Like open source software, open source hardware is free and open; anyone can modify, improve and redistribute designs without restriction. With hardware, however, we’re dealing with real-world objects, rather than code. The idea behind the movement is that democratizing innovation drives it further and faster than any one person or company could alone. And, it’s fun! It brings communities together, fosters collaboration and promotes sharing.
On April 20th, the second annual Hardware Freedom Day is being celebrated around the world. Coordinated by the Digital Freedom Foundation, HFD is an opportunity to inform and educate the public about the benefits of open source hardware as well as raise awareness about the growing number of open projects and communities.
Want to get involved? Check out the HFD Start Guide for tips on organizing or joining an HFD event.
Recently, I wrote an introduction to TaskRabbit, an online community for odd job posting. Today, I’ll cover some subtleties.
Photo credit: Photologue NP. Used under Creative Commons license.
(1) Rabbits post public comments to help each other. In particular, if a senior Rabbit posts a lot of details that are missing on your original post, more junior Rabbits will see that the task might be more complex than it appears. Revisit your post to make it more clear. Also, there are tags that Rabbits can assign; that are seen only by us. Some are positive – “heartwarming”; and some are not – “pay too low.”
(2) Public vs private posting. It’s not well explained, currently. The advantage of posting privately is that your task can’t be indexed by a search engine. The disadvantage is that your written endorsement will not be visible after the task is completed.
(3) Do not “bait and switch.” Task Rabbits are bidding for the job you describe. You are not buying a blanket number of hours for us to do whatever you need to have accomplished, unless you specifically phrase your task that way. There are many, many reasons for this.
(4) Hourly and recurring tasks. If you have an ongoing task, by all means use TaskRabbit’s ability to post “hourly rate” bids or ongoing recurrence.
(5) Giving carrots to Rabbits. Be careful about using TaskRabbit as a way of trying people out for longer-term assignments. Chances are, if you are really looking for someone who will work with you on an ongoing basis, the listing should be for a Recurring Task. If it doesn’t work out, you can cancel the Recurring Task. If you are using TaskRabbit as a mechanism for hiring, contact the company, because they have a new initiative!
Have a great time with TaskRabbit! Be a job creator, and lower your stress level to improve your health.
The small -- tiny, even -- house movement serves society on multiple levels. Because the structures take up less space, they also use fewer resources. On top of that, the minimalism demanded by living in such limited square footage forces inhabitants to have considerably fewer belongings than their counterparts in homes five times their stature. The average size of a new, single-family home in the United States is around 2,500 square feet; the average tiny house comes in under 500 square feet -- with some states mandating a minimum of 220 square feet to adhere to building codes.
Despite assumptions, the architecture and design of small homes varies. Some are fashioned from recycled and found materials; some come on wheels; and others utilize shipping containers. Documentary filmmaker Christopher Smith used his Tiny: A Story About Living Small project to explore his own and others' process of going small.
Here are some examples of tiny houses from around the world.
So, you want to dip your toe into this sharing economy thing, but you don’t know how to start? Peer-to-peer car sharing is an easy and safe way to do it. Follow these 5 easy steps from an expert and in no time you, too, will be making money with that under-utilized vehicle, connecting with your community, and joining a powerful movement.
My story: I’ve had my car since 2005, and as my jobs, projects, and schedule have changed, so has the frequency of car use. I’m now down to driving it only once or twice a week, but since I started sharing it in 2010, I have made about $10,000 off its use, which is its approximate current value. So, financially it has made sense for me to keep the car, use it occasionally, and share it the rest of the time, rather than sell it. My car has been borrowed over 250 times, and I have done between 10 and 15 interviews on television and in print talking about it.
There are now over 15 companies world-wide facilitating car sharing (a list is compiled below). They traditionally offer insurance coverage while your car is being borrowed and most of them have smart-phone apps for easy management. Car sharing reduces traffic congestion, oil consumption, and air pollution.
(Infographic courtesy Fast Company)
Ready to give it a go? Let’s get started.
1. Make sure you and your vehicle qualify*:
a. Are you at least 18 years young?
b. Do you have a driver’s license and good driving record?
c. Is your car less than 15 years old, has less than 150,000 miles, and runs well?
d. Does your vehicle have a value of less than $50,000?
*These details vary a bit by company, so be sure to read the fine print before signing up.
Pro Tip: If the company you choose gives you the option to have a GPS kit installed in your car, do it. The keyless entry makes borrowers happy, reservations instant, and the company can easily find your car at any time.
2. Take photos -- lots of photos! Show people what both the inside and outside of your car look like. People like to see what they’ll be getting into. You can photograph your car in fun environments, put a local monument in the background, or take pictures from interesting angles. Basically, it helps to give your car a personality and make it look appealing. This is also a good way to track the condition of your car and make yourself and future borrowers aware of any pre-existing scrapes and scratches.
(Photo courtesy Getaround)
Pro Tip: Clear out and clean your car inside and out before taking the pics, and on a regular basis, to keep your borrowers happy.
3. Name your car and write a catchy listing. My car is The Proton, because it’s a Prius and part-electric and I’m a nerd. You can name your Mini “Minny,” or your Subaru “Shazam” or your green van “Godzilla.” Get creative!
a. For the general info you’ll need:
i. Make, model, year, mileage, and VIN (Vehicle Identification Number).
ii. Color, features (e.g. moon-roof, audio-input, bike rack, all-wheel drive, etc.), condition, and a description of any pre-existing damage.
iii. Any specific times or days of the week that your car is not available -- plan ahead for when you’ll need to use it.
Pro Tip: Inside your vehicle, occasionally leave special items or notes for your borrowers, like a picnic blanket in the trunk, or a list of good non-metered parking streets for the return. You can mention these in the listing or hint that there may be a special surprise for borrowers.
(Photo courtesy Wheelz)
Set the rental price for your car -- you will receive about 60% of this. In some countries you should plan to pay taxes on it. Set an accessible price to start. Compare your car with other similar cars in your city (this makes a difference -- Honolulu and Paris have different needs!), and price yourself either below or at the average. Here is a handy chart from RelayRides with some suggested rates that I think are too high.
Pro Tip: Once you’ve had several successful borrowers and you start getting positive reviews, then you might want to increase the rates. Don’t be afraid to change the price up and down to find your sweet spot. You first want to get more people borrowing your car so that you get plenty of reviews.
4. Advertise! Many car owners forget this part. You have to tell people that your car is available. Several car sharing platforms offer referral credits, and some will even give you flyers to distribute.
Good online venues to post a listing are Craigslist, Facebook, Twitter, and any other social media you use. Don’t forget to spread the word to your friends and local network. And take this opportunity to tell them how righteous it is to minimize the number of cars on the road, how much money they’ll save by not buying themselves a car, and how they’re contributing to a more livable city.
Pro Tip: Since immediate neighbors are the most likely to benefit from the available car, I used to walk around my neighborhood with a stapler and put flyers in my local laundromat bulletin board, at the library, in corner stores, and pizza parlors. Remember to ask the establishment if it’s okay, and be prepared to do some educating about car sharing too.
5. Lastly, COMMUNICATE. (Good advice for all kinds of relationships!) Talk to your borrowers -- send them a short email or text when they reserve your car.
During the reservation, be sure to respond quickly to any inquiries. Answer the phone when an unknown number comes in because it could be your borrower. Make a good first impression by sorting out key exchanges easily, and setting clear expectations. This has been reported as the number one way to encourage more borrowers for your car, and Response Rate is often tracked in your owner profile.
Pro Tip: I have a brief script that I use whenever someone makes an instant reservation. It welcomes them, lets them know to expect the car to be tidy and clean, and that the tank should be full. Apart from being friendly, this alerts them to how they should treat and return the car.
So, now that you see how easy it is to get started, are you ready to join other sharing smarties?
To make it even easier for you, here’s an international list of peer-to-peer car sharing companies. Tell us in the comments if we’ve missed any. We’d also love to hear about your experiences sharing your car, or if there’s anything still stopping you.
Have a good ride! And below my picture is a guide to peer to peer car sharing services around the world.
Caterina Rindi has authentic, if irrelevant, claims to royalty, apart from being the RelayRides First Lady of San Francisco. Find her on Twitter @CaterinaRindi and on Facebook at Caterina Rindi Shares.
I was on assignment for Shareable in Ann Arbor, Detroit and Chicago to help students organize sharing economy projects. I had a hunch that you can find sharing anywhere. Maybe it looks different in the Midwest than the Bay Area where I'm from, which is a kind of charismatic poster child of sharing economy. I gathered from living in Kansas this past year that Midwesterners do more informal types of sharing based on existing relationships. This may be less visible to the outsider than sharing that's facilitated by the Internet. There are agricultural, energy, and telecommunications cooperatives (the ultimate shared enterprise) throughout the Midwest which serve millions of people, but they don't necessarily identify as part of the sharing economy.
Ann Arbor, was my first stop. It's a quaint, walkable town that is dominated by a competitive, top tier college – the University of Michigan. The town, in some respects, is divided into two parts, as locals call it “Town and Gown”. In search of student activists, I decided to stay in a graduate student coop, one of 21 properties owned cooperatively by the Inter-Cooperative Council supported by over 600 members. To my disappointment, I did not find houses full of radicals as I did at my days at the U of O student coops in Eugene, OR but serious students.
I soon realized that many students at the University of Michigan have their nose to the grindstone, hopefully to come out the end of the higher education pipeline with a career that will pay off their huge college debt. Perhaps this reality keeps students from meddling in community or political affairs too much. The University of Michigan wasn't always this way. In the 60's, it gave birth to Students for a Democratic Society, an influential New Left student organization that played an important role in the civil rights and anti-war movements in the 1960s..
This serious career focus was also reflected in the attitudes of many university staff as well. I went to what I thought would be sharing-friendly college departments, like the Sociology Department. When I explained I was searching for students interested in transforming the economy, sharing resources, and community organizing, they seemed to act as though I was speaking an alien language. “Hmmm” followed by an apology was a common response.
To be fair, further into my trip, I did find a student in the sustainability program who is organizing a community crowdfunding event, called UM Soup, with Shareable's seed grant, and another who will be organizing a sharing economy conference. A former and soon to be again UM student is growing a bike kitchen and youth bike program also through a Shareable internship. The School of Information and Open Michigan turned out to be a small hub of outside-the-box thinkers. They help host an event called Datadive – a kind of information and statistics collaborative student hack-a-thon for nonprofits that need data analysis.
After reassessing my strategy, I stepped outside the Gown and into the Town and a whole new world opened up. I spent a lot of time searching online for keywords like “free Ann Arbor” and went to as many progressive social events as I could. On the main drag, I found the Workantile, a cooperatively run coworking space and All Hands Active – a happening maker space.
My first real breakthrough was at the thriving Ann Arbor Free Skool, which offers free classes on anything from Spanish and textile crafts to non-pharmaceutical contraception. I decided to start off on the right foot by offering my skills to the community. I hosted several classes, Shiatsu massage, Qi Gong, and a discussion on alternative economics, where I met some local activists and began to map the new economy in Ann Arbor with them. The Free Skool is also where I met Tom, a member of a tech collective who spontaneously made a solidarity economy map of my Detroit contacts and shared it with me.
The former founder of the now dormant timebank and local currency in town was a retired UM professor and a wealth of information. He impressed me with his stories of sharing seeded by the timebank concept, like the durable medical equipment and pick up truck coops that still exist, along with many new relationships in the neighborhood, which he organized by door knocking and now by using Nextdoor.com. He pointed me to the food coop and other neighborhood-based community development projects like his.
Last minute, I heard economist Michael Schuman was coming to town for a forum on local economics. I knew there would be some sharing enthusiasts there. The participants were more government and business-oriented than I'd expected, but very enthusiastic about creating a new, local economic landscape. Most of the breakout groups came to the conclusion that despite a good number of transformative projects in Ann Arbor, much of it remains unseen (especially to students) and unconnected – an online directory of resources was needed first. Later, I made this map of Ann Arbor's Sharing Economy, inspired by Tom's map of Detroit, and sent it to them.
I was lucky enough to share a table at the forum with Lisa Gottlieb, a social worker and founder of Selma Cafe – a community breakfast that benefits local, sustainable farming efforts. Lisa invited me to the Selma Cafe and I squeezed it in one morning. Though Lisa was on her way to work when I got there, I shared a meal and lots of interesting conversation with some remarkable people, including a man who volunteers part-time in Haiti doing healthcare and other friendly folks interested in the concept of Ann Arbor as a sharing town.
At that point, it seemed to me that outside of the college there was already an informal but significant network of people committed to community-building and local economic projects in Ann Arbor. It just took some time to find them. One person leads to the next and there are key hubs to look for – the gathering places of people who share, like the urban farms and community gardens, seed swaps, maker or hacker spaces, Free Skools, Really Really Free Markets, bike kitchens, timebanks, skillshares, coworking spaces, collectives and food coops. Some of these projects exist in even pretty conventional towns, as I learned in my days co-organizing the San Francisco Really Really Free Market, a radical gift economy which took root in some very unlikely places.
At the end of my trip, I heard about the Reskilling Festival through the Free Skool. I sampled fire-making and meditation workshops and scored a new rain jacket and sweater from the free stuff table. At this point I was hooked, and if I wasn't so frustrated by the incessant snow, I'd seriously consider living in Ann Arbor. In just a little over a month, I really felt like I'd already found a community of caring, idealistic folks trying to figure out a way to embed economy in community and local ecology rather than the other way around.
If there ever was a recipe for cultivating sharing, this town has it. And if this small town in Michigan has it, it might just be growing in your backyard too, maybe without you even knowing it. So try digging a little deeper and start sowing some sharing seeds in your town.
If we insist on defining people by their occupation, then Doug Rushkoff is a very hard man to define. He is or has been a media theorist, lecturer, columnist, blogger, novelist, graphic novelist, documentarian, college professor, musician, activist and philosopher. His work has shaped the way we talk and think about technology and media (he coined the terms viral media, social currency and digital native, among others). But unlike your Zuckerbergs, Jobs, Pages or Gates, Rushkoff has done so from outside of corporate power, on the strength of his theories rather than the sale of his products.
Rushkoff’s latest book, Present Shock, takes on a major philosophical question: how has technology changed our perceptions of time, and how have such shifts changed our culture? In particular, he traces how the titular concept, ‘Present Shock’—a sort of mass-psychological overload emerging from the huge amount of instanteous information and experience provided by digital technologies—plays out in our personal lives, political and institutional experiences and business practices. The book provides a powerful critique of the ways technology has enabled us to live too excessively and obsessively in the now, rather than actually experience the present. He also offers models throughout the book of positive changes and responses emerging from what he calls "presentism", from Occupy to solidarity economy work to online communities.
I met up with Doug a couple weeks ago to talk to him about his book and the ways that our culture is being transformed by Present Shock.
Willie Osterweil: Throughout the book and your writings you talk about how ideas germinate over long periods of time. How did you first come up with the concept of Present Shock? Is this an idea that has been building slowly, or has it come to you more recently?
Doug Rushkoff: I actually got this idea originally in the 1970s: I was in high school and a little bit of a pothead. I read this article in Rolling Stone called “The Dog is Us” about how, as people get older, they would stop smoking pot because it would make them paranoid. And I was interested: why is that? I decided that it’s because pot stops time: I think that’s its main cognitive characteristic. You smoke and ‘voom’, you’re just, there. If you’re a young person that’s not a problem, you’ve got so much natural forward momentum that you can stop and it’s alright. But if you’re an adult and you’ve run out of that natural momentum, when you stop all of a sudden it’s like: “Who am I? What am I worth? What are my values, what am I doing, what is my carbon footprint?” Time changes it. That was when I got the first inklings of the idea.
Then, when I started writing this book Cyberia, the very beginning features a conversation between these two psychedelic hackers talking about chaos attractors and wondering if, as a civilization, we are over the event horizon. While you’re moving toward the lip of an attractor everything is accelerating: you’re moving toward the vortex. But then once you’re over the lip, then you’re in the strange attractor. There’s a sense I had with the birth of the internet, with Alfred Toffler and Moore’s law and everything accelerating that we were going towards this moment: It feels like we’re in it now. I don’t feel that acceleration of change anymore. We’re in the thing. We did connect. We are always on. We are real time. That’s it. We’ve achieved as a society the kind of asynchronous, timeless, sequential reality of our digital devices.
And then all these patterns started emerging that reflected that: present-based-value algorithmic trading—where people are looking to make money in the moment on the trade rather than long term investment—happened, Netflix happened, everybody is watching things on their own time rather than together and sequentially. And I thought “This has to be written about. This notion of presentism: It’s throwing so many people off the rails, they’re in Present Shock and I understand that. But they don’t have to be. They could also be presentist.”
But the final inspiration was Occupy. These kids are doing presentism the right way. I wanted to talk about that.
WO: In the book, you bring back an Ancient Greek differentiation between two forms of time: Chronos, or purely chronological and calendrial time, and Kairos, which is more about being in the moment. You see Occupy and solidarity economy practices representing an attempt to capture Kairos constantly and eschew the purely calendrial/chronological way of thinking about time. Could you speak to these differences in forms of time and the way you see those connecting to presentism?
DR: The easiest way to say it would be we’ve become overcommitted to chronos. We’ve become over committed to clock time as a way of defining time. In other words “it’s 3:23, that’s what it is.” But that can’t help with the question: “What’s the best time to tell dad you crashed the car? 3:23 or 3:26?” It doesn’t really matter what number’s on the clock, it’s whether he’s had his drink, it’s whether the Knicks are winning tonight or not, etc. It’s the difference between time and timing. The more clock like we become, the less we live in the genuine present. We end up addicted to the indicators of the present rather than the actual present that we’re in as bodies in space.
That’s why the whole movement towards informationism, the singularity/Kevin Kelly/Ray Kurzwell thing bothers me so much. They’re looking at the information but missing the humanity. We are more than the tricorder can measure, as McCoy might tell us. The metrics are true, as far as that goes, but they’re only telling a part of the story. It doesn’t have to be some weird new-age crystal-waving reiki-therapy thing to say “no, I’m actually present’.
And there are all these things we haven’t figured out. We don’t know quite how mirror-neurons work: we’re developing rapport when you nod and I nod and we sync up. We’re not consciously calculating all that stuff, it’s just part of being alive. And we’re better and faster at doing it than Facebook is or big data is or these other companies are that are trying to concatenate our human databases.
WO: There’s a lot here about psychological effects—present shock is obviously a psychological condition. You organize the book around different forms of shock, concepts like ‘fractalnoia’ or ‘digiphrenia’: what is the importance of these psychological phenomena?
DR: If in the 20th century Sigmund Freud invented the individual that we understand, the analyzable individual, for the 21st century, what if we apply these sort of symptoms to us as a culture—if we see these not as symptoms for individuals but for all of us—that we are all in a stage of fractalnoia. I went back and forth about whether to use them or not because if you organize your book in terms of ailments it sounds like Present Shock is kind of a bad thing. And the fact is, Present Shock is kind of a bad thing. Present Shock is just like future shock, you don’t want to be in Present Shock, you want to live with presentism.
WO: That speaks to a broader theme that I noticed in the book, and in your work generally, which is the notion that technological change, particularly with communications technology, drives social change. How do you see communications technology affecting the way that we imagine ourselves?
DR: I always go back and forth wondering: did the invention of text allow for calendrical thinking and the development of accountability over time through the contract? Or were there these social needs that then get met by the invention of text? I feel like both happen at the same time, which is not to say it’s magical or mystical or anything like that, but the environment changes and different mindsets and behaviors are supported. And different mindsets and behaviors require new kinds of technologies because, consciously or not, we’re driving toward a new set of goals.
Sometimes, of course, they’re forced. Look at the beginning of the industrial age or the Renaissance, the invention of the chartered monopoly and the invention of central currency. It’s not like the people adopted these things because they didn’t wanna have their own little businesses, they wanted to have jobs at big ones and they didn’t wanna use local currencies, they wanted to borrow money from the king at interest. No, the kings and the monopolists hired soldiers with swords to kill people, it was war and blood. So in many cases the change happens because the people in power are able to muscle it.
In other cases, like now, the emergence of digital technology promotes peer to peer exchange, it promotes decentralized value creation and all these kinds of things that are really consonant with our Burning-Man-Etsy-Occupy-local-farming mindset. But I don’t think Microsoft or Apple were thinking about things that way. If you look at these companies they’re just thinking about getting to their IPO. Facebook and Google, they went down the traditional route. They’re industrial age companies using digital technologies. But there’s a hunger for those things. And that hunger leads to the uptake of all this stuff which is gonna allow it.
WO: A lot of the book is about how Present Shock is changing the way business gets done: Bankers who are no longer interested in the stocks but just in the trades, start-ups which just want to get enough momentum to get purchased. How do you see Present Shock playing out in the broader business landscape? And what are the presentist openings for coops and worker controlled businesses?
DR: Presentism applied to industrial age stock-market values is just panicked short-termism. “Oh my gosh I gotta get it done now oh my god!” This is opposed to moving towards a kind of steady state sustainable business equilibrium. A steady state business equilibrium is incompatible with debt, it’s incompatible with taking investment money, or big loans from banks. All those people want their money to grow at the rate of debt or better. And if you’re gonna grow, then you need a narrative, you need a future, a goal, a growth plan.
But if you just want to create something that works, if you’ve got 50 people living in an area that want to do something that’s going to be more permanent, then there are approaches that don’t necessarily involve that growth. The prerequisite is that you can’t take money from someone, at least someone who wants more money then they gave you.
In the old days, if you will, when you had a town and they needed, say, a blacksmith, some guy comes in and says “oh I’m a blacksmith”. The community says: “Cool. We’ll make you a sign, and this lady will feed you dinner for the first few weeks, and this guy’s gotta barn we can put together for you, etc.” The town will invest in that person or that business because they need it.
You see the same thing now with these local kickstarter-like things like Socstock or Small Knot here in New York, where the premise is: “Oh you want the pizzeria in your neighborhood to get a new bathroom? Everyone put in a hundred dollars, and you’ll get a hundred fifty dollars worth of pizza in 6 months.” It’s a discount, but you’re also investing in change you’re gonna get to see. If you’re getting 150 bucks of pizza for 100 dollars you’re making back 50% on your investment—which is way better than you’re gonna do on Wall Street anyway—and you’ve increased the value of your town.
But what we’re talking about is seeing the economy more transactionally than in terms of earnings. And if it’s transactional, then you start thinking about things like the commons rather than hoarding money into your own account.
WO: How do you do that as a company right now?
DR: That’s the question. And it’s by not doing it alone. By finding other companies. You might need to have two sets of books as it were, one for the companies that are in the network of sharing resources, and one for the business that you’re doing outside the network. You can imagine that a community will have to have a local currency through which people in the town interact with each other, and then a long-distance currency through which they buy their iPhones.
WO: You talk a lot about how presentism leads to a certain narrative collapse, and that that narrative collapse is reflected in Occupy’s lack of demands. The lack of demands really upset a lot of people. How does Occupy connect to present shock and how does it reveal a positive sense of presentism?
DR: In some sense what we’re looking at is the difference between 20th century things and 21st century things. Industrial age things and digital age things. Between mythic narratives and this more sort of real-time participatory narrative. Occupy represents the latter.
In a traditional social movement, you have a charismatic leader marching arm in arm with his followers down 5th avenue and telling everyone to keep their eyes on the prize, that the day will come, we’re gonna get over that mountain and to the other side, here we go. And people work in that ends-justify-the-means way toward the finish line. We’re not in a world like that anymore.
The problems we’re facing are not big wars against big things, they’re chronic ailments like global warming and mass shootings: weird steady-state ever-present problems that you can’t “win”, can’t stick a flag on the moon and say “we’ve done it”. If the political movements—Marxism or capitalism or communism or fascism—these broad movements towards great goals have all proven to be false and idealistic, what would constitute a political praxis?
Rather than campaigning for some other thing, what if we don’t even campaign at all but just be that other thing? That’s what Occupy turned out to be. It may have started as “fuck you, Wall Street” but the practice of occupying became a kind of normative behavior. “Let’s model society. Let’s actually do something”. The “goal” of the movement as such became much more about evolving democracy into a form of consensus building as opposed to agonistic debate. And that was so confusing, especially to people in media who need the nine second sound bite in order to make sense of something.
Rather than activism being focused on fighting a battle against one thing and winning, what if it becomes “we are gonna grow consensus slowly over time and change state”? You end up with this group of people that refuses to state what their goal is, because we don’t have a goal. And people say “Well this is gonna go on forever” “Yeah, exactly!” We’re not in a thing that ends. Its like a business without an exit strategy, there is no end to this, we’re going to occupy reality. Everyone is gonna be an artist, everyone is gonna be real, in the present.
This article originally appeared on GreaterGood.org and is republished with permission.
In this incredibly competitive society of ours, how many of us truly feel good about ourselves?
I remember once, as a freshman in college, after spending hours getting ready for a big party, I complained to my boyfriend that my hair, makeup, and outfit were woefully inadequate. He tried to reassure me by saying, “Don’t worry, you look fine.”
“Fine? Oh great, I always wanted to look fine . . .”
The desire to feel special is understandable. The problem is that by definition it’s impossible for everyone to be above average at the same time. Although there are some ways in which we excel, there is always someone smarter, prettier, more successful. How do we cope with this?
Not very well. To see ourselves positively, we tend to inflate our own egos and put others down so that we can feel good in comparison. But this strategy comes at a price—it holds us back from reaching our full potential in life.
How can we grow if we can’t acknowledge our own weaknesses? We might temporarily feel better about ourselves by ignoring our flaws, or by believing our issues and difficulties are somebody else’s fault, but in the long run we only harm ourselves by getting stuck in endless cycles of stagnation and conflict.
Continually feeding our need for positive self-evaluation is a bit like stuffing ourselves with candy. We get a brief sugar high, then a crash. And right after the crash comes a pendulum swing to despair as we realize that—however much we’d like to—we can’t always blame our problems on someone else. We can’t always feel special and above average.
The result is often devastating. Most of us are incredibly hard on ourselves when we finally admit some flaw or shortcoming: “I’m not good enough. I’m worthless.”
And of course, the goalposts for what counts as “good enough” seem always to remain out of reach. No matter how well we do, someone else always seems to be doing it better. The result of this line of thinking is sobering: Millions of people need to take pharmaceuticals every day just to cope with daily life. Insecurity, anxiety, and depression are incredibly common in our society, and much of this is due to self-judgment, to beating ourselves up when we feel we aren’t winning in the game of life.
Self-compassion makes for completion. Photo credit: Victoria p99. Used under Creative Commons license.
So what’s the answer? To stop judging and evaluating ourselves altogether. To stop trying to label ourselves as “good” or “bad” and simply accept ourselves with an open heart. To treat ourselves with the same kindness, caring, and compassion we would show to a good friend—or even a stranger, for that matter.
When I first came across the idea of “self-compassion,” it changed my life almost immediately. It was during my last year in the human development doctoral program at the University of California, Berkeley, as I was putting the finishing touches on my dissertation. I was going through a really difficult time following the breakup of my first marriage, and I was full of shame and self-loathing. I thought signing up for meditation classes at a local Buddhist center might help. As part of my exploration, I read Sharon Salzberg’s classic book Lovingkindness and was never the same again.
I had known that Buddhists talk a lot about the importance of compassion, but I had never considered that having compassion for yourself might be as important as having compassion for others. From the Buddhist point of view, you have to care about yourself before you can really care about other people.
I remember talking to my new fiancé, Rupert, who joined me for the weekly Buddhist group meetings, and shaking my head in amazement. “You mean you’re actually allowed to be nice to yourself, to have compassion for yourself when you mess up or are going through a really hard time? I don’t know . . . if I’m too self-compassionate, won’t I just be lazy and selfish?” It took me a while to get my head around it.
But I slowly came to realize that self-criticism—despite being socially sanctioned—was not at all helpful, and in fact only made things worse. I wasn’t making myself a better person by beating myself up all the time. Instead, I was causing myself to feel inadequate and insecure, then taking out my frustration on the people closest to me. More than that, I wasn’t owning up to many things because I was so afraid of the self-hate that would follow if I admitted the truth.
After getting my Ph.D., I did two years of postdoctoral training with a leading self-esteem researcher. I quickly learned that although thousands of articles had been written on the importance of self-esteem, researchers were now starting to point out all the traps that people can fall into when they try to get and keep a sense of high self-esteem: narcissism, self-absorption, self-righteous anger, prejudice, discrimination, and so on.
I realized that self-compassion was the perfect alternative to the relentless pursuit of self-esteem. Why? Because it offers the same protection against harsh self-criticism as self-esteem, but without the need to see ourselves as perfect or as better than others. In other words, self-compassion provides the same benefits as high self-esteem without its drawbacks.
Although no one had yet defined self-compassion from an academic perspective—let alone done any research on it—I knew that this would be my life’s work.
Over the past decade, research that my colleagues and I have conducted shows that self-compassion is a powerful way to achieve emotional well-being and contentment in our lives, helping us avoid destructive patterns of fear, negativity, and isolation. More so than self-esteem, the nurturing quality of self-compassion allows us to flourish, to appreciate the beauty and richness of life, even in hard times. When we soothe our agitated minds with self-compassion, we’re better able to notice what’s right as well as what’s wrong, so that we can orient ourselves toward that which gives us joy.
The Science of Self-Compassion
So what is self-compassion? What does it mean exactly?
Kristin Neff's new book, Self-Compassion (William Morrow, 2011).
As I’ve defined it, self-compassion entails three core components. First, it requires self-kindness, that we be gentle and understanding with ourselves rather than harshly critical and judgmental. Second, it requires recognition of our common humanity, feeling connected with others in the experience of life rather than feeling isolated and alienated by our suffering. Third, it requires mindfulness—that we hold our experience in balanced awareness, rather than ignoring our pain or exaggerating it. We must achieve and combine these three essential elements in order to be truly self-compassionate.
This means that unlike self-esteem, the good feelings of self-compassion do not depend on being special and above average, or on meeting ideal goals. Instead, they come from caring about ourselves—fragile and imperfect yet magnificent as we are. Rather than pitting ourselves against other people in an endless comparison game, we embrace what we share with others and feel more connected and whole in the process. And the good feelings of self-compassion don’t go away when we mess up or things go wrong. In fact, self-compassion steps in precisely where self-esteem lets us down—whenever we fail or feel inadequate.
Sure, you skeptics may be saying to yourself, but what does the research show?
The bottom line is that according to the science, self-compassion does in fact appear to offer the same advantages as high self-esteem, with no discernable downsides.
The first thing to know is that self-compassion and self-esteem do tend to go together. If you’re self-compassionate, you’ll tend to have higher self-esteem than if you’re endlessly self-critical. And like high self-esteem, self-compassion is associated with significantly less anxiety and depression, as well as more happiness, optimism, and positive emotions. However, self-compassion offers clear advantages over self-esteem when things go wrong, or when our egos are threatened.
In one study my colleagues and I conducted, for instance, undergraduate students were asked to fill out measures of self-compassion and self-esteem. Next came the hard part. They were asked to participate in a mock job interview to “test their interviewing skills.”
A lot of undergrads are nervous about the interviewing process, especially given that they will soon be applying for jobs in real life. As part of the experiment, students were asked to write an answer to that dreaded but inevitable interview question, “Please describe your greatest weakness.” Afterward they were asked to report how anxious they were feeling.
Participants’ self-compassion levels, but not their self-esteem levels, predicted how much anxiety they felt. In other words, self-compassionate students reported feeling less self-conscious and nervous than those who lacked self-compassion, presumably because they felt okay admitting and talking about their weak points.
Students with high self-esteem, by contrast, were no less anxious than those with low self-esteem, having been thrown off balance by the challenge of discussing their failings. And interestingly, self-compassionate people used fewer first-person singular pronouns such as “I” when writing about their weaknesses, instead using more third-person plural pronouns such as “we.” They also made references to friends, family, and other humans more often. This suggests that the sense of interconnectedness inherent to self-compassion plays an important role in its ability to buffer against anxiety.
Another study required people to imagine being in potentially embarrassing situations: being on a sports team and blowing a big game, for instance, or performing in a play and forgetting one’s lines. How would participants feel if something like this happened to them?
Self-compassionate participants were less likely to feel humiliated or incompetent, or to take it too personally. Instead, they said they would take things in stride, thinking thoughts like “Everybody goofs up now and then” and “In the long run, this doesn’t really matter.” Having high self-esteem, however, made little difference. Those with both high and low self-esteem were equally likely to have thoughts like, “I’m such a loser” or “I wish I could die.” Once again, high self-esteem tends to come up empty-handed when the chips are down.
In a different study, participants were asked to make a videotape that would introduce and describe themselves. They were then told that someone would watch their tape and give them feedback in terms of how warm, friendly, intelligent, likable, and mature they appeared. (The feedback was bogus, of course.)
Photo credit: Quinn Dombrowski. Used under Creative Commons license.
Half the participants received positive feedback, the other half neutral feedback. Self-compassionate people were relatively unflustered regardless of whether the feedback was positive or neutral, and they were willing to say the feedback was based on their own personality either way. People with high levels of self-esteem, however, tended to get upset when they received neutral feedback (what, I’m just average?). They were also more likely to deny that the neutral feedback was due to their own personality (surely it’s because the person who watched the tape was an idiot!).
This suggests that self-compassionate people are better able to accept who they are regardless of the degree of praise they receive from others. Self-esteem, on the other hand, only thrives when the reviews are good and may lead to evasive and counterproductive tactics when there’s a possibility of facing unpleasant truths about oneself.
Recently, my colleague Roos Vonk and I investigated the benefits of self-compassion versus self-esteem with more than three thousand people from various walks of life, the largest study to examine this issue so far.
First, we examined the stability of positive feelings these people experienced toward themselves self over time. Did these feelings tend to go up and down like a yo-yo or were they relatively constant? We hypothesized that self-esteem would be associated with relatively unstable feelings of self-worth, since self-esteem tends to be diminished whenever things don’t turn out as well as desired. On the other hand, because compassion can be extended to oneself in both good times and bad, we expected the feelings of self-worth to remain steadier over time among self-compassionate people.
To test this idea, we had participants report on how they were feeling toward themselves at the time—for instance, “I feel inferior to others at this moment” or “I feel good about myself”—doing so 12 different times over a period of eight months.
Next, we calculated the degree to which overall levels of self-compassion or self-esteem predicted stability in self-worth over this period. As expected, self-compassion was clearly associated with steadier and more constant feelings of self-worth than self-esteem. We also found that self-compassion was less likely than self-esteem to be contingent on outside factors like social approval, success in competitions, or feeling attractive. When our sense of self-worth stems from being a human being intrinsically worthy of respect—rather than being contingent on reaching certain goals—our sense of self-worth is much less easily shaken.
We also found that in comparison to self-esteem, self-compassion was associated with less social comparison and less need to retaliate for perceived personal slights. It was also linked to less “need for cognitive closure,” which is psych-speak for the need to be right without question. People who invest their self-worth in feeling superior and infallible tend to get angry and defensive when their status is threatened. People who compassionately accept their imperfection, however, no longer need to engage in such unhealthy behaviors to protect their egos.
In fact, a striking finding of the study was that people with high self-esteem were much more narcissistic than those with low self-esteem. In contrast, self-compassion was completely unassociated with narcissism, meaning that people who are high in self-compassion are no more likely to be narcissistic than people low in self-compassion.
An Island of Calm
Taken together, this research suggests that self-compassion provides an island of calm, a refuge from the stormy seas of endless positive and negative self-judgment, so that we can finally stop asking, “Am I as good as they are? Am I good enough?” By tapping into our inner wellsprings of kindness, acknowledging the shared nature of our imperfect human condition, we can start to feel more secure, accepted, and alive.
It does take work to break the self-criticizing habits of a lifetime, but at the end of the day, you are only being asked to relax, allow life to be as it is, and open your heart to yourself. It’s easier than you might think, and it could change your life.
Is it time to get organized? Have you come to realize that your life would feel just so much better if you organized your closet / reconciled your medical expenses / got caught up on your filing or data-entering / had someone come in and clean / wait for the delivery guy / BE the delivery guy? If you have an odd job, you can hire a Task Rabbit!
TaskRabbit.com is a service that allows individuals to find help for whatever they want to do. The company requires Task Rabbits to pass video screenings, answering questions about client management, as well as a background check. Task Rabbits have their backgrounds posted, and are encouraged to link to other social media sites, so you have much more information than you would if you were using a site like CraigsList.
This closet was organized by a Task Rabbit while its proprietor enjoyed brunch. Photo credit: Andy Smith. Used under Creative Commons license.
Phrasing your task the right way can make a big difference in your success. Here are some tips:
(1) Assume Task Rabbits are on the site to earn a living, not students working for pocket change. “Rabbits” expect to have a professional relationship with their Task Poster. When you write your post, picture in your mind a professional who is coming to work.
(2) Be clear about what you need to have done, and your expectations for the person doing it. If you want a certain professional background, say what you want. If you have a small budget or have other constraints, say what that is. Specifically, if you need the work done at a specific time and place, be sure to be clear about that.
(3) Pay appropriately. You must pay more than minimum wage, and keep in mind the company takes 20 percent off the top of what the Rabbit is paid. Task Rabbits have to pay our own health insurance and taxes. Most importantly, we might have to get to the client site: That takes time and money. If you have a 20-minute task that you think can be done for $4, think again. It’s going to be an hour worth of commute time, plus commute expenses. Combine tasks, figure out how to allow a Rabbit to do it all online, or just hope you have a Rabbit living next door.
(4) Tell Rabbits what to bid on. We are doing our best to guess how big the “whole job” is, but in order to compare apples to apples, you might want so say, “bid on four hours, and say how long you believe this entire job will take in the comments.” Be sure to pick a number of hours that is the same size or smaller than the total size of the job – there’s no way for a Rabbit to refund you.
These four guidelines will get you started posting your tasks online!
Most people associate hackers with stealing email passwords but I've learned that not all hackers are created equal. In 2010, I joined the chefs at the Facebook HQ where I began feeding these "hackers" and I learned that hackers can actually do really great things, especially during hackathons. A hackathon is a gathering of hackers (coders), hustlers (business minds) and designers (artists) working collaboratively to accomplish a goal in a short period of time. I was intrigued so I decided to jump in the deep end and in 2012 I got aboard the StartupBus (recorded here). Funny thing is, my team accidently won the competition!
I liked my experience so much that I deciced to apply the model of a hackathon to my passion for building a more just and sustainable food system. I've teamed up with Matt Wise and Wayne Sutton to produce the first ever Food Hackathon (www.FoodHackathon.com) on April 6th & 7th in San Francisco. Our goal is to bring together designers, developers and entrepreneurs for a world class hackathon competition. At the new SoMa Central, we will create space for them to build networks, cross pollinate ideas and create new products and tools that innovate and improve the food ecosystem.
We live in a time when so much is possible, when so much information is at our fingertips and when we have the power to change the world for the better. Personally, I want to contribute to making the world a happier, healthier and tastier place. It's time to bring together people who are excited to work on achieving these goals.
I believe that if we beging to address our challenges in our food system then we begin to solve our problems in our healthcare, our environment and our local economies all while building community. This project is meant to catalize a larger movement into action with the next step being a collabortive hackathon for the National Day of Civic Hacking (www.HackForChange.org) on June 1st & 2nd. Together we can be the change we wish to see.
We are facing an insane food imbalance. 870 million people in the world do not have enough to eat, yet an estimated 30-50% of the food produced globally goes to waste. While the logistical, bureaucratic and legal systems we exist within make remedying this more complicated than it needs to be, the solution is simple and appears to be something that children come by naturally: sharing.
The following informal experiment conducted in Spain by Action Against Hunger found that, when faced with food injustice, all 20 of the children observed chose to share food. While a sample size of 20 is too small to be conclusive about the tendencies of all children, the experiment highlights our natural understanding of the power and ease of sharing. We grownups can learn a lot from this.
Data collection plus education equals sustainable development in Haiti: "... accurate data can be hard to find in undeveloped countries where education measures can suffer from limitations in collection and reporting mechanisms, or can even be skewed to meet political needs. ... This situation is particularly true in Haiti, where data collection systems are weak. A new data collection system called PhiCollect is working to solve this problem by creating a comprehensive assessment system that can evaluate a student's intellectual growth."
Open source plus education equals progress in racial and financial equality: "The potential role that open source can play in bridging racial inequality is profound. ... Critics contend that if the US does not invest in the education of minorities, then the ramifications could be catastrophic. Moreover, there is a strong correlation between poverty and race and numerous reports that show minorities lagging in educational opportunities, achievement, and attainment.The potential role that open source can playing in bridging poverty is also profound and should not be dismissed. The rates on poverty have also not changed in 30 years either. In 2010, over 46.2 million Americans lived in poverty according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the highest poverty level in 17 years. In 2012, the working poor represent arguably the largest, and fastest growing, economic class in the US."
A still from the BBC's The Planners. Photo credit: BBC.
Graham Hill nods to detractors and carries on with minimalist pitch: "Graham Hill, who ... has become a sort of poster child for the minimalist lifestyle in the United States, is aware of his detractors. He made a passing reference to the Gawker piece when he gave a talk this week at the Museum of the City of New York ... And then, with no hint that he was fazed by the criticism, he went on to give his presentation about the way life has been supersized in the United States – bigger cars, bigger houses, bigger Cokes – and why he thinks that living smaller is the economically rational, environmentally desirable, and forward-thinking way to go. ...The theme of the night was 'Small + Shared = Green.'"
The BBC follows land-use planners around with TV cameras: " new BBC documentary series The Planners is almost racy. The series sets itself up to follow municipal planners across the country, recording largely civil, occasionally bleep-filled exchanges between officials and objectors. Set in three carefully chosen, photogenic spots – medieval Chester, winsomely pretty Gloucestershire and the relatively wild Scottish Borders – it’s partly bucolic downtime escapism and partly a sidelong look at the state of Britain today. And yes, it’s actually fascinating."
North American streets have plenty of room for bikes: "I tire of hearing the incessant 'we don’t have space for bicycles' whine, especially in North American cities. The space is right there if you want it to be there. Removing car lanes to create cycle tracks is, of course, doable. So many cities are doing it. Not making cycle tracks for those who cycle now, but for the many who COULD be cycling if it was made safe."
Commuters in cars gain more weight than commuters on foot or bike: "According to an Australian research team, active commuting is an effective defense against gaining weight. Among a sample of 822 Australian adults tracked over four years, people who walked or biked to work gained about two pounds less, on average, than daily car commuters."
This article originally appeared on Bollier.org and is republished with permission.
On March 15, the Slovenian artist Marjetica Potrč and collaborators officially launched a new exhibition, “The Commons,” in The Hague. The artwork consists of the remnants of an old dune forest and a modernist office tower built in 1969 that is nearby. You might wonder, This is the commons?!
As the flyer for the exhibit notes, the exhibition “takes the two sites – one of part of nature, the other a cultural artifact – and mirrors them by constructing a platform in the woods that is the same size as the footprint of the tower. This physical platform is intended as a conceptual platform for the exchange of knowledge by participants and visitors to the exhibition. From April to August workshops, lectures, fairs, and an open public court on topics related to the common interest and the local environment such as sustainability, peace and justice will be programmed. Together with visitors and locals alike The Commons experiment and work out ideas for the functioning of a ‘commons’ in current times.”
I haven’t visited the site, but it strikes me a bold, provocative work. By dramatizing the commons in a very physical way, and connecting it to the past while pointing to a future that we must build ourselves, the exhibit helps us to engage with the idea of the commons as a living social organism. What’s especially exciting about this project is that it may lead to an actual conversion of an empty office tower into a local commons!
By the end of the exhibit, in August, a broad group of sympathizers, commoners and future users of the building hope to develop a plan to acquire and maintain the property. It will include a business plan, organizational and management structure, and plans for the sustainable use of the tower.
“The Commons” is the work of Potrč and the Paris and Rotterdam architects Ooze (Eva Pfannes and Sylvain Hartenberg) in collaboration with curator Theo Tegelaers (TAAK), Henriette Waal and Christiaan Bakker (Sandberg Instituut/Master Vacant NL) and the assistance of Lucia Babina and Sven van Asten. There is a Facebook page for The Commons project, which presumably will expand as more people visit the exhibit.
Potrč is a major international artist and architect who, as Wikipedia informs me, works at the intersection of intersection of visual art, architecture, and social science. Wikipedia also notes that “her work documents and interprets contemporary architectural practices (in particular, with regard to energy infrastructure and water use) and the ways people live together.”
Here is Potrč’s statement introducing the exhibit:
“I see The Commons as a new platform for addressing and reinventing what was called ‘public’ in the modernist period, during the postwar efforts to construct the social state. The old ‘public’ paradigm clearly does not work in our current neoliberal times. Public space, for instance, is being extensively privatized. For me, the current interest in The Commons reflects people’s desire and demand for a new social contract, a new citizenship. Rights and responsibilities are redefined, that’s the price we have to pay for freedom (as the gardener who joined us at The Public Space Society in Zurich said) as we reimagine our role in the governance of cities and seek genuine coexistence, instead of gated communities and ghettos, in the difficult times ahead. This is about more than dealing with climate change; it is also about rediscovering a citizenship where the citizens themselves participate in shaping and governing their environment. It is about redefining relationships with the world and with the earth.”
Like any living commons, it is hard to know how this one will evolve and flourish (or fail). But it is a brave experiment that deserves watching. Will it change perceptions? How will people respond? Will the commoners succeed in turning an empty office building into a commons? I’m grateful that a group of artists is trying to provoke some experiences and feelings that cannot be fully conveyed in words alone – and that may provoke some real change.
Weeds have been given a bad reputation, but they are a spectacular movable feast. By weeds, I am not referring to pot, but the regular herbaceous plants that grow everywhere, where no one planted them... your aunt's backyard, by the sidewalk, parking lots, park, etc. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, weeds are plants that are not valued for their use, or beauty. Plants that grow wild and strong. So wild and strong that they can take over the growth of what some call 'superior vegetation' -- meaning those you buy at garden stores and supermarkets.
There are many weeds that are edible, and many of them taste really good! We are rarely informed about this because being able to get stuff for FREE is bad for capitalism. Freedom from capitalism begins when we diminish our reliance on it.
Free Grindz is an edible weed information center / weed seed distribution station that focuses on three of the most common plants in the world -- amaranth, dandelion, and purslane -- which are most often known as weeds in North America.
Designed as a shipping crate and made (almost) entirely out of found material, Free Grindz unfolds into the exhibition itself. Participants can learn how to identify the plants, where to find and prepare them as food, and make their own recipe books using rubber stamps and recycled paper.
How to Tell
Where to Find
How to Cook
Crowdfunding is growing fast: in 2011, a comprehensive review put the industry’s size at $1.5 billion, and projected that it would grow to $2.8 billion by the end of 2012. Crowdfunding is also becoming more diverse: platforms now exist that make it possible to put money towards everything from equity investments in businesses to interest-bearing loans for solar energy to donations for music, film, and art projects.
Many new crowdfunding platforms are also aiming it to make it easy to fundraise for campaigns or non-profit organizations. Here are four sites that can help you get your project off the ground:
While Indiegogo is a broad-based, big-time platform (a la Kickstarter), it also maintains a serious commitment to funding social change. The site has a special section dedicated to “causes” and a vibrant community of funders with an interest in changing the world.
How to Launch a Campaign
Indiegogo does not screen its campaigns. Launching a project simply requires creating a profile page, with a video, summary, fundraising goal, and deadline. Campaigns keep what they raise (though there is a catch—see below) even if they don’t meet their goal.
Indiegogo has a big community.
Indiegogo has a low bar for posting a campaign, meaning there can be a lot of competition for eyeballs. Also, for campaigns that don’t meet their fundraising goal, the percentage paid back to Indiegogo jumps to 9%.
4-9% + 2.9% for third party payment processing
Razoo focuses specifically on web-based philanthropy for non-profits, calling itself “a movement of people who want to make generosity a part of everyday life.” In addition to the usual crowdfunding tools, Razoo offers widgets for organizations seeking to collect donations on social networking sites or mobile devices. The site also hosts Giving Days in which non-profits compete to fundraise the most over a short period.
How to Launch a Campaign
Razoo only allows fundraising for formally registered 501(c)(3) organizations. Getting started requires registering your organization and creating a page with basic organization information. You can then seek donations for the organization as a whole or launch campaigns for specific goals.
Razoo has relatively low fees, an active community, and incredible tools for official non-profits.
Only registered non-profits can use Razoo.
4.9% (2.9% until April 1, 2013)
Co-founded by actor Edward Norton, Crowdrise brings together social networking, fundraising, and a lot of hilarious copy writing.
How to Launch a Campaign
Crowdrise only raises money for registered 501(c)(3) organizations. If your organization is registered with the IRS, anyone (including you) can create a fundraising page to raise money for it. Organizations can have multiple fundraisers at work at once.
Crowdrise is hip and active, and has oodles of celebrity engagement.
Only registered not-for-profits can raise money. Fees are high for the industry and complicated to calculate.
Rally aims to make it super simple to raise money and build support for social causes. The company also has one of the more elegant platforms in the crowdfunding world.
How to Launch a Campaign
Anyone can launch a “Rally.” You’ll need high-res images for your project page, a video if possible, and a brief campaign description.
Beautiful campaign pages and an active, growing membership base. Relatively low fees.
Rally only features a few of its campaigns on its homepage—most of the work of building support for your fundraising effort is up to you.
This post was initially published by Mosaic, a platform that makes it easy for anyone to directly invest in community solar energy projects.
On Saturday, 3D-printing organization Defense Distributed obtained a federal license to manufacture and sell 3D-printed guns. Defense Distributed first came to public attention as the center of controversy when they had their first 3D-printer confiscated by its manufacturer and Makerbot deleted their files from Thingiverse, but now they have achieved government sanction to continue their work.
Their plan—to design printable guns and release the designs for free across the internet—has caused cognitive dissonance for both the anti-patent, anti-copyright left and the libertarian right. For example, when Defense Distributed co-founder and director Cody Wilson appeared on Glenn Beck (see video below) he referenced Michel Foucault and anarchist critiques of patent, and Beck said he wasn’t sure if Wilson was “friend or foe”.
3D-printing an open design gun is a logical if extreme limit of the open source movement. If you truly want everything to be free to distribute and be made, then you want this for guns too. This puts many in a moral quandary: they don’t like guns or want more guns in the world, and an untraceable open source gun can be seen as an actively dangerous outcome of totally open 3D-printing. It forces a confrontation with the actual meaning of open source, and asks those who support it to make a choice about how far they actually follow the ideology.
Some have seen Defense Distributed actions as hijacking open source discourse toward a right wing goal: more guns, more easily available. Videos of Wilson firing printed assault rifles and the way some on the right have embraced his plan have been used as evidence toward this end. But, after watching a number of their videos and reading up on their texts, to me their commitment to open source seems genuine.
In a video released on March 11, Wilson announced the introduction of Defcad Search, a search engine for 3D-printing models that would be unblockable and totally open, a way of working around the government, industry and the “collusive members of the maker community”. In it, he states that they are against “artificial scarcity, intellectual property, copyright, patentable objects and regulation in all of its forms.” Text on Defcad.com points out that industry and government are going to fight hard against printable cars, pharmaceuticals, weapons, drones and medical devices. Defcad is intended to be a force (much like Pirate Bay or Bittorrent) against the encroachment of the law and monopoly.
In the video, Wilson asks “can 3D-printing be subversive? If it can, it will be because it allows us to make the important things…the things institutions and industries have an interest in keeping from us.” The utopian image projected by 3D-printing advocates often involves medical or agricultural technologies. What are the odds that, once real achievements are made in those fields, the industries that profit from such copyrights won't attack with the same vigor that Hollywood and the music industry have attacked pirates? Monsanto already regularly sues farmers for ‘stealing’ their seeds, and pharmaceutical companies favor research on patentable medicine rather than the most vital cures. People will need sites like Defcad Search to reliably access the tools that make 3D-printing most revolutionary.
It seems possible that Defense Distributed could become just another gun manufacturer: possible, but unlikely. And if Defcad search really takes off, it will be a vital force in protecting the future of open source and the potential of 3D-printing.
Two years ago, I stumbled onto an idea that just may be the solution to climate change or, more accurately, the paradigm through which innovative solutions will be widely implemented around the world that reduce our collective impact on the environment. No, it is not a “tech fix” in the form of new gadgets that people use. Nor is it a piece of legislation that places a price signal on carbon emissions (although that remains essential as part of the restructuring of our economic systems as we transition to sustainable models).
Simply put, it is a way of sharing good ideas so they spread far and wide.
That’s right, the solution to a massively complex global ecological crisis may be to spread the sharing meme. We are already seeing how it has influenced people’s daily routines, business practices, and the explosion of social technologies (Internet anyone?) that enable us to express our sharing nature in all aspects of life. In this article, I will share my own journey of discovery that lead to this hypothesis — and conclude with an exciting opportunity to test it in the real world in an effort to reach a global tipping point on climate action.
Is sharing the secret to success? Photo credit: OpenSource.com. Used under Creative Commons license.
The Story of Discovery
To understand what I am proposing as The Open Source Solution, it will help to know the back story. It all began a decade ago when I entered a graduate program in atmospheric sciences to study the formation of complex patterns and, in particular, the physical dynamics of clouds. Because my focus was on pattern formation, I dug deeply into the theoretical properties of all complex systems. The patterns of economic and political systems were just as intriguing to me as those in physics and chemistry.
I soon realized that the most important patterns were in the realm of human actions. I discovered deep drivers of large-scale human behavior in the institutional structures, cultural narratives, and social norms of global civilization as the most critically important patterns to be changed. And so I left the Department of Atmospheric Sciences and began six years of independent study in the cognitive and behavioral sciences to build a foundational understanding for this new arena of complexity.
It was during this exploratory period that I stumbled upon the prospects for a systemic solution. There I was, sitting in my living room in December of 2007, reading a book by Stephen Weber called The Success of Open Source. On the first page, he distinguished between two conceptual frames for ownership that he called The Right to Exclude and The Right to Distribute. A bolt shot through me and I realized that this was the missing piece I had been looking for. Everything came together in an instant and I knew that I had made a major discovery.
At the time, I was working as a research fellow at a think tank called the Rockridge Institute in Berkeley, California. My job was to apply insights from cognitive linguistics to political discourse, helping progressives identify useful semantic frames and alter our nation’s political discourse. So I brought to my readings on open source software a depth of knowledge about the nature of human cognition. It was immediately clear to me that the mental models for wealth, value creation, and ownership lay at the heart of problems behind global warming.
Let me explain. In legal theory, property is thought of as a bundle of rights held by the owner. Building on the thinking of Enlightenment philosophers (and particularly the writings of John Locke), this mental model for ownership places emphasis on the right to exclude others from accessing the benefits of owned property. So if I own a piece of land, I can exclude you by posting a No Trespassing sign or putting up a fence. This is the central idea behind proprietary software, where the owner charges a licensing fee to get access to the benefits of the software. It is also the mode of thought that has driven privatization as the dominant paradigm for economic development over the last 300 years.
This property right has been used in a very clever way by proponents of open source software to create an extremely valuable information commons. They realized that if anyone can be excluded by the property owner, then those who refuse to share can be excluded, as well. So they subverted the meaning to become a right to distribute that places ownership in the community of users who have come together to create the software. This is the primary legal mechanism behind the Creative Commons licensing model.
It was this strategic act of legal jujutsu that caused my epiphany. I knew immediately that the only way to build a capitalist system that retains innovative routes for entrepreneurship while also protecting all our vital commons was through this shared ownership paradigm.
Laying Out The Proposed Solution
I began with the assertion that the primary cause of ecological damage is in the governing dynamics of capitalism. As the following diagram shows, breakthrough ideas are unable to spread effectively in the closed ownership paradigm because the only metric for declaring an idea to be “good” is its inherent profitability. Private investors only support those ideas that generate a direct monetary return (and put their money into ideas that give maximal return, regardless of societal impact). As a result, the adoption space is narrowly defined and the innovation gets boxed in.
By contrast, in a shared ownership paradigm, the worth of a breakthrough idea is measured by many different metrics to determine its social value. Those ideas that preserve or increase our common wealth create positive social impacts. And because the ownership is built on a right to distribute, the demonstrated value of the idea increases as the breakthrough idea spreads and gets implemented in many places.
Since that fateful moment in late 2007, I have been actively testing this solution in the real world to see if it works. I have now launched three social enterprises based on this shared ownership paradigm — Cognitive Policy Works, Seattle Innovators, and DarwinSF (with my co-founder, Lazlo Karafiath). I have researched the deep trends in our global economy to reveal the emerging Open Collaboration Paradigm for economic production. And I have facilitated five successful crowdfunding campaigns to identify the modes of leadership, governance, group facilitation, project management, and engagement that unleash the power of crowds to cultivate collective impacts using the concept of shared ownership.
The next step is to implement this solution in our corporations, government agencies, and education institutions. This has already begun, albeit in a manner that does not articulate just how deeply open innovation principles disrupt the status quo. We are now in the midst of seeing the rise of collaborative consumption, what Clay Shirky calls “the power of organizing without organizations” in Here Comes Everybody, and the more general phenomenon of crowdsourcing.
Testing the Solution — Spreading Good Memes
This is the task before us now. My partners at DarwinSF and I have just completed the first ever meme analysis of global warming — concluding that global warming won’t go viral on its own. It needs help from symbiotic memes that are not primarily about global warming, but that marry to it in mutually beneficial ways. A strong candidate to explore further is the sharing meme, for all the reasons mentioned here.
We will soon begin a second round of research that focuses on the symbiotic memes already spreading successfully in mainstream culture. This is how we will discover the tipping points lurking below the surface of consciousness that can be activated to spread a vision for the better world we all need. In doing so, we can tackle the interwoven threats of global warming, financial instability, and political corruption — all the while spreading memes about sharing, collaboration, compassion, and sustainability.
Is the sharing meme a vital piece of the solution? My reasoning so far leads me to believe it is. But the scientist in me says to let the data decide. And so I am offering up an experimental design for everyone to consider. Let’s conduct a thorough meme analysis of the sharing meme and reveal the cultural structures that enable open societies to operate. In so doing, we can begin to measure the power of the sharing meme — both its inherent strengths and weaknesses, and the extent of the social networks it currently operates in. Once armed with this empirical data, we can begin to test out my hypothesis and introduce new memes into the cultural ecosystem and see if they take off.
Would you like to see such a study conducted? We’ll never know if I am right until we try.
I learned a new word this week: wikisprint. As you probably know, a wiki is a website that allows users to add and modify its content (think: Wikipedia) and to sprint is to run at top speed for a short distance. A wikisprint is pretty much what it sounds like; a short, fast, collaborative burst of activity on a wiki.
On Wednesday, March 20, the first Ibero-American Wikisprint is taking place. Sponsored by the P2P Foundation, the Wikisprint aims to collaboratively map P2P initiatives in Latin America and Spain via local wikisprints around the world.
Open to all, the Wikisprint is seeking volunteers to help collect and map projects, both online and off, that are participatory or collaborative in nature. Examples of such projects include: commons-based peer production, crowdsourcing, participatory governance, open source platforms or communities, collaborative consumption, coworking, open data, distributed infrastructures and more.
Ideally, the wikisprint will also find and map the best collaborative and P2P blogs, social media groups, Twitter feeds, books, articles and audio/video projects in the Spanish-speaking world. Wikisprint volunteers are asked to have at least five P2P initiatives that they can map and describe.
In addition to mapping collaborative and P2P initiatives, the Wikisprint will also serve to connect people and projects and facilitate communication between them.
- Subscribe to the Wikisprint coordination mailing list
- Follow the Twitter hashtag #P2PWikisprint
- Organize a Wikisprint in your town then request a P2P Foundation account
- Add your Wikisprint to the list of gatherings
Follow Cat Johnson on Twitter
Sign into the online Seats2meet interface, list your skills and talents, take a seat in one of the 61 physical spaces at the reserved time, connect with a network of hundreds of by-chance coworkers doing the same as you, then sign out at the end of your reserved time.
In a James Bond kind of a way, it's like you never came at all. Except for the magic that may have happened in that window of time. Like maybe you found an editor for your book, or a designer for your latest project, or picked up a much-needed freelance gig.
That is kind of what it’s like to use Seats2meet, an innovative take on coworking—free coworking, mind you—that is spreading like wildfire across the Netherlands and beyond.
Founded by Ronald van den Hoff and Marielle Sijgers, S2M takes the already serendipitous networking of traditional coworking and shakes it up to a whole new expansive level. It's free coworking with a third, ever changing dimension, and it hints at an exciting possible future for coworking: an open-sourced global network.
Since it began in the Netherlands in 2005 with just ten people, S2M swelled to 250 users within the first month, and it's been growing exponentially ever since.
Last year, a total of 15,000 people, or "knowmads" as van den Hoff calls the independent coworker, used S2M. The model now operates in 61 (and counting) different physical locations all over the Netherlands, as well as "The District" in Cairo, Egypt, and most recently, "League" in Tokyo, Japan.
The innovation begins here: S2M encompasses all kinds of physical spaces, not just average office spaces. The 61 spaces that are currently offering seats include some traditional coworking spaces, and also everything from a yogurt shop, to a golf course, to business centers, museums, a theater and even a hospital.
“So basically what we are saying is that you can create value in any physical place, as long as you are connected,” said van den Hoff.
Seats2Meets is the Freemium Model Applied to Physical Spaces. How it Works:
Van den Hoff hesitates to call S@M "free" (even though it is) because space owners make money on premium services and users "pay" with social capital.
Venues that participate offer 20% of their seating to S2M coworkers for free, but if a S2M user wants to hold a meeting or an event, then the spaces can charge for that. S2M receives a small commission (less than $2 per seat) on these rentals which keeps the S2M platform running.
So what, exactly, is this social capital that users pay with and which van den Hoff believes is "highly underrated," yet extremely valuable?
It's the rich pool of knowledge and skills that the knowmads have to offer to the network on a daily basis, and it's what is keeping the network growing.
S2M users, a diverse bunch that ranges in age from 17 to over 60, are required to tell the S2M network who they are, and what their talents and knowledge are on that particular day. And then naturally, share it. That's how users pay with social capital.
“A lot of people underestimate ,” says van den Hoff. “But we see that a lot of the traditional corporations, they are booking the meeting rooms and the office spaces just to get in touch with those people.”
For van den Hoff, the knowmads that use S2M are a resource in and of themselves.
“These people are self learning, they are continuously developing themselves because if they’re not, they’re out of the game," says van den Hoff. "And they’re highly connected, they’re more connected than your average corporate player."
When coworkers get assignments from corporations, they generate revenues for S2M since assignments usually require some private face time. Last year, the reservation system handled 132,000 paid meeting seats, and 60,000 free coworking seats.
And do the golf courses and yogurt shops who offer seats get anything out of this?
“Yes, because the key thing is, the coworkers are highly connected people, so whenever they’re in our space they start communicating that they are in our space, and that means they start to advertise your location," says van den Hoff.
"And people are saying 'I’m going to Seats2meet in Amsterdam X and X location,' and somebody else is saying 'Seats2Meet, what is that?' And then number three is saying 'let me explain it to you.' And number 4 is saying 'here’s the link and you can reserve your seat.'"
It's the reason that S2M is able to operate with just four full time employees—the knowmads—although still self-employed—naturally become ambassadors of S2M. They play the role of advertisers and customer service representatives. In the Netherlands, at least, the S2M logo is getting pretty hot—people want to be associated with the prestige of this network which is so rich in social capital.
And as often as entrepreneurs meet and chat within the virtual space of S2M, they are also inviting each other to have coffee (or yogurt) at the physical site. It’s a win-win relationship: The businesses that offer free seats enjoy a swell in business, and the knowmads are a valuable resource that attracts corporate players.
Next month, on request of the S2M community, a new service called "Residency" will be added, where coworkers can pay 50 euros per month to have access to the database of knowledge and people at all times, as well as free access to the last unsold seats at commercial conferences. These members will also be granted full access to the S2M software and they can use the logo as a badge on their business cards and websites.
The Virtual Blanket
“One of our key elements, what we have been looking at, is how do we connect those places, but more importantly, how do you connect all those people? Because that’s obviously where the serendipity takes place.”
The answer is in what van den Hoff calls the “virtual blanket”—the web interface of S2M, where workers reserve their physical seat in one of the locations, and list their skills, talents, and knowledge in realtime on the “dashboard.”
And while the users are a miscellaneous bunch—students, photographers, web designers, writers, consultants, government officials traveling through, etc—they are also not tied to one particular skill or identity: what they offer today might be something entirely different tomorrow.
“Today i might be working on a consultancy project, and tomorrow I might be writing a book,” says van den Hoff.
This fluidity may be part of why S2M is so appealing to freelancers and entrepreneurs who have their hands in several projects at once. It’s not like more conventional online networks like LinkedIn, where you tick a box that says ‘marketing’ or ‘sales,’ says van den Hoff.
“You live a much more dynamic life, and thats why that virtual realtime blanket is so important. You are moving from one project to another, you know, those things are dynamic.”
At any time, you can peruse the S2M dashboard and see who is working at the moment, and what their skills are—marked by the tags that they choose—or who will be working, say next Tuesday between noon and four.
Interestingly, while most professional interactions in today's world pivot around convenience of location, or convenience of availability, van den Hoff has noticed that it's not a favorite neighborhood or meeting place that determines where to meet, it's who is at a particular space that influences the decision.
“If you look at the homepage of Seats2Meet, you still see the traditional reservation wizard on top of the page, where you can reserve your seat or your meeting room, but if you scroll down a bit, you can see the knowledge which is available in real time, and what we see is that people, more and more, are using that entrance to make their reservation," says van den Hoff.
The Magic Happens in the Physical and Virtual Spaces:
There is much to be said about the networking that happens in a physical coworking space, and the success it can bring to entrepreneurs.
Sella van de Griend, a parenting coach and author of HAPPY KIDS, which helps parents find greater happiness in parenting, says this:
"The first half year I went to S2M together with a friend. We sat at a big table, and so we met a lot of new people, just because you sit together and there are a lot of reasons to get into contact with somebody—'what are you working on?' 'do you want some coffee?' 'can I use your adapter?' ...We really had a lot of fun together. And during lunch, it is quite normal to ask 'what kind of work do you do?' It's also normal to ask for help."
Griend launched her self-published book HAPPY KIDS with the help of 150 people she met through S2M and Meeting Plaza.
Cees Hoogendijk, an organization developer, master in construction development, and developer an international social media site for communities, Mindz.com, is one of those knowmads that wears many hats. During his time using S2M, he became more acquainted with van den Hoff and became van den Hoff's book, Society 3.0.
"Lots of new relationships on my behalf start through Twitter. But how and why did I start to use Twitter? Because one S2M community manager told me to do so," said Hoogendijk.
"When I'm reserving a S2M seat, I always do this for an appointment with someone," said Hoogendijk. "But often, someone contacts me, or I get introduced, or I get introduced, or I see an old friend, and new conversations turn up. This is what it is."
The Future of Coworking is Augmented
While the traditional coworking centers are definitely on to something by offering a space for independent workers to network, this virtual blanket might just be the future.
Van den Hoff uses the example of his 16-year-old daughter:
“When she talks to me, with her left eye she is looking at me and with her right eye she is looking at some kind of device, and she is connected to her virtual friendship world. For it’s the same,” he said.
He also points out that to an extent, the traditional coworking center, with it’s average of a 100 to 150 members can become a “closed circle,” less likely to find resources beyond this immediate network.
The next step, as van den Hoff sees it, is to connect coworkers worldwide—and again, he’s much less interested in tapping into the membership fees of the coworking spaces as he is in creating a global network rich with social capital.
He’s even proposing a coworking currency.
“The next step basically of what we could do as coworkers worldwide is work together to create a kind of collaborative currency," said van den Hoff. "Instead of using Euros, there could be a coworking currency unit, so we could do even more business with each other globally, you know, use a credit system or something. That would be my ultimate goal."
And although the banks, naturally, are not thrilled with this proposal, he is talking with government officials in Holland about trying to set up a pilot project for a coworking currency to complete the circle.
After all, collaborative consumption is on the rise, and van den Hoff predicts that in the next five to ten years, it will make up 40% of the current economy.
When it comes to networks, he said, “The larger, the more connected we are, the better the whole system will work.”
Google is shutting down it's Google Reader product on July 1, 2013. That means your account will disappear and all that hard work assembling your fave sites to read in one place will be gone...unless you switch to another RSS reader before the deadline.
I recommend @feedly. It only took two clicks and 15 seconds to migrate. It was super simple. Just go here to get started: http://ow.ly/j9bMH
by Hillete Warner
Global Innovators is a 10-part intercultural series that celebrates the remarkable work of social innovators from outside the English-speaking world. Twice a month, we will be profiling inspiring grassroots leaders from across three broad cultural clusters: change enthusiasts from Italy, France and the Spanish-speaking world. The series, based on the recently launched multilingual editions of the Enabling City toolkit, will focus on a rich variety of themes that explore 'enabling' frameworks for participatory social change.
Enabling City: Filippo, your background is truly international. Tell us a little about yourself.
Filippo Bozotti: I am Italian-born but have lived all over the world: I grew up in France and Switzerland, went to school in Boston and lived in New York for seven years, where I was a documentary filmmaker. In 2010, I moved to Sierra Leone to start Tribewanted's second sustainable community in John Obey Beach and have just recently moved back to Italy to start our third Tribewanted community in Monestevole, Umbria.
EC: Can you tell us more about Tribewanted and how it works?
FB: Tribewanted is an online community of likeminded people who adopt, develop and create sustainable communities “offline”. Our goal is to establish long-term financial benefits to the communities we work with through the development of a cooperatively owned eco-tourism facility. For the last six years, on an island in Fiji, a beach in Sierra Leone, and now in the Umbrian hills of Italy, we have been working in partnership with villages (and 1500+ visiting tribe-members!) to develop eco-tourism destinations from the ground-up. Along the way, we’ve generated $1.5m in revenues, re-invested into the local villages and created over 50 jobs. Now we're working on a campaign to crowdfund a network of sustainable communities around the world and to expand our co-op model with the input of our member-supporters.
EC: How did you become involved in the world of sustainable design and social innovation?
FB: A few years ago, I created a documentary called Bling for MTV. The story explored the links between blood diamonds in Sierra Leone and hip hop music in the United States. Through that project I was able to bring several famous rappers to Sierra Leone and show them where their diamonds were coming from. Bling was quite successful, so we started a non-profit in Sierra Leone with a focus on micro-finance. The more time we spent there, the more we saw the opportunity for eco-tourism as a means to tell a positive story about the country. Most people know Sierra Leone for its blood diamonds and civil war, but the country has been at peace for years now and has been untouched as far as eco-tourism is concerned. The landscape consists of lush forests and gorgeous beaches, so Ben Keene, Tribewanted's co-founder, and I partnered up to develop the second Tribewanted community there. Fast-forward to today, and we're now in the process of opening our third community in Monestevole, Italy!
EC: You are originally from Italy, a country with a rich history and unique challenges. How is the social innovation community in Rome, your city? What are some of the challenges that change enthusiasts face there?
FB: Based on my experiences with Tribewanted, which so far have focused on building eco-tourism communities in developing countries, Rome and Italy present very different challenges. If, in my previous experience, some of the biggest issues revolved around the social need for education and healthcare, here one of the biggest needs is protecting local and artisanal traditions and finding a way to marry the old – our heritage – with the new. I interpret this as mainly the need to promote sustainable farming practices, permaculture, green architecture and green energy. I find that in Italy there is an obsession with concrete, and that is something we have to change. We need to scale our best practices nation-wide and get serious about reducing our carbon footprint.
In Monestevole, we were fortunate because the village already has a strong community. Everyone works together, shares amazing food, makes wine and oil, the hens are all free-range and we don't use pesticides. We have a lot to learn from those who have been living this way for generations. What Tribewanted was happy to contribute was an investment in turning all of this into an even more sustainable community – with renewable energy, innovative water recycling and permaculture.
EC: What are some of your favourite tools for bringing people together and creating change?
FB: I like urban gardens for their immediacy. They are a great way to bring people together; you get your hands dirty, take a break from personal electronics, and the initial investment they require is not as onerous as, say, solar panels or wind turbines. I think renewable energy and sustainable transportation are also quite useful in providing people with a visual – a tangible sign of our transition to a lower carbon footprint. Being involved in urban agriculture or sustainable architecture is an empowering way of getting people to participate. Same thing with the sharing economy. Bike-sharing, car-sharing... these are not one-time solutions, they are the combination of hundreds of similar steps taken in support of the same path. The reason a community forms around them, I think, is the way they change us and the opportunity they give us to affect change in our everyday lives. It's the combination of personal empowerment and the joy of finding a community that has us coming back for more. And what I think we've learned along the way is that we don't need to wait for catastrophe to bring us closer. Community can be just as powerful in our day-to-day.
EC: What are the values that inspire and guide your work?
FB: Sustainability is a big one for me. In some ways, though, it's a selfish way to be involved. I'm working to realize the life that I want to live, and the Tribewanted community model is how I want to live. We’re working hard to build sustainable communities in the world and setting high standards in the hope that we'll succeed, but even if we have to settle halfway the truth is that I don’t want a nine-to-five job, I don’t want to live in a city anymore. I’ve done that, it was a great experience, but I’ve moved on. Now I'm interested in getting as close as possible to the life I want to live – and Tribewanted is a great way for me to test my dreams and put them into action. Of course I still struggle with the tensions: we're an online community of thousands of people so even here in the rolling hills of Umbria I spend way too much time staring at my laptop instead of being in the fields. But if I keep at it, if we all do, then it's not really “work.” And we'll have hopefully achieved something meaningful along the way.
Thank you, Filippo!
Read more about Filippo and Tribewanted's story here. And stay tuned for the next articles in the series.
Enabling City is an organization that explores social innovation in the areas of urban sustainability and participatory governance. This series is based on Enabling City's toolkit and the recent launch of its French, Spanish and Italian editions. Visit the website or follow Enabling City on Twitter to find out more about the project.