Commanding Chaos for Coworking, Open Source and Creative Communities

April 2011 Posts

Some books for your reading list

Sun, 04/10/2011 - 08:23 -- rprice

I gave a talk at Rollins to an MBA class about Technological Entrepreneurship, taught by a friend of mine. The bulk of it was about how I have brought my career to where it is, and the things I use to sell myself.

Three things I spent some time talking about were:

  • Open Source Software: my latest mantra here is that people are putting in hundreds, thousands or millions of hours into creating this software, and you don't have to pay a penny. You can also potentially benefit from each person who uses it - that doesn't happen with commercial software, except in the very best of companies with the very best feedback systems. Even then, you may never meet many people who use the same proprietary software as you. Finding others in the Open Source world is as easy as email, IRC, Google, and a hundred other technologies that also don't cost you anything. I've been able to build all my business in the last 5 years on the back of Drupal, and people build huge companies on the same platform.
  • Podcasting and Blogging: For the amount that a podcast costs me to produce (only my time), I have gotten a lot of my business by giving away what I know. The thing is not what you know, but how you are able to teach yourself new things, and keep your finger on the pulse - watch trends, do research, experiment, and discover.
  • In-Person Involvement and Meetups: Just the fact that I am involved with Urban ReThink, Florida Creatives, the Florida DrupalCamp and BarCampOrlando has helped me build a reputation I could not imagine. At the same time, the "Long Tail" involvement I have with communities - the ones where I have a smaller impact, but am nonetheless important - simply because I am there - those are some places where I become even more well-connected. Take poetry, Film, Art, Theatre or Music as examples of communities where I don't show up often, but often enough to be known.
  • Perhaps most importantly, I have a strong group of advisers, mentors, and peers who I can bounce ideas off of, and vice versa. We can talk about things I would not be comfortable discussing with others, and I generally tell them things it would be hard to tell others, because they are not as invested in my career, with the same level of understanding of how I come to evangelize ideas. These people are an absolutely indispensable part of my world.

It may seem like I am patting myself on the back, but that is really the mindset I had to have to put together this lecture. If I am able to call myself a success in my own right, how did I get here?

In the last few minutes of the talk, I decided to put together a list of books I thought the class members would be interested in. These books really helped me get where I am now, and help me to make hard decisions all the time.


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Setting up your own Etherpad site... in short, you don't have to

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 18:50 -- rprice

Some time ago, I heard about a company that was acquired by Google that had created some software called EtherPad. If you ask me, this is how Google Wave or Google Docs should have been done. You can see the updates in real-time, everyone's changes are tracked, you can save revisions, you can chat with other collaborators, and it even uses wiki-style red links, so that when you click on a link to a page that doesn't exist, a new one gets created. It's all the best things about wikis, documents and IRC.

I set up the site at - initially to get things going during BarCampOrlando, but I plan on leaving the site up there for locals to use.

You can even embed the results in another page, almost like Wave:
Edit: I have taken out the embedded pad. Not a good idea for your home page.

EtherPad runs on Java, and the version I downloaded uses Jetty, which is to Tomcat what Lighttpd is to Apache (I think, I'm not a Java guy). EtherPad is a package in a repository that you can add to your apt-get list in Ubuntu, and it basically installs itself.

I ended up doing a little bit of customization, and turning on a few plugins, like the Twitter-style tags, which is a great way to get things to show up on a search page.

If you've never heard of EtherPad before, visit the site and create a page. Then invite a friend to come check it out and edit the page with you (or ask me). When you use it at a live event, like during a meeting, your workflow for working on meetings, and the way you think about wikis will change.


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BarCamp can be a lot more in Orlando

Fri, 04/01/2011 - 21:19 -- rprice

This is something I have been trying to articulate since the first BarCamp Orlando almost 4 years ago. The whole idea behind FooCamp and its bastard offspring BarCamp was to use Open Space Technology to create order in chaos. Our events have had both order and chaos, but the order is not ordered toward much of anything productive. Some people have started new events to achieve this: I think our BarCamp can be better on its own, but these other purposeful events wouldn't be bad either.

I have set up an EtherPad site (mentioned in the slideshow above) called - it's essentially a real-time editable wiki - think Google Wave, except it works, or Google Wave without all the crap.

My follow-up pad for the "Kill BarCamp, Embrace OpenSpace" presentation is here: it's sort of like the "required reading" for attendees, after I introduce Open Space at a high level. I don't really want to (or have time to) teach Open Space Technology, I just want us to use it, and set some goals for our event. Above all I want us to set goals, but I believe the tools will help us move the day along.


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