurgence is barely registering as a whisper in online chatter; #M20 (a hashtag representing March 20) #M21 and #M22 collectively account for 81 of last week’s 10,200 tweets. One would expect a resurgence would need more online energy than that to have an impact when the day arrives.

I believe a modern grassroots movement can still be successful if only one of these is true. That is, with a hierarchy and no specific focus, the movement’s decision makers can at the very least organize to distribute goals and responsibilities around a variety of focus areas (think of nearly any political campaign or major company). Alternatively, a modern grassroots movement with a single focus and goal doesn’t necessarily need a hierarchy (think of #TellVicEverything).

Unless something changes, the potential exists that Idle No More will deliver critics the gift of pointing out the movement failed to carry any of its goals across the finish line.

What follows is the analysis of Idle No More online activity for March 10 through 16, inclusive. Analysis was performed using Marketwire/Sysomos Heartbeat.

Tweets Sources Average
Mar 10 1,390 725 1.9
Mar 11 1,695 911 1.9
Mar 12 1,575 765 2.0
Mar 13 1,402 682 2.0
Mar 14 1,363 696 1.9
Mar 15 1,399 705 2.0
Mar 16 1,376 664 2.1

There was an overall drop of 34% in all online mentions from last week’s analysis (from 17,747 last week to 11,688 this).

Posting a rise in activity:

  • YouTube mentions up 68% (90 last week, 152 this)

Posing a fall in activity:

  • Facebook mentions down 62% (from 2,389 to 901)
  • News mentions down 39% (from 201 to 122)
  • Twitter mentions down 30% (from 14,691 to 10,200)
  • Forum mentions, including Reddit, down 20% (from 109 to 87)
  • Blog mentions down 15% (from 267 to 226)

The 10,200 tweets issued this past week came from 3,419 unique Twitter accounts; an average of 3 tweets per account. The trend of decreasing participants continues, down a substantial 35% from last week.


The three Twitter accounts which issued the most tweets tagged #IdleNoMore, #NativeWinter or including the text “Idle No More” were @teamrevoltnow (880 tweets), idlenomoreyeg (223, down from 542 tweets last week), @databrokers (118, down from 170). They combine for 1,221 tweets or 12% of relevant tweets for the week. That’s double the rate of contribution for the top three tweeters from the week previous.

Female representation among the volume of contributions decreased 1% over last week, leading to activity skewing 54% male.


Much more interesting than a word cloud, a Buzzgraph shows connected elements of conversations to show how the pieces fit together. It also helps conduct analysis where there is some semblance of focus in the movement. That is, word clouds tend to change more dramatically and rapidly on a weekly basis. For instance, this buzzgraph shows continued activity surrounding oil companies and pipelines (oil, transcanada, pipeline), and Bill C-45 (c45) which was one of the catalysts for the launch of Idle No More. We also see the beginning of a new march of Idle No More activists who embarked on a 50km Journey of Nishiyuu from Shoshokwan to Kitiganik, Québec (walkers, quebec).

The following buzzgraph illustrates the connection between key terms in the most active conversations. The stronger the connection between the words, the thicker and bolder the connection line. There are three levels of connection illustrated by a thick solid line (strong), a thin solid line (medium) and a thin broken line (light). The Buzzgraph that follows shows only two degrees of connection during the election campaign — strong and light.


The most popular tweet of the week was issued March 12 by @paulseesequa. The tweet featured a photo of the 100 walkers taking part in the 50km Journey of Nishiyuu from Shoshokwan to Kitiganik, Québec has been retweeted 48 times and 4 people indicated it as a favourite.


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