Friday Feb 12, 2010
Monday Jan 25, 2010
By jimgris on Jan 25, 2010
"We don't want our babies to die, and we want our children to go to school"
That's what motivates Greg Mortenson to build communities because
that's what women tell him in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They don't want
their kids to die. So to help out, Greg builds schools -- in a region
of the world that has known only war and poverty for generations. Hear
Greg tell his story to Bill Moyers on PBS.
There are many more videos and articles about Greg and his foundations and books. Just a wonderful story all around. Even the highest levels of the U.S Military are now reading his book -- Three Cups of Tea -- and they are listening to him in the field because he knows more about the culture on the ground than most Americans involved in the battle over there. He's not fighting terrorism, tough. He's building community. There's a difference. The first action is defensive, based on fear, and short term. The second is offensive, based on inspiration, and long term. One breaks. The other builds. But this no hand out from some rich guy in the West or even a government program. Greg is not rich and he built his organization from pretty much nothing. And people of modest means -- and kids with pennies! -- create and drive these programs. Not the rich. Not the governments. In this case, individuals make the difference and that's why it's so inspiring. And the schools have to be earned, too. Educational leadership and resources are contributed from the outside, of course, but things are distributed and managed locally as well. Land is given for free and so is labor. This way the local community owns what they build.
This guys knows what he's doing, and he figured it out in real time. I just tripped over him today, but he's been doing this for sixteen years. I will study him closely. Everything he does represents a repeatable model for building community anywhere in the world for any purpose. Think you can't do something? Think it's too hard? You must check this out. Very cool.
Thursday Nov 26, 2009
By jimgris on Nov 26, 2009
A dozen international communities will be coming together in mid December for "Tokyo's
Biggest Tech Party Ever" (info here,
It's a charity event to benefit Room to Read. About 300 people are expected to gather in Roppongi, but I bet the number grows higher than that as the date approaches. I know a pile of OpenSolaris guys will be going, and I'll go for sure. I can imagine that thousands of very interesting photographs and videos will emerge from this gig, so I will shoot a set of photos myself. Here are some of the communities participating:
- Digital Eve Japan
- International Computer Association
- Tokyo 2.0
- Mobile Monday
- Tokyo Hacker Space
- Tokyo PC Users Group
- Tokyo OpenSolaris User Group
- Tokyo Linux User Group
The international tech community in Tokyo is obviously a community of communities, and there is certainly some overlap in membership as well. But intentionally creating mega social events like this to bring multiple groups together has significant value because the more we mix as communities the more we learn from each other. To me, that's one of the core values of BarCamp as well. You build your own community locally, you then connect that community globally, and while you are doing that you intentionally mix with other communities so you remain flush with new ideas.
Sunday Nov 08, 2009
Thursday Oct 29, 2009
By jimgris on Oct 29, 2009
Failure as a springboard to success. Nice piece there from Jono Bacon on how to fail gracefully, recover, and move on -- learning all along the way. I like it. Very practical advice for managing projects -- or doing anything, really -- in a community environment where credibility can be earned and/or lost rapidly and publicly. Much of the issue involves just recognizing your mistakes, apologizing, and fixing things so your actions support your words. Works for me. But I think many people struggle with this concept because they wait too long and the issue gets too big and complex. Then they feel they can't back down. Too much has already been said. So, they spin. What I have found is that if you get out there fast and correct things early -- whether it's your fault or your company's or someone else's in the community -- it's much more casual and normal and most people will engage pretty well. Early apologies on the small stuff tend to be more understated and easier to deliver than those bigger ones later on.
Also, Jono utters this gem in the article: "In my experience of working with communities, successes provide an incredible opportunity to learn about our strengths, but failures provide the inverse opportunity to learn about our weaknesses." I totally agree. People have always told me that you have to fail because "that's the only way you ever learn anything" or words to that effect. I never agreed with that. Actually, that notion always pretty much made me sick to my stomach. The truth is that you learn just as much from success as you do from failure -- it's just that you learn different lessons, that's all. You need a balance of both. That's obvious, right?
Sunday Oct 25, 2009
By jimgris on Oct 25, 2009
Here`s a interesting way to spend 20 minutes -- TED Talk: Itay Talgam: Lead like the great
conductors. Great presentation. Lots of fun. There are so
many ways to lead. And you can see both obvious and subtle differences
expressed in some of the great conductors Talgam profiles. Some control
forcefully and dramatically. Others relax and have fun and
enthusiastically guide people along effortlessly. While others are more
quiet and gently create an environment where musicians can express
their talent so it`s difficult to tell who leads who. Fascinating stuff
because you see it all unfold as a performance. Personally, I think the
best conductors (or the best anything) just blend into the music so the
focus is on the music and not on them.
That last bit is important. Many leaders miss it entirely and it
undermines them completely. For me, the word "leadership" has very
little meaning now. Actually, I view the word largely in the
pejorative. The very concept has been so thoroughly abused these days
(read a newspaper lately?) I am hard pressed to find leaders I can look
up to and learn from. In fact, I have pretty much given up on the
exercise as a waste of time. Don`t lead. Instead, do. Just do. And if you must lead or, gasp,
call yourself a leader, then lead with doing in mind. That is the only way you will ever earn
any credibility among those you think you lead. It`s also the only way
you will ever attract naturally those like-minded individuals
who want to grow with
you -- not as a result
Sunday Sep 20, 2009
By jimgris on Sep 20, 2009
Anyway. I am going to put together a new presentation about all the people I look up to as great community builders. Most of them I have met and/or work with every day in the multiple communities in which I participate, but some are just acquaintances who I observe from afar and study in detail. And some I have never met but would love to because they are changing the world in important ways that oftentimes go unrecognized. They teach me. They are international and multi lingual. They are young and old. They cut across many industries and disciplines. Some think big and build globally, but even more think small and organize locally -- and many times that`s even more difficult and more important. Some are famous but most are not. And the common thread tying them together in my mind? They all build communities by contributing to communities. They do. They don`t just talk. That`s the bit they get right, and that`s why they teach so naturally by simply doing what they love. This is personal. That`s why it`s powerful. And that`s why I have to tell these stories. Just looking up to people who build community is not enough. We have to learn from these people and distribute community building opportunities among everyone. That`s the only way a community becomes sustainable.
Thursday Sep 17, 2009
By jimgris on Sep 17, 2009
It's always nice to see people recognize your work
-- even in small ways and especially in the community building
business (which is generally not well understood). Sun's employees around the world who build community every
day are doing important grass-roots organizing work, and they have a
great deal to be proud of. Over the last few years, these people have
built global communities using tools such as blogs, wikis, forums, and even entire Free and Open Source development projects.
Thousands of employees have been involved, and they have engaged users,
customers, developers, and students in virtually every region of the
world with a connection to the net. Add to that all the employees who
regularly go out into the community and participate at user groups and
industry conferences and organize events, and the reach grows even deeper. Line it all up.
It's been quite a remarkable accomplishment. I think we should write a
book. The people who did the building should tell the story.
Monday Sep 14, 2009
By jimgris on Sep 14, 2009
I see things gearing up for FOSS.IN in Bangalore in December. I went to FOSS.IN two years ago and really enjoyed the entire experience. And I learned a great deal as well. FOSS.IN was one of the best conferences I've been to. Perfect size. Interesting people. Real community feel.
Also note the excellent blog from Atul Chitnis outlining the changes being planned for this year's event. What seems core to the organizers at FOSS.IN is the concept of contribution. It's easy to get distracted and drift from foundational principles when you grow, but it's great to see FOSS.IN getting the basics right. Participation. Contribution. Doing -- not talking.
Tuesday Sep 01, 2009
By jimgris on Sep 01, 2009
Tuesday Jul 14, 2009
By jimgris on Jul 14, 2009
I have an agenda in mind for my time. It's only a weekend, so I need to probe some issues as deeply as I can. I'd especially like to explore how software engineering and user communities are built across language and cultural barriers. That's the biggest deal for me since I live the issue every day and I believe there are big opportunities involved.
Other stuff: How/why do some communities seem to emerge organically (do they really?), while others are built using significant resources and sometimes face big challenges in the process. How do you manage around community dependence issues while investing resources? I know it's not popular to discuss, but I'll be asking people about competitive challenges they face while building communities. Over the years, many have told me that communities shouldn't be competitive (companies compete and communities cooperate, right?), but I've come to question and largely reject that line. I can point to many cases where it's absolutely true, but I also have lots of painful experience demonstrating that it's a lot of BS (I think it depends greatly on geography, culture, placement in the community, and politics).
More: Where is the line distinguishing building from natural evolution? And who defines the difference? On governance issues: Do you start out building with governance in place or let it emerge naturally over time? Do you build a top-down governing system, or let structures bubble up from the bottom when (and if) they are needed? And how do you resolve governance vs development methodologies? How do you measure growth or quality or whatever else you're building? What are the distinctions between building community from the platform of a major corporation vs building community while actually living out in the community itself? How are community development and engineering operations implemented differently around the world? How is community actually defined differently in various regions? Those are some of the issues I'll be poking.
And finally, I'd really love to see how people feel about the issue of "leadership" in communities. That's the name of the conference, after all, and it's an issue we've wrestled with on OpenSolaris forever. My opinion on leadership has evolved greatly over time, but I'm clearly moving in a specific direction lately and feel much more comfortable asserting my view on leadership.
By jimgris on Jul 14, 2009
Monday Jul 06, 2009
By jimgris on Jul 06, 2009
Last month there was an interesting thread developing on ogb-discuss about the lessons learned from the Townhall session at CommunityOne. The conversation died pretty quickly, though, which was a shame. I think it could have led to some good issues being explored.
In a couple of posts in the discussion, I talked about Jono Bacon`s Ubuntu session I attended at C1 and what OpenSolaris could learn from the Linux community in general (actually, we are already learning even if many people don`t realize it yet). I was trying to promote the notion that the OpenSolaris community ought to take on more community building responsibilities and not depend on Sun so much. That was in response to an observation that the "community" was somewhat lacking at CommunityOne. That may be true to a certain degree. C1 was a large event run by a company, for the most part, but it was intended to benefit the community. Let`s take it. It was a gift. I think that too may people are too quick to look to Sun for everything, which is not realistic and only leads to disappointment because expectations are simply too high.
Sun is doing its part (opening code, funding development operations and global community building programs, running conferences, hosting infrastructure, moving engineers outside, etc), but the community shouldn`t expect Sun to build the entire community at all levels, and that`s the impression I get sometimes from some of our list conversations. I have said that the community needs to assert more of its own community building role for four years now, but it never really resonates on list. I`m not sure why. Maybe I`m just wrong, but I think it`s painfully obvious. Just hang out a bit with the Linux community and you see many layers of communities with no single company in the center responsible for building everything. There are many companies and organizations and universities and individuals, and the attitude is very different. And there is no reason why OpenSolaris can`t grow in that direction as well. In fact, it`s already happening. Companies and large organizations are getting involved, and there are elements in the community that are asserting their role as builders beyond Sun -- the user groups. The OSUGs are helping to diversify community building functions because many of them are now running their own events (in addition to their normal meetings, I mean), and they are growing in their own ways without Sun necessarily being directly involved. This is a model on which we should expand.
Building the OpenSolaris community needs to be everyone`s responsibility and everyone`s opportunity, and it needs to be distributed as widely as possible. This is what we are doing in Tokyo, by the way.
Monday May 04, 2009
By jimgris on May 04, 2009
There has always been confusion about where the Facilitators would come from. In reality, according to the Constitution, the OGB should have simply appointed the Facilitators all along. But that didn't happen. So Facilitators came along naturally based on the genuine needs of some of the more active Community Groups themselves. That's fine, of course, but that organic growth wasn't a comprehensive solution initially or even recently, and that led to communication problems between the OGB and the Community Groups -- most recently and most importantly with the low voter turn out this election and the failure to get enough votes to pass the new Constitution we spent most of last year drafting. Although the proposed new Constitution got a majority of votes from the people who voted, it didn't get a majority of the total votes among the OpenSolaris Membership. That means too many people simply didn't vote. And that's a communications problem that Facilitators can help solve.
Facilitators are basically project managers or community organizers or community managers -- pick your term of preference because they are all the pretty much the same thing. OpenSolaris does not have a single community manager or any single leader, for that matter, so it seems to me that the management-oriented functions are best distributed among the Facilitators because the leadership structure of the community is distributed as well. Facilitators can do more or less for their groups based on interest and need, of course, and they can be engineers or non-engineers. It doesn't matter. But there is a minimum level of governance-oriented communications required so the community can function, and that's specified right in the Constitution. It's all very basic stuff. But it's not enough. Let's think bigger than just implementing one Constitutional role. Let's think about how we are building a global community of communities -- not just one community on opensolairs.org. To me, this is a big opportunity for Facilitators -- to help manage the operations on opensolaris.org and then to help connect those operations to other communities around the world. There is no reason why this can't happen because the people on opensolaris.org are already distributed globally, but we don't really view them as global community builders doing local work. Some do it, sure, and those guys are well known. But I'm talking about building a global community development operation with people whose primary role is to build community. Community Organizers, basically. Or Community Managers, if you like that term better. I've always viewed the Facilitators as the foundation of that idea, and I thought that it was convenient that the seed of the idea was actually specified in the Constitution. Otherwise, the perception is that community building operations just rests with Sun exclusively, and I think that's too narrow a focus if we want to grow more rapidly. The community is already too international for it to be centralized around Sun, and that's pretty easy to see living from where I live. I've talked about this on list many times, but strangely, the idea is generally met with silence. Inside, too. That's why I eventually gave up.
Now, personally, I hate the term "facilitator" almost as much as I hate the term "evangelist" so I hope we rename the role to something more substantive in future versions of the Constitution. The word is weak. And that's part of the problem. People were never really interested in it and didn't see it of value, whereas in reality it has always been a needed role in this community. The truth is that we've always had communications issues in the community around governance -- quite literally from day one -- and those problems have not improved much over the years. Granted, the community doesn't experience its previous level of flame warfare these days, but that doesn't mean that communication has improved. It hasn't. What has improved is that some of the core projects have a much more clear focus now, and those guys are generating real results in their projects at their respective local levels. But overall, communication about governance issues and how the community is organized and where it's going as a community is still a missed opportunity. And if I'm being too critical, fine, then let me put it this way: the awareness of this issue is well below where I feel we should be in 2009. Regardless, I can't find anyone who'd disagree we could improve in this area. The Facilitators project is an excellent first step. We've had difficulty implementing or own community processes, so let's get that down and then grow from there.
Sunday Apr 26, 2009
By jimgris on Apr 26, 2009
Interesting talk from Marshall Ganz about building community and distributing leadership. At the 13:10 minute mark of the video he talks about the distinction between power and leadership and how in voluntary associations you can`t rely on political or economic coercion to get people to something. You can`t substitute power for leadership. Leaders of volunteers elicit cooperation by tapping into the shared values of the community, and that`s a much more challenging exercising than dictating orders with threats of force to back you up.
This quote at the 14:15 minute mark sums it nicely: "It`s very easy, if you are in a place where you can fire people if they don`t do what you want, to kid yourself about why people are collaborating and cooperating with you. It`s very easy if you are in a place where you can put people in jail if they don`t do what you want. When you are operating in a voluntary setting you don`t have those options so the burden of leadership is much greater because you have to elicit voluntary collaboration, cooperation, engagement, motivation, commitment, etc. So, in a sense, it`s sort of leadership on its own without the props that are often available to us to exercise authority in organizations."
Thursday Mar 05, 2009
By jimgris on Mar 05, 2009
Nice article from Marshall Ganz on using the power of story (four specific levels of stories, actually) to engage people and build communities that drive change. Story telling is as old as it gets and remains probably the most effective way to deliver information that resonates. Here`s a little Ganz video, too. Good stuff.
Monday Mar 02, 2009
By jimgris on Mar 02, 2009
From Zack Exley's post: "The 'New Organizers' have succeeded in building what many netroots-oriented campaigners have been dreaming about for a decade. Other recent attempts have failed because they were either so 'top-down' and/or poorly-managed that they choked volunteer leadership and enthusiasm; or because they were so dogmatically fixated on pure peer-to-peer or 'bottom-up' organizing that they rejected basic management, accountability and planning. The architects and builders of the Obama field campaign, on the other hand, have undogmatically mixed timeless traditions and discipline of good organizing with new technologies of decentralization and self-organization."
That's interesting. You don't often hear community building described that with organizers using the best of both top-down and bottom-up approaches. So, in that sense I agree with the "new" bit, and it's a welcome lesson for all of us work in community-building positions -- any community.
I found that post on the Obama's guys from Barton George -- It takes a Community (and they could use a Marketing Guide) — Mozilla Debut’s theirs -- as he was talking about community development efforts at Mozilla, Ubuntu, Debian, and OpenSUSE, and he points to the new Mozilla community marketing guide (see Patrick Finch). I sent these links to advocacy-discuss on OpenSolaris so we can talk about these issues, too. Teresa started the thread recently in an effort to get some ideas going for how we can do more as a community to organize ourselves. We've had this discussion before on OpenSolaris (many times, actually), but we still have some work to do to really document a substantial guide that we can all get around and drive together. We have some very good bits and pieces spread across the community, but perhaps its time to bring it all together into one document and label it as such?
Monday Feb 23, 2009
By jimgris on Feb 23, 2009
I`ve been catching up on my Saul Alinsky now that we have a community organizer in the White House. I was never much inspired with Alinksy, although I certainly appreciate his place in American history. When I read his stuff I just feel dirty, sort of like plodding through Eddie Bernays and his propaganda or Machiavelli and his lessons for princes. But all that is reality in power politics, and many of those guys articulate some wonderfully evil and practical tactics to gut a variety of opponents in just about any situation you`d find yourself in. If that`s the sort of thing you want to do, anyway.
It`s interesting, though. We oftentimes hear that you have to fight fire with fire, and that`s probably true in some cases. But what about the exceptions? For instance, I never get that dirty Alinsky feeling all over when reading Ghandi or King, and those guys were certainly grand community organizers fighting bad guys too. In fact, they were probably the two most effective community builders in modern history. I wouldn`t put Alinsky in their league. Ghandi and King inspire. Alinsky manipulates. Ghandi and King transcend and transform. Alinsky fights. Both views are probably necessary at various points in a great struggle, but I prefer to focus a tad more on the positive and not so much on an Al Capone street fight in a dark and dirty Chicago alley. But that`s just me.
Sanford D. Horwitt, an Alinsky biographer, writes nice piece about what the so-called father of community organizing would say to President Obama today (Alinsky would be 100 this year). I guess Obama studied under some of Alinsky`s guys for a bit. So, what`s the fatherly advice on building community? "Barack, remember what got you here ... Keep your eyes on the prize and keep organizing, organizing, organizing!" That`s not surprising. And it`s good advice. But it will be interesting to see if Obama can follow it, if he can keep his obviously well honed community organizing skills up to date from the perspective of living among the power establishment that Alinsky was always fighting. That`s where Obama sits now, after all. Will it work from way up there? To me, this is what makes the Obama presidency fascinating.
Also of note is Obama`s view of Alinsky himself. It`s far more expansive view than the narrow minded Alinsky pitched. Check out The Agitator: Barack Obama's unlikely political education for a lot of Obama`s views of Alinsky. I like this bit right here:
"Alinsky understated the degree to which people's hopes and dreams and
their ideals and their values were just as important in organizing as
people's self-interest. Sometimes the tendency in community organizing
of the sort done by Alinsky was to downplay the power of words and of
ideas when in fact ideas and words are pretty powerful. 'We hold these
truths to be self-evident, all men are created equal.' Those are just
words. 'I have a dream.' Just words. But they help move things. And I
think it was partly that understanding that probably led me to try to
do something similar in different arenas." -- Obama, 2007
In other words, community organizing isn`t always about going head to head. It`s not always about cutting people down. It`s not always about taking power away from the powerful (after all, what do you do with the power you get? Will it corrupt you as it did them?). Sometimes community building is about, well, building. It`s about inspiring. Liberating. Leading. And it`s about distributing power, not centralizing it. It goes far beyond words, too.
Sunday Feb 15, 2009
By jimgris on Feb 15, 2009
It's great to see the OpenSolaris Community Lending Project open on
opensolaris.org and on kiva.org. Background on the Kiva project on
advocacy-discuss (here, here, here) and also at Simon`s blog (which
also talks about an interesting Amazon connection). This is exactly why
global communities are valuable: people who are passionate embrace
opportunities to solve problems in new ways. If people are empowered and able to connect, they self organize and get things done. They just do it. So, want to help change someone`s life? Just jump right in.
Sunday Jan 18, 2009
By jimgris on Jan 18, 2009
Jono Bacon at Ubuntu is writing a book on communities -- The Art of Community. I`m looking forward to this book. And I`m glad he`s writing it from his view at Ubuntu. I`m trying to follow Ubuntu more lately. I don`t know too much about the community, but I met some Ubuntu guys in Tokyo a while back and I also met Jono at CommunityOne last year and found him to be a very cool guy.
The reason I want to read this book is to learn more and learn faster.
There is so much opportunity here. Back when we launched the OpenSolaris project four years ago I kept
saying we should look at other communities and observe how they
evolve and how they build and manage themselves through various
circumstances. All communities are different and have to manage diverse
challenges, but they also share many common elements. I do some reading
on this, but where I most closely touch other communities live is in
Tokyo with the Linux guys (TLUG) and Web
2.0 guys (Tokyo2Point0) and
also with some photography things I do here. Hanging out with these
communities has given me a fantastic perspective to juxtapose with
OpenSolaris and bring to my activities here. I highly recommend
participating in other communities. It doesn`t matter what kind of
community, too. The point is to contribute somewhere. That`s where the
real lessons are learned. And that`s what makes a community. If you can
contribute and earn your own way and gain recognition and trust as a result in some sort of meritocracy, then that`s a little community.
Value that. Grow that. Promote that concept as the foundation of the
On OpenSolaris we have made a lot of progress in some ways and hundreds of people all over the place are contributing to multiple projects, but in other ways we are still struggling to find our way. This is normal to a certain degree. It`s not a criticism, per say. All projects in all industries are basically learning mechanisms. They start from somewhere and grow. Those that learn, live and grow more. Those that don`t, rot and die. You can`t avoid this. Also, if you are open minded enough to learn, that will help spark your imagination. And that`s far more important than thinking you actually know something or repeating the same thing over and over again. Einstein used to say something like that, and he knew a great deal more than most.
Anyway, what has been most gratifying within the OpenSolaris Community is that the OpenSolaris User Group Community (which we currently call the Advocacy Community) has been growing and learning steadily since Day One. We`ve made mistakes and adjusted along the way. Not only that but the overall personalty of the OSUGs seems clearly defined by global cooperation and openness, not internal conflict and bureaucracy. Have you noticed this too? I`m on all the OSUG lists and I see people talking about technology, doing events, and basically just hanging out and hacking on OpenSolaris. Quite literally, a culture is forming. And it`s spread out among dozens of languages, cultures, and countries. Some people are more active than others, some are more passionate than others, some are more technical than others. But everywhere I look on the OSUG lists I see that everyone is welcome. And the entire thing is just moving along at its own understated pace with relatively few resources and very little structure. I mean, really, we give some web space, a mailing list, and some t-shirts. Not much stuff. And not much process. But more than enough to get started. And it seems that we grow faster as a community when we reduce our processes. Granted, we are still very small (around 5,000 people) within the entire OpenSolaris community (which is way bigger), but revolutions have started with far less. And you have to start somewhere, right? I get this same feeling on some other OpenSolaris projects as well, where people have just been working all along since Day One doing what they can with what they have.
I find this stuff fascinating because the concept of the community is for all of us. You don`t have to have power or money or title to join. You can just show up and participate and contribute and learn. That`s what impresses me about open source communities. Jono`s book should be a very cool contribution to all this. I need the ideas. :) This stuff is an art indeed.
Monday Jan 12, 2009
By jimgris on Jan 12, 2009
Saturday Jan 03, 2009
By jimgris on Jan 03, 2009
A leader asserting ... responsibility? I find that especially shocking. Usually leaders spin, deflect, duck, attack, point fingers, lie, and steal. And they usually get away with it, too. I don`t see very many people leading by example these days, do you? And I don`t see very many leaders emerging from real communities of people engaged in direct action, do you? I`m talking about people who actually work not just talk. These people are obvious on every project. They are the leaders even though they don`t have the title and most times never get the title. That`s unfortunate. It seems to me that the era of the experts and special people spinning us like sheep should be over. Humor me. I can dream, can`t I? But is that happening at JAL? Can it happen in government too?
Tuesday Dec 30, 2008
By jimgris on Dec 30, 2008
I find most conversations about "leadership" little more than
meaningless chit-chat. A waste of time. Talk is
cheap. Just ignore it. Action speaks clearly. With that in mind, watch
this CNN clip of Japan Airlines CEO Haruka Nishimatsu's attempt to
manage his company through tough times -- Evolving Excellence: $20 Billion Company CEO ... Takes the Bus. (Video: here, here,)
What do you think? I've watched the darn thing a dozen times. I can't get enough. It's an inspiration. Yet, it's so stupidly simple. And it speaks quite clearly about this guy's priorities and those of his company. Can you imagine in your wildest dreams business, labor, and political leaders in modern America following this reality of leadership? Yah, I doubt it too.
Now, some of this is cultural in that
the distribution of wealth in Japan is not nearly as insane as it is in
the United States, and the so-called "talent" market in Japan is
nothing like it is in the West as well. The Japanese think very differently
about individual talent and its value in relation to an overall
organization. It's difficult to explain, but I see it everywhere around
here. And I can see both good and bad in it as well. So, I'm not saying that the Japanese know best in all cases. They don't. Neither do we, actually, but we tend to not recognize that. But I do find it remarkable that this story in
Japan is really not a big deal at all. Should it be? Regardless of the obvious
cultural differences, the United States may be forced to make some
cultural changes like these in the near future. It will be fascinating
to see how the country deals with it. Is all that "talent" worth all that
cash? If it is, so be it. I'm all for paying for the best. But if not, can we finally recognize it,
please? Can this be any more obvious now? So far the solution is simply
to raid the pockets of us regular people to save all the experts and
billionaires with a never ending series of bailouts. How long that will
last who knows. I suspect not for very long before people get really
pissed, but what do I know. I'm nobody. I have no power. I'm not
special in that system, and don't think for a minute that that doesn't
get me very down at times. I know, I know ... Obama is going to save
us. Right. Got it.
Oh, and by the way, when I travel throughout Asia for Sun, Japan Airlines is always an option for obvious reasons. They fly there a lot. And I generally choose based on times and prices, etc -- just like everyone else (well, everyone else who flies 3rd class, I mean). So, do you think knowing that JAL's CEO is taking the freaking bus to work hanging on to the damn strap like I do and making less money than his pilots will affect my decision to choose an airline? You can absolutely count on it. Never mind that the service on JAL (and most Asian airlines) is vastly superior to every single American and European carrier in the air, I'm talking this guy's plane because he's talking the bus. Period. And Nishimatsu didn't initiate this no-frills style of management when the U.S. fell off the financial cliff a few months ago. Nope. He started a couple of years ago. Anyway, I gotta calm down. Here are some related links talking about this issue. Good stuff. All worth a read if you are just a regular working stiff trying to figure out how to retire and put your kid through college.
Wednesday Dec 24, 2008
By jimgris on Dec 24, 2008
Before I started taking photographs at community events a few years ago, I hadn't realized the power of an image to cut through language and cultural barriers. It's quite efficient, actually. Every time someone puts one of my images into a Chinese or Japanese or Spanish (or whatever) blog and links back to me it literally introduces me to that community in their native language. And, in many cases, I've met new people I would have never met before in countries I've never been to. All from an image. Now, this happens with text all the time, of course, since I've been communicating on one forum or another in multiple open communities for years now. But it's a very different experience with photography. Images are so much faster at making personal connections across barriers. You don't have to translate. It's easy. You just look. It's instant. In some ways, images actually transcend language while still communicating something of value. I'll have to take more pics and write fewer words.
Tuesday Oct 28, 2008
By jimgris on Oct 28, 2008
There is so much to say about that quote. I think it's anti-intuitive for many people, which is probably why many miss it. But what I love is that it's just liberating. If this is true, and if much of Toyota's success is based on everyone being responsible for innovation, then I find that inspiring. Empowering. It means that innovation is not exclusive. It's not necessarily only locked inside the special people with big names, big titles, big brains, big megaphones, or big salaries. How utterly democratic. That's not at all how innovation is generally characterized, though. Be careful what you read.
So, will the American auto companies eventually get this? I think they will. It's cool to see Ford getting back into the quality game -- Ford gains on Toyota -- the Toyota way -- now so things may be changing. This bit about companies trying to leverage the Toyota manufacturing system is really interesting to me. It seems difficult to implement because it's such a different way of thinking, but extreme circumstances are also efficient focusing mechanisms. People get back to basics because they have no choice. That's where Toyota's system came from, actually -- a group of people who built a company during difficult times.
As soon as I read these new links (thanks for the pointers, Chris), I thought about how the Toyota production system is open source, basically, and how leading FOSS developers embrace the very same principles of incremental improvement. Just see Linus Torvalds here and here for one obvious and high profile example, but any reading of open source culture and software development methodologies will bubble up many interesting associations.
Everything tagged Toyota here.
Friday Oct 24, 2008
By jimgris on Oct 24, 2008
- Start: Just start. Decide that you want to
form a little group and get going. Keep it simple. Don't do too much planning initially. Just get
some guys and go to a local pub or coffee shop someplace and talk. That's a
user group. Remember, this is a social exercise first, technical one second. Just my
- Infrastructure: Eventually you should have some sort of
web presence to show your stuff and a mailing list to talk to people.
If you want this infrastructure on opensolaris.org, start here and we'll help you out. Or you can use Google/Yahoo if you like, and if
you have some gear you can always build and host your own site. Also, you can
leverage many of the social networking platforms out there, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Ning.
Many people feel that to have a user group and attract new people they need technical meetings with well-known speakers
right away and that these technical meetings have to occur every month. Why?
Why not every other month? Or once a quarter for tech meetings with
social meetings in between. Don't treat this as a job. Treat
this as fun. Technical meetings naturally grow over time to fulfill a
need, but you have to get together as people first to see what happens.
Who's working on what? Who knows who? Who wants to collaborate on some
has some lessons learned to share? Who else lives in the area?
Whatever. Don't force it. Talk on list and
meet casually till things click, and over time the need for technical meetings
will be obvious.
- Meeting Rooms: If your group does grow into having regular
meetings with presenters and demos and such, you'll need a room. Check with the local universities in your area first. But also talk to
the local tech companies. And maybe some members of your user group can
offer access to their company's offices on a rotating basis on the weekend. Ping Sun,
too, if we are around. We certainly have an interest in seeing
OpenSolaris User Groups thrive, and many groups are hosted at Sun
facilities worldwide anyway. And if you don't have any Sun employees in your
group, this is a good way to get them involved.
- Joint Meetings: As your own meetings mature and as you
reach out to other communities in your area, consider doing some joint
meetings. Get the BSD guys together for a joint OpenSolaris/BSD
session. Or an OpenSolaris/Linux meeting. Or go up the stack and talk
to application developers and web developers. There are many other user
groups and communities out there that you can hang out with to explore technical and
- Audio and Video: Some user groups I've been to or observed
in the OpenSolaris community are recording their meetings to audio
and/or video files for download. Others are streaming. Others offer
conference call numbers for live phone participation. These communication techniques are very
cool because they enable you to reach new people in your local area and
around the world. I live in Japan, but I've called into meetings in
China and the United States, and I've viewed online audio/video content
from India and Prague and elsewhere. All this brings up another point:
local user groups hanging out at local bar are now really international
communities. This was always true to a point, but with easy and
pervasive communication tools you are now local and global. That's cool.
- Size: Don't worry about growing big. Most user groups are
initiated and maintained by a pretty small number of people. That's ok.
Keep it small if you want. Or grow it large. There are no rules. You decide. But
don't feel you have to be this way or that way to be a user group. You
- Consistency: Although size is not that important,
consistency is probably a bigger deal. Try to keep conversations
flowing on list, and if you meet live, try to meet regularly. Some groups meeting monthly and others quarterly. You decide. The frequency of meetings is not as important as the consistency. Momentum
and predictability are important for establishing trust and helping
people get involved.
Try to encourage some diversity. Keep your
group open to everyone in the area. You never know who is connected to
there. Also, part of diversity is to reach out to other groups and
other communities. I'm an OpenSolaris guy, but the Tokyo Linux User
Group welcomed me to their meetings and on their list as soon as I
contacted them. I use Linux, too, but that's not the point. They are
open to everyone. And that's a big deal. This is open source. Be open. Same story with the Tokyo2Point0 community.
Design a t-shirt. A logo. Etc. People love to identify with something
bigger themselves, something doing good, something they love. Leverage this natural feeling
and promote an identity for your group. You don't have to be aggressive
about this, but just be aware that
over time your group will develop a culture. Let it emerge naturally.
- Photography: The camera is one of the
most powerful community-building devices I've ever experienced. It cuts
cleanly through tough culture and language barriers, and the vast
majority of people I've met love to see images of themselves hanging out with
others. I've met thousands of people by taking pictures. So, take pictures.
- Leadership: Although most people like keeping things as casual
and decentralized as possible, someone has to lead from time to time.
Book a meeting room at a university or local company. Send out notices.
Update web pages. Collect money at bars for drinks and food. These are
all activities that require assertions. As your group grows bigger, the
need for clearly identifiable leaders will grow as well. Do you want to
lead? And if you are leading, consider rotating leaders at some point. Give other people a chance.
- Money: Chip in some of your own cash, but don't go wild.
Over time as your group grows, maybe try to raise some money via
auctions. The Tokyo Linux User Group does a great job of this. Also,
poke the local tech companies for some sponsorship dollars. Hey, you
never know. Ask. Use the money for hosting services, trips to
conferences, t-shirts, or any other infrastructure costs. You're not running a business, though. You
don't need lots of money.
Tuesday Mar 25, 2008
By jimgris on Mar 25, 2008
The other three causes are good, too, but the first is key for me. Get together from time to time. A hand shake or bow and a beer can make all the difference in the world.
Monday Feb 04, 2008
By jimgris on Feb 04, 2008
When asked to comment about OpenSolaris, Torvalds said, "It's generally hard to build a community around a commercial entity that also wants to be in control because everybody else around that commercial entity will always feel like they're at the mercy of Sun. And I'm not even going to go into OpenSolaris because, quite frankly, I don't even care." And there were a few more bits after that, but that's the gist of it. Following the comments of Torvalds about OpenSolaris has been interesting over the last few years. Sometimes supportive, sometimes negative, sometimes indifferent.
But more interesting were his thoughts about the Japanese and the value of incremental improvements: "But if you just incrementally improve on something, you will get there eventually. One analogy ... is the auto industry 40 years ago and how non-innovative Japanese companies that just plodded along, how they were looked down upon by the true innovators in the U.S. auto industry. And look -- who was it that actually ended up changing the auto industry?" Totally agree.
One of the things many Japanese are famous for is taking the long
view. It's enough to drive the average westerner insane. But anyway. On
OpenSolaris, very early on learned to embrace a long term perspective,
and that came from dealing with many engineers at Sun who hold long
term views of technology. So, I wonder, what happens if we just plod
along, if we just keep improving OpenSolaris incrementally over time,
if we keep learning from those who have gone before. I wonder what that
perspective buys us?
Thursday Jan 10, 2008
Friday Dec 21, 2007
By jimgris on Dec 21, 2007
As Sun moves closed development projects to the open on opensolaris.org or just starts new projects from scratch in the open, many people ask, "How do we build a community?" and/or "Why should we build a community?" and/or "How do we grow?" Well, here's my shot at answering those questions from a non-technical perspective. The list of issues below is not necessarily comprehensive (and we don't necessarily do some of these things particularly well), but it's just a set of issues to consider if you want to build a community of people around your stuff.
Building a Community
- Planning & Building:
The first thing to realize is that building a community is an active and cyclical process of
planning and implementation. Some people balk at that notion. They
believe communities ought to grow organically. But I suspect
most communities actually grow based on active participants directly
engaging new people and managing resources from diverse sources
including corporate, foundation, and individual. Also, I believe
the concept of community building is based largely on two simple
principles: (1) open
communications and (2) open development. Basically, working in the open
talking in the open. And if you really want to grow big,
you'll need to do three things really well: (1) talk to a lot of
people all the time, (2) include them in your work, and (3) provide
for them to contribute back by creating and sharing their work with
others. Then the process of working itself helps
build community because it generates more communications and more work.
And around you go. But active building starts with a plan. Write one.
Then start building. Then update your plan. Repeat.
Get outside. You can't build a community from
behind a firewall. Conversations, lists, source code, binaries,
documentation, tools, people, infrastructure, artwork -- get it outside
everyone has a fair shot at engaging and contributing. If there is
nothing to gather around, then no one will
gather and you will not have a community. And if you are only talking inside, no one on the outside will know you even
exist. This is the single biggest mistake people at Sun make. They try
to live in two worlds. You can't. Decide. Are you open or not.
Communities are about direct participation and the building of trust relationships. That
means people earn their way based on their contributions, and there is
an expectation of opportunity and openness. You can also look at this
issue as the distinction between a community and a program. Most
programs are one way -- usually going from a company to a market. But
communities are two ways (many ways, actually), and involve just as
much coming in as going out. Also, participation is really about doing,
not talking. Those who do get to lead, and those are the people whose
voice is heard above all others. You earn your credibility based on the
work you contribute to the community, not the title you have from your
company. If you want people to stick around, you will have to embrace this concept and enable them to participate.
the contributions you are looking for. Give general categories and
specific examples and expect the community to offer more
examples and things you hadn't even thought of (that's the goal,
actually). Here is a list of contributions that OpenSolaris community
members have been involved with -- code, scripts, tests, help,
presentations, user groups, conference management, language portals,
translations, university courses, graphics, ads, training materials,
screencasts, videos, websites, wikis, evangelism, documentation,
podcasts, development process, tutorials, input methods, feedback,
language compression tools, SCM tools, re-writing closed binaries,
tracking system, shells, distributions, books, ports, governance.
Etc. Although many of those items are technical, some are not, and most
do not involve kernel code. In other words, think about a variety of
contributions you want to encourage, and then let that list grow in the
open. Then when things start coming in, point out the people who are
contributing. You want to always call attention to contributions, but do
so in an understated way. In most communities, everyone knows who is
really contributing because work speaks louder than words, and the
contributors are generally working with each other in the open. But it
doesn't hurt to thank people once and a while.
The biggest problem with most technical
presentations is that they are painfully long, and they focus too much
on describing the technology itself. That's fine for a classroom or an
interactive tutorial session. But the act of building a community is
actually not about technology. It's about people. So, explain your
technology, sure, but
focus much more on how developers and users can get involved and
contribute to the
technology and community and how that benefits everyone. Most technical
presentations have one
slide at the end with a list of lists
join. That's not enough. It can't be an after thought. Make it core.
have to go to conferences. Sun runs various
conferences, but you need to go to non-Sun FOSS events as well. Both
have value but both are different. Also, don't feel you have to
always present at conferences. Participating in the sessions,
hallway conversations, BOFs, and parties is just as important as
presenting formal papers. Just being there is critical. You'll need a
mix of face-to-face and online interactions to create a feeling of
community. But don't miss the opportunity to do a rapid-fire
lightning talk! Most good conferences offer these opportunities. And
user groups to your list of conferences. Go to them and/or start
them. If you start a user group, do it in a bar or cafe or something.
Start small and social, and let the technical presentations grow slowly
as more people bring their own experiences to the group. And don't feel
you have to always have a big technical presentation with a 100 people
in the room each month. That's not realistic. Maybe try
technical sessions quarterly but meet monthly in a bar for food and
beer and then discuss things on a mailing list in between meetings.
Start small and look for ways to build tradition through repeated
experiences. Over time a little culture will soon develop, and that is
the glue that will
hold your user group together.
Process and Infrastructure:
If you are going
to build a community, you ought to spend some time figuring out the
physical infrastructure you'll need to support all the people you want. Will
scale? What development process is needed for accepting contributions?
What testing is needed? Do you offer a sandbox for experimentation?
tools are necessary to host the project's artifacts? Who has access? This all
depends if you want to host on opensolaris.org or on another site, and
whether you are running a community group, a user group, or
a development project. The higher end code contributors will always be
small in number, and those are the guys who have to figure out the
tools they'll need. However, non-coders should be involved in these
discussions at least partially, so that your infrastructure is built to
accommodate a wide variety of contributions.
- Leadership, Governance,
What are your community's values? What will the social structure
look like? How will your community run
itself? How will you make decisions? What is your leadership model? How
will you call attention to
contributors? How do you resolve conflicts? These are questions that
need addressing whenever any
large group of people comes together to collaborate around anything.
When you are small, you can manage this easily in your head, but when
you grow globally you need to document the behavior you want to
encourage and set some rules around how to manage it all. It doesn't
have to be all pervasive and bureaucratic, but people need to know what
you stand for and what you expect. Perhaps a
single strong leader is appropriate, but you may want
to consider other
options of distributed leadership mechanisms as well. Look at other communities such as Mozilla, Linux,
Apache, Ruby, Java and the BSDs for examples. Actually, there are many others, but
those are some of the bigger open source software communities.
- Universities: If
you want to grow, you need to go back to school
and hang out with young people. Get your project in front of students
and professors at
universities in emerging markets first. Start with India and China for
reasons. But don't
neglect the established markets as well. University visits are
probably the single best way to ensure that your project has a shot at
surviving the future. Neglecting universities is not an option. It
needs to be a top priority. By the way, this will probably be the most fun part of your community building operations.
- Global: Build
your community with a global perspective in mind.
Where are the developers who would be interested in your stuff? Go
there. A lot. When you go global, though, you will run into all sorts
of interesting language and cultural issues that will slow you down.
Expect it. Look for people who can help build the community in a given
location, and then work to connect multiple locations together. You will
have "one" community around the world, so don't expect everyone to just
follow you (or even understand you). You will have many
and they will express their own independence quite differently. Your job is
to encourage them to be as independent as necessary, but also to help
them connect to other regions so they can participate in the meta
community. This is not easy, by the way. But it's necessary. And it can
be a source of really innovative contributions as emerging markets
to know your marketing people. They can help
publicize your project formally at conferences or within press/analyst
operations or at customer meetings. And they can offer a
perspective you may have not considered on important issues, such as
trademarks, branding, launches, announcements, leaks, and market
disruptions. You don't necessarily know what the
press is saying about you, right? Would more exposure help?
What are the competitive issues marketing sees that you don't? Also,
participate in special programs Sun occasionally runs, such as coding
contests and events. Sun has other
programs and web sites that all welcome content and participation.
Leverage the company's global resources this way. By the
way, humility and honesty are the best techniques for doing effective
open source marketing. Keep that in mind as you publicize your stuff.
- Advocacy: This
is much bigger than marketing and it's somewhat different as well. This
is not about specific marketing disciplines such as advertising,
marketing, branding, PR, or AR. Instead, it's about direct, unfiltered
engagement at a level
that leads to active participation and contribution. It's about
community building via open communications. Now, that includes marketing, sure, but it also
engineering and project managers -- and anyone else
who wants to get involved. Also, you
are the best advocate for your work. So you need to
assume the direct responsibility of communicating in
way. You will be leveraging other resources for this, but
ultimately you are
responsible for your own bottom line -- which in this case means
growing your community and advocating your technology. Don't just give
this function to someone and walk away. Be involved.
- Legal Issues:
This is mostly internal to Sun as you open previously closed
code and tools. But even when you are open, you need to consider trademarks,
copyright, contributor agreements, licensing, source analysis, etc.
necessarily help your community grow, but they can certainly stop
things jet fast if you don't consider them at all. Get to know your
lawyers. Teach them about the needs of the community, and ask them to
teach you the realities of the law. The education here should go both ways.
- Project Management: As your community grows, it will surely contain
multiple engineering projects and user activities around the world. Who
will run these complex operations? Who will manage the plan and keep
the metrics and roadmaps updated? Who will alert you to the
organizational politics that you will surely encounter? So, you
may want to hunt around for a good project manager to
facilitate things. Just as engineers should build community in the
open, so too should project managers. If you look at your project in
broadest possible context, you'll see that it touches many diverse
disciplines both inside and outside the firewall, and that will affect
how you build your community.
- Have Fun:
And finally, building a community is ultimately a social exercise, so people should
have fun as they participate. You want to draw people to your community, right? You want
to encourage people to stick around, right? Make it fun to hang out.
Give people the opportunity to have fun and they will.
Constitution | Community Groups | Projects | Website lead reference | Contributing | Values | Development Process | Development Reference | Advocacy & User Groups | Code Contributors
Books on Open Source, Licensing, and Community Development:
The Cathedral and the Bazaar Eric Raymond | Innovation Happens Elsewhere Ron Goldman, Richard P. Gabriel | Open Source & Free Software Licensing Andrew M. St. Laurent | Open Source Licensing: Software Freedom & Intellectual Property Law Lawrence Rosen | Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution Oreilly | Open Sources 2.0 The Continuing Evolution Oreilly | Free as in Freedom Richard Stallman
Post updated: 12/26/07, 12/27/07, 4/28/08, 5/16/08
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