Life goal, plus some detail on getting there

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Sent to MJ Petroni of http://causeit.org

Confirming our talk scheduled in two and one-half hours from now, with an important proviso - if this is a for-fee consult, and i am quite aware that consulting is exactly what people pay you for, i will need to beg off for now or do a deferred payment.

One large, slow-paying client means no expenses until i know i can get money to all the people i already have commitments to-- as in yesterday i canceled dealer maintenance on a ten-year-old Honda Insight hybrid.

My life goal has for quite some time been "the most power possible for all people over each of our own lives" - and not, in the first order, by the one-on-one way that you help with, let alone what Agaric web development could hope to do with client work, but by taking on systemic problems.

We are all individually going to need to (continue to) pull off amazing feats of drive and self-direction to make progress in any case, but the broad scope of lack of control over the conditions of life, work, and love are, to put it most simply, institutional in nature. Decisions that affect us all and collective actions are regularly made; this is what forms the societies we are all part of whether we want to be or not. These decisions (or no-decisions that, a good public administration or business management teacher will tell you, are also decisions) are frequently and in a fundamentally flawed way not made by the people most affected by them.

Power - propaganda, wealth, armies, government, control of resources - is first and foremost a matter of organization.

Organization, in turn, is in significant part a matter of communication.

Visions Unite will provide a communications infrastructure, a network of ways to connect, that allows democratic groups to wield power nearly as effectively as an individual or clique can– but, simply by the logic of a group's expanded awareness and interests, more constructively and less destructively.

The most important and unique tool for this grand plan will be democratically moderated mass communication, using random sample juries to decide quickly which news and information to promote. This gives people who give a damn about making things better a fair way to choose which information we collaborate on spreading (in addition to the messages we most care about communicating directly). The same process can be used internally to filter the quantity and quality of messages, and indeed the distinction of who is inside or outside a group or network becomes less important as this all-to-all communication levels the field for all who want to participate.

Agaric Design Collective, co-founded with Dan Hakimzadeh, a friend from high school and early college re-acquainted with years later by chance outside the home of another friend in town, has followed no such grand plan, has never defined our target audience let alone targeted or marketed to anyone, and has nonetheless had a regular flow of a random assortment of clients large and small from personal references and the power of Drupal to make the world beat a path to your doorstep.

We have never been flush, but we are both terrible businesspeople (we failed to charge any hosting, domain registration fees, or support for the entirety of 2009) and the fact that we are surviving at all is testament to the Drupal ecosystem and our own stubbornness. I think our main need is to set expectations appropriately and avoid clients who do not have sufficient resources.

Dan is on board with the change-the-world vision (and literally on the non-profit People Who Give a Damn, Inc. board); the point of Agaric is to get us and anyone who joins in to the point of being able to dedicate significant time to making such visions real.

Agaric's position: we have always had greater-than-deserved visibility in the small but expanding Drupal content management system universe due to, if i had to guess, Dan's insistence on branding us like a major corporation that needs only a symbol for introduction and my tendency to visibly support big ideas in the community (little actual material support) and primarily my practice of trying to post every stupid little thing i figure out (or don't figure out, or find out someone else figured out) to our web site. Any Drupal event i go to, people come up and say they've been on our site (thanks to Dan sticking my picture on every post).

Now we have a book in the works with an amazing set of authors, that will be published even if the publisher who approached us ends up flaking out. Also we will finally re-launch our web site and send our first-ever collective newsletter, before DrupalCon, honest we will! We will have to transition from making sure we have enough cash on hand to make it through DrupalCon in April and my business partner's wedding in summer to making sure we handle our significantly increased visibility in a way that does not disappoint new clients; in short, to neither overcommit nor gouge, and honestly that should mean working with more people which, paying out to at most five or six full-time-equivalents at any given time, we organizationally have not done well with.

We have a commitment to fairness in pay and flexibility in work and sticking together when things need to get done that i think is a pretty strong basis for a great way to work, but i think we need to structure things so that potential for breakdown on how things are done internally is minimized.

Personally, i am an extremely slow worker (granted extra time on tests throughout school courtesy a learning disability designation, yet somehow this high-hourly-rate business has worked often enough so far) and i'm fairly bad at managing priorities. For instance, i just spent so much time on this e-mail i've had to increment the when-we-speak at the top from four hours down to one and a half.

But it and speaking with you may be the most important thing i do this week.

To recap:

1. Sustain business (Agaric) over the next six months.
2. Brand Agaric and communicate plans (which means continuing to discuss internally also) within next month.
3. Complete management and writing and promotion in the community (including web site with draft chapters) of the Definitive Guide to Drupal 7 by about June.
4. Probably expand the business or whom we work with in a way that does not exploit ourselves nor others.
5. (Not as Agaric officially but as most of us personally) use greater financial stability and connections in the web-tech community to launch the Visions Unite project (to make so many more projects real).

... and in the meantime help put on and teach at some Drupal Camps locally and in Central America for the fun of it and perhaps launch the open source free software collaborative funding site that no one else seems to have quite gotten to stick.

And all that talk of planning and organizing and communicating? My idea of organizing a dinner party is to call it a week or a day beforehand, and sometimes my friends that would like to eat before midnight take over the cooking. I know i need help and have gathered a fair amount of it. Yet i know i personally must do much to make this happen; i must focus and deliver; even as the goal is to build structures where i am dispensable.

Thank you, tremendously, for your time.

CUT:

As for myself personally, there are no job openings for megalomaniac community organizer, so after college i stocked shelves overnight and drew plans on the backs of pallet labels, and thoroughly failed to organize a retail workers union, though thoroughly enjoying the night crew. Got involved in an arts center civil war and through connections there landed a white collar job compensation consulting-- researching how much people should be paid, which sort of made me the invisible hand of the market.