Commanding Chaos for Coworking, Open Source and Creative Communities

Bootstrapping a Videoblogging Army

Mon, 11/16/2009 - 13:19 -- rprice

Every time I happen to catch a few minutes of the nightly news, I kind of want to vomit. The scare tactics, the way they talk down to the audience, the insanely short clips, and the tons of other tricks that mainstream media uses to bolster ratings and viewership really grind my grindable parts.

Then we have the exact polar opposites, like Orlando Event TV - Orlando Event TV this and several other shows produced locally are really trying to show everyone what it really means to be a citizen of this community, and they are all about the transparency. When you watch this video of Mark Baratelli in Winter Park, for example, the voice is completely different than the nightly news. He is much more watchable than a talking head in a TV studio.

I had a similar dream not too long ago, and that manifested itself as Orlando Scene TV and a bunch of other sites, like Orlando Video. The honest truth here is that I was not able to keep the momentum going for long periods of time. Producing video and being an unstoppable advocate for your product take a lot of time, energy, and the cooperation of a passionate community. Then there's a question of money - how can I pay my rent, etc. if all I'm ever doing is recording people's rock shows and theatre performances. It just never added up for me.

Then a little while ago I realized that the only way to really get a local indie TV project off the ground would be to distribute the workload as much as possible.

What does this look like? Well, now that I have the idea from The Art of Community to come up with a list of teams and their responsibilities, I see the teams as follows:
Internet TV and Local Events Community
Let me be clear about a few things:

Audience

The role of the audience here is to let us know that we are giving them something they want, and to give us some ideas to keep moving this machine forward. Kickstarter (or something like it) could be a powerful force here: we can hold certain great ideas for ransom unless there is a certain amount of community support. The audience laid out here is really a fraction of the audience, the most passionate 2%. I also think this group will be web-savvy enough to have their own web sites or popular facebook profiles (hundreds of friends), and they will want to use these channels to help us promote our cause.

Tech Leads

Aside from pushing buttons, I also put these people in the role of "product designers". If Jony Ive has a lot to do with the success of Apple products, then we should be able to assign a few people in our community a similar amount of responsibility. These people are very highly skilled, and may only contribute once every few years, when we redesign the title graphics and the website, or they may help us create fliers, blog badges an mini-sites on a more frequent basis. These are also the User Experience designers - in charge of the overall way in which people interact with the product.

Producers

Here, a producer is anyone who makes something. That means hosts, script or show notes writers, video editors, etc. A production team could be all of one person, or it could be as large as 5 or 6. It really depends on the skills of everyone involved and the scope of the particular project. A large goal here would be to make sure that anyone who counts as a producer could technically do everything by him- or herself if needed, but it's really a question of time. Like I said before, this is the repetitive and time-hogging part, even if we can streamline the whole process.

The other key is to make sure that everyone owns his or her work, not only from an intellectual property perspective, but in a support fashion as well - if someone has a question about the restaurant you reviewed, you should be the one to get the notification and reply. In this way, people may start to develop a "beat" or even "channels" of information, and it could make sense to give certain producers their own sites. Pulling a line from The Starfish and the Spider, the producers give little more than spiritual guidance to the community. He can suggest large projects or hair-brained schemes, but he will be on his own unless they get a decent number of other community members to support and participate. These ideas can even come from the Audience, but as they don't often produce content, an audience member will have to find a champion for her great idea.

The last piece of this puzzle for me is the equipment. We only need a few REALLY expensive tools - many people already own a computer, and video editing tools are freely available. Coming by decent video cameras is what used to be difficult, until recently. If you really want to spend some green, go ahead and get a Flip or a Kodak - even most consumer still cameras have pretty nice video capabilities. However, this still costs anywhere from $100 - $350, and that is a large financial barrier right now.

What if we could make the cost of entry $30?

That's such a small amount, we could probably raise a few hundred dollars from our community and outfit an entire army with these cheap video tools in no time at all!

I heard about the Coby CAM3000 Mini Digital Camcorder on a podcast I regularly listen to, The Daily Giz Wiz. As far as I know, this is the absolutely least expensive (yet decent) tool for capturing video made by a well-known manufacturer. I plan on picking one up just to field test it - it's so affordable, why not?

The other part of my plan here is to get some training and best practices in the heads of these videobloggers before they get out in the wild. We already have some community spaces and LOTS of events happening, so the material is always out there. We could pair up one new guy with an experienced producer and mentor them in the basics. Make sure they know not to film in too much or too little light, how to get some decent sound, introduce them to some basic video editing, and how to post videos. This might take one long day or a few evenings out, but there will be a certain point when a new producer will just have to get out on her own and start learning by doing.

We won't just "give" out these cameras - they will have to be earned. If we apply some sort of a value to the camera - say, 10 points, and videos another - say 1 point for a video shorter than 3 minutes, 2 points for a video 4 minutes or longer of a reasonable quality - later when we can offer better equipment - the Kodak Zi8, or the Flip Mino HD, or perhaps even other stuff to barter for. I also have this thought right now that if we have any advertising revenue to share, it will be based on your continued contribution of at least X points in a 1-3 month period - we would probably need a way to make sure that we always have fresh content coming in, so we need to assign deadlines to keep people from getting lazy. As soon as this machine loses a certain amount of momentum, it might as well not be running at all.

That's as far as I'm going to wander into this thought experiment for now. I don't have a great picture of how other organizations do it, and this is just something I've been stewing on for a few months when I really get the chance to think about it, which is not very often at all. I'd love to take a look at how NowPublic and a whole bunch of other public media entities handle this. There are lots of questions unanswered here, but I've been struggling to really write down and communicate this idea to a large group for a while now.

If you'd like to talk more, I think we should wake up the PodCamp Orlando mailing list. I'm going to send this same text out there to see if we get any bites. Please blog about this, tweet it, point to the list page, get everyone who might be interested involved in the discussion.

Tonight is a Florida Creatives Happy Hour, and Friday is MOOM. We should be having a Likemind on December 4th, and another Happy Hour on December 21st. If you'd like to talk in person, these days are really good ones to engage me and others who are interested in making Orlando more awesome.

Update: We now have a project planning site - if you want to get an invite, leave a comment below, and make sure you fill in the email field.

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Drupal and Interactive Marketing

Thu, 11/12/2009 - 12:45 -- rprice

Check out this slideshow by Robert Douglass at a recent conference in Europe. Pretty heavy on the Acquia love, but a nice overview of some ways large companies are rolling out dozens of sites and micro-sites to as many different audiences with Drupal.

This was actually a large part of my daily responsibilities while working for Popular Science. We spent a lot of time working on a site for the annual Best of What's New promotion (the email for this year's BoWN just went out), as well as some micro-sites for a sports promotion, and the B2B part of BoWN.

Drupal's multi-site capabilites, combined with things like Themes, Internationalization, Installation Profiles (or Features), and finally management products like Aegir, can really make rolling out a few dozen Drupal sites just as easy as rolling out just one site. We've actually had talks about this at some recent Florida Drupal User Group meetings.

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What's been going on in my life?

Sun, 11/08/2009 - 14:04 -- rprice


Lemur!, originally uploaded by Liberatr.net.

Um... where has the time gone? So many things have been happening lately, I feel like if I were to tell them all here, I'd pass another 2 weeks just re-counting all of them.

After the New Media Think and Drink, (go listen to the audio, and the audio of the 2nd half), I was excited about Community Building and Social Media Consulting even more than I have been in a long time. Also, the Digital Media Banner Center asked me to contribute to their New and Emerging Industries Task Force, which is basically trying to find jobs for journalists who have been laid off recently. I was very excited and honored to be a part of something constructive and forward-thinking. Needless to say, they were able to (once again) gather a group of smart, talented and well-experienced people and get them to talk about changing the world. I love that kind of stuff.

We have been doing lots of awesome DrupalEasy stuff lately - we have great podcasts with book authors and our patented "bookaway" contests, where you get Drupal books just for listening and commenting. I also got the chance to FLY up do to some Drupal Training in North Carolina. It was the first time that someone (specifically, Tomas and Jerry) actually FLEW to come hear me speak. I was proud.

I had a great time and got to try some wonderful craft beers at the Flying Saucer in Raleigh. I also learned that Raleigh has a Drupal User Group, but a bit too late. They actually had their meeting the same night I was headed home. Maybe next time!

The new house is treating me very well, the cats, Mariah and I are all settling in just fine, but Fozzie (my cat) has to stay in his cage, because he's still trying to heal his leg, and he gets in too many fights with Litmus and Loki (Mariah's cats), who are much older and set in their ways. He really likes chasing them around the house and is constantly getting hit in the face while trying to mount the large cat tree in the living room.

It's also really nice working here. I have been "working from home" for most of the past 6 years, but only in this house have I ever had a dedicated room as an office, and an atmosphere that was so conducive to working and collaborating with others. I think getting this house will be one of the things I look back on as being very good for my work and creative lives, in addition to the benefits everyone else gets from owning a house. We already had one big party here, back on Talk Like a Pirate Day, and a few weeks ago, we tested out the Party Patio, the BBQ grill, and the fire pit.

A large part of my last few months was actually dedicated to working with a friend of mine, Kyle, on teaching him Drupal, and updating the website for his podcast, the Student of the Game. That site and Florida Creatives are two of the ideas that have really stuck back from the days when I was doing Liberatr more full-time. Kyle was laid off, and I was trying to introduce him to web site building and freelancing. We got pretty far with the whole idea, but it's not like you can just flip a switch and change someone's life, so he's taken a contract with some place crunching database rows and generating reports. We'll keep working on it, just a bit slower. That's fine, because I need to work too.

Speaking of Florida Creatives, we are inching up on the start of the 4th year of Orlando Happy Hours for creative people. Our regular meetup will take place on the 16th at Crooked Bayou, just like it always does. I've also been trying to delegate some of the responsibility, like website design. Erik Baldwin is a fantastic designer and a good friend, and he's been coming up with some designs based on my rudimentary wireframes, and I've also been adding new features to the site, like the Communties and Meetups page. I'm not sure how this feature will ultimately present itself, but it's already better than a flat wiki page with just text and links. There's nothing stopping anyone from adding new ones, but we're not exactly advertising the feature just yet.

Also this week, I have been having some problems with an old server I keep around for hosting personal sites and sites for friends, so I started the very large task of moving several gigabytes of files over to Amazon S3. Namely, all the podcasts I recorded a few years back, and everything Kyle produced for the Student of the game in the past 4 seasons of football. As far as I can tell, everything is happily hosted by "the cloud" now, and the end users don't know the difference.

One more geeky update, and I'll be through. It's about Twitter, so feel free to tune out now.

Twitter finally added a feature... something useful, and something that would be hard for a 3rd party to add. It's called Lists, and I started making some. They're useful for me, as I'm following 1700 people and my attempts to make the list shorter are really just making me find more people I want to follow, but for a multitude of subjects. One is just plain old technology, which is what my RSS reader used to be for. The next is a collection of the other Twitter accounts I own or manage, and hopefully one day twitter will let me say WHY I made each list one day. The last and most complete right now is my list of Drupal people. I think I'm also going to start one for coworking, but I haven't really done much with it yet.

I'm sure I'm leaving stuff out, but I feel pretty well vented right now. I really need to get to this blogging thing more often...

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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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Drupal 7 will Rock so hard!

Sat, 10/24/2009 - 07:49 -- rprice

Where do I even begin?

First of all, I must preface that the Drupal Community is without a doubt one of the best open source communities. (meaning: most open, most likely to share code, experience and best practices, most innovative, most forward-thinking, least likely to "chase the bunny", most likely to be the bunny, and most likely to create tons of venture-backed companies in the next few years)

DSC05039

I mean, the people involved are just amazing. The two DrupalCons I've attended were just amazing, and our local Florida DrupalCamp and Florida Drupal user groups are a big part of why I have not jumped ship to Python, Ruby, or other even other PHP-based platforms, and why I have no plans to any time soon.

We had a demo of the penumbrant Drupal 7 at our recent monthly Drupal user group. I am convinced it is THE CMS with more power under the hood (built-in, for free) than anything else... ever. The whole Job Queue API by itself is a reason to build web apps on top of this, and stop thinking of Drupal as a CMS - if you've got tons of processing that needs to happen, such as processing thousands of RSS feeds, or creating something very processing-intensive like Feedburner or Flickr, you will need to use multiple servers - a simple Cron job isn't enough any more.

Then there is the database layer - not that it was the worst before, but there were certain kinds of configurations which used to require hacking core. Now, because of some pretty OOP (yes, Drupal has objects now!), you can override the database layer, and it uses PDO.

One huge change is the addition of a Fields API (AKA adding CCK to core, but it's more than that). This means that instead of storing simple rows in a database, Drupal 7 exposes data storage to developers and end-users. At the most basic level, fields are used to store the title and body of nodes, categories/tags, images, dates, links, numbers or references to internal objects like nodes and users. This allows you to add extra fields to comments, user accounts and taxonomy terms as well.

Next, we'd have to talk about user interface and workflow improvements. The entire administrative interface now has a default skin - and there is now a compact administrative toolbar at the top of each page, plus a customizable bookmarks area and a configurable dashboard (unlike Wordpress, where you get to read Matt's blog). The interface is a great sensible default, which is a bit of a departure from where Drupal has been in the last few years.

You'll actually notice that there will now be a choice when you install Drupal - to use a "Basic" install, or strip everything down to the bare metal. In fact, you don't even have to turn on node module any more - really. This is part of some hard work by folks who would like to use Drupal's core as a PHP framework for building entirely custom apps (instead of smelly Zend Framework or the other unmentioned PHP tools that exist). If you look around for #smallcore, you'll see what I mean.

There is so much more to say... In fact, this presentation by Steve Karsch says more. If you're a big podcast listener, I'd highly recommend listening to Lullabot's Drupal Voices. I'll leave you with this, Drupal Planet and Google to find more.

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October 24, 2009: A Day of Climate Action (350)

Fri, 10/23/2009 - 10:17 -- rprice

350dotorg

Download Eco Footprint Special: 350.org

 

Length: 3:04

Gabe LeBlanc of EcoFactory left me this message about the event being held on 10/24/09 to raise awareness about the level of Carbon in the air. More info can be found at http://350.org and http://ecofactory.com

Gabe is offering free beer to the first 350 people to arrive at Orlando Brewing at 3:50 PM on October 24th. Gabe is doing awesome stuff in our community, and I recommend everyone go and support him, or find a similar event in your area.

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Think and Drink is Tomorrow Night! 9/16/09

Thu, 10/15/2009 - 12:29 -- rprice

Just a friendly reminder that tomorrow night, Friday, Sept 16th, at 7PM, we will be opening the doors of the historic Cameo Theatre to an event to have everyone get together, share ideas, talk about community building, and hear from a few people who have experienced success in their own communities.

Please bring $5 cash per person - each paid admission also gets a free drink coupon for a drink at the bar (non-alcoholic options are also available). If you don't want to pay cash, we can hook you up on the internet, but the EventBrite service slaps us with an extra $1 service charge.
http://thinkanddrink.eventbrite.com/

We will be keeping the venue open as late as everyone wants to stay, so call the babysitter, put out the cat, and tell the wife (or husband) not to wait up for you! The conversation can continue until the wee hours of the morning! The Cameo will keep the bar open as long as we need it.

Who will be there?

Gwendolyn Anello is a co-owner of Anello Consulting out of Merritt Island. She consults several organizations in the areas of communications, market development, community and public affairs, and fundraising.

Chris Blanc is the Marketing Director for the Enzian Theatre and the Florida Film Festival. As if that wasn't enough, he's involved in several other local communities, and had a hand in creating the Dandelion Cafe.

Darren McDaniel is the creator of a feature film (The Essence of Irwin), the founder of a local internet startup (Petentials), former programming director at the Downtown Media Arts Center, and has done PhD-level research Sociology at Vanderbilt.

Julie Norris
is the owner of Dandelion CommuniTEA Cafe and the host of Front Porch Radio on WPRK 91.5FM every Wednesday. She's also a new mommy! Congrats!

John Rife
was a media missionary in S. Pacific / Asia, a founding member of Interactive Expeditions (IntXinc.com), is an independent documentary filmmaker, a video blogger and is currently pursuing an MFA in Digital Media at UCF.

Lance Turner is the founder of the Ourlando movement and the owner of AEonBlue in Winter Park. You'll see Lance at tons of local events snapping pictures or signing up small businesses to bring the local color.

The Cameo Theatre
1013 E Colonial Dr (corner of Mills & Colonial)
Orlando, FL, 32803
Map Link: http://bit.ly/2gK2BC

About Florida Creatives

Ryan Price and John Rife hatched the idea for Florida Creatives Happy Hours in Ryan's kitchen 3 years ago, and the event is now a fixture in the Orlando community. FLCreatives has expanded to Jacksonville, Brevard County and South Florida. The first New Media Think and Drink was held in January 2008 at Redlight Redlight in Winter Park. John and Ryan are planning to hold Think and Drink several times a year. Get more info at www.FLCreatives.com or follow @flcreatives on Twitter.

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Media + Communitty -or- FLCreatives Discussion Series

Thu, 10/01/2009 - 07:43 -- rprice

In preparing to plan for a local event in October, namely Bringing Arts and Technology Together (BATT), I went through the process to reserve a space and get a few people involved with the organizational parts.

Long story short, we didn't have enough time to pull off BATT. Time to take baby steps. At the same time, we still have a venue reserved, so it's time to pull other ideas from my back pocket.

In the last 3 years, Florida Creatives has had an important role to play in helping the community grow, but we can take it farther. Our network (and network of networks) is capable of reaching all kinds of people around so many subjects.

I started a wiki page on the FLCreatives site to outline and suggest a format and possible topics for FLCreatives discussions. My main concern right now is the discussion we will hold on October 16th in the evening. Here's my first draft:

The Role of Media in a Community

A collected panel of community leaders with a successful track record will be given the stage and a chance to share their thoughts and stories using media to communicate with:

* Their community members
* Traditional media
* Other organizations
* Their volunteers and employees

New forms of media seem to appear every day, and what used to work in a print, TV and radio world may not fly in the world of social networking and YouTube. Some more established community leaders will have had to adapt, and those with newer missions will have had to make it up as they go along. We can hear from both sides in a panel like this.

EDIT: New Media Think and Drink Event RSVP

We have already confirmed 2 panelists:

  • EDIT: New discussion leaders!
  • John Rife
  • Darren McDaniel
  • Julie Norris, Dandelion CommuniTEA
  • Chris Blanc, Enzian/FL Film Festival
  • Lance Turner, OurLando
  • Gwendolyn Anello, PR & Marketing Consultant

Why do this event?

BarCamps and large events are great, but they only happen once a year in a given city - it would be hard to organize them too often. Happy Hours and Likemind are fun, but we try to keep the agenda out of those events. Ignite is great as a showcase of local talent, but there is no real theme to the event. The idea here is to pick one subject and pick it apart from several view points.

I always like following up a great discussion with some brainstorming, time to make plans and get things done, so my ideal would be to follow a great discussion with a "think tank" the following day - this is what the unconference format is great for - have an empty schedule and fill it with all of the things in your head after you get energized and inspired, then have a room full of people who are willing to talk about anything.

The discussion series should be followed by a BarCamp-like event to let people workshop on the discussion's topic from the previous evening. It's great to have time to "sleep on it", go and reflect, then get back together and get stuff done.

We've got the venue for Saturday the 17th as well, and they'll be happy to leave the chairs and equipment set up for us to hold a 'Camp style event on day 2 if we want.

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Photowalking, Anyone?

Tue, 09/15/2009 - 07:59 -- rprice

The last photowalk (at least that I know of) was back on April 10th. Anyone up for another? Perhaps through College Park? Perhaps October 1st? October 6th? Just asking...

EDIT: I went ahead and picked a time and place:

Tuesday October 6, 2009 at 5:30pm
Harmoni Artisan Meal Market
2305 Edgewater Dr # H
College Park, Florida 32804
Get Directions
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