I’ve been obsessed with changing the basic structure of the internet for the past 8 years.
The lengthy path that led me to that conviction is outlined in another blog post, so I’ll skip that here, but suffice it to say that I’m thoroughly convinced that the architecture of the internet needs to evolve and that this evolution can create a world where communities are much more effective at self-regulation and thus at navigating the threats and opportunities that we are faced with.
At the beginning of 2013, I started a meetup group called Build the Collaborative Internet (or BtCI) … after stumbling upon a number of other people (in particular Harlan Wood and Scott Albritton) that were thinking about these possibilities in the same way that I was. Since I largely lack the technical chops to actually build any of this stuff, it has been incredibly helpful to be able to chat through details of these systems with other programmers, developers, database engineers, security experts, storytellers and user experience gurus.
There were probably 70 or so people that joined in the conversations at BtCI over its first year, but the ones that were most impactful on helping advance my thinking included Harlan and Scott as well as Travis Wellman, Jack Senechal, Augustin Brailey, Garth Johnson, Christopher Allen, Joe Johnston, Ishan Shapiro, Evonne Heyning, Jean Russell, Kaliya Hamlin and Larry Mellon.
There are also other people that are working on these and related issues that have not yet attended a BtCI meet up that are building quality solutions in this area, including Kevin Marks and the crew at Indie Web Camp, Arthur Brock and Eric Harris-Braun with the Metacurrency project, Vitalik Buterin and crew with the Ethereum project and Alan Karp and Marc Steigler (as well as the whole CapTalk community) and their work on Capabilities Based Security.
For 5 or 6 months, the weekly Tuesday night meetup that we held was a place of vibrant conversation, full of hashing out details and introducing one another to kindred spirits. However, over time, as the core group began to feel as though they had “mapped out” much of what they needed to map out, the weekly schedule began to feel burdensome, especially since a large portion of each meeting was often spent catching newcomers up to speed. The meeting of new people was great, but the structure that we were using wasn’t cutting it. In particular, it felt like 1) our time got spent retracing steps with newcomers far too much, 2) we weren’t recording and sharing these insights in ways that newcomers and the larger public would be able to access and most importantly, 3) those facts, combined with the limited time that we did have available at each meeting was preventing us from actually making much progress in actually building this stuff.
Finally, when I set up the BtCI meetup, I was also trying to build an events business for TechShop at the same time. I tried to make the meetup independent of me personally, but as the events business took off, my ability to adequately nurture the meetup floundered. It had been personally dependent upon me as I hadn’t sufficiently delegated responsibility to others. As Michael Gerber puts it in his book The E Myth, I had performed management through abdication rather than management through delegation. Stan Gould took a swipe at providing clearer direction, but I wasn’t ready for it and the passion had already started to wane. Over time, my lack of guidance, combined with the frequency (and later irregularity) of the meetings caused attendance to die off.
I attempted to change the frequency of the meetings and to move them online. While this solved some of the problems, the tools we were using were hacked together and my delegation abilities hadn’t improved at all. As of the writing of this post, we haven’t held a meetup in months.
The responsibility lands squarely on my shoulders. I crashed the community. I think it’s time to uncrash it.
I’d like to relaunch BtCI again, but in a structure that results in regular building, not just talking. We have good people building tools for collaboration, but working in isolation.
Beginning May 29 – 31, we will be hosting a Build Weekend once a month. This will be a weekend that can be attended remotely. Each month, we will start at 7:00 PM Friday evening and run until 7:00 PM Sunday evening.
The structure will be as follows:
7:00 PM | Welcome and Introductions
7:30 PM | Proposed Projects
8:00 PM | Groups Start Forming and Projects Get Under Way
10:00 PM | Good Night! (though teams are welcome to continue working)
8:00 AM | Morning Welcome and 1 minute updates
12:00 PM | Lunch / Physical Play Time
1:30 PM | Build Time
6:00 PM | Break for Food and Physical Time
7:30 PM | Build Time + User Testing (where possible)
10:00 PM | Good Night!
8:00 AM | Morning Welcome and 1 minute updates
12:00 PM | Lunch
2:00 PM | Submit Demo Presentations + Keep Hacking
4:00 PM | Demos
5:00 PM | Recognition and Celebration
6:00 PM | Casual Conversations
7:00 PM | Good Night!
In addition, we will set up a few tools for helping community members stay in touch with one another as well as share their ideas and efforts with the world. One will be a newsletter that we will use to share ideas coming out of our build weekends. Another may be a Slack Group or something similar for asynchronous sharing of ideas.
If you are interested in participating (or in helping make sure that it is better run this time), please reach out. I could use help both in the doing, but more importantly in the clarifying what needs to get done.