In a recent post, I tried to lay out some sketchy ideas about how a visionary writer could create a universe, tell some stories about it, and then proceed to give away said universe, so that others may use it for their own personal gain, thereby increasing the value, and hopefully encouraging others to do the same. With any luck, we could apply some licensing to anything based on this universe that does not penalize people who write fan fiction or derivative works, while still granting some protection to authors - one must eat, after all.
Just today, I realized one popular example of this model at work... sort of.
Exhibit A: Wicked
In 1900, L. Frank Baum published The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Despite the fact that a blockbuster motion picture based on this story and it's universe was released in 1939, the book was released to the public domain in 1956. I believe this had a lot to do with a far less litigious motion picture industry in the 40s and 50s.
Fast-forward to 1995 when Gregory Maguire wrote Wicked, which has spawned a writing career for the author, as well as the smash-hit Broadway musical. You can bet your ass that story won't be released to the public domain.
In the Wikipedia article about Wicked, there is a line: "the two series are set in similar and internally consistent but distinctly separate visions of Oz". I disagree. I always thought it was a matter of perspective. Showing more than one perspective of a chain of events is a great storytelling tool.
Exhibit B: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Perhaps inspired by the rollicking success of Wicked, and the rising pupularity of Zombies in popular culture (step aside, Pirates and Ninjas), some enterprising chap named Seth Grahame-Smith said "I can make Jane Austen more interesting with Zombies!"
The wikipedia page leads us to believe that the title was actually inspired by someone trying to figure out which classic books were ripe for mashing up. Jane Austen is credited as a co-author of the book, as much of the text is actually pulled from the original.
However, is it also public domain? I don't think so, but I am prepared to be corrected.
Both of these authors have gone on to publish sequels to these books, sell the movie rights, TV series deals, and so on. Is that right? Just because something was written a few years later, does that make it any different than me doing it tomorrow?
I'm going to give this idea a name, just so I can stop dancing around it: Collaborative Universes. Whether the collaboration is welcome or not, and commercial or not, is going to vary based on the situation, but I really want to see what happens when the original author is still alive and incorporates material from the "fan fiction" into his or her own original work.
Example: "I'm the Juggernaut, bitch!" Was referenced in the film version of X-Men as a nod to an Internet Meme of the same name. But we could have so much more than that.
Adding custom HTML markup to your Facebook Fan Pages couldn't be easier. Facebook has made an Application called Static FBML that does the heavy lifting. This short video shows you where to click to make it all work for you.
In order to get the most of your new custom tab, you can set it as the default landing page for "Everyone Else", or anyone who is not assigned as an Administrator to your page. The Wall will still be accessible, but behind your default tab.
If you ask me, this custom app, combined with the ability for you to give multiple users the ability to make posts to the page, is the number one reason to use Pages instead of regular user accounts.
On top of that, there are very few things you can't do with pages that you can do with user accounts - besides, the people who become your fans don't really want to let you in to the inner sanctum of their lives, they just want to get updates from your organization or other brand.
A few weeks ago, I was visiting Cocoa Village, working out of the Ossorio coffee shop with Mike, when I got a phone call from Orlando Business Journal reporter Anjali Fluker. She asked me several questions about Coworking and what I do working out of home, coffee shops and other spaces. I told her some of the benefits of coworking, and a bit about the Urban ReThink project.
Later, I got a call from an OBJ photographer, who met me down at the space last week and snapped a few photos, including one of myself and Anna McCambridge working on laptops.
I haven't had a photo published in the paper since I was 5 years old. I'm pretty stoked.
Yesterday, this week's OBJ was released, and I read the story - Cool collaboration eats up empty spaces - it starts out by mentioning that three local buildings are using their empty space for Coworking and things that smell like coworking. The story is even placed in the Commercial Real Estate category on the OBJ website. Thankfully, it does mention the Urban Think! Foundation. I think the story also lost something in the translation from the printed page to the website, as far as the layouts and visuals are concerned. I am waiting to see it in print. EDIT:
Here's my paragraph:
“Big industries for creative people are growing,” said Ryan Price, 28, an Orlando independent consultant/trainer for website design, social media and marketing. Although he works from home, Price said there are times he needs more company than just his cat, or an environment more conducive to brainstorming than a coffee shop. “We need a great place to work — and these types of spaces provide that.”
For some reason it only mentions Urban ReThink's $300 membership, which is a really tiny part of what we do. It does mention that we will be holding events there, and there is a quote from Craig about "younger creative types don’t like a typical 9-to-5 job".
I'm glad John Hussey's quote includes the fact that his decision to try Coworking came from the tech companies in his building - I always think that is a great part of their story. I'm also really interested to see what Florida Theatrical Association has done over at the Sanctuary. There are currently no performance spaces in Thornton Park - this is really something the neighborhood needs to be considered a first-class neighborhood of Orlando.
When you step back and look at the article, you can tell Anjali is trying to capture something about the larger trend - how John Hussey was able to sell units, how local companies are seeking collaboration, how these spaces are improving the quality of life in downtown.
I wonder how people are reacting to the story - the comments on the OBJ site have exactly one respondent - who is pretty much a spammer. I guess we'll find out as a new wave of phone calls, emails and walk-ins accost us in the weeks to follow. I know the Sentinel Article really helped get some people in the door - the great sandwiches at Virgin Olive don't hurt either.
For the whole story, you may want to check out the OBJ. They do a great service here in Orlando, and this story certainly helps.
Apple doesn't allow apps to sell content to users unless that content passes through the official Apple ecosystem, where Apple gets a 30 percent cut.
If an app lets users access content that they purchased via Amazon's website, for example, then that same app must also let users buy the same book via Apple's own in-app purchase system. If the app developer doesn't want to use Apple's in-app purchases to sell content, then the app can't access content purchased elsewhere either.
On the one hand, making things easier for users, I can see how you would arrive at this decision. On the other hand, taking a binary approach to it - you're either in or out - is what really boils my beans.
Is there anything better out there? I really haven't tried non-Apple tablets, but this is one very good reason.
When recommending a touch screen solution to a local arts organization, I urged them to get a touch screen PC and develop a website that is optimized for touch instead of getting an iPad,. It ended up being cheaper and easier to develop, including easier for them to lock down, so patrons couldn't use the other apps in their lobby. Also, if they decide they would rather use different software, say Ubuntu instead of Windows, they have that choice, and they should still be able to get support from the hardware vendor.
Are they missing a lot of other iPad stuff? Yes. However, this machine was intended for a single purpose. The iPad is not a one-trick pony, and it comes with a lot of baggage. See above.
One year ago, I was approached by Julia Young, the President of a local nonprofit organization called the Urban Think! Foundation. She was charged with transforming a soon-to-be out of business local bookstore into a Coworking space, event space, and a program to support local creatives. There were hazy thoughts about having a cafe, putting in a loft, and creating a versatile space. She found me because of my numerous blogs posts about Coworking, and my involvement in the local community.
I brought in a good friend of mine, Darren McDaniel, who had experience working at a similar space here in Orlando that was eventually strangled by bureaucracy. He had a business plan, several years of experience, and a PhD thesis paper about creating structure for freelancers and other creatives. Darren would be tapped as the Founding Director of the project, code named Urban ReThink.
We put out a survey to the old mailing list from the bookstore, and as many other communities as we could get in touch with. This concept is a bit bigger than Coworking space alone, but it shares values and lots of the superficial things many spaces have. To say this is ambitious would be an understatement. We do have some great things going for us.
The landlord is one of the original founders of the old bookstore, and he had other offers for the space - this is a passion project for him. A few months into this adventure, we found out he will be developing an area of downtown Orlando called the Creative Village - Craig and the rest of the nonprofit board are really committed to making our city better, and they have been invaluable throughout this process. From the big things like the space itself and the renovation, to smaller things like the PR and marketing strategy, and making connections with other organizations and businesses.
Starting in November, we started hosting events - film screenings, a book signing, an interactive art installation, and several holiday parties. These were a great learning experience, as our space is at street level, and on a major walking path to the rest of Downtown Orlando - the weekends are very colorful here.
On January 17th, our cafe partner opened their doors to a torrential downpour - but lunch time still brought in about a dozen people, eager to see their new neighbors. Last week, some furniture was delivered - donated from a local interior design shop - and we invited a few potential community members to start working here. Today was the final straw as the cable company connected the internet and we fired up our wi-fi - no more stealing from the neighbors!
We were lucky enough to be featured in the local daily newspaper a few weeks ago, and now I am told a business journal article related to independent workers will be landing this week - they even took my picture for it.
We still have so far to go - I'm pretty sure we're doing it backwards - the "if you build it, they will come" plan. I am feverishly trying to finish the website (just got the design on Friday) so I can stop answering all my questions via Facebook, Twitter and Email. At the same time, we know we have lots of interest - people wanting to (and already are) holding meetings here, people ready to sign up for memberships, mentors ready to give sage wisdom, and many and more things ready to happen.
In 2 weeks we'll have the start of our grand opening festivities, and who knows what will happen from there?
I've been thinking a lot lately about projects that were created with the idea of collaboration introduced early in the lifecycle (that is in comparison to when it was released to the public), or that were intended to be collaborative from the beginning. Namely, I've been trying to find a good way to start one, or become involved with one, for the better part of 5 years.
My original idea was to create a web video series with a choose-your-own-adventure storyline, and only make one or two of the possible branches from each decision point, letting others fill in to the beginning, middle or end at any of the endpoints. Then others would be able to fill in between the contributors endpoints, and so on. For the longest time, the question was "What if someone decides to sell the product?" If I made it completely wide open, someone else could come along, put a price tag on the world, and make a boatload of money.
On the other hand, this assumes a whole lot of things:
That the world I and my community created was any good.
That the story this fictional capitalizer created is any good.
That the capitalizer has more time than everyone else involved.
That the capitalizer has more spare talent than everyone else.
The talent by itself is not that useful - I have a decent amount of computer programming talent that gets wasted while I'm on the phone, that doesn't mean I make money on merit alone. Most markets require someone to put the time into a project to be successful. The interesting thing in this scenario is that there are potentially dozens / hundreds of creative teams all putting time into the same universe.
The biggest and most important is this - is the idea any good? Would I pay for the end product, or sit through advertising to watch it? This has a little to do with the talent (production value, acting ability) of the capitalizer and his team, but also a lot to do with the vision.
This is the new "Iron Triangle" Eric Marden and I theorized about in our latest episode of Our Yellow House.
In the past few weeks, a theoretical philosophical battle has been raging in the Drupal community, with everyone in the community on the same side of the "thought experiment" posed by Robert Douglass: should Drupal have an app store?
Here is one of the quotes most relevant to this blog post, left by "patcon" on Earl Miles' blog:
"perhaps if I'd been allowed to throw a bit of money at the community, I wouldn't have felt as compelled to contribute back time and know-how... Maybe offering a route for payment would strain a much greater resource.
So what I'm suggesting is that maybe freeloader guilt is the real Drupal currency"
In this case, because traditional media companies have collected a few dollars from us, they expect us to want to treat media as a broadcast versus a conversation. I think that by choosing when and where to make the cash flow, the conversation can happen, but a few people can still make money.
With the right Creative Commons license, I don't believe the capitalizers would be able to reproduce someone else's script wholesale and call it his or her own. This means that just because a good script existed, and the capitalizers had the time and talent to pull it off, that the script writer would get left out in the cold. I think the license would need to have a non-commercial clause to it, so the capitalizer would need to gain permission from any script author he or she wanted to crib from. This way, fan fiction (this whole idea is a glorified fan fiction) would thrive, while commercial interest would require original work or the permission of a fan author. However, a fan author would still be able to borrow from and build upon a commercial work. I don't think the wholesale cribbing would apply in the other direction though.
Think Jack Black and Mos Def in Be Kind Rewind - in the re-interpretation of classic films, some things were gained and lost. Only when you decide to remake a film shot for shot, line for line are you truly stealing. In the days of the Jazz greats and crooners (what we now would call Easy Listening), covering someone else's song was paying homage to it. The same could be said of theatre in the pre-copyright era. Why should a play that is put on for free have to ask permission from the author? When does it stop being art, and start being a slimy Intellectual Property business?
If you've ever seen someone play Movieoke, you'll know that you don't have to change much about the delivery of some classic scenes to change the entertainment from serious to funny. Isn't that enough?
There are lots of questions here, and few hard-and-fast answers. My thoughts about creating a universe (think Marvel Universe, Star Trek Universe, Roger Rabbit Universe, Cirque du Soleil Universe) and giving it to the world to play in has been on my mind for years, and I'll keep thinking about it until I think the time is right.
I've got a specific project in mind to test this out, but I am not the owner of said universe; which (if you ask me) is the right place to start.
Where can you find some of the most passionate, open, outgoing, and collaborative people on the planet? What is my favorite International happening? Where will I be getting my hands dirty with source code, teaching workshops, taking tons of photos and shaking o-so-many hands? DrupalCon!
I have mad so many great friends through this community and these events - I know Chicago will be no different. Another neat thing is the massive number of people who will all be staying in the "Drupal Towers", complete with custom pajamas!
At DrupalConSF I co-presented a Pre-Conference Training session about Drupal Theming - Mike and I had a great time, and we had a good number of students in the class.
This year, I'm doing something very similar, with 2 small changes:
I'm teaching the class by myself
Drupal 7 has landed!
This means I'm going to have more territory to cover, without my second brain. I've certainly done this before, so it should go off without a hitch. Preparation and years of experience are certainly going to help.
This class is intended for people who know some HTML and CSS, and covers the fundamental principles of Drupal theming geared toward people who wish to take a static mockup of a site design and turn it into a Drupal theme. You will also learn about using base themes, grid-based layout and helper modules to streamline and customize your Drupal theme.
Drupal is the industry-leading open source content management platform used to power millions of websites. It’s also a robust community of Web developers, designers, businesspeople, and everyday citizens around the world.
DrupalCon is an international event that brings together the people who use, develop, design, and support the Drupal platform. DrupalCon Chicago will be held March 7-10, 2011, and will feature dozens of curated sessions and panels from some of the most influential people and brightest minds within the Drupal community and beyond, as well as countless opportunities for networking, sprints, informal conversations, and more. Go to http://chicago2011.drupal.org to find out more and purchase your ticket today, along with registration for Beginning Drupal Theming!
Hope to see you all in Chicago. We're going to have a blast. Early Bird registration prices have been extended through Friday 1/21 - i.e. Tomorrow, so now is a great time to make your plans.
In wanting to post about it, I gave the piece favorable mention in several places. On this blog, however, I tended to focus on certain parts of the article, and it must have seemed pretty ungrateful and irresponsible.
After taking some time to let it sink in, and realizing how many comments and discussions this has spawned, I have to say I'm so happy this happened, and that it happened this week.
Nothing in the article was untrue, or misleading, and I personally believe that we wouldn't be anywhere without Craig and the old bookstore - this article establishes that for the readers of the Sentinel. Kudos. I've been meaning to post this since Sunday, and time has been slipping into the future.
I've got a lot of good things to say about our local traditional media. Collectively and individually, they're doing some great stuff. I mean it.
I have taken this week to introduce myself to Erin Sullivan, the new(ish) Editor of the Orlando Weekly. I heard a little bit about her from a friend, and she has been writing about events at Urban ReThink too. I have to say she is really doing her job in the right spirit.
I'm also happy that a publication like the Orlando Business Journal is spending some energy blogging, and trying to engage readers online.
I stand behind what I write here on my personal space - if you walk in my front door, be prepared to hear what I have to say. At the same time, I forgot to say two of the most important words in the English language on Friday: "Thank You".
Today the Orlando Sentinel wrote a short, one-dimensional piece about our as-of-yet-unopened space at Urban ReThink in downtown Orlando. I really wish we could have a website today - one exists, but with no styling. Ugh.
"It's trying to create a space that has all of that coffee shop appeal — with structure for people who want to get some work done," said Ryan Price, an Orlando Web site designer who hopes to become a tenant at Urban ReThink.
Sandra and I talked on the phone for about 10 minutes. I talked about our great resource library (AKA LinkedIn on steroids for our Community) and all the other awesome benefits we will offer to members, but the reporter seemed to want to focus on Cow-orking. I also talked about the (at least) 4 year history the coworking movement in Orlando has had, and I get exactly one sentence.
"Tenant" is also really the wrong word. We are saying "Resident".
Update: Over at the Sentinel, there was a 9-comment thread in reply. Sadly, 8 of the comments seemed to be about independent bookstores.
I agree that running independent bookstores has gotten really hard in this day and age. However, this story is not about bookstores. It's about what happens post-bookstore.
Urban ReThink only shares an address with what used to be the bookstore. The space will provide resources to creative people in town. There are already some cool events taking place there, like the Bad Film Appreciation Society, which had it's fifth local screening last night.