Hey, it’s that time of year where people are making resolutions for 2015. I have resolutions year-
round, especially since, long term, I want to figure out how to give a voice, using the internet, to everyone on the planet. I’m a nerd, and I figure things should be fair.
My resolution for 2015 is to:
Learn to throw my weight around, on behalf of the good guys
Treating others how they want to be treated
Helping nonprofits who really have their boots on the ground raise awareness about their issues
Finding ways to encourage trustworthy news outlets
Continuing as Nerd-in-Residence (and that means helping out with veterans and milfam efforts)
As a nerd, I really believe in giving back (always have). It’s important to collaborate, help one another, and create the change we want, and that takes time.
Earlier this year, the craigconnects team and I created an infographic, Cracking the Crowdfunding Code, to show you just how effective and accessible crowdfunding is. Crowdfunding raised more than five billion dollars worldwide in 2013, and peer-to-peer nonprofit fundraising for charities is seeing explosive growth. Just a couple months ago, #GivingTuesday raised over $45 million in just one day – talk about giving back.
Here’s why it’s critical that we give back to our communities:
The vast majority of people anywhere don’t usually have much of a voice or any influence. Usually, regular people, the grassroots, only manage to acquire power when they use technology to work together. The technology enables people to magnify their team power, acting as a force multiplier (code really is power). They can get people to the streets, and raise money. Giving back means giving people a voice. Long term, I want to figure out how to give a voice, using the internet, to everyone on the planet. This also means we need to speak up when something’s not right.
When we work together to give back, we create stronger networks. Silos are inevitable, unfortunately. Do what you can to identify silos, and decide where you want your ambitions to go (my opinion? this is the best way to hack your career). Might be happier to find the people who want to do the job well. We 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
We seem to throw money into food and housing, yet a lot of folks are still in need, so something isn’t working right. This includes military families and veterans. We need to do it better. (See: 5 reasons we need social change…)
I’m kind of tired of passion. But the deal is, you really want commitment from people when they’re giving back. You want the excitement, but then they need to follow through. Following through is the hard part, and that’s what’s important. Instead of passion or excitement, alone, we need to incorporate commitment and results. People can get excited about something, realize it’s hard, then that passion might now count for anything. In short? Follow through with your passion, truly carry out your mission and show your community the results.
Any influence I get, well, I just don’t need or really want; I’ve got what I need, like a really good shower and my own parking place. Instead, I use the influence I do get on behalf of the stuff I believe in. You’ll see me either pushing the good work of people who get stuff done, or indulging my sense of humor. (Note to self: I’m not as funny as I think I am.)
To be sure, I don’t feel this is altruistic or noble, it’s just that a nerd’s gotta do what a nerd’s gotta do.
Folks, many of you might know that I’ve got quite the community of birds right outside my office window. They’ve all got their own personalities and agendas (though, they all like to eat), but they really spruce up my home office.
I kinda like to give ’em personalities based on their expressions and their demeanor. It’s gotten easier the longer we’ve been neighbors. Feel free to chime in with your own captions, too.
Good morning! part one (…and that hawk is still watching me work):
Good morning! part two (or, planning to raid the Squirrel-resistant Suet Palace):
A Golden-crowned Sparrow is very pleased to be a Golden-crowned Sparrow:
A Cedar Waxwing who’s very pleased with his tail feathers:
A neighbor Hawk (red-tailed?) waits for lunch:
Downy Woodpecker, or, Hey, Honey!
(mutant) House Finch is not impressed (Normally bright red, this one’s kinda orange):
Do you have any visitors to your yard? I’d like to hear about ’em, and see some photos. Speaking of visitors, while it’s not a Bay Area bird, I do have a new neighbor who really chews up the scenery. Seriously, it gets digested…
(New neighbor even works in the rain… goats clear underbrush, working for the city. Bonus: we got goatherds!)
History keeps getting itself made, and now and then, regular people get a chance at sharing power. Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms articulated this much more eloquently in Understanding “New Power”.
I’m pretty passionately committed to this for at least the next twenty years, have already been practicing it daily for the last twenty years.
Here’s my nerdly take on the thing:
Recently, we saw the British, American, and French revolutions each spread power around to different ends. In the UK and US, we got different forms of representative democracy, but in France, we got some rather unpleasant mob rule, later evolving into representative democracy.
For sure, in the US, democracy is increasingly centralizing toward a moneyed class willing to pay legislatures for results, that’s the whole Citizens United thing.
That’s also with Heimans and Timms call “old power”:
Old power works like a currency. It is held by few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures.
Previous revolutions aspired to what these guys call “new power” and I’m very hopeful we can get there:
New power operates differently, like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.
Power, as British philosopher Bertrand Russell defined it, is simply “the ability to produce intended effects.” Old power and new power produce these effects differently. New power models are enabled by peer coordination and the agency of the crowd—without participation, they are just empty vessels. Old power is enabled by what people or organizations own, know, or control that nobody else does—once old power models lose that, they lose their advantage.
This doesn’t say that new power involves no rules, like at the worst of the French Revolution. It’s not okay, for example, to “appropriate” (steal) anyone else’s stuff. We can, and already do better than that.
Anyone can share in this evolving power by participating, by making a genuine contribution, and there’re a lot of ways to do that.
One way that’s getting a bit of attention involves a new way to contribute to effective nonprofits, via CrowdRise and #GivingTuesday.
Everyone can pitch in, and work with each other.
This is just a start, helping people in the here and now, and getting ready for lots more.
Our times call for some innovators and women leaders who work in partnership with men. Again, this is about my commitment to fairness.
Basically, it’s time we get more women into public office. I recorded this video about fairness and getting better government everywhere, maybe indulge me? It’s about creating real social change, for the better.
I’ve joined up with the Women In Public Service Project to play my part. I’m working with them to host a call to action to champions of change around the world. You can be a part of this movement, too…
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.
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…
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.
As far as I can tell, there is discrimination against older people in the business world, but it’s no different from what I’ve seen through a 38-year career. It doesn’t surprise me, since I’ve faced what might be ageism (I’m 61), but maybe I have been discriminated because I’m balding, short, and pudgy.
Still, I have concerns that readers might take this particular story about ageism as proven fact — even though the reporting seems to be mostly anecdotal.
The story characterizes a group of maybe a million people based on a small sample size and, to me, a handful of the anecdotes seemed not so good, not so trustworthy. As a very literal guy (nerd) I assume that the headline and the body of the article are telling me that the vast majority of folks in Silicon Valley are guilty of a form of bigotry.
In the middle of my reflection, I read an interview with Aron Pilhofer from the Tow Center for Digital Journalism. Pilhofer runs a newsroom team at The New York Times that combines journalism, social media, technology and analytics. Some of his comments about data journalism, culture and going digital, seemed to echo my criticism of the New Republic’s piece on ageism.
“Journalism is one of the few professions that not only tolerates general innumeracy but celebrates it,” said Pilhofer in the interview.
“It’s a cultural problem. There is still far too much tolerance for anecdotal evidence as the foundation for news stories.”
Pilhofer’s comments confirmed what I was already thinking, that anecdotes are great clues as to what might be going on, but sometimes they are cherry-picked to confirm what a writer already believes. That’s to say that they can reinforce truthiness and preconceived notions.
I view hard data as complementary to anecdotal evidence. We need to balance both. If somebody asserts something factual, I want them to back it up with more than anecdotes, so that readers can trust it.
I turned to friends I’ve made in the journalism world for their opinions. Since I’m just a news consumer, not a professional journalist, I wanted their expert opinions. I asked them each to respond to this question:
When is anecdotal reporting enough to support broad conclusions without concrete data? This recent article on ageism in Silicon Valley seemed to paint an entire group of people based a handful of examples. Is that fair?
Nerdiness involves a lack of normal social affect, where conventional ambitions, like money and power aren’t such a big deal. The call to power doesn’t make much sense to me.
Here’re a few words from a nerdy perspective, which I live by to the best of my ability.
One needs the finances to live comfortably, and to help friends and family do that, but seriously, know when enough is enough.
In early 1999, I made a decision along those lines, and decided to avoid the usual Silicon Valley thing. That is, the bankers and VCs I knew told me to take their investments and cash out. However, I figured that my business model is “doing well by doing good” and that’s worked out.
My guess was that I got on track to fulfill my very limited financial goals, and anyway, I figure, who needs huge money?
As a nerd, it’s way more satisfying to make a difference.
I dunno if that reflects any kind of wisdom or path seeking, I ain’t that smart, seriously.
Personally, all I understand is working from the bottom up, where I quietly nudge people to do the best they can, and then affirm their efforts publicly. There’s no way to measure the results, it’s all anecdotal.
It’s just that a nerd’s gotta do what a nerd’s gotta do.