A space to share, cooperate and collaborate

Seth Godin has shared some lessons from his Alternative MBA.

Has it really been six months? Apparently so. The Alternative MBA was a six month, free, unpaid, learning exercise based out of Seth’s office in New York City.

It’s amazing to look back over the last six months and consider what I’ve done since I applied and was not accepted for the program. I almost got married in Belize. I spent 3 months touring the United States. I learned to ride and bought a motorcycle. I rode from San Francisco down to Los Angeles and up to Vancouver. I put in motion my retirement which will come into effect at the end of this month.

When I sum it up like that, it seems like a busy half year. It doesn’t feel busy though, as I look back on it. It feels like the normal passage of time. Things happen, we go places, we do things. Life continues to roll onwards.

In reading about the Alternative MBA I’m reminded of a dream. The dream of a collaborative working space shared with co-collaborators. The dream of assembling a team of inspiring people to simply collaborate and see what comes of it. I am considering how I might create that environment in my retirement.

I’ve spent most of the last 3.5 years in the developing world. A lot of time in Thailand, time in South Africa, Mexico and a host of other places. Having spent the last 4 or 5 months in the first world, and 6 months last year in Australia, I’m reminded of our greatest luxury: time. Above all else, I believe, first world residents have the luxury of free time.

I recently discovered the work of Clay Shirky and his recent book Here Comes Everybody. I read a bit of Clay’s writing on the Here Comes Everybody Blog. Clay talks about the free time that was created after the second world war when, for the first time, people began to work only 5 days a week.

However, I think the free time we enjoy in the first world is more than just 2 weekend days per week. We have choices which are simply not available to our developing world neighbours. We can choose to opt out. We can choose to live very inexpensively and support ourselves working only a few hours per week. The average person can probably work for one or two months and live the rest of the year on that money if they are careful.

Then there’s the wealth that parents, friends and other family afford us. The security that they provide. So many people find ways to take time out and create or build something they believe in. Support comes in so many forms. Government or other funding for goodwill causes. Private funding to start businesses. Free accommodation related to spiritual practises. Unemployment benefit. The list goes on and on.

As I travel and meet people who are choosing to opt out, I have an appreciation for how truly fortunate we are. The very option to not work is something most of the world’s population cannot possibly consider. It is both beyond their world view, their idea of what is possible, and beyond their financial means.

So here we are, first world citizens, blessed with abundance. An abundance of opportunity. Most importantly, I think, the opportunity to work little and have significant amounts of free time to pursue whatever aims we choose. I have chosen that path, I have chosen to give up work entirely in order to free my time completely from that constraint. I will, in a few short weeks, be at complete liberty to do whatever I please with my time.

Given this newfound and precious freedom, what will I choose to do? I am currently uncertain. There are a few ideas floating around. Some more nebulous than others.

One such idea is to create a collaborative work space. A working collective. An event, for a time, in a place, where people may choose to come and collaborate. What might these people do? I’m not sure it really matters. I think there can be huge merit in simply putting people together under a framework of mutual cooperation and support. An agreement to be helpful and supportive of each other’s work, and collaborate where appropriate.

Part of me wonders if this collaboration need be in a physical space. Could we build a collective electronically, over the wires? At this point in evolution, I think there is still great value in person to person contact. I believe there is significant merit in being able to walk over to another person and ask them for their help. To look into another person’s eyes and offer help if they might need it. I feel like a physical space for collaboration will greatly enhance the opportunities to create actual collaboration and cooperation.

What would be the point of such a space? What is the aim of the idea? I’m not sure it needs an aim or a point. I think in the spirit of an unconference Open Space Technology it might be hugely powerful to simply choose a location, a general topic, and let the magic unfold by itself.

I postulate that a topic like “fostering cooperation and collaboration” might be sufficient to inspire and motivate people. Such a broadly defined mission would allow for any number of projects to arise from the spirit of cooperation.

What next? I have registered the domain name cogawa.org. I was looking for names around sharing. A Swahili dictionary told me that gawa is the Swahili work for share. Cogawa came from that, as in to coshare. Co for cooperate, collaborate, and all sorts of other cogoodness.

On that domain I installed buddyPress, an open source social network. I’m creating a vision for what Cogawa might become. At the moment it is simply an idea to connect people who share a vision around sharing, cooperating and collaborating. Perhaps a physical collective location will serve that aim.

In addition to the domain and buddyPress I have now created a google group. An open platform where people may discuss, via web or email. Perhaps soon via wave. 🙂

I think the next step for this idea is to discuss it. To put the concept out there and invite potential participants to share their feedback. Would you be interested in spending time in a space with other people interested in facilitating sharing, cooperation and collaboration? Do you know people who might be inspired by these ideals? I will send this message to some people I know who might be interested and see what comes of it.

Now it is an idea, perhaps through sharing, cooperation and collaboration it may become a physical reality. I warmly invite you to participate in creating that reality.

Introducing Chris Guillebeau

I read Seth Godin’s blog. Seth wrote this about Chris Guillebeau’s newest manifesto called 279 Days to Overnight Success (pdf).

I have just finished reading the manifesto. I’m inspired. I agree with probably 30% to 50% of the content, but that’s not the point. The very existence of the manifesto is what inspires me. It’s time to make a change in my life. Thank you Seth and thank you Chris.

I’m not decided yet, but I think I’m going to retire as a programmer. I have a contract that finishes at the end of June. Right now, I’m thinking that I will no longer accept any money in exchange for computer / programming related work after 30 June 2009. I need to burn my boats if I’m going to move forward.

[ Burning the boats refers to the story that in 1519 Hernando Cortes led a small army to conquer a foreign land. He burned their boats after arriving to make it clear to his men, there is no retreat, conquer or die. ]

I think I may embark on a new project and call it the 12 hour experiment. More information to follow soon.

There’s still time…

… to apply for the alternative MBA. Applications due tomorrow (Sunday). I’ve just sent Seth my application. It’s done. It’s in. I can probably still make changes, I guess Seth won’t see it until Monday morning. But I won’t, it’s done. Now time will tell.

If I’m accepted, awesome, 6 months in New York working with a group of amazing people. If Seth doesn’t think I’m the right person for the program, equally awesome, I’ll be spending the next 6 months in Latin America. I really can’t lose. 🙂

Have a smile…

I’m applying, are you?

I have written my application for Seth Godin’s alternative MBA program. Are you going to apply? This is a game changing opportunity, I’d warmly encourage you to consider it. The deadline is the 14th of December, so there’s still a little time (at the time of writing!).

I’d like to ask for your help. There is a section at the top of my application called Friends and Family. I’d love your input there. If you think I’d be right for the program, or not. Please be radically honest, say exactly what you think. I will leave all comments un-edited (I may delete obvious spam).

I’ve emailed my nearest and dearest, I hope some of them will be able to help.

Seriously, think about applying for this program. Where will you be in 6 months time? Significantly forward from here? If not, this could be a wonderful opportunity. The higher the calibre of people on the program the better. 🙂

A non MBA with Seth Godin

Wow. I just woke up and read this. Awesome. I’m physically excited. My first thought is, apply, do it right now, immediately, without hesitation. Ok, reality check:

  • I have 6 months of expenses saved, I can afford it.
  • I could still spend 3 hours / day working on my own stuff.
  • How would I get a visa to remain in the US for 6 months?
  • I’d need to apply and be accepted!

It would be a huge commitment. I dreamed up a new project last night. One new customer per day. If I can find one customer per day for StraightPress, in 6 months, I’ll have a sustainable business. I was thinking to launch on 1 January, try to get a few other people on board.

There’s something about Seth’s focus that really connects with me. I’ve always been hesitant to fully engage with purely commercial projects. I’ve never felt quite … comfortable about it. Somehow like just making money was a little corrupt. I think I’ve managed to solve that within StraightPress by making our service available, for free, to non profits, charities, NGOs, and others.

Application deadline is 14 December. That’s 2 weeks. I have some time to consider. Anyone care to comment? Should I go for it? Either way I’m about to email the top 10 people I think would benefit from it. Now who are they? 🙂

Seth Godin’s Tribes for free

According to this page you can click this link and get Seth Godin’s Tribes ebook for free. I’ve already purchased a copy which should be delivered by Amazon, so I’m a member of triiibes. However, that is being physically shipped to my address in the UK, and I’m currently in Sydney (well, Melbourne today, but Sydney mostly). I think I’m actually getting two copies as we were given a copy for pre-ordering and joining triiibes.

Thus, I feel quite relaxed about downloading an audio copy for free.

I should forewarn you, if you select United Kingdom as your country of residence, you will be immediately and without request redirected to the .co.uk version of the site. Thereupon you will no longer be able to find the book for free. I lied, claiming to be a resident of USA.

Audible includes Windows / Mac only DRM software bullshit. I was able to download the file using these instructions. Yay for freedom. 🙂 But I’m unable to play the file on my machine. Nay for freedom. 🙁

Thinking bigger

Thinking bigger by HalonaCoast

I think Seth Godin’s is my favourite blog. His posts are short, concise and usually thought provoking. Seth avoids the mistake of writing too much, too often, and writing crap just to keep the content flowing.

Today Seth talks about thinking bigger. It’s got me thinking about StraightPress.

I host a handful of WordPress sites for family, friends and so on. Every time a WordPress update is released, I manually go through each site, run a backup, apply the update, then test the site. It’s a time consuming process, but it’s important to keep the sites secure. The sites are on my server, so security is my concern. It’s a bit like brushing your teeth. Important, but not always the highlight of your day.

This is where the idea for StraightPress was born. If I can manage a handful of sites, why not manage a few hundred sites, and generate serious economy of scale? Like a professional tooth brusher. We’ll come round to your house at 6pm every night and give your teeth a professional clean. Great I thought, here’s a business I can build that meets my criteria.

Recently I read the excellent book Scientific Advertising (pdf) by Claude Hopkins. The book was written in 1923 and is as relevant today as the day it was penned. It really is an inspirational read. It’s a book about caution, practicality, being realistic. It’ll never inspire you to create Google, Apple or Twitter, but like insurance, it will keep you safe, sensible and secure.

The book makes an excellent point about toothpaste. The author makes the point that tooth paste is easier sold on account of its beauty enhancement than its disease prevention. I do believe that is true. Offering a product that enhances, improves, enriches is a much easier sell than a product that prevents.

Why do you want your WordPress site kept up to date? One of the most important reasons is security. Preventing problems. But that’s not a great selling point. New features is another important point. WordPress 2.6 added post revisions. Every time you save a post or page, it creates a new version. So if you mess something up, you can easily go back to an older version. That’s a very powerful feature.

My question is, how do I think bigger? How do I shape StraightPress so the offering is oustanding, remarkable, notable. What can we offer, around WordPress hosting and management, that would make people sit up and say “Damn, I want me some of that”? I don’t have an answer today, but it’s a question that will be on my mind until I do.

Inspiration from Seth – stay true

Seth posts this. Inspirational. It’s inspiring to see somebody at the point in their life/career where they can be true to their principles. I think it’s harder to remain true to one’s ideals at the earlier stages of a career. When you’re earning less, have less exposure, less influence, and so on. However, ironically, I think remaining true to principle is probably key to gaining that later success.

In my personal experience, the “truer” I am to my principles, my values, myself, the easier, happier, more successful I am. I’ve noticied this is especially true commercially. For example, when I only get involved in projects or work which I really believe in, things work out great. By figuring out what a great job looks like for me, I have a great job.

I don’t have a resume

I’ve never been a fan of resumes. It always sounded like such a boring job, cataloguing all the things I’ve done, listing all my various endeavours. Seth Godin has an excellent post on why great people don’t have resumes.

People often ask me how I found my current job, how I manage to work and travel, etc, etc. I don’t have a simple answer. I didn’t apply for my current job. I’ve never applied for a job in the traditional sense. I’ve never submitted a resume for a job. I make connections in various ways, and sometimes they lead to work.

Maybe I’ll start a new page with an explanation of why I don’t have a resume instead of actually having a resume.

Seth Godin on Monetization

Apparently Seth Godin’s blog is read by “more people than 95% of all the magazines published in the US”. Impressive numbers. A reader asked why he doesn’t monetize his blog. To which he responded:

I tried to sum it up like this: Not only can’t I imagine charging for my blog, I’m practically in debt to the people who read it. I ought to pay them, not the other way around.

Every time you read something I write here, you’re giving me a gift… attention. It’s getting more precious all the time, you have more choices every day, and it’s harder and harder to find the time. I know. I’m grateful. I’m doing my best to make your attention worth it.

I remember an ingenious little monetization trick less than two weeks ago. It was truly inspiration. He asked people to contact him to be notified when his next product will be released. Fitting for a marketing guru hey!

The inquisitive reader also apparently missed the links to all of Seth’s books in the sidebar. Although personally, I don’t see those as I subscribe via RSS.

Seth subtly re-framed the question, saying he was grateful for his readers, indebted to them, almost suggesting he doesn’t monetize the blog. I find myself asking, was that misleading? He clearly does monetize the blog, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but does his post imply that he doesn’t?

See for yourself, and let me know what you think. You’ll have to leave the comments here as Seth doesn’t accept comments! 🙂

Simple Writing

I read a fascinating post about Amazon’s new text stats today (thanks Seth). Amazon provide some cool statistics comparing the sentence length, word complexity and even words per dollar of books.

It’s interesting to note that in Steven’s (admittedly unscientific) comparison, the more popular books have fewer words per sentence and less complex words. I’m reassured that I’m not the only person who prefers simpler texts.

I didn’t make it past the first page of my brother’s dissertation because of the academic style. I realise it’s what’s expected, even required, of academic writing, but personally, I find it unbearable. Apparently the numbers agree, simplicity sells!