Ending Disruption

Silicon valley disruption is providing no new concepts when it comes to user empowerment. What we’ve seen:

  1. Replace teachers / tutors (with our product)
  2. Replace Taxi drivers (with our product / your own car)
  3. Replace Newspaper (with our DRM news / information)

These disruptions of existing industries simply divert dollars from one tower to another. If we are to actually make a freer society, we need to empower our citizenry. There was a time when capitalism and companies helped provide better outcomes for people, many of them by providing the tools needed for others to accomplish work. While this still does happen, too often the new paradigm in the digital realm is to simply provide SaaS (Software as a Service) options.

It’s time to decentralize society. The technology is there and it enables us to do amazing things. DevOps is there, and it enables us to do great things at scale with repeatability. So, how do we start to decentralize? It’s all in how you view a problem space.

Cool Sounding Driving Company

This cool sounding driving company, diverts dollars to a new company that treats its employees slightly less badly then existing corporations (woohoo). It provides a better customer experience (or perception of one) through technology integration and cars that are better maintained (because people own their own).

Decentralizing this industry

A website that uses HTML5 geo positioning and BitCoin could easily achieve the same money-less transaction but be completely peer to peer. “Oh but what about background checks and verification” riiiight, like I’m supposed to trust the quality of the driver when you run commercials constantly saying anyone can do it.

Redecentralization seeks to equip users rather than just make them consumers of a different product. Information Altruism aligns nicely with this concept of a decentralized society because we know the impact that donating information technology can have when applied to stable actant networks. The key here with redecentralization, is to form industry in building the technologies that allow people to take control of things for themselves. Yes they are responsible, but I don’t see people drying their clothing at a big box store simply because they have models on display there for fear they won’t be able to fix them. You use appliances all the time that you have no clue how they work (and you own them in your house yet magically they still work for years).

Why does server technology need to remain any different?

Flipping your conference

Society and the way we learn has been forever changed by archival video, easy and accessible blogging platforms and our ability to obtain information through an unlimited number of sources….once we know what to search for. When joining a community of practice for the first time, I can only imagine how I must have acted when I first joined the one I’m apart of. I recall not participating in events, only going to sessions and then scurrying back home.

I didn’t join a community I simply showed up, it was just work somewhere else.  The next year though I started getting asked to put on birds of a feather talks, and realized that community was everything. Engaging, is everything. everything and everyone.

And so, I feel that we’re over that hump with the community of practice I reside in. Not just me, but a lot of us. We’ve got events and people come to camps / schools of thought; so how do we become more engaging. How do we challenge ourselves as those speaking at camps, and how do we challenge our audience.

We flip the audience and we flip the content of the conference. These are two ideas I’d like to try at a future drupal camp, but honestly I’d like to see them in almost any conference of any kind.

Flipping the lecture

Classroom flipping is common and shown to have great value for many learning styles. So we need to flip the lecture. If you get accepted to present at a camp, you are given the same time slot but you do your presentation and post it ahead of time. This presentation is shorter in length, say 10-20 minutes on a topic. Then, when people come to your session they can ask you questions about the talk and related problem spaces OR, you give them homework so to speak. So if it’s talking about site building, videos showing how to do site building in an environment with directions on how to set this up on Service X, will allow people to come to class and start to work on doing it with the instructor on-hand.

This may require slightly longer in person time, but is more effective then the same person giving the same talks all around the country (for example). It also allows access to the expert (the thing people actually want) while archiving their knowledge so that it can reach a wider audience.

Expert Mentoring

Take 1/2 a day of a conference, morning most likely, and have a sign up. People that are mentors, those presenting and accepted as being experts in the field, challenge that notion. There’s a sign up of X number of attendees per Y number of experts. The mentor then gives hands on advise and works in a small group to help the group actually resolve issues and gain knowledge in the space given their working context.

For example, if I’m the “Performance and scale” guru, I work with 5 to 10 attendees. We briefly discuss common issues that everyone is having, and then anyone that has their work available, we have an open critique / audit of their client work (yes this isn’t possible with everything so don’t bring it up). This takes up the morning of the conference. You then eat lunch as a working group. After lunch, each working group gives a brief talk about issues that had to be resolved and how the mentor was able to help them resolve them. They present this info without the mentor on stage, this is just the attendees telling their stories / outcomes / knowledge gained.

This mirrors what many faculty are trying to do in the classroom with student groups of experts, where the students all focus on different parts of a larger problem space and then teach the rest of the class about their part of the topic after working in small groups.

These are some ideas I’d love to see at conferences / camps in the future, Drupal or not. I think it can lead to better outcomes and a more engaged audience in the short-term. In the long term, I think it promotes the building up of community better then watching people talk at the front of the room while everyone else sits at screens and does other things / zones out after 25 minutes for a 50 min time slot (of varying quality). By promoting community and having more people present on the topics discussed in these breakout mentor sessions, attendees may be more apt to contribute in the future and help promote community sustainability and less burn out.

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.