Bitcoin-ing society

For those that live under a rock, Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency. What’s a cryptocurrency (other then evil sounding, MUUHUUHAHHAAAA)? Good question, but you better learn quick because we’re going to spell out how we’ll be doing it to society.

Uhh what?

Bitcoin is a distributed network that processes payments. This allows for a flattening of the traditional payment certification infrastructure. It’s also a great example of Information Altruism at work and meets the four factors when it can be applied to a context.

  • Currency: Digital Dollar overhead — eliminate overhead
  • PowerFlow: Centralization — attack with decentralization
  • Values: Huge corporations — the individual
  • Flag in Ground: Bitcoin logo and a community that no one will claim ownership of who actually created it.

Bitcoin is an excellent example of the direction society is heading; flat, structureless and hyper-connected. Internet of things (IoT) is also going this route and is something people will start to experience every day without realizing it. Every device on the planet will be web connected and (the good ones) autonomous and distributed. Calling home as needed but doing what’s needed to keep their Actant network stable. This is the direction we are pressing forward on as well.

How do managers, governments and C levels prepare for this world? Start the process of flattening by choice, or be bowled over by the unstoppable march of technology. Technology spits in the face of human hierarchies. It does not require approval, it does not require consensus though it often allows for it; it forms the optimal solution and liberates members involved. True digital freedom and the best options emerging remove the needs for endless meetings seeking consensus among large groups (when it’s not even possible in small).

Especially in IT organizations or those built on advanced technology, it is important to recall that people align with the workflows they are placed within. If technology cannot pass an XML statement from point A to B (and it is required to do business), jobs will be created as they have a need filled. If you require HTML to be produced to do your job, then HTML workers will be employed.

But if you utilize web-services and sufficiently advanced replacements for HTML, you no longer need data entry and you no longer need HTML jockeys. It is critical that employees that work within fields that are easily automate-able (data entry, booking, anything with standard process and routine that interface with technology) be prepared to find new work within the next 5 to 10 years. In the future, you either align with distributed, flat and Bitcoin like computer networks or you succumb to them. Start a gradual collapse now, or be collapsed.

It’s not all Bad

A misconception I get a lot is that when I say automation and elimination of tasks means we eliminate workers. Much like when we talk about elimination of hierarchy, we’re not talking eliminating jobs, we’re talking graceful restructuring of jobs. Follow the Two Pizza rule; smaller teams, more focused tasks, less reporting order, less coordination and meetings, more productivity. NEW work, not elimination of work. Out of the tedium and into increasingly more meaningful work.

The forest

Creating randomly distribute, dense forests of innovation

I like to write things down, especially when I think they’ll be important. A really cool aspect of Actor-Network theory (ANT) is that people respond to and are influenced by artifacts in the world, even if they created them. For example, I write down an idea. The paper with that idea, replicates the echo chamber effect of its importance to me, but if that paper is broadcast to an audience, I can be removed from the venue and still be impactful.

ANT should be popular with artists as often times an artist is trying to communicate a message and leave an impression behind. For example, I can no longer speak to Michelangelo yet I can “hear” his influence echoed throughout history in sculptures and paintings; inspiring for generations beyond the original conception of the idea and the person.

So too can we do this with code that’s been imbued with philosophical principles. Political Artifacts, is a concept that any technology created is done so with a certain set of ideals. This ideals, philosophies, politics all live on and are potentially enforced greater in impact then the person who held them. A powerful (awful) example comes from racist architects in the early 20th century who intentionally made bridges too low for public transportation. These road that buses couldn’t go on would lead to wealthier areas of the city and through this simple (yet intentional) design “flaw”, the “artist” (as terrible as he was) is able to ensure that poor people don’t go into rich neighborhoods.

So why do I lay this backstory and provide an obscure notebook drawing? I am very intentionally trying to structure technology to send a message. If the motive of the developer is important to understanding how and why one should use technology, it is paramount that you understand the motives if you are able to trust; otherwise, what’s to say we’re not just “building the new monster but at least it’s your monster” as someone framed it to me recently.

Because we’re setting things in motion to prevent the emergence of monsters. We’re not building just a platform, we’re building a platform to help you rise up out of the cave and to help bring your coworkers out with you (see Plato’s Allegory of the Cave). We know that you can’t fix government and education by becoming part of the problem, you have to forge a new path. We are trying to eliminate the possibility of such corruption emerging.

And in doing so, we come to our picture in question. “Big Seed Vendor” has proprietary seed technology and seeds intentionally engineered to not reproduce (terminator seeds as they are called). There are conflicting reports as to if this happens but the notion that these proprietary seeds blowing into someone else’s farm really stuck with me (true or not, the concept). IP right would still allow “Big Seed Vendor” to go after the farmer who’s land this has blown on to and started to germinate because, as I said, it is proprietary IP.

The visual is from a bus ride when I was early 20s and I knew it would be important. We don’t want to allow the seeds of elms to blow onto other farms simply to have someone come after another “farmer” for not using their flavor (Jewel2 much, “Open source” masqueraders?). In fact, we actively want nature to take its course and randomly distribute dense forests of innovation across the globe. This is the dribs and drabs I speak of and why I stick to the phrase. We want to be everywhere and in everything (eventually, everyone).

I, will not rest, until these unattainable dream are realized. That’s what dreamers do, they shoot for impossible “knowing” they will fall short. Every day since creating this I’ve felt I would die unhappy, knowing I could have just done more. I could have released more code, I could have solved more problems and made the world an even better place. It was at this time I grew up, and seemingly fell into madness (as I’ve detailed before) or maybe I just realized that the entire focus of my life is to advance the ball as far down the field as I can until I have to lay it down and allow my children to pick it up and run with it. Regardless, I have to tilt the playing field in their favor, in the favor of everyone’s children.

This world can be so much more to so many people, if we speak openly and donate freely. We were made to be so much more. Don’t let anyone limit your potential and ensure you always speak to unlock it in others. The endless (FREE) well of innovation in the educational technology market is not some utopian ideal (and if it were, I’d rather dream of bliss then dwell for despair).

Our children deserve the best educational experiences, avenues, and outlets. Let’s work together to ensure we allow others to germinate and breed new, better forms of pedagogy and technology that connect with students to avoid the emergence and propagation of more terminator seeds.

Collapsing information economies

I used to start my presentations with my kids and say, this is for them. I stopped as it wasn’t really professional and people didn’t really know what to make of what I was saying, cause they didn’t know me. I, didn’t know me. But I think this process that has seen lots of documenting nation building over the last 8 years has finally allowed me to be completely honest.

We’re not building a platform. We’re not building a product. Because to most people, most of society. Technology, doesn’t, matter. What does matter, is changing the way people think. Changing where they view power as stemming from. Who has authority to dictate their existence. These are ideals we can imbue technology with.

So when I get asked what I’m after (because it’s starting to become obvious that I’m not honest) I stop, and am honest. Change. We are building a change agent. Every day, every line, every support request. We are building what ever is necessary to challenge the status quo that would have you go into a vendor room and pick from the trinkets.

And then do it again the next year. and the next. Endless support contracts and nearly worthless code that you don’t own (you just rent silly). It is a platform intended to liberate, to open your eyes to new ways of thinking; to inspire and to enact change. A symbol.

The way to alter the face of markets is not to participate in them and simply lower costs. That works for a time and certainly helps people be able to afford and access technology. I’m not talking about lowering costs though, I’m talking about eliminating costs.

If the educational technology market worked like big Pharma; you’d see (yes I know they fudge things but it’s the idea) forced innovation and force progress through the inability to hold a long term patent. The same should be true of software.

It is morally reprehensible to produce a product, spin it out via Jenkins (free), on to servers running linux (free), with web requests handled by apache (free) or cached in any number of other free code bases / architecture (Pound, Varnish, Memcache…), then have people pay for code you wrote in php/python/go (free) that talks to a database backend (which is free) and then nicely delivers to the end user’s browser (which is free) and does some nice interactive things in Javascript / Jquery (WHICH ARE BOTH FREE).

The entire stack for a developer of the software you use every day is, and will increasingly become, free. How is it justified to copy and paste a command with a different name, hundreds of thousands of times and produce millions upon millions of dollars. For a time, yes, that’s absolutely required to recoup costs.

So how do we end the cycle? Do we join the system of control that others have helped establish a “customer base” for us? No. The information altruist would declare war against the system of control and effectively eliminate the ability for there to be a customer base.

Think I’m crazy? This is ridiculous, no one will ever do it and it’s utopian. Oh, that’s cool, ever hear of Wikipedia or an Encyclopedia? Or perhaps Mozilla vs Internet Explorer? No, no bells. How about David Wiley and Open Educational Resources? What’s the point of OER (if you ask hard liners)? It’s to eliminate a corrupt and dead publishing industry. eliminate. Not “Join the market and make money in a more ethical way” (non hardliner argument). It is to eliminate the ability to make money in the same way ever again (free book, want to print it? Ok, that costs a couple bucks; totally new relationship and information is “free”).

We are capable of amazing things when we join forces and see each other as equal partners, instead of cattle and ranchers. We can build amazing things when we don’t seek simply to join systems of control, but to liberate them.

Who will you liberate in your life time?

Live, Open.

This blog has become active again, because I’ve finally finished writing my thesis. Approximately 1 week from today, I will defend my thesis which this blog now takes the title from. The thesis is called Information Altruism, and follows the story of a large organizations fundamental transformation from within. It formulates that through interviews and observations, Tempered Radicals within the organization were able to apply activist techniques to change the organization from within.

4 years ago I had a moment of inspiration while taking a shower. I was wrong. Everything I was doing… was wrong. It wasn’t actually solving the root cause of the issues we are facing; we were simply building another big bucket and we were “right” because it was our bucket.

4 years ago, that inflection point was formed in my mind and wouldn’t go away. I couldn’t shake it, that years of efforts were only there to help me grow into the developer I would need to be to take on the real battle; the thing I was born to do.

I realized I was wrong and then I made a terrible mistake; I sat on the idea for 2 months. I sat on my new idea, documented it, puzzled it over in my mind endlessly; it started to consume everything I thought about. An infinitely deep web of ideas and systems, interfaces, apis, and methods of structuring systems. This is the thing that would make me rich. I could take this and when work pissed me off one day, oh, they’d see. I’d take my idea and I would change the world, alone.

And then, something amazing happened. The more I became consumed by the idea, the more I realized that it wasn’t my idea, and I’d never change the world alone. I also stopped and thought about money. I like money, I like having enough money, but I don’t love money. And I don’t know anyone that’s been made happy or whole through money alone. So I made one of the most important decisions of my life; I gave the idea away.

I gave it up, I set it free. And in doing so, I found something greater then money. I found Love. I, Love, what I do. I love watching faculty get excited when we tell them we can build anything. I love watching instructional designers get excited about their jobs and the potential for helping faculty teach more effectively through their creations. I love to build systems that help people experience growth and collaborate.

I dropped out of the consumption economy in this way. I didn’t just want another thing that you consumed. Anyone can make money, anyone can throw VC money at someone, steal their efforts and have them sign away their ideals in the name of money and power. These are not the people we remember kindly; the power hungry and the money rich. Innovators, dreamers, and actual, lasting world changers, are not the people buying vaccines and jacking the prices up. They are the ones giving away the formula to liberate mankind of disease as Jonas Salk did with the polio vaccine.

The liberation of education from under the heel of the educational technology industrial complex. We seek the betterment of all humankind. We want to empower people to empower others. To learn, and grow. To build a better tomorrow.

I’m not here to just be another face in the crowd, and I don’t think you are either. You are the most talented, more special, best person in the universe (Lego movie paraphrase). And the best thing you and I can do to make this world a better place is to lay down our arms and unite. Put up your code, give up your war plans, and start actually changing lives instead of just shifting their contractual obligations. When we stop playing by the rules of the game, we are able to change the nature of the “market”. You can’t go into the market to fundamentally change it, you have to seek out how to make it behave differently.

I know why I’m here. It’s to fuel this movement from the inside. Because Products are Ephemeral, Movements are Eternal. As I said, I will not be the one to change the world, we will be. We surround them. We are capable of amazing things, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. We have an amazing story to tell, and we will continue to write it.

One line at a time, one friend at a time, one dreamer at a time, in dribs and drabs, we will change the world.

Be Jonas Salk my friends. Be someone’s Jonas Salk.

Precipitating change

I talked with some friends at DrupalCampNYC this weekend and a few common themes kept coming up:

  • Technology is not the problem with adoption or creation of new things
  • Infrastructure and bureaucracy are increasingly the barriers to technology adoption
  • Technology adoption is increasingly a political tightrope walk across the board
  • Simply complaining about problems and pointing to a “them” or “those people” or “The man” is not the solution

The answer as a passing by colleague said at an after party is the exact opposite of that last thread: Sell out.

What is “Selling out” anyway? It’s when you give in and do what everyone else is doing. Get a job in “the system” and obey “the man”. The opposite of Occupy movements (on the surface). But where those movements may have gotten things wrong (we’ll know in about 10-20 years) is that it’s easy to protest (and an important start to any social movement); but after getting together, rising up and saying “no something is wrong here”… it’s time to take action.

There are 2 forms of action, violent and non-violent. Obviously violent is never the way to go, destruction begets destruction. You see movements that get overly aggressive or violent rejected outright, overwhelmingly throughout history (and those that don’t devolve often into more violence and chaos ala french revolution). Violence is never the answer. But what do those others do? Where do they go if not back home to sleep and forget about the movement. They sell out the rest of the group….Or do they?

Selling out is only if you actually abandon your ideals. What if instead, you get into the organizations that you see as the problem, infiltrate, and spread (positively) your ideas throughout them. The way to change is not through direct confrontation, but through consensus and changing that notion of consensus from within.

I would argue your seeing that today in the US Government via the offshoots of protest movements in the late 60s. Yeah, some got violent (and their voices lost to history, no one wants that) but the truly “insidious” ones “sold out”. They “dropped the radical means for the radical ends”.

There are a few tactics / concepts in this tool belt that we won’t go into but you should definitely read into further:

  • Nudge – get people to make the choice you want through elimination of the “wrong ones”
  • Overton window – the sliding window of society and its political acceptance of ideas as more or less free.
  • Hacktivism – using technology to change society, usually has a negative / destructive connotation though (re Anonymous / actual hacking of systems)
  • Information Altruism – Using the liberation of information to transform payment based industries.

If you want radical change, you need first to ensure it is no longer perceived as radical. You need to Nudge society to a place where it is acceptable within the eyes of the Overton windowSo wake up, stop complaining about the problems you see around you and get involved with them. The organizations of today were built by the mindsets of yesterday. Become part of the problem, and you can resolve it… unless you just sell out :)

ELMSLN snowflake symbol with sticky notes.

Will you be in business next century?

Ask yourself, right now, will my company exist in 100 years? Well that’s too far to project, ok, 50? 30? 20? 10? 5? 1???

How long is acceptable to project out and make philosophical decisions about the trajectory your business takes. This obviously doesn’t apply to all. If you run a coffee shop, you might not be able to project that robotic coffeepots overtake us in the year 2075 in the great Bux Revolution.

But when it comes to technology, to innovation; do you project far enough? Are you looking at the trends of the day in your own industry or the trends in the global market. I see infographics all the time about what life will be like 5 years from now (ones like this). Foretelling where we are going in the near future.

Without philosophy though, do you have anything to base your trajectory on as an organization, or an individual?

In education, I see too many looking to others in education for the trends to follow. This doesn’t inspire, it follows the crowd. This doesn’t lead to new innovations, this leads to trend lines in management slide decks to highlight that “yes CEO / Boss, as you can see, we’re inline with everyone else”.

Is that where you want to be? Just in line with the rest of the crowd? Wow, aspirational. What would 8 year old you say if he/she looked and said “Wow, so then, you just toed the company line because it was what you expected to hear / do?”.

Would your answer make you stop and question, or would you say “Well younger me, you don’t understand…” and then backpedal on dreams and imagination in favor of bottom lines and bureaucracy.

So back to the question, will my organization exist 100 years from now?

If the only constant in life is change, and technology is on course to change and disrupt all industries over a long enough timeline. Then start behaving like it. The Amazons, Googles, Starbucks, PapaJohns, the titan brands of industry only remain titans by taking risk. They only stand out today because of stepping outside the boundaries of what the rest of the societal line was up for.

It is walking a different path, changing the industry instead of trying to compete in it, that has dismantled and collapsed the big brands of previous generations. Where are the brands from the 20s, 30s, and 40s that were able to weather the changing times of society and still remain industry leaders. Did they not ask themselves how to survive the next 100 years by keeping agile? Only to fall into the dustbin of forgotten constructs.

Dreams, organizations, businesses; as temporary on the historical timeline as the throw-away culture we’ve become.

We can be more, we can always be better. Speak into existence where you want to take your organization. Every day. Every moment you will be resisted. Technologists especially are the most resistant to change when it involves them.

Principles to wake up to; and if you don’t work towards these, if you or your employees simply show up, I assure you, you will not see the next 100 years:

Where Innovation lives to power the next 100 years of any organization

Create – Don’t rely too much on others to achieve the objectives you seek; Build, experiment, create your own. Organizations throughout history reinvent themselves, grow, expand, risk and MAKE.

Teach – Train, invest in yourself and others in your organization. Never feel that anyone is unteachable or incapable of learning new things and new ways of doing business. If they can’t, then they aren’t going to take you where you need to go to hit 100.

Learn – Keep up on trends on society and, always more importantly, outside of your discipline. Disruption always comes from invading forces from other industries bleeding into your own. What themes exist in the societal marketplace, not just my own.

Love – love what you do, pour yourself into it. If you can’t, it’s time to look elsewhere.

Inspire – do these actions, these companies seek to inspire others to our organization / culture / movement; or do they seem to divide? Division, bickering, negativity, FUD, kill organizations. Speak and act, to inspire; if what you do doesn’t, do neither.

Dream – you need dreamers, desperately. Not to see life as it is but to see it as it will become, or could become. Envision the future and you will speak and create it daily.

We Are here to innovate through creation, love and dedication to bring dreams to reality. To inspire generations of teachers, leaners, and anyone who thirsts for knowledge to build up themselves, and to build a better planet.

My Why

Late last year, I wrote a post entitled “Pursuit of Why” on my personal blog about how I largely ignore… everything in life because of my obsession. It was mostly an apology to those that I have, will, and do offend along the way. It’s really quite simple though, my why is my children. They deserve better solutions, as do all our children.

Dribs and drabs may accelerate though. We’ve been getting more people involved in our issue queues, more general inquires, a 3rd party about to go into production, more people on the project soon through contributions. One in particular is really intriguing though because they come from a K12 background.

I hope that through his influence if he keeps putting up with us, that we can help build a platform that can meet needs in the K12 space. Accessibility being a cornerstone of the system will, sadly, set it apart from many others. Thread 88 is worth a look as there’s a lot of good discussion in there about pedagogy around the platform as well as accessibility discussions —

My kids getting into the K12 space soon which makes it all the more interesting to me. As the versioning, accessibility and quality of things get refined through the efforts of many people talking about and committing to the project now.

Join us, let’s build awesome things —