Friday Feb 12, 2010
Monday Jan 25, 2010
By Jimgris-Oracle 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-Oracle 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-Oracle 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-Oracle 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-Oracle 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-Oracle 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-Oracle 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-Oracle on Sep 01, 2009
Tuesday Jul 14, 2009
By Jimgris-Oracle 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-Oracle on Jul 14, 2009
Monday Jul 06, 2009
By Jimgris-Oracle 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-Oracle 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-Oracle 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-Oracle 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-Oracle 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-Oracle 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-Oracle 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-Oracle 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.
- Tokyo BarCamp 2010: Photos
- BarCamp Tokyo 2010: 4 Days Away
- Photos: Tokyo Make Meeting 05 2010
- Tokyo OpenSolaris Study Group: May 2010
- Tokyo OpenSolaris Study Group 2010.04
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- Tokyo Linux User Group 041610
- Sun Japan
- Tokyo Linux User Group 041010
- OpenSolaris DTrace @ Yokohama Linux UG
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