Cotivation Season 4 starts today with a new format!

I just sent this out to New Work City’s discussion group and cross-posted it here for observers and non-members who might be interested in joining!

Howdy folks! We completed our third “season” of Cotivation last Monday, which means today is time for a fresh start! If you’ve never participated in Cotivation before, or would like to re-engage, now is a great time to do so! It’s free to all subscribed members and super easy to join; just show up and we’ll go from there!

We discussed a lot of really good ideas last week around how we can make the next around better. Today, I’d like for us to experiment with adding some more structure to the conversations, so we can keep things moving and set proper expectations up front. Based on what we discussed, I propose a format as described below (using the 4:30 group as an example):

Cotivation Season 4 – New Meeting Format
4:30 – Quick standup-style checkin
  • Limit 15 people – if more, split up
  • Each person has one minute to do a fast recap:
    • What you did since the last meeting
    • What you’re going to do before the next meeting
    • What’s holding you back
4:45 – Breakout support sessions
  • Max 5 people per group, 9 minutes per person
  • Each person will have an opportunity to discuss their own goals and challenges in more detail
  • Identify key issues & ideas to bring to the group
5:30 – Regroup
  • At least one person from each group reports back with ideas and challenges
  • Group brainstorm session around common themes
6:00 – Go home!
  • Or to dinner, drinks, or whatever you prefer to do on a Monday at 6:00.
  • We’ll aim to strictly be done by 6:00, if not sooner.
Goal Tracking
 
I’m also going to work on some ideas for better and more detailed goal and progress tracking in the space. I’m still thinking it through, but here’s a fuzzy idea of what I’m angling towards:
  • Three stages of goals:
    • Long-term aspirations – Can be very clear or very fuzzy, but something in the big picture to guide you
    • Medium-term objectives – Well-defined achievements you want to work towards achieving on a finite time frame
    • Short-term goals – Specific things to focus on now
  • Each stage provides a different lens from which to view what you’re working on and where you’re going with it.
  • In paper, on the walls, where we can all see it and update it.
  • Goals can be professional or personal.
Still working on that a bit today.
I’m really really excited by all of the great things that have been coming from the past few months of experimenting with this. I believe that, over time, we can develop some sustainable structures that can really help us achieve better balance and greater success with our respective independent efforts.
Hope to see you later today!
Cheers,
Tony

 

New memberships, now with more awesome.

For the past four months, something remarkable has been happening in lots of individually unremarkable moments. Members, largely though our new experiment in Cotivation (like “motivation” but with a ‘c’), have been helping each other advance themselves in countless and increasingly valuable ways.

It all started with a simple premise: get a group together once a week to talk about what you want to accomplish and what’s holding you back. Inevitably, people identify challenges they share in common. They find themselves naturally discussing ways they can help each other tackle these challenges.

Members have been getting work done that they’ve been putting off for months. They’ve been figuring out how to find and engage customers after struggling for ages. They’ve been figuring out how to chart a course for themselves and set clear goals when they’ve been lost. They’ve been self-oganizing sessions around business development, visual brainstorming, maker time, and even just to force themselves to do things they really really want to avoid.

They’ve been sharing their thoughts and hopes and dreams and, perhaps most importantly, their fears. They’ve been building stronger bonds, celebrating successes, and maybe sharing a few beers and whiskeys along the way.

In short, they’ve been doing all of the things that embody what New Work City is all about. It’s literally my dream come true.

Our community has always done a good job of helping each other with things, but now it’s at an entirely new level.

Coworking is about far more than finding new ways to share space. It’s the foundation for a new infrastructure for the in(ter)dependent workforce. Now, we’re taking another step in that direction.

New Memberships 

Today, we’re launching new memberships that incorporate what we’ve learned with Cotivation into the onboarding process, so every single new member of New Work City can more easily get the most out of (and give the most to) the community they’re joining.

The real value we have to offer each other here, after all, is in the form of Participation. It’s one of the five core values of the coworking movement, and is perhaps the most important, because it’s the active ingredient that catalyzes everything else.

From now on, no one should be joining New Work City simply because they’re looking for a cheap desk to rent. Every new member will be invited to participate in a way that works best for them, whether by attending an in-person gathering or introducing themselves in our online discussion group. Regardless, we’ll be focusing our energy on making it clear that our community is here to help people accomplish their goals and achieve a better balance in their lives.

The new memberships cost a little bit more than the previous ones did. Since making some adjustments shortly after launching in our new space, we haven’t raised prices or really done much of anything with our membership structure in the last two and a half years. We don’t generate much profit, so every few bucks goes a long way in ensuring we can stay sustainable as we go. Given all of the improvements we’ve made to the community and to the space, I have little doubt that anyone who signs up for membership can get far, far more than their money’s worth out of their experience here.

Current members will be grandfathered at the current rate for the foreseeable future.

We’re still not treating New Work City as a growth venture. We’re still not trying to maximize financial profitability. We’re still a community first and a business second. We’re still doing it our way, and answering to no one but each other. And we’re having an awesomer time than ever.

I’m looking forward to continuing to work with Peter, Danza, and the rest of the community to continue making New Work City a better place to be.

Let me know your thoughts!

Tony

Interview for Gov 3.0

The below is my response to questions asked by Nicole Stratton, a graduate student at NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. She reached out to interview me as part of her Government 3.0 class, the results of which will be published on their blog here. I’ve published my response in advance with Nicole’s blessing.

To get started, and before we jump into talking about NYTM and New Work City, tell me a little bit about how you got started in tech innovation? What skills did you have (in technology or otherwise) that helped you get started?

One of the important things to keep in mind is first to define terms. When we use the word “tech,” there are two distinct and crucial groups of people involved: those who are developing new technology, and those who are creating innovations around opportunities afforded by those new technologies.

My work falls into the latter category. Though I have a Bachelor’s degree in computer science, and came from a web development background, my work with the NYTM and in particular New Work City is decidedly old school.

I run a brick-and-mortar small business. The fact that it happens to house people who are all making their livings on the internet just happens to be an accident of the times.

How did you become involved in the New York Tech Meetup?

I went to my first Meetup ever, the Diggnation Meetup, in February of 2007. I found it by coincidence as I sat in my parents’ house on Long Island, where I was living after college. At the time, I had zero friends in New York City. Once I discovered Meetup.com, everything changed.

At that first Meetup, I met the organizer and his friends. They told me if I liked this Meetup, I had to check out the NY Tech Meetup. I went to my first one shortly thereafter.

How do you think it became the successful platform it is today? What do you see as some of the biggest challenges for NYTM, and where do you see it going in the next 3-5 years?

It was successful for several reasons: first and foremost, it focused on a simple idea that lots and lots of people could get behind. People love seeing new technology on display, in particular when it’s outside the context of a business model and especially when it’s been built locally. There’s almost a circus-like aspect to the NY Tech Meetup, in a really good way– every time you go, you go hoping you just might see some amazing feat that you’ve never seen before.

Several years ago, Bre Pettis got up on stage at the beginning of the event to demonstrate his new invention, the MakerBot, by setting it in motion and promising to come back later in the show. When he returned, he removed a freshly printed 3D object from the device to the amazement of the crowd.

Every single person in attendance was witness to the beginning of a manufacturing revolution that was still only in its earliest stages. That sort of thing is what makes the NY Tech Meetup so alluring.

In the next three to five years, I see the organization continuing to assert itself as the de facto representation of the interests of the people who are building and who are enabled by new technology in the city. Given our increasingly critical role as a massive part of the future of the city’s economy, the NYTM will be accordingly acting as an increasingly important link between this community and the rest of the city.

We’ll be involved in policy. We’ll have developed better ways for our membership to talk to each other and connect in ways that extend far beyond the capacity of the monthly event.

And we’ll be continuing to champion the incredible potential of the city and its people, as always.

What led to the creation of New Work City and how did you build the platform? How has this scaled?

It started out rooted in two communities: one was called Jelly, which is a casual take on coworking. Attending a Jelly in NYC was my first coworking experience, right around the same time I discovered Meetup. The other community was a new one being spearheaded by Sanford Dickert, whom I had met at the NY Tech Meetup. The new community, dubbed CooperBricolage, was aimed at having coworking every day in a cafe in the East Village. Between these two communities, the early nucleus of New Work City was formed.

New Work City emerged as the project to take the next step, toward a dedicated space. We were completely bootstrapped, with no institutional backing of any kind, and wanted to grow organically. We started with a sub-sublet from a startup that had extra space to spare, and used that as a foundation upon which to continue to build and grow the community.

When it came time to leave there, we sought and found a lease on a full floor loft space, which we’ve made our home ever since.

Moving forward, we don’t intend to open more spaces– our goal has always been to have one truly great community. We do, however, seek to find ways to advance the coworking movement globally by continuing to work to improve the experience for our members.

How close is New Work City to what you envisioned it being at the beginning? Has anything surprised you?

It is, today, finally very close to what I had originally envisioned. It took a very long time to get there, but I can say with confidence that the New Work City you see today is very much the embodiment of what I dreamed of when it all began.

While there are many obvious things about that, the real essence of the vision has been the fact that I was once sitting in my house without any place to go to work and connect with like-minded people. I didn’t need office space; I simply needed an opportunity to discover a world I might not have ever seen otherwise.

In that respect, New Work City’s vision has indeed become very real. Now, more than ever, members are advancing themselves in ways they might never have done otherwise, and most importantly, they’re contributing to the advancement of their peers as they go. It’s absolutely stunning to see all of the great things people are doing with each other in the community now.

How long did it take to go from the idea, to a minimally functioning program? If you don’t mind me asking, about how much did it cost to get it started? What can we expect?

There’s no simple way to answer this, because we always made maximum use of what we had at our disposal before considering a jump to the next level.

We started out in living rooms and cafes. We weren’t a business; there was no money involved. When we got space, we got a small space on very flexible lease terms and were a trip to Ikea away from the furnishings we needed.

The hardest part was making the jump to leasing and building out our own space. That was a hundred thousand dollar effort that took over a year to fully finance, and nearly killed me in the process.

But even then, I knew the community was not going to let it fail. And it didn’t.

It was a solid five years from when the dream first came to mind to when I’d say we really got to a healthy and sustainable place. When you’re running a small business, you’re never that far from disaster, but you’re almost always able to sustain yourself by sheer force of will. The hardest part is finding a way to stay above water and also do so in a way that is sustainable for you. We’re still refining things to get closer to that, but we’re doing great.

If I, or one of my classmates, wanted to go out and build a new tool to transform government or society, what are the first three things we need to think about?

1. What you believe. What you care about in your heart of hearts. Forget money, business model, mobile apps, whatever. Start with pursuing things you care about, whatever they are. As you go, you will get a better and better idea of what your purpose in life might be. As you increasingly become aware of that purpose, your work towards that purpose becomes increasingly meaningful and important. Building something you believe in from a strong core of inner purpose is, in my opinion, an absolute necessity.

And it makes up for everything else. When you become hellbent on something that you believe must happen, you can literally become unstoppable. Never underestimate the capacity of a man on a mission.

2. What other people believe. I care about a lot of stuff. I want to do a lot of things to make the world better. But if I try to build something that nobody else cares about, I’m not going to get very far at all. In fact, the very notion of trying to build something despite a lack of desire from others is doing it wrong from the start.

Your success is fueled by the desires and interests and pains of others. They are the reason what you build will have an impact, so don’t wait until launch day to bother to think about what people actually want– talk to people, listen to what they have to say, and recruit them to help you build solutions accordingly.

When New Work City first opened its doors for business, I had a pang of fear that nobody would show up. But I knew that fear was irrational, because our first customers had helped us build the tables and chairs the day before. They picked out the name and designed the logo. They helped choose the location. They were so woven into the process that there was little question we’d built something people wanted.

3. Consider all of the options, and what is best for you. There are a ton of ways to build something. More so now than ever. If you want to build something but don’t know where to start, or are intimidated, or think it would require investors or too much money, stop. Stop and refactor your thinking. No matter what you want to do, there is always a way to move towards that goal with what you have at your disposal right now. And how you define that goal should change over time as well– you might think you want to build one thing, only to discover that your motivation behind wanting to build that was rooted in something deeper that might steer you towards something else. Don’t sweat the physical manifestations as much as the deeper motivations.

And don’t beat yourself up too much to get there. Building a business is hard, but it’s also supposed to be fun and fulfilling. It’s okay to work hard and be stressed and afraid, but at the end of the day, this should be work you want to be doing. If you’re finding yourself not wanting to do the work you’ve chosen to create for yourself, take a step back and consider how to change that.

Because at the end of the day, this is all about us discovering our life’s purpose and seeking it out in all that we do. It’s about realizing our potential as humans and making our contribution to society with the brief time we have.

We’ll never be perfect at that. We’ll never have it all together. But we will always have the opportunity to practice getting better. That’s all we can ever really do, and when you adopt that perspective, it can be a beautiful thing.

Being a Tall Poppy

While visiting the fabulously charming southeast coast of Australia this past month, I was introduced to the notion of Tall Poppy Syndrome. It’s borne of the notion that he who stands out from the rest elevates himself above his peers– and should be castigated for doing so.

The tall poppy is the first to get cut down.

It’s spoken about as a fact of life, but also with a sense that it’s unfortunate. Individuals, it seems, recognize the absurdity of the culture, but perhaps as a case in point, few seem willing to stand in opposition to it.

This cultural inclination against standing out and being a leader is, of course, stifling to a society’s potential for growth and innovation. But we have an opportunity now to re-think the dynamic.

Entrepreneurship in the old system was based on a leader building a hierarchy around a centralized brand. The leader, naturally, sat at the top, in charge of the whole operation; the tallest poppy of them all.

Now, we see a transition forming away from a hierarchical culture towards a more networked, belief-focused culture. From open source projects to Meetup groups, people are increasingly investing in and participating in efforts that focus less on the charm and prowess of the individual leader and more on the shared capability of everyone who shares a common interest.

Ambition, in other words, becomes less about becoming a tall poppy and more about designing ways for all the poppies to grow better together.

I wonder, then, as this trend continues: might cultures that reject the tall poppies have an opportunity, now, to embrace those who seek to make the world around them better? If aspirational future leaders growing up in these parts of the world start to find ways to channel their energy into building communities and movements instead of traditional hierarchies, and still be rewarded for doing so, might they be more likely to step up without fear of isolation?

I hope so!

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One year of the Simulcast, and addressing the NYTM’s biggest challenge

Tonight will mark the anniversary of New Work City partnering with the NY Tech Meetup to host an official simulcast of the monthly event. It’s been a lot of fun, especially with the fantastic crew of volunteers who help to make it happen every month.

More importantly, it’s allowed about 1,000 people to experience the monthly event in a way that wasn’t previously possible. For an event whose tickets are harder to get than tickets to a major concert, giving people a way to have a great NYTM experience outside of the limited capacity of the Skirball Center is important.

But it still only goes so far in solving the problem.

The problem we face is simple: when anyone, anywhere, asks someone here how to get connected in the NY tech scene, the first thing that comes to mind is inevitably: “Go to the Tech Meetup!”

The Simulcast, which has been great, is still thought of by many as the backup, the failsafe, the overflow. It does only so much to address the bottleneck.

What needs to happen is a shift in perception– one which directs some of that “go to the tech meetup!” energy to something that scales more gracefully.

Because the problem will only continue to get worse. Last week we passed 30,000 members. What will it look like when the group has 50,000? Or 100,000?

Shifting that perception won’t be fast or easy, but it’s the only way to solve the problem.

I’ve got some ideas, as do some others. The board is on the case.

In the meantime, the simulcast continues to get better. I hope this year we’ll see a significant expansion of the simulcasts, so even more people can participate. It may not solve the ticketing problem completely, but it can do a lot to help lighten the load.

If you’ve never been to a simulcast, what are you waiting for? As of this writing, there are a few spots left for tonight’s event if you want to check it out!

It’s time to fix the world’s relationship with business.

givememoney-cropped

We’ve developed a funny relationship with business. Maybe it was a century of industrial-era emphasis on efficiency, or the consumerist culture that came with that, or something else, but one way or another, we ended up in this place where we generally think of a successful business being something that makes money regardless of whether it contributes positive value to society.

If anything, we tend to think of the two as in opposition. This organization’s doing good? It must be a non-profit, right? That company makes tons of money? It must be screwing people over somehow, right?

That’s not how it was supposed to happen. The architects of the system we use today intended to build something that rewarded businesses when they rendered a service that was worth being rewarded for– money for goods and services rendered.

But no system is perfect. Money, it turns out, is a pretty poor way of measuring true value. While you can certainly make money by rendering a good service that people will pay for, you can also certainly make money by doing things that are, to any casual observer, obviously quite bad for the world.

So what do we do about it? How do we go about improving a system that seems so deeply entrenched in every facet of society?

I believe we have a chance to make some progress. It turns out, for example, that value chains– the things that industrial empires are build upon– don’t work so well in a world of finite resources. Eventually, at some scale, that resource becomes scarce, and the price goes up, and before you know it, it makes more sense to recycle something than it does to make a new one from scratch.

So something like sustainable production, which might have been viewed as a costly endeavor before, suddenly becomes good business. The motives of the business come into closer alignment with the interests of society at large.

That’s just one way of looking at it. There are other factors at play as well. What it sums up to is the fact that business is moving towards being something that we can think of less as a thing that exists to generate financial profit at all costs, and more as something that generates true value to the world– money and positive impact.

And that working for those businesses, or building those businesses, is about making money by doing something good.

I want to fix our relationship with our work. I want us to think of business as something that we do to contribute value to the world, not to extract value from it. That’s how it was always supposed to be.

In building New Work City, I learned a lot about what it means to build something that people care about enough to help make it happen and to help make it sustainable.

I learned that when I made it my mission to do something that other people believed in, I had no trouble finding help. I had no trouble finding customers. I had no trouble spreading the word.

Because everyone I talked to knew that I wasn’t doing it to extract value from the world, I was doing it to contribute value to it. And that happened to align with things that other people cared about as well.

For a lot of people, that’s a pretty unusual way to approach a business. For a lot of people, normal business is about successfully advertising to customers who fully expect they’re being lied to at all times. They must constantly find new ways to convince people that they really do want to serve their needs, and not just make money providing a shoddy service.

But it shouldn’t have to be such a battle. If we can inject a little more humanity, a little more authenticity to the equation, everything gets easier and better for everyone involved.

I learned a lot about how to build and run an organization that can do that well. Now, I want to do my part to share that with others who want to do something similar.

To that end, in the fall, I started working with my good friends and fellow coworking space managers Alex Hillman and Adam Teterus of Indy Hall on an online Masterclass that teaches people the core principles behind how we manage our organizations, with a particular emphasis on the contrast we draw against traditional thinking.

We’re only a few months in, but so far the results have been incredible. Our students have been overwhelmingly excited and involved, and have made remarkable progress in becoming better leaders.

Now, we’re taking our show on the road– distilling some of the core elements of our online class into an in-person workshop. To kick things off, we’re partnering with three upcoming conferences, in Gold Coast, Melbourne, and Austin, spanning the end of February and early March.

The new undertaking is called the Business of Community Tour, and it launches today.

I’m excited, because it gives me an opportunity to help not just people, but people who potentially lead a lot of other people. Every student we take on is someone who has the potential to influence the lives of countless others.

And I get a chance to work with some of my best friends.

I’m not sure where it’s all headed, but I do know that the work we’re doing is work that needs doing. If you or someone you know are in one of the cities I mentioned, I’d love to talk to you more. If you’re not but are intrigued, I’d love to talk to you about what we can do together.

Either way, I’m doubling down on my mission to fix the world’s relationship with the work that it does. If you feel similar I’d love it if you joined me!

 

 

 

 

Help me make the NY Tech Meetup the organization we all know it can be! Vote @tonybgoode in this week’s board election!

* In case you’re new here, my name is Tony Bacigalupo. I’m running for a seat on the board of the NY Tech Meetup. Learn more about me here

* The polls have opened! Vote here right now and spread the word! Perhaps you’d like to toss me a reteweet of support?

* Earlier, I wrote a post about why the NYTM elections are important. Check that here!

What does the NYTM stand for, anyway?

It means something different to everyone, but it’s safe to say that everyone involved shares a not just a fascination with the possibilities of the incredible advancements of the last few decades, but a desire to actively participate in making those possibilities into realities. We seek to either build new technologies ourselves, or, in many cases, we seek to apply these new technologies to solve problems in ways never before possible. Either way, we’re united by our shared interests.

Just how big a deal could this be?

New York City is the greatest city in the world. All eyes are on us. When we do something here, the world sees it, and learns from it. The example we set affects not just our own local community, but the leaders of communities in cities all around the world as well.

The NYTM has managed to attract nearly 30,000 people to join its ranks, without even trying. How many more out there might join if we decided to reach out to those we might not yet have reached? Could the NYTM have 100,000 members? More?

The person who gets elected to the board this year will complete a process that began four years ago to establish a governing body around the organization. With this 13th member in place, there will finally be a complete board. This person represents a crucial vote among a small group of people who collectively are charged with representing the interests of the greater community as a whole.

With a complete leadership structure in place, a few years of development and growing pains under our belts, and a growing membership, the NY Tech Meetup is in a position to facilitate a tremendous impact, locally and around the world.

What would I focus on improving?

The NYTM could go in a lot of directions. I’d work with the board to help the organization in a few key ways:

Activating greater participation: Aside from attending the monthly event, the vast majority of the members of the NYTM community has been largely dormant. Every time something more is asked of the community, however, the response is incredible. When our own interests were challenged, we rallied in protest of SOPA and PIPA with a force that could not be ignored. When the city at large was in need of our help, we stepped up and continue to step up to help our fellow citizens.

We’re still just beginning to scratch the surface of what we can accomplish as a community and as a constituency. I intend to apply my experience building communities to the membership of the NY Tech Meetup, so there will be more opportunities for people to participate and get more involved.

There are a lot of ways to be more active. In particular, I want to focus on: 

Fostering job creation: While gathering to demo new tech is fun, it’s also serious business. There’s nearly universal agreement that the opportunities created by recent technological advances hold the answers to how we’re going to dig ourselves out of the economic slump we’ve been in. These answers aren’t just going to shop up themselves; we have to seize upon these opportunities together if we want to make real progress. The NY tech community is in a position to play an active role in facilitating the creation of new jobs as a result of these opportunities.

To accomplish these things, we must engage people in a way that empowers the community to participate in what’s happening. To that end, in my work with the Board, I’ll commit to practicing:

Opening up the organization: I’ll let you know when a board meeting is coming up. I’ll ask for you to voice your opinions and concerns, and I’ll report back on how things went. Hold your elected board members accountable!

Why should I be on the board?

I hate tooting my own horn, but if you’re considering voting for me, then this is what you need to know: I’ll apply my experience building communities to the organization. When I’m not running New Work City, I am working with my friends Alex and Adam, the people behind the legendary coworking space IndyHall, on the Community Builder Masterclass. When we built the course, we developed a methodology for organizing and leading communities that’s been successfully applied many times over. As a board member, I’ll apply this approach to the organization itself. I have solid relationships with many members of the board already. They’re good people whom I can get to work with right away. Knowing I’d be on a board with people I share understanding and trust with goes a long way in making me confident that I can be an effective board member. I’m already in the business of making NYC better. As the cofounder and Mayor of New Work City, I’m already committed to working for the best interests of my community and my city. While I will continue to do so regardless of the election results, being elected to the Board will help to better unify my ongoing efforts with those of the NYTM moving forward.

My relationship with the NYTM

In early 2007, I was working from home, living with my parents, saving up some bucks out on Long Island. I had zero friends in NYC.

That all changed when I discovered Meetup.com, and in a particular the NY Tech Meetup. Before I knew it, I knew hundreds of people in the city, and was quickly becoming an active organizer of coworking communities, events, and even a Meetup group of my own.

Nearly six years, two coworking spaces, hundreds of events, a bunch of BarCamps, a couple of TEDx’s, some hackathons, a fake startup and a turntable dance party later, I find myself completely transformed by a world that welcomed me with open arms.

Since then, I’ve been a part of the NYTM’s Community Committee, an active organizer of NY Tech Responds, and acted as the unofficial afterparty organizer for several years before making it official, and then handing it off to the organization to run. I’ve attended dozens of Tech Meetups and have stepped up to play a more active role in Tech Meetup-related efforts at every possible opportunity. New Work City has also been a steadfast host of the official NYTM Simulcast event since its inception nearly one year ago, allowing an extra 100 people to participate in the monthly event every month.

The NY Tech Meetup changed my life forever. I know I’m far from the only one, which is why I care so much about the future of the organization. There are countless others out there whose lives are waiting to be changed forever, and I want to see this community help as many of them as possible– just as it helped me.

If you’d like, you can help me out with a tweet or similar social media broadcast. If you know other members of the Tech Meetup personally, it would be awesome if you pointed them here and asked what they thought. If you’re eligible, you should vote. And if you’d like to vote for me, I’d be very grateful. I can promise you your vote will be in good hands. Cheers!

The #NYTM board election is this week. Why should you care?

* Note: Check out the official Meet the Candidates event taking place this Monday, 12/17! 

* Update: I wrote a post with thoughts on my candidacy here. Check it out and let me know your thoughts!

* Update: The polls have opened! Vote here right now and spread the word! Perhaps you’d like to toss me a reteweet of support?

Tonight, the NY Tech Meetup will open voting for the 13th and final seat on its Board of Directors. When this final board member is elected, it will complete a four year transition set in motion by Meetup CEO Scott Heiferman when he stepped down as the organizer in 2008. According to the New York Observer, 590 votes were cast for 17 candidates in the first board vote in 2010. In 2011, 471 votes were cast for 20 candidates. This year, we have only six candidates in the running.

Why has participation been so relatively low among the members of an organization that’s so popular? The easy answer is that, for a long time, people had little reason to think of the NY Tech Meetup as much more than a really great monthly event. If you can manage to snag a ticket, you’re sure to see some really great new tech and meet some awesome new people in the crowd, but that’s about it. Why should people care about who’s behind it? When the topic of the election comes up, you can see people switching off. You can almost hear people shouting  “get to the demo”!

Since the last election in late 2011, a few things have changed. The still very young nonprofit organization that’s been formed behind the monthly event has started to assert itself in a more meaningful way, and in a relatively short time it’s not only demonstrated its potential, it’s had a huge impact on the city and potentially the nation.

The first big win was in the wake of rising opposition to SOPA and PIPA. If there were ever an opportunity for the NYTM to assert itself, this was it. In a matter of days, the NYTM organized a rally outside the offices of Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, who were both supporters of the bill– at least, until over a thousand of us showed up to tell them why they should reconsider.

They heard us. Literally. Defeating those bills was hugely important to the future of a lot of things, and the NYTM played a non-trivial part in rallying its community to action.

More recently, the organization stepped up in the wake of Sandy, rallying nearly 1,000 people to volunteer and acting as the de facto technology switchboard for Sandy relief efforts throughout the city. Having had the opportunity to help make this effort happen, I was able to witness firsthand just how much impact an organization like the NY Tech Meetup could have not just in a crisis, but in many contexts where the non-tech world and the tech world might find themselves with common interests.

The Tech Meetup’s role in defeating SOPA/PIPA and in aiding Sandy relief efforts demonstrated just how important its role can be in the city and in society at large. These happened to be two crises thrust upon us by circumstance, but in both cases an otherwise dormant community was brought to life, and the results were remarkable.

As the NY Tech Meetup moves forward, it has an opportunity to establish itself not just as the representative body of in increasingly important constituency of technology makers in the country’s greatest city, but also as a critical link between that constituency and the rest of the city.

That’s always been the case, but this year we saw two very real examples of why that’s important.

The solutions to our economic woes and the path to our future is undoubtedly centered on the actions of the people building new technology and those who are using those technologies in new ways. The people who lead the NY Tech Meetup will have not just an opportunity but a responsibility to guide those actions.

Holding public elections for four of the 13 board seats is an experiment in engaging and involving the public in this discussion. If people haven’t understood why voting was important before, it should be clear now.

A meet and greet with the candidates is scheduled for Monday, December 17 at 6:00pm at Projective Space LES. Get more details and RSVP here. Shortly after that, the polls will open, and campaigning will take place until the polls close on Saturday, December 22.

I’ll be one of the candidates you’ll see there Monday night. You’ll also meet the other candidates, who are all good people who have done great things for the community.

Everything I’ve discussed above only scratches the surface of why I believe the Tech Meetup and this election are important. I’ll dig more into that over the course of the next week, but before we can do that, we must first agree that this election and this organization’s future are important, worth talking about, and worth participating in shaping.

Why does the NY Tech Meetup election matter to you?

The Routines of Great Performers

Carmelo_Anthony_Slam_Dunk_vs_Miami_Heat_2012

I’m fascinated by the people who dominate our pop culture. Athletes, actors, and musicians, while arguably paid and idolized more than they should be, exemplify a kind of work ethic we can learn from. What do they share in common? How do they achieve such greatness? Among all of these groups, I’ve identified a basic pattern which I believe can be reproduced:

THREE PHASES OF A GREAT PERFORMANCE:

1. Training

Before they even begin preparing for their performance, they train. Whether it’s hours in the gym, practicing their instruments, or sculpting their bodies and minds for their parts, there’s an extended period of training. Sometimes it involves extreme weight loss, or gain, or muscle development, or hundreds of hours of playing the same few notes over and over.

It’s not sexy. The crowd never sees it, outside of an occasional behind-the-scenes documentary. But everyone who performs does it– even the crappy, talentless hacks– work their asses off behind the scenes.

They also have a specific, well-defined job to do. The scope is super tight. You play a specific position, or a particular instrument.

2. Preparation

In the months, weeks, days, and hours before a performance, great performers prepare. This is often a continuation of the training, but now with a focused regimen. Playing guitar now becomes practicing a set list. Training in a gym now becomes practicing specific plays and watching game tape of your opponents. Specific lines are memorized.

One thing doesn’t happen during preparation: screwing around. You might see photos of Carmelo Anthony at a fancy club, or diving fast sports cars or whatever, but you won’t see him doing any of those things the night before a big game.

What’s Melo doing the night before a big game? He’s asleep. He’s dreaming of game tape. He’s dreaming of muscle movements. He’s dreaming of killing it.

He can go kite surfing when the season’s over.

3. Performance

Great performers have a reverence for their craft. They survey their scene. They visualize all of the circumstances around them.

And when it’s time for them to perform, they focus every ounce of themselves on the task at hand.

Watch the post-game interviews when a team loses. Why did they lose? They didn’t have it in them, they weren’t focused, they weren’t feeling it. Why did the other team win? They wanted it more. They were hungrier. They came out on fire.

When it’s time for the curtain to come up, or the tip-off, or the cameras to roll, great performers are ready to rock the hell out of what they’re about to do.

Performances occupy specific, small periods of time– usually no more than a few hours. Sporting events are about two to three hours. Stage performances two to three hours. Musical performances generally no more than three. These time constraints exist for a reason: you can only perform at an extremely high level for a finite period of time.

APPLYING THIS TO OTHER CONTEXTS

I run a coworking space. I also help run an online masterclass in community building. I do a bunch of other stuff too, but those are the main things.

Aside from the occasional karaoke competition, when do I get to employ the above?

I want to be the Carmelo Anthony of what I do. I want to be the Daniel Day-Lewis of what I do.

I want to rock the hell out of what I do.

How do I do that when I don’t have the same sort of constructs?

The theory I’m working on is to manufacture similar constructs, and approach them with the same methodology.

1. Define your role

It starts by defining the scope of what you’re going to rock at. Carmelo Anthony is a Power Forward (when Amar’e Stoudemire isn’t busting up the lineup, but I digress). He isn’t going to practice being a Point Guard or a Center. He’s going to practice only what he has to be good at.

(Carmelo Anthony is a bad example because he is good at everything.)

What does that mean for me? I know I’m good when I’m leading, when I’m organizing, and when I’m generally getting people excited about things. When I step outside of those bounds, things get pretty hit-or-miss. But when I’m doing my leaderly organizerly thing, I know I can rock. So I’m going to focus on that role. I’m going to organize something. 

2. Conjure a performance

I don’t have a basketball game to play, nor a tour date to rehearse for. What does a performance look like for me?

When I run an event, or otherwise gather people for some reason, I’m employing a lot of my core skills and strengths. So I should focus on setting up and preparing for gatherings as if they are my performances.

This performance should occupy a specific period of time, so I’ve set a specific start time and end time. Monday morning, 10:00 to 11:30. 

3. Train, prepare, and perform like star

Now that I have a date and scope for my performance, I can treat it like a great performer treats their gigs.

Because I have a specific date and a particular performance in mind, I can rearrange my life accordingly.

My performance is Monday at 10:00am. That means I’m arriving at New Work City by 8:00. I’m doing my warmups. I’m preparing the scene.

The night before, I’m not staying up late. I’m not going out. Hell, I’m not even going to watch Homeland. And I love Homeland.

I’m heading back to the city early from my parents’ house in the suburbs, when normally I’d stay for dinner, just so I can spend some time setting the stage at NWC. I’m going to do a dress rehearsal, maybe.

I’m going to get a good night’s sleep, dream about my performance, get up early, and listen to my “Get Pumped Up” playlist on the subway ride in.

And I’m going to rock the hell out of tomorrow.

I have no idea what’s going to actually happen or if this is going to work, but I can tell you this: I feel a lot more excited about my Sunday night than I usually do. And I’d wager a guess that I’m going to feel a hell of a lot more like I know why I’m getting out of bed tomorrow morning when my alarm goes off than I might have otherwise.

Tipoff is at 10:00 tomorrow. Game on!

What LooseCubes’ shutdown means for coworking and the future of sharing space

A lot of people were sad to hear the news that LooseCubes will be shutting down at the end of this week, myself included.

Workspace-sharing platforms began to emerge in earnest a few years ago, with LooseCubes leading the way as the largest and most well-capitalized. Off the top of my head, there’s Deskwanted, DeskTime, LiquidSpace, eWorky, SharedDesks, and at least a half a dozen more.

TechCrunch has been quick to say that this casts a shadow over the workspace sharing marketplace model.

Perhaps. I don’t think LooseCubes shut down because this concept can’t make money; they had raised plenty of capital and seemed to be executing on a plan that would get them the revenue they needed. If anything, I believe that figuring out how to properly monetize workspace sharing is just a matter of time– perhaps still a little ahead of its time right now– but there’s little question that the workspace equivalents of AirBNB and Zipcar are going to arrive eventually.

Workspace is going the same direction as our homes and our cars. We don’t need them all the time, and there’s money to be made in facilitating the sharing of them. Collective Consumption and the Sharing Economy and all that good stuff. But that’s not as interesting to me as the other major implication of LooseCubes’ departure.

LooseCubes’ departure leaves a vacuum at the top of the world of workspace sharing. 

People loved LooseCubes. It was the top dog not just because it raised loads of cash. It represented something more.

Because for LooseCubes, it was never about the physical features of the facilities. All that stuff is irrelevant now. The name of the game in the workspace sharing world is the people you have a chance to meet. Nobody ever said they loved coworking because they got to sit in a fancy chair. LooseCubes got that better than most, and was putting that first and foremost in the direction they took.

As others scramble to fill the void left behind, some will inevitably figure out how to do the best job of offering up the best platform for sharing facilities. It will be dry, and it will make good money. And there will always be a struggle among competitors over securing the most market share.

But someone out there will figure out how to make a platform that truly embraces the fact that sharing space is about the people and not the facilities.

Whoever does that will not only have an opportunity to build a truly successful business; they’ll have an opportunity to play a major role in helping to build the infrastructure that will power the new workforce and the new economy. (See my related thoughts on that here.) GoodCoworking, a brand new site that is entirely powered by testimonials, represents a promising insight into what that could look like, but it’s all still very early. There’s much still to be explored.

This is currently the top comment on the TechCrunch article:

Somebody out there must fill that gap. Someone must step up to inspire Amanda and the countless others who saw LooseCubes as a beacon. It won’t be LooseCubes anymore, but it will be someone.

Seeing LooseCubes go away breaks my heart. The memories of the laughter and energy and deep conversations they brought to my community in their early formative days at New Work City will be with me forever. I wish the best to the team and everyone affected.