Commanding Chaos for Coworking, Open Source and Creative Communities

Let's Make it Suck

Sat, 10/31/2009 - 20:56 -- rprice

This week I ordered my copy of The Art of Community by Jono Bacon. Jono is a community leader for a big open source software project, and hosts one of my favorite podcasts, all about open source, but he tries to write the book from a neutral perspective.

Still, you have to write what you know, so Jono's 4 big examples so far are the Jokosher sound editor, Linux user groups, the LUG Radio Podcast, and the Ubuntu project, of course.

He has a big emphasis on writing things down, which I have to say I haven't always been the best at in the past - I like to get my hands dirty. However, when the mission, goals, and a plan are written down and shared with everyone, more doors can be opened than if you keep everything in your head.

What do you mean by "making it suck"?

One of the coolest examples from the Art of Community is when Jono is discussing methods for brainstorming. One of the ways he suggests to get people talking and break down mental barriers is by asking them to design an end product with the opposite goals in mind.

From The Art of Community, Chapter 2, p. 55:

The idea is simple: reverse the aims of what you want to achieve.

As an example, imagine you wanted to design a cell phone. Traditionally, you would brainstorm the attributes of a great cell phone. Instead, turn everything on its head. What would make the worst possible cell phone? Maybe it ignores all calls? Or maybe it only accepts calls from telemarketing companies? Maybe the buttons are too small? How about really short battery life?

Awesome idea. I'm stealing that one.

So, what's something I love, and how can I make it suck? I think Florida Creatives would be a great thought experiment:

  • Membership is invite-only. Each event has a $50 entry fee, and you are not allowed to bring anyone new - ever.
  • Meetings are now held at a private office with 3 keycards and 2 security checkpoints. meetings are announced one hour ahead of time; If you miss 2 meetings in a row, you are banned for life
  • You can contact other members, but only through the web site, and only if you have paid for the last 3 meetings - your website account is locked out otherwise
  • All events begin and end by passing a stack of business cards around the room - nobody is allowed to introduce him or herself, and no discussion is allowed to deviate from a pre-selected agenda
  • The agenda for each meeting will be determined by a monthly sponsor. Sponsors must take the president of the group out to dinner first and only companies with 1,000 or more employees should apply
  • a member should only ever mention his or her day job. Any "moonlighting" or "fun" projects are taboo, and anyone working for a startup will be banned
  • 30 minutes at the beginning of each meeting will be dedicated to talking about how bloggers are destroying the news industry, and why every blogger should go to jail for being un-American. Also, anyone caught mentioning open source software, let alone using any free software, will be banned for life.
  • the leader of a given group will be considered "dictator for life", and he will be able to kick people out for dressing the wrong way or bringing up the wrong subject, or making a suggestion of any kind that relates to the group. most of all, anyone offering to give his or her time for free will be banned and will be told he or she will "never work in this town again". The dictator will distribute all monies as he sees fit, especially if that means buying a new sports car to drive to meetings

Um, you get the idea... Now how would you make your favorite thing suck? The idea here is not to complain about an existing problem or bring up negative points. This is to be the "minus" side of the battery (+|-) or the "south" side of the magnet (N|S). What is so far opposite from the ideal, that any change whatsoever will be a step in the right direction?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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