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Craig's Blog

If I Were 22: Nerds, Hack Your Career


If you're a serious, old-school nerd, the usual way to get ahead is to invent your own stuff, or to acquire the following over twenty or thirty years of business experience. (In my case, thirty years.)

They don't teach you this at school.

If you have normal social affect, you might know all this already, or will pick it up much faster than your nerdy co-workers.

In any case, people will quickly decide to perceive you one way or the other, and it'll be hard to change that perception, which is what the marketing folks rightly call a "brand."

You're responsible for your own branding from the beginning, and if you can get it done well, right at the start, and then protect it, that's good.

We nerds aren't good at that, and tend to be perceived unfairly. That can be corrected over time, particularly if you have a sense of humor. Publicly identifying with Dilbert helps.

In a small company, 150 employees or less, people tend to know each other, and view themselves as a team. They actually work with each other, collaborating.

That might be the best way to start a career.

I'd consider a company over 150 people a large one, so large that people can't know everyone else. People organize into smaller units as a form of emergent behavior. They form teams, tribes, silos, stovepipes, whatever you'd like to call 'em.

In any case, what emerges is "us versus them" attitudes, and the teams will only reluctantly work with each other, competing for resources. Teams might organize by ambition and values. Commonly, you'll see one group motivated by a desire to build great products and to serve the customer well. Other groups might be motivated only to climb the corporate ladder, while faking an interest in good product. (A good sign of this is a neglect of customer service.)

My young nerds, here's the deal:

  • Take control of your image, your branding, from the beginning. It even includes how you dress, since people judge you that way.
  • Decide on a small versus large company; I'd recommend small, starting out.
    (It was a mistake for me to start with IBM.)
  • If you go large, do what you can to identify the teams or silos, and decide where you want your ambitions to go. Might be happier to find the people who want to do the job well. Bear in mind that the ambition-focused tribes might find it useful to destroy the tribes who believe in good product; that's happened to me, maybe more than once.

You, my nerd, are responsible for your career. Take charge of it.

Net neutrality, TV, and what the smart people forget to tell you

People are rightly concerned about recent FCC statements about Net Neutrality. A lot of people, way smarter than me, discuss the regulatory and technology issues much better than me. My focus is on some of the basics which are pretty much always forgotten in Washington, even by some very smart people.

net neutrality

(Folks, please note I speak only for myself, not for any org that I started or anything else.)

Personal bottom line: I love TV, and looking forward to getting the good stuff via Internet services like Netflix and Amazon. Looks like a big ISP has already messed around with that, and I don't know if we can trust the big ISPs to keep their promises.

That's the big forgotten issue: can we trust telecoms, cable companies, and big ISPs to do what they promise to do?

You probably know the answer to that, considering broken promises, and that ISPs and telecoms often think it's okay to break promises.

For that matter, the big guys seem to have forgotten that they make money using public property, like radio airwaves and rights of way, like where they bury cables or provide cell phone service. I feel that the American people expect the telecoms to embrace basic American values, like playing fair, like being trustworthy.

Sascha Meinrath says it well "we are the landlords and we have expected norms for the tenants of our property."

We're not really talking "regulation," just enforcing the terms of the social contract between Americans and the telecoms who have the privilege of using our stuff for big profit.

Please remember that The Internet has worked really well for around thirty years with a Net Neutrality-based social contract.

If it works, don't break it.

Bonus: an Internet-based movement emerged, a few years ago, to defeat some really bad law, SOPA. I've been quietly pushing the idea that we need that movement to emerge again, and become a permanent part of the US political landscape. This is the time.


8 Social Good Changemakers to Watch

Folks, just figured it was about time to highlight some more social good changemakers who really have their boots on the ground creating real change. These people are disruptors, they're inspirational, and they're the real deal.


  1. Jillian York

    Director for International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Her work is at the intersection of tech and policy, with a focus on the Arab world. Her Twitter feed's been described as "Grim reality mixed with activism, humanism, feminism and a dash of humor."
  2. Rinku Sen

    President and Executive Director of Race Forward: the Center for Racial Justice Innovation, formerly known as the Applied Research Center (ARC) and Publisher of A leading figure in the racial justice movement, Rinku has positioned Race Forward to bring systemic analysis and an innovative approach to complex race issues to help people take effective action toward racial equity through research, media, and practice. More about Rinku here.
  3. Van Jones

    Senior Fellow at American Progress focusing on “green-collar jobs” and how cities are implementing job-creating climate solutions. Jones is a globally recognized, award-winning pioneer in human rights and the clean energy economy. He is a co-founder of three successful nonprofit organizations: the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Color of Change, and Green For All.
  4. Amy Sample Ward

    CEO of NTEN. Amy is a conversation-starter and thought-leader, writing about strategic uses of new technologies for communities and organizations on her blog and the Stanford Social Innovation Review. She is dedicated to educating and supporting nonprofit and community organizations in using technology to make lasting change. She is the co-author of the nonprofit best selling book Social Change Anytime Everywhere co-written by Allyson Kapin.
  5. James Rucker

    Chairman and Co-founder of and Citizen Engagement Laboratory (CEL). Founded in the wake of Katrina, is the leading online citizen lobby for African-Americans and their allies. CEL was founded three years later to serve as an incubator and accelerator for online organizing efforts.
  6. Tinia Pina

    Founder & CEO of Re-Nuble, an organics-to-energy social enterprise based in the D.C. area. Tinia founded Re-Nuble with a mission to “Redefine Waste” within local, urban communities. Nuble, Inc. increases recycling by the food service industry while providing employment to D.C. residents with criminal records.
  7. Rabbi Sarah Bassin

    Executive Director of NewGround, a joint Jewish-Muslim organization training emerging leaders to collaborate and overcome entrenched conflicts. Deeply interested in interfaith relations, Sarah entered the rabbinic program at Hebrew Union College with the intention of pursuing a rabbinate in community relations. During the year in Israel portion of her rabbinic education, Sarah became both a participant and a facilitator for Encounter, helping Jewish leaders better understand the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
  8. Scott Beale

    Founder & CEO of Atlas Corp, and an experienced social entrepreneur who has started three nonprofit organizations and helped thousands of people in his generation become agents for social change. He has worked on four continents, with nonprofit, government and business leaders from around the world. More about Scott here.

Who would you add to this list? Please share, and I'll keep 'em in mind for a follow up post.

We're Giving $50k to America's Heroes Right Now

Hey, the second annual Veterans Charity Challenge just launched over on CrowdRise at noon EDT. We've expanded the challenge this year to benefit police and fire fighter nonprofits, in addition to veterans and military charities.

This year’s Veterans Charity Challenge 2 is a follow-up campaign to last year’s campaign, which raised more than $445,000 for veteran, military and their family-affiliated nonprofits. The Challenge began today (May 22) and ends on July 3 at 12:00 pm EDT.

I'm giving $50k in cash prizes to encourage folks to raise money for their favorite “American Hero” nonprofits during the Memorial Day and Independence Day holidays.


The challenge is taking place over on the CrowdRise platform. Fundraising teams participating in the Vets Charity Challenge 2 will compete to raise the most money for their org and win additional cash prizes for their causes.

The nonprofit that raises the most money by the end of the Challenge will receive a $20k donation that I'm giving on behalf of the Veterans Charity Challenge 2.  Second place will receive a $10k donation, and third place will receive a $5,000 donation. An additional $15k in Bonus Challenges will be given to participating nonprofits over the course of the campaign.

I just think if someone's willing to serve and even risk their life for me, I should give back. And it's not only those who serve, it's also family members who give up a lot for all of us. This challenge is for the folks who really have their boots on the ground, and who're creating real change.

So far there's more than 60 charities signed up for the challenge. Any nonprofit organization benefiting veterans, military personnel, police, fire fighters or their families can sign up to participate in the Challenge until June 6. Note: after June 6, individuals can sign up to raise money for organizations, but no new orgs can participate.

I'd really appreciate it if you're able to give back. This is the real deal, and it's important to help out. I'll be keeping you updated about winners and the important work they're doing throughout the challenge.

Visit the Veterans Charity Challenge 2 to either donate to your favorite charities, register to participate, or sign up to fundraise for an org you're passionate about.

7 ways to get involved in tech right now

The best way to get stuff done is to get involved, and to connect those who already have their boots on the ground.

Summer is almost  here, and it's a really good time to get involved. My team and I have compiled a list of ways you can get involved in tech.


Ways to get more involved in tech:

  1. Either join a Girls Who Code club in your area, or start one if there's not one already. Girls Who Code partners with school networks, community based orgs, libraries, faith-based centers, labor unions, and tech companies to bring Girls Who Code Clubs to communities all across the country.You can start a club if you’re a girl, parent, teacher, school or community leader, or anyone else who wants to bring computer science ed to your community.
  2. Get a ticket to the NonProfit 2.0 Unconference in DC. I'll be keynoting with Majora Carter, and will be talking about grassroots organizing from the bottom up. The Unconference is only $45 on June 26, and you can use the code nptech for 10% off.
  3. Host a screening of the Black Girls CODE documentary in your community.  Black Girls CODE's more than a program, it's a movement. The film tells of the movement, created by San Francisco-based computer programming pioneer Kimberly Bryant, to expose young black girls to the world of computer programming and all the possibilities that they can achieve.
  4. Visit a hackerspace. Hackerspaces are community-operated physical places, where folks can get together and work on their projects.
  5. If you're a DIYer, stay up all night trying to install linux on your laptop, or take your laptop apart and put it back together. Perhaps, make a social network in your dorm room.
  6. Get involved in an open source community as a tester. You can find Drupal's community here, and you're able to find out more about how to contribute to WordPress here.
  7. Get involved with Code for America in your city. Their philosophy's that citizens have the power to help their cities.

What would you suggest folks do to get involved in the tech space? What motivated you to get involved? Leave a comment, I'd love to hear your story.