Yesterday in a one-on-one, a colleague at Alley told me something insightful; he related my instinct to organize information in a project as a reaction to the inherent entropy of what we do. Client work, agency work, even product work, all these disciplines: the devil is in the details.
Thinking back to Onward State, the real value I added to the community was simply organizing it, convening it, trying to protect it. There are a bunch of us in the indy web and publishing world who see ourselves as creating artificial reefs, that is, “platforms” in the Silicon Valley parlance, ecosystems if you’re into biology, and communities for the rest of us.
The fight against entropy. Have you read Why Information Grows? Author Cesar Hidalgo frames information as a physical thing, a struggle to exist despite the laws of thermodynamics. He goes as far as to frame the success of nation states, cities, companies, and individuals as a study in how these actors collaborate and work together to make better use of information.
“Chaordic” didn’t exist as a term back in colonial America, yet it’s serviceable to describe the madness of democracy. Least bad system yet, right? Using order to contain chaos, channel it. That’s Real American Shit, in my humble opinion. Predictably I’ll mention Ben Franklin here, his legacy of soft power and institutional formation came out of a life spent on miscellaneous entrepreneurial adventures and non-stop work on organizing societies, projects, and all other forms of non-commercial enterprise. Cooperation, mutual benefit, clubs, subscriptions, community organizing.
There are multiple ways to contain entropy. Democracy and fascism are two very different forms of government solving the same problem. Is it too outlandish to say that corporations and collectives are similarly both an answer to the same question? I liked this tweet from Naval Ravikant…
The hardest part of this shift is designing systems powerful enough to provide comparative value to regular people (hard given how good consumer web products have gotten) while not creating a new organization that becomes its own political beast. Open source moves us in the right direction, but there’s still a usability chasm there for most people. Leading leaderless organizations, encouraging contributions, energizing the public. Kinda neat to view all these problems as the same shared striving against the unrelenting force of entropy.
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Here is a copy of my presentation and prepared remarks from WordCamp for Publishers 2019 in Columbus.
Old but new to me.
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