The Philosophies of a Nerd
Posted on July 8th, 2014 by Craig Newmark
Hey, I recently spoke at Nonprofit 2.0's Unconference in Washington, and it turns out, I really am a nerd.
In high school, and this is 50s/60s, I really did grow up wearing a plastic pocket protector, thick black glasses taped together, and I had the requisite social skills to go with that. And even now, I can simulate social skills for an hour, maybe 2, then I get pretty cranky. You may wonder if I'm joking or serious, and the answer is both.
I figure a few of the things I talked about at the Unconference could be considered the life philosophies of a nerd…
On Money -
We put a lot of money into feeding people, and a lot of people are still hungry. We put a lot of money into education, and that doesn't seem to work so well. Which I don't get. We put a lot of money into housing, and yet there's still people without houses.
At some point in 1999, after I'd founded some site called craigslist, I'd go to parties in Silicon Valley and they suggest I do the easy Silicon Valley path of monetizing like crazy, then cashing out for huge amounts of money.
I decided I don't need that. I just want to be comfortable and share that with friends and family. Since I got married recently my niece/nephew count went from 2 to 20 – my wife's side of the family is terribly fertile.
(At the risk of a tangent, I haven't been in craigslist management in about 14 years, don't speak for the company, and haven't done so for a long time.)
On Social Change –
Long term I want to figure out how to give a voice, using the internet, to everyone on the planet. A lot of people who are doing good work, like Mark, and Sergio, and Larry. They want to do work to change the world.
You can't make change from the top down. The president's the most powerful person in the world, but not that powerful. What's powerful is when people in the trenches work together to get things done, and that's what makes a difference.
My ambitions are to get people in the world to work together. To get stuff done. That's what changes things. There are opportunities of power to emerge from people who work together effectively. I don't know how that works.
I look at the social media leaders in the past who were good at doing things. An early blogger was Julius Caesar, he blogged, even though it was very low tech.
It got a little better with Martin Luther, who decided to use an evolved form of the same network. He got pretty good, blogging on a church blog. Of course Luther was assisted by this printing press thing – and this evolved in the Twitter revolution of 1688. John Locke, the one who lived in 1688, not the John Locke in Lost. Good show, but you could only understand it if you knew a lot about quantum physics. I know a lot of you want to hear it more about quantum physics, but more later… Just be glad I'm not going on a Game of Thrones rant.
On Vets, Milfams, and Getting Stuff Done –
My biggest priority area's to support vets and military families. Ultimately, if a person's going to maybe go out there and risk taking a bullet protecting me, I could do something, like help them get a job.
I support a bunch of groups and efforts, typically supporting people who are doing good work. There's a lot of veterans' services orgs, like IAVA and Blue Star Families, and the National Military Family Association.
The group hardest to support getting something done is the Department of Veterans Affairs. They're actually doing a lot of good work, but they have some real problems. The whole org of 360K people are being demonized by a very small group of people who started those efforts a while back, and now the whole org is demoralized.
And, mostly, I'm doing all of this quietly because I've learned that in this town you can get a lot of credit or you can get stuff done. But not both.
Folks, I've got lots more, but brevity is the soul of wit. Maybe just get the word out and stop talking. More to come…