Communication & relationships

Locals Only

Ripley getting set up in First Class

Several years ago while giving a lecture at The Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, the professor hosting my talk astutely noted that everything I’ve been involved with – be it putting out records, putting on art shows, building blogs, etc – all seemed to have a strong desire to build a community, and observed that perhaps a lack of community, or belonging as a child may have led to a life trying to manufacture that community. This was an art professor, not a psycho analyst, but he was more right on then he realized.

I moved around a lot as a kid so I never had the “I’ve been here all my life” experience that many other kids had. I was always the new kid and I was always trying to find my place in a group of friends who had known each other for years before I’d shown up. I was constantly trying to prove my worth and value to that community, even if I didn’t realize it at the time. When I was old enough to realize there was a world outside of my immediate surroundings and that I could actually interact with that world, I realized that world had communities too and that I might find a place that I fit in. And when the internet became an option that got a lot easier. I learned that the first and best way to a add value to a community was to actually build it.

And I love the communities that I’ve been with, but on some level I’ve always been envious of the people who grew up somewhere and were a part of the local community because of that. I have a great amount of Los Angeles pride but I’ve lived there for only 12 years. That’s longer than I’ve lived in any other place, and longer than many people who move to LA, but still nothing compared to people who were born there. And while this may not have any basis in fact, no matter what I do in LA and how much I rep it I’ll always feel that I don’t have as much claim to the city as others.

Reoccurring theme

Many months ago I did an interview about my involvement in Coffee Common and earlier this week I did an interview about Safecast. Both of these were published this week, and I noticed an interesting similarity running through them…

From Birds of Unusual Vitality:

“I look at my involvement with Coffee Common as a lot of trying to get people educated on things so that they can force the change that would never come from the industry itself. More educated consumers ask better questions to cafes, then cafes have to come up with better answers to those questions – and as a result of all of this, things changes. Trying to change something from inside an industry never actually works (or it takes years and years) I prefer the people to cause a revolution.”

From Fast Company:

To date, Safecast’s volunteer team has measured and mapped more than 3 million data points that comprise a rapidly growing dataset that will serve as a valuable baseline for the kind of in-depth environmental data the world largely lacks. And perhaps that will prompt people into demanding more–and more transparent–data sources.

“People assume crappy data is legit, and nobody’s held accountable,” Bonner says. “But by pushing this issue and publishing this really specific data, now people have to answer questions like, ‘Why is your data so much less specific than this data?’ Asking more educated questions is always good.

An Open Letter To Conference Organizers and Panel Moderators

Howdy,

First of all, I love what you do. Really. You’re terrific, and your efforts make our lives better. Don’t ever change. Well, actually, there is something that needs to change.

There’s a problem that persists across almost every conference I’ve ever been to. The good ones. The bad ones. The Amazing ones and the Meh ones. And we need to address it once and for all so that it can be prevented from happening in the future.

Super private email lists

In thinking about and talking to people about the kind of social network I want, the notion of email lists keeps popping up in conversations. Traditionally I’ve been pretty down on email as a means of conversation, and generally try to discourage it’s use when ever possible. Though I’ve listened to the arguments and as a means for keeping a small group of people connected it may just have it’s merits. What’s been most interesting for me recently is talking to people who run incredibly locked down private lists.

Oddly related, I’ve been reading a lot about outlaw biker gangs. I’ve been devouring both biographies of bikers and undercover agents who infiltrated the clubs. I say it’s related because in both situations we’re talking about a goal of a tight knit group that functions well, and in both cases when it’s been made too easy for people to join those groups, or when the groups have become too public, things have fallen apart. When the clubs stay private, avoid soliciting new members, and require very long “prospecting” periods before potential members can join so that all existing members can feel them out, things generally work better.

On leaving Facebook

For better or worse, I consider myself a fairly principled person. That is, I’ve chosen to live my life in a way that reflects my convictions. From what I eat to how I vote to what I spend money on, I consider how those choices impact me, those around me, and the world as a whole. I consider what my actions and choices say about me as a person, and take great care to ensure I like who that person is. Ethics are important. Convictions mean something.

If you know me in person you know this to be true. It’s not about changing the world, or even changing anyone else’s mind, it’s about being comfortable with my own choices. It doesn’t make life particularly easy, but I sleep really well at night.

When it comes to the internet, I’ve always tried to have my online presence reflect my offline presence. I frequently speak out in favor of things I support, and against those I don’t. But I hadn’t considered that where that online presence was also said something about me.

The Network I Want

Over on the NYT Blogs Jenna Wortham has written a piece about Instagram and the internet’s “secret” places. It’s a great piece and she discusses a number of things really interesting to me, especially given the recent acquisition of Instagram. I’ve written before about how the personal nature of Instagram was very appealing and I think that their focus was on just one thing (they didn’t even have a web UI) really worked well for them. It felt private, even if it wasn’t, and that was attractive. But with Facebook, arguably the least private place on the web, taking over the controls there, it’s no longer even a pretend safe haven. Jenna writes:

“…privacy is an illusion. There is no fail-safe way to publish privately online. Top-secret tweets and conversations can always be captured by screen shot and texted or e-mailed.”

Which is true, and something people need to realize more often. I had high hopes that Path would be a private place but it’s hard to feel private when updates are published to Facebook, and it’s hard to see the value in limiting connections, when in a click of a button you can share with everyone. I desperately want a place that doesn’t share with everyone. I recalled a few notes I made last year, kind of a wish list…

Very initial thoughts on Together Alone

I’ve been a Sherry Turkle fan for quite sometime, so I was pretty excited to see her talk at TED earlier this year. The video of that talk has just been posted, but if you were following me on Twitter during TED you may recall me tweeting out countless quotes from her at the time. Here’s the talk in case you want to watch it, it’s 20 minutes, but it’s damn worth it. Trust me.

The talk covers some of the issues in her recently released book Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other which I preordered while she was giving this talk live, but only recently started reading. I have to admit that I’ve really only cracked the cover (though, I’m reading it on my kindle, so does that even work?) and so these initial thoughts could be completely off base once I get further into the book, or maybe she even covers these ideas. I’ll keep reading and let you know what an idiot I sound like after the fact.

So anyway, I started reading and as I was reading I found myself verbalizing thoughts or comments about the text, so I started to write them down and next thing I knew I had several paragraphs, so I’m flushing them out just the slightest bit and posting them here for feedback, as well as later reference once I get further into the book.

Think Tank Thinking

I’ve been thinking about events a lot recently. More specifically about conferences style events that I’ve been to, I’ve gotten something out of, or felt like I was wasting my time being at. I’ve certainly been involved with my fair share of event organization and I know I’ve been involved with my fair share of events that wasted peoples time. I’d like to not do that in the future, and rather I’d very much like to work on creating events that actually mean something to people and they are better off for attending. In this thinking, I’ve been making some mental lists…

Things I’ve seen that make events suck:

  1. Sales pitches from sponsors/speakers
  2. Audience feeling like they are just spectators
  3. Huge audience with little interaction
  4. Boring venue
  5. More attractive location walking distance from the boring venue
  6. Single topic brought up again and again and again
  7. All attendees/speakers from one field

Things I’ve seen that have made events awesome:

  1. Hard to tell difference from speakers and audience
  2. Presentations that are open ended and spawn conversation
  3. Small audience with lots interaction. Under 100 total attendees is ideal.
  4. Inspiring venue
  5. Seclusion. No other location walking distance from the main venue.
  6. No clear connection from one topic to another, forcing the attendees/speakers to talk about the different ideas and how they relate
  7. Speakers and Attendees from diverse fields

I’ve been chewing on this for a while and need to think about it a bit more, but I think I’ll likely end up doing something soon that plays off these lists a lot.