The Pete Paradox

Peter Kaminski has a great maxim, which those of us who know and love him commonly call The Pete Rule:    (K8N)

“Time together in person is too important to spend working.”  T    (K8O)

I think it’s a great rule, but there’s a corollary, which I’ll call The Pete Paradox:    (K8P)

Time together in person is the best time to work.    (K8Q)

I actually had a specific experience with Peter last October that led me to think about this paradox.    (K8R)

At RecentChangesCamp earlier this month, I faced this paradox first-hand. On the one hand, I didn’t want to waste the opportunity to really get to know some of the excellent folks in the Wiki community who aren’t local to the Bay Area. On the other hand, I had some specific things I wanted to work on — namely SisterSites with Ward Cunningham and other Wiki developers and a YADIS implementation with the good folks at JanRain. Working on these projects meant breaking away from the larger group, popping open the laptop, and focusing on the work at hand.    (K8S)

The paradox resolved itself to my satisfaction. I got both projects done. We implemented SisterSites in PurpleWiki and a bunch of other Wikis, and Brian Ellin and I wrote a YADIS library in Ruby. I met several interesting and cool people for the first time, including Brian, and, I got to know folks like Bayle Shanks a lot better. On the second night, after the conference party, I decided to go to the main ballroom to check my email, even though I was exhausted. The ballroom was empty at first, but about half an hour later, Bayle showed up. We had met at WikiSym, but this was the first time we had a chance to sit down and really talk, and we stayed up past 3am. That was excellent. I had already known that Bayle had done some cool stuff, but it was great to dig deeper into his ideas as well as to talk about non-Wiki stuff.    (K8T)

I even got to discuss The Pete Paradox with Pete in person. (How’s that for meta?!) And here’s how I finally resolved it in my head. Both The Pete Rule and The Pete Paradox are about maximizing engagement. When you are working closely together, you are engaging in a way that is not only more productive, but more meaningful. Face-to-face time spent working can be a waste, but face-to-face time spent truly working together usually isn’t.    (K8U)

The Price of Openness

By many accounts, Mashup Camp was pretty cool. But there were elements of the event that were most definitely uncool.    (K83)

Ryan King, one of the instigators behind the original Bar Camp, said it best:    (K84)

On today, there’s a pretty silly puff piece about the camp, focusing mainly on David Berlind, one of the organizers (who happens to work for the same company as the publication who published the article).    (K85)

The article talks about the unique nature of Mashup Camp, how it was somewhat free-form, where the attendees created the experience as the event unfolded, rather than having it all planned up front. And the article makes it sound as if David Berlind invented the concepts.    (K86)

That’s bullshit.    (K87)

It most certainly is. Other Bar Camp instigators, such as Chris Messina and Andy Smith, expressed similar sentiments.    (K88)

These folks have every right to feel annoyed. Hell, even I’m annoyed, and all I did was attend the first Bar Camp. But my annoyance is tempered by the following knowledge.    (K89)

First, you pay a price for openness. People often talk about how credit is currency in the Open Source world. That may be true, but there’s no guarantee that anyone gets paid.    (K8A)

For example, given the sudden interest in these so-called unconferences, you would think that Harrison Owen would be a household name. But he’s not. Who is Harrison? He invented Open Space, and rather than trademark it or try to own it in other ways, he gifted it to the world. Most of these gatherings are using some form of Open Space. Has Harrison gotten his due reward for this great gift?    (K8B)

Second, in the end, the cost of openness is worth it, because authenticity always wins.    (K8C)

I stayed away from Mashup Camp, because it didn’t feel authentic to me. That’s not to say that it wasn’t valuable, or that there weren’t great folks involved. Quite the opposite. They did a lot of the things that are critical for throwing great events. And if you examine the Wiki, they credit Bar Camp and Open Space. For all of that, I applaud them. And if other types of gatherings do the same, we will all be better for it.    (K8D)

But what most people fail to get is that you can’t just steal the name and the format, slap together a Wiki, and expect to replicate the spirit of the original event, just as you can’t just slap an Open Source license on a piece of software and expect the hacker community to shower you with love. You need to be authentic.    (K8E)

The original Bar Camp organizers were motivated by the beautiful things that happen when brilliant people gather to share their knowledge and passion, unencumbered by traditional boundaries and hierarchies. Not unexpectedly, some folks saw their success and saw dollar signs. Bully for them. That’s what the market system is all about, and I’m a capitalist through and through.    (K8F)

But retaining the original spirit can be a tricky thing, and it’s impossible if it’s just not in you. And if that spirit is not there, then you lose something critical. Maybe that’s not important to some, and in the short term, it may seem even less so. But in the end, authenticity always wins. For every Mashup Camp, there’s a RecentChangesCamp, gatherings that not only embrace the original spirit, but take it to new heights. If I were a betting man (and I am), I’d bet that the gatherings that capture that original spirit are the ones that will be around five, ten, twenty years from now, in some form or another.    (K8G)

RecentChangesCamp Caricature

Hello from Portland! Raymond King organized a clever and fun activity at RecentChangesCamp. He took mug shots of everyone who arrived, then sent those to an artist in California, who whipped up caricatures of everyone. Here’s mine:    (K5F)    (K5G)

What do y’all think? Does it resemble me?    (K5H)    (K5I)

Update: As Raymond points out in the comments, the artist is Rhoda Grossman.    (K80)

TWiki 4.0 Released

Congratulations to Peter Thoeny and the entire TWiki community for the 4.0 (Dakar) release of TWiki. They’re doing a release party tomorrow (Wednesday) night at WikiWednesday in Palo Alto. I’m gonna do my darnedest to make it, but if not, I hope to see many of you Wiki folks this weekend in Portland for RecentChangesCamp. I plan on visiting Seattle afterwards, so if you’re in Portland or Seattle and want to meet up, let me know.    (K4L)