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Archive for the “open source mgmt.” Category

The guts of the start-up moment: faith, confidence or stupidity?

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007

With my bank account shrinking, but everything on The Heather Gold Show zooming I’ve felt torn the last few days. I have a great, growing team, a growing audience, super content, a solid track record, a clear vision, good timing, many well-positioned advisors and friends who want to see me succeed, all kinds of momentum and the feeling in my heart and gut that I am absolutely doing the right thing.

But for the last few days a part of my head and self has been consumed with the bank account, constantly hearing a tick tick tick and doing the math and then worrying about it. None of that is helping me. I am working 12+ hour days and loving it. But I was raised in a “show me the money” environment and that worry was leading to some paralysis which was helping neither my show, start-up nor my bank account. But I don’t want to quit or get off the path I’m on.

Fortuitously an old, older friend called today. He started his own business some time ago. I outlined my money worries and he didn’t seem to know what to say. But once I asked him if this was what it was like when he started his business. He said,

“Absolutely, not 100% but 1000.”

I said, “When you started your business did you have a spreadsheet that proved exactly when everything would get above water financially and did that give you relief and confidence?”

“No. I never look at spreadsheets. I guess you could say that I winged it.”

And as we continued to talk my whole day and insides turned around. This moment, this is what it is. That moment when successful people look back and tell you about all the hamburgers they ate (as my friend did). I used to hear that as “Oh I sacrificed, you have to sacrifice too.” But that’s not it. What he was saying is that even though things aren’t proven on the outside (ie. the spreadsheet, the bank account) you know yourself, you know your momentum. It’s the not knowing and moving forward anyway. No hesitation.

I had and still have an image of a ship in waters you don’t know. But it’s full steam ahead.

To quote my friend, whose words are now on my wall

“Somehow, someway, it works out.”

Men with beards are so nice.

Friday, September 28th, 2007

I had salted caramel ice cream with Derek Powazek yesterday + coffee with Jonathan Coulton this morning. They know as much practically about online community and being a self-sustaining independent artist online as anyone. I feel lucky to have their support and access to their insights. The best thing is that there’s nothing “special” or guru-like about either of them or the point of any of this. It’s not about distance and glossing everything up to imply that you’re great. It’s about putting the digital content out and accepting yourself and work as you are (this is my synthesis, not their direct words) and listening to and responding to your audience and your self.

This is a relief.

Both of them were so helpful and encouraging about my work and had some good insights and ideas about the web site design challenges my team and I face. (It’s amazing to say “my team.” I am stunned and thrilled that talented people are working with me on the talk show and my Internet infrastructure)

Of course it’s not just web design. It’s how to make a living as an independent artist. As Derek summarized + identified with my challenge “want to be a star, a community manager and an entrepreneur.” While I quibble with the word star (because my desire is to shine yes, but not to be distant or focussed on getting attention or fame for no reason), he’s right. It’s good thing I like to do all these different things. He does too and so does JoCo. It’s a good thing because they’re all necessary to be a successful independent artist apres Net. It will be true for any online business, but that’s a topic for another day and another post.

Being open, just putting stuff out there is at the heart of it. So in that spirit, here are my notes.

• put everything out (right now I have a constipated catalogue)

• Don’t sit on the egg too long. (DP) Put out stuff you think sucks. (JC)

•You don’t know what will hit.

• Tip jars don’t work. Sell your work.

•digital content doesn’t cost to store, and you can sell only one copy of one piece and make that one person really happy while another piece sells, travels a lot. Don’t focus on making something “viral,” just on making stuff.

• user content is the greatest fun. Invite it. Make room to show it.

• have a store, JoCo intelligently links to his with the word music in the nav. His store page is an explanation of how to get his music and his goals ie making a living. I like how JoCo’s store with all his digital content works. I want to do the same. I know most of mine is video and that heretofore people haven’t paid for this. But we will try and see as my mission will be clearer to people as I share it more.

>JoCo recommends e-junkie for shopping cart

• a place to capture email addresses easily near each piece of video content posted

• each show has it’s own little node as each of JoCo’s songs does, seen here, which includes a place to see fan/audience response + to solicit it. I find his simple way of doing it easy to understand and follow.

• within the HG Show each conversation should have the same.

• may not need subvert + hg as separate sites. just have subvert redirect to hg for now. Simplicity yes!

• the corporate / biz stuff has it’s own small site/page in another place

• all shows are under the heathergold umbrella

• Jane Siberry (now Issa) is having sucess with her “pay what youlike now or later ” system. JoCo is trying to get the code. He has learned that when a big wave of people come the pricesdrop. but this greater volumn / lower price makes sense to me.

• the feedback is the critical piece for the audience/ community (and the artist too :-), everyone wants to know that what they do say, create has an impact and is acknowledged.

• paying the artist directly for their work is the future, get with the program folks.

•integrate my manifesto, the why I’m doing things along with my work. Don’t worry about separaing everything.

• don’t worry about “branding” / calculating a single essence before putting things out. As Cory Doctorow told me, people are learning to filter. Don’t let self-definition paralyze you. Just put the stuff out.

•It’s really great to put out work you don’t like (JoCo). Get’s you over the perfectionist thing. That last 2% only matters to you.

• continue to play with the multiple levels of ticketing pries but make it clearer what they are. Eg. Keep the names of the pricing on the front page but have a “what the hell is this?” link that will go elsewhere to my FAQplace where I can explain this stuff along with my manifesto.

• pre-ordering. Use the fund this project / participate/gimmesomecandy approach to putting together a DVD and book of the last season (and same for Cookie) see: scottandrew.com | saveyoufromyourself.com

• calendaring. JoCo uses eventful . He was so so about their coding. They say they push all their events out to other calendars if you check that preference inc upcoming, but he hasn’t checked to see if, in fact, this is working. He said promoting the eventuful a lot is key. We can have in the show area a link so people can go there if they want to bring the show to their town/place.

• having lots of guides helps people find what relates to them. JoCo does a nice start here guide that lays out some of this (that link is in the margin, the little box at the top) and also lays out how and why he’s doing it and the approach to singing/giving the music.

•involving people in the process, blogging openly about it is great. I’ve been toying with putting all the numbers out so people can see how much each show costs etc. Although once the thing is done, like the stage is built for the hydraulic lift, how does one generate the $1000 to pay for it. Involving everyone in helping us solve the problem and costs is great. In fact, I will probably blog this :-)

Ticket prices and bootstrapping a show in the Net era

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

My grandparents owned a corner store when I was a kid.

I went to law school, took classes at Kellogg and worked at New Line and Apple in strategic new business positions, not to mention with plenty ‘o start ups, but I learned more about business from the corner store than anywhere else.

Retail businesses scaled into Macy’s and Walmart. Along the way most of them lost the humaity and sense of service that makes a small business truly successful.

Now that the Net is capable of video and some basic infrastructure pieces are in place –video hosters like blip, blog software like WordPress (just to name a couple that I use)–it is possible to build a little corner store of a show and grow it.

And that’s exactly what I plan to do. The second season of my interactive talk show begins September 21st (Theme: Does art change anything?). Unlike most videoblogs and online shows before it, it is based on a live experience with an audience (who are truly participants). The experience of the show comes, in large part, of the mix of guests and audience members and inclusive vibe. We have few public commons where people can meet each other and even fewer where we can openly discuss the most important issues of our lives without political posturing creating an experience as whitewashed and removed from real life experience as mainstream television. There is a cost to capturing this and bringing quality conversation and interesting people to a bigger audience than the ones who can fit inside the garage where we tape. It’s much, much less expesive than making a television show, but quite a bit more than vlogging alone at home, talking into your webcam.

So this season I’ve taken a page from different conference models I’ve seen and suggestions from Shannon Clark, Gimme Some Candy, and conversation on Jerry Michalski‘s list to create a pricing model with multiple tiers.

I’ve always kept the show open to anyone who bakes for it and anyone who needs it to be. I don’t want a lack of money to keep people out who want to be part of the community and conversation.

Regular tickets are $15 (lube tech) and now a sponsor level ticket $30 (greasemonkey) is available if you want to help back those people who can’t afford tickets. If you’d like to support the show as a patron and back the podcast with a producing credit of your choice of 5 words, and access to green room fun there are a few $100 tickets available. And if you really love the show and want to be a regular, I’ve begun a season pass (warranty) $125 as well. The intention of this pricing is to keep the show open to those who need it to be free, while making a dent in the podcasting/vlogging costs for the show.

I’ve been speaking with different online networks as possible distributors. Will I be able to bootstrap all the way or will I need to take some investment partners ?

I’ll keep you posted as the adventure continues. I look forward to hearing your ideas and your feedback.

How upgrades really work

Monday, October 9th, 2006


Great bit of transparency
from United Airlines if this past employee still worked there. If United wanted to apply Open Source Management, they’d hire the guys back. Make him a blogger, and then have a series of forums with gate agents to create and practice the best way to give this information to customers.

Hockey stick applause to Paul Schreiber for the link.

OSM wiki is up

Saturday, May 20th, 2006

It’s barely begun, but here it is.

Let me translate for non-geeks: this is a place for people to collaborate and share ideas and stories and jokes and anything else you want about making business a human place that serves people and not itself.

Maybe you melt a corporation, from the inside.
It could end up being good for business. Who do you trust?

webmonkey interview: work shouldn’t have to suck

Friday, May 19th, 2006

There’s an interview with me in Wired’s webmonkey about Open Source Management or business without bs: whatever you prefer to say.

In the spirit of open-ness, the person who coined OSM is Stephen Tomlinson, a very cool solo performer who also teaches economics in Austin. We both use teaching in comedic solo performance (I teach law in my next show). I invited him to be part of the panel I was doing at SXSW, then called Vulnerability, and we talked about the way I perform interactively with the audience.  Once I explained how I was going to apply it to business too (thanks to Jerry Michalski’s encouragement) and how I thought it was ironic that businesses were into open source technology, but not being open as people, Stephen came up with the great phrase and suggested I use it and make it my own. I haven’t told him yet that I’m going to blog and give him credit but that’s the point of open-ness isn’t it?

Everything is so influenced by everything else. I think it would hilarious and cool if comics could / would hyperlink their jokes live.

Someone’s already emailed me about contributing to OSM. By all means, it’s an open idea and then more honesty we have in our lives and business, the more we can be our whole selves together, the better it is for everyone. He’s going to see if we can get a wiki or something set up for open contribution.

I have to watch it though. Too many earnest sentences cuts down on the comedy quotient. Any hypocritical environment is a living set-up for a punchline.

Caring is the new “competitive advantage”

Thursday, April 6th, 2006

So why is caring the new “competitive advantage” ? (which is now an outdated phrase since it implies needing to beat someone else in order to do well).

  1. You can’t fake it.
  2. It comes from an honest place.
  3. If you truly care about what you’re doing, then you can keep on doing it. It becomes humanly sustainable.
  4. It’s the thing that is the opposite of what “corporate” now culturally means.
  5. It’s what is working about all the “web 2.0″ or live web businesses and media vs corporate media.
  6. It’s what works about working governments.
  7. It is linked with our empathy and vulnerability. That’s the channel that allows energy and ideas and action to flow quickly between people and entities.
  8. It’s what makes things relevant and sometimes viral.
  9. In the exploding number of media options, it stands out and cannot be manufactured by formula.
  10. Your caring is unique to you (or the group of people making up your company) and it cannot be duplicated but can be joined.

It is hilarious to watch people used to coming top down (Michael Eisner was rumoured to be at SXSW, taking notes. try to take the form of the change without the genuine caring underneath. That means vulnerability and self-awareness. Chevy tried a “write-your-own-ad” campaign recently (can’t you hear the pitch meeting? “It’s very Internet, very grassroots”) only to find out that the grassroots had things to tell em they didn’t want to hear. The result? Hilarious ads. Why? They’re true. Chevy can listen to the truth and respond (ie change) or put just keep trying to perfume the pig. I think it’s gonna be the latter judging by this NYT piece. Do we want the story we tell ourselves or our actual story? Just ask frustrated advertisers, branders and designers all hired to do the former. Comedians tell the latter .
Here is my belated SXSW wrap-up. I had a fabulous time, as I always do. I’d hoped to post much earlier, but it took me a while to get my media online and to get over my desire to have everything thought out perfectly before I started blogging.

I did my first Open Source Management panel at SXSW, which is the beginning of my offering to help business get more honest and human. The core idea behind Open Source Management (OSM) forums is that if business started to apply some things it likes about its code (inclusive, open, transparent) to its human interactions, people would be happier and business would be more honest and therefore more sustainable and productive over the long haul. The goal is for people to be vulnerable with one another. But given how scary and that word seems to some business folks, I’m using OSM too. An acronym! That must be practical!

Systems eventually fail when they serve themselves and not people. It’s people who make these systems in the first place. We forget ourselves in our disenfranchisement and become resigned to the idea (not reality) that there’s nothing we can do. Then corporations seem to be evil blobs that showed up from outerspace and took over the commerce of the world, rather than an extension of what we accept.

A good starting place is people talking and listening to each other. The Cluetrain Manifesto is great in theory but how do business people really get vulnerable enough to be open and listen? How do you bring people together and tell the truth? Comedy. I decided to apply some of my performance techniques to a business meeting and that’s how OSM was born.

I ran the panel like a talk show, although I ended up on the floor for much of it since I couldn’t walk out of the range of my table of panelists without giving off crazy mic feedback. The irreverence only helped and though it was the last session of SXSW the audience jumped in immediately with tons of great ideas for our volunteer first client Ruckus Wireless. It was so great to see business without the bs, and to see just how much incredible brain power there is in a random room. Ok. it wasn’t completely random. But at any company there are lots of smart, competent people who would probably be able to help their management solve lots of problems if they were listened to and given genuine input. And creativity is impossible without fun. (Though most companies will say “can you please just Fed Ex in part of your left brain, leave the messy rest of you at home. Now, be creative and passionate!”)

I learned a lot from the audience and will keep adapting the technique. Many thanks to the audience and my panel, Jerry Michalski, Mark Glaser, Cathy Brooks , Giovanni Rodriguez and David Callisch. Listen to the podcast, post your ideas below.

Here’s how to be a caring, open company:my interview with flickr’s George Oates.

From the trends I’m seeing in major media and on the Net, It’s time for caring. Very exciting! Come out of the closet humans, come out! Your caring will not harm but support your livelihood.
Other SXSW goodies

Here is video from the “early beta” of my new show The Law Project, which I did at The Vortex Rep, along with a night of Cookie.

The purpose of business

Tuesday, March 28th, 2006

I just read some comments on a NYT piece about Steve Jobs’ taxes. One of the reader commented, as many people like to, that taxes are bad because governments are simply inefficient and run by fools.

To me this implies the assumption that the government is run by “them” some other species of inefficient fools, while business and corporations are run by “us,” an different and efficient species. Anyone who has spent time in a corporation can tell you from personal experience that there is nothing necessarily efficient about them. How many pointless reports have you had to file? How much time have you spent “managing up,” soothing your bosses’ fears and insecurities, trying to read her mind to figure out what she wants?

Business thrives sustainably when it is meeing real human needs and when the human beings who make up the business recognize that business exists to serve human needs, not the other way round.

It is comfortable American “conventional wisdom” that governments are run by fools. For the past 20 years, Americans have been continually electing American governments who promise to do nothing but cut taxes/goverment (not necessarily the same thing as Bush fils has shown). Perhaps this conventional wisdom is widely accepted because the people of America no longer feel that the government represents them (not that it ever has really done a bang-up job of representing all Americans, to say nothing of the people who lived here before it was called America). Perhaps Americans have felt this way for so long that they have simply decided that government is for “fools” because it is too painful to accept what has happened.

Americans seem to feel like people from Jupiter landed here and elected their government while they were busy watching football. But Americans have elected and accepted this government. Government, like business, is nothing more than people and both institutions need our continued co-operation and consent to run and that is is up to people to change them. And this is absolutely possible.

doing business on my back

Saturday, March 25th, 2006

Heather Gold

Originally uploaded by meriwilliams.

a photo from meri williams showing that I did, indeed, spend a lot of time during my Open Source Management panel at SXSW on the floor. Hey, I’m a comic. Business needs some laugh whores. Otherwise we’d still be grimacing worrying about things like “competitive advantage” and “productivity” when business only really exists to meet our needs as human beings who, in truth, love laying on the floor.

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