Guest Blogger


You’ve probably run into Jan Searls over at Doc Searls‘ blog, where he often refers to Jan as “his younger sister who’s a retired Navy Commander.” Jan has joined Open Resource Group, LLC as our Executive Officer, or “XO” in Navy parlance: someone who pulls all the strings together. She’s our guest blogger today, responding to the last post:

Britt called “membership” a disruptor that’s as “unwelcome as it is overdue”.  Why is it a disruptor?  Because with membership comes a voice, and with enough voices comes power to demand things like accountability and change.  Adamsj’s

“You’re Just the Owner”

I once built a custom house in Colorado. My contractor – a highly skilled carpenter – seemed to care about the project as much as I did, with definite opinions as to how we should proceed. When I jokingly accused him of being as much a lobbyist as a carpenter, he said, “You don’t understand. It’s my house, you’re just the owner.”

Compare his justifiable sense of entitlement to the dialogue over at Save the Merc:

The owners of the Mercury News are not only those with a controlling interest in its shares; the owners are also all of us, citizens of the Silicon Valley, who, over many years, have seen “our” newspaper serve the public good. The Mercury News shone a light on our valley’s needs, especially helping us remember those who were left behind when our valley’s economy rocketed.

Tom Campbell
Dean, U.C. Berkeley
Haas School of Business

We need a new way to describe people who, like my carpenter and the readers of the San Jose Mercury News, are so engaged by an enterprise or a service or a product that they feel a sense of entitlement to its destiny, and therefore to a role so proactive that it mystifies the nominal owners of the enterprise or service or product. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about membership as a palpable driving force in our economy, ever since Doc and Jan Searls and I broke crema together in San Diego during Etech. Doc challenged Jan and me to come up with a compelling description of our ORGware initiative, and it flashed into my mind: Member Relationship Management – MRM. Sure, it’s a riff on CRM (which I consider a perfect scam by consultants hustling companies too big to know better), but MRM justifies itself because it must, by definition, facilitate relationships among the members, by the members and for the members. And Doc liked the meme, so I figure it can’t be too far off.

Consumers to Customers to Members: Up the Value Chain with Gun & Camera

Our favorite trainers have been cluing us for six years now, telling us we we are no longer passive consumers, but customers deserving customized treatment. It’s not clear that enterprises share that conceit, but at least the dialogue has started. I’d like to suggest that there is life after Customerism, and I call it Membership. 

How do you describe a member of a company? Like my carpenter, it’s anyone who so identifies with an enterprise’s products and services and future that they understand, more deeply and probably more expertly than the employees, the implications of a company’s actions and missteps. There are some industry niches or products or services with the right combination of utility and complexity that they attract members as much as customers. Blogging is such a phenomenon: We use various products and services and, in doing so, assume a sense of deep entitlement in the processes and artifacts of blogging. Operating systems and dog breeds and colleges and sports cars have the power to turn stakeholders into members. Hamburger chains and PC manufacturers and rental car companies and most politicans do not (though some do).

Obviously, the San Jose Mercury News has the same power over many of its readers. More accurately, I should say that its readers hold the same power over the San Jose Mercury News.

I’d like to develop mechanisms explicitly designed to empower people to act as members of enterprises that would rather not have members. I believe there is a finite set of tools that will so expose and amplify the collective voice of these newly-discovered and, likely, unwelcome members of such enterprises that they exert a force undreamed of prior to the blogosphere and Web 2.0.

Membership is a disruptor that’s as unwelcome as it is overdue.

12:23:33 AM    

5 iPods, 15 Poets, 2 weeks. 

Best. Odds. Ever.  To win an iPod.

This is gonna be fun.

The PodSlam Contest is certain to be the best chance you’ll ever have to win an iPod, and the grand prize is a next-generation video iPod (the most eagerly-anticipated iPod ever – so much so that the thought of it has inspired some Wall Street analysts to raise Apple’s stock price target).

Why are the odds so good? Because the Just Media Fund is so committed to give these poets a wider audience. As I write this, there are fewer than 200 people registered as members of the site who are qualified to win (“Employees of Just Media, Open Resource Group, etc., are not ….yada, yada.”)

4 iPods will be awarded to the people who are most active on the site:

Grand Prize: iPod Video (next-generation model)
Second Prize: iPod Video (current model)
Third Prize: iPod Nano
Fourth Prize: iPod Shuffle

Random Drawing: Do you feel lucky? A 5th iPod – the current-model iPod Video – will be awarded in a random drawing from the contestants who view at least 8 of the 15 slams. Here’s the graphic:

The scoring is automatic: anyone who registers at the PodSlam site accumulates points automatically by viewing the videos and rating them and commenting on them and inviting friends to join, etc. One way to get points is by posting a medallion like this on your blog:

podslam ipod contest

Notice the link? It was generated automatically at the PodSlam contest page, which knew I was podslam member #6 so it can track my activity. Too bad I’m ineligible for the contest. 

At midnight, 3/31, the contest is over. Whoever is most active will receive the Grand Prize of a Next-Gen Video iPod. The runner-up will receive the current model of the video iPod, etc., etc. Details at http://www.podslam.org/contest.

Podslam is the first online poetry slam. It’s based on the traditional poetry slams where audience members rate poets as they perform their work.

PodSlam.org presents each poet’s work in a video designed to be viewed in your browser, in iTunes and on a video iPod. The poets are all from Denver, home town of Neal Cassady, the original wild man poet of the beat era. In February, 15 poets were asked to riff on Black History Month. The result is the high-quality video of each poet. Each video was professionally shot and produced, inspiring a commenter over at Hugh Macleod‘s site to say:

Love the use of video in this. Makes me wonder how these folks are conquering the production challenges, ie, time, resources, $$… same thing with Rocketboom, 3-5 minutes of video takes a long time to make, er, make well.

The videos are so good thanks to Just Media Fund’s commitment to this project, the poets now have a chance at a wider audience. Credits: Creator/Producer is Henry Ansbacher, Co-Producer is Ashara Ekundayo, and Director is Davis Coombe. (Way down at the bottom, right where it belongs, under the key grips and caterers, you’ll see our credit.)


DISCLOSURE: My little company, Open Resource Group, built the Podslam site for The Just Media Fund, so naturally we think it’s beyond cool. It’s also a great laboratory for learning how people respond to a nuanced series of prizes based on several different member actions. As you’d imagine, that’s my long-term interest.

12:39:39 PM    

“Life should seem a little easier with narration, shouldn’t it?”

What a great reason for blogging! It comes from a young man named John-Claude Futrell, AKA Panama Soweto, who is emerging as the spokesman and host for podslam.org. Here’s the context, where he describes what a “griot” is. To me it sounds like what goes on in the blogosphere:

A griot is defined as a person, usually from West Africa, who keeps the oral tradition of a culture.  They are the storytellers and gossipers, the conspiracy theorists, and blabbermouths, the speakers and the poets.  Our spoken word artists are our griots of the 21st century.  They speak to us of their pain, their triumph, our gains and our losses, they function as political analysts, teachers, psychologists and friends. 

I write for a very selfish purpose, I want to feel as if I am not alone.  So when I’m in front of a crowd I want to feel like I am telling a story that people can relate to, can feel.  Poetry can be therapeutic for all  involved, and life should seem a little easier with narration, shouldn’t it?  We can give explanation when there was none before. Without our poets our lives could be described as a sum of circumstances, with them we can tolerate the harshness of the world that we live in.

Best First Blog Post Ever.

I believe that is the first blog post Panama ever wrote – his previous posts have been short introductions of other PodSlam poets. Have you ever heard a better first post than that?

Each of the PodSlam poets answered some interview questions, including why they chose their stage name. Panama’s answer:

So they call me Panama Soweto. And I took the name Soweto as an attribute, as a stage name for a couple of different reasons. Probably the most important and most interesting reason to me is that I got my degree in African American studies from Metropolitan State College in Denver and while studying there I got to learn a lot about the township of Soweto in South Africa and the actual trials and tribulations that had to go with freedom from apartheid. The things that Steven Biko and Nelson Mandela went through. And, one of the things that made apartheid visible to the rest of the planet was the riots or the murder in Soweto of twenty-six children. I teach, so I believe that children are the only way that we can bring change into this world. And with that I just thought that Soweto would be a real good attribute to use because, you know, I am trying to change myself. Nobody’s perfect. 

The first name, Panama, just kind of came from the dichotomy of what I am and what I’m not. A lot of people growing up didn’t know whether to call me Dominican or Puerto Rican, and yada yada and this and that, so I got a whole bunch of nicknames and I got teased once and the name Panama came up and so I kept it.

11:31:32 AM    

“Something I must do”

I’m beginning to learn about the world of spoken word, which is becoming mainstream after decades of senescence. Maybe spoken word is a natural reaction to times of overwhelming straight-and-narrow thinking. I’ve been very involved in the new podslam project, which features 15 poets, performing their poetry in iPod-compatible videos with great production values. You really ought to check them out at the PodSlam site. You can subscribe to the podslam’s forum (blog) here. The ‘casts are embedded in the site feed and you can subscribe in iTunes.

The first podSlam is presented by Jeff Campbell, AKA “Apostle“. His message, which you can read at his Slam of the Day entry, is entitled “Something I must do”. And that’s where I think I’m barely beginning to get it. All but one of these poets is African-American, and so you hear the kinds of cultural grievances that anyone would voice as a member of that community. But I’m sensing something else in these lyrics: a determination for self-determination. In that sense, these poets seem to be taking more responsibility for themselves than most Americans, whatever our background:

In every step in every mile in the path of my journey
Spirits walk with me and turn me in the right direction
Protection from danger, they help me to control my anger
You see this world is full of stress and I confess
That I haven’t done enough how much time do I have left?
On this planet I never take it for granted
I examine my impact and make plans to expand it
Whether I’m beatin’ the concrete of the city streets
Or up in the mountains climbin’ 14 thousand ft. peaks

Yes, the PodSlam is based in Denver, and there may be something to the proximity of 14,000 foot peaks that inspires anyone (it’s known that Colorado has the lowest obesity levels of any state). I experienced that, living in Denver for a couple of decades, and wrote previously how Denver’s been a source of tough-minded, edgy voices since Neal Cassady basically invented the genre and almost instantly broke the mold.

Check out the podslam. Here’s Apostle’s poem, and here’s a direct link to his video.

Something I must do

In every step in every mile in the path of my journey
Spirits walk with me and turn me in the right direction
Protection from danger, they help me to control my anger
You see this world is full of stress and I confess
That I haven’t done enough how much time do I have left?
On this planet I never take it for granted
I examine my impact and make plans to expand it
Whether I’m beatin the concrete of the city streets
Or up in the mountains climbin 14 thousand ft. peaks
I’m shinin connecting to the energy of the galaxy
Cause mathematically it matches my anatomy
It feels like the universe is inside me
Relatives who have past on stand right beside me
And they whisper the secrets of the ages
And they guide my pen across pages 

It’s like the planets and stars align when I rhyme
And the universe speaks through me directly
I’m tuned in to frequencies
Hidden beyond their comprehension yet subliminally
Our bodies understand these commands
We dance for ritual purposes it’s advanced
Expressions of the culture connected to eternity
Memories of a past life return to me
And I swear you were right there in the cipher
We conjured deities with drums to ignite the
Rage inside of us all until we burned it down
Yet somewhere deep within the ground
Are the traces of our DNA?
It manifests in every generation in a different way
So now I’m back on display
From the plantation to the prison most us us on our way

But somebody’s watchin over me
guidin me ridin for me on the other side
There’s somethin I must do before I die
The ancestors provide the purpose of my life. 

9:39:32 PM    

Oops, It Didn’t Work!

On Friday, William F. Buckley threw in the towel. He speaks of the Iraq war when he announces It Didn’t Work, but he’s really talking about the conservative movement. In his constrained acknowledgment of the failure of neoconservatism’s most extreme expression, he’s really acknowledging the failure of the conservative movement. It’s falling back to earth now, like a spent rocket. It never deserved so much of our attentive energy, but it sounded so promising, to the more credulous among us.

I discovered William F. Buckley in 1965 at USAF Training at Williams AFB, AZ. Most of my classmates loved this guy, so erudite and impressive and reasonable sounding. But he didn’t sound reasonable to me. I remember asking my mates, “Can’t you hear the words he’s saying? It’s crazy.”

Even then, the idea of boosting the most capable by taking from the least among us made no sense to me, whether in a family or a society. But that didn’t matter to most of my fellow elitists – we had prevailed over most pilot training candidates, qualifying for The Fighter School – the most exclusive of the Air Force’s eight training bases. Like most elites, we didn’t spend a lot of time examining the accidents of birth or nurture that equipped us to qualify for those few slots at “Willy”.

Once you strap on that G-suit and start drilling holes in the sky, there’s no limit to your arrogance. You’re omnipotent and you know it, clap your hands.

Conservatism Didn’t Work. That’s Bill Buckley’s impending conclusion, but he can’t form his mouth around the words. It hardly matters which metric or cultural barometer you use, the Big-C conservatives (like the Big-L liberals before them) have had their turn at the wheel, and they’ve fucked up beyond all recognition. This shouldn’t be surprising, when you consider this insight from Buckley’s arch nemesis, Kenneth Galbraith:

The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy;
that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.

Galbraith’s exposé is literally true, not just clever satire. When the most powerful people in a society set themselves up to bleed the rest of the body politic, the culture’s in as much trouble as any body is when its most aggressive cells metastasize. Yep, that’s what unbridled conservatism is: a network of ambitious, well-connected cells sucking as much energy as possible from their host. Once you strap on that three piece suit and start drilling holes in the economy, there’s no limit to your arrogance. You’re omnipotent and you know it, clap your hands.

Self-interest is not the problem: it’s the primary source of energy in any society. Galbraith is exposing a deeper, cultural problem. Like alcoholics enabled by their admirers, our mutual dysfunction is that so many of us have placed our bets on the metastatic principle of self interest. Most of We the People Mortgage Holders have decided that we and our families will surely prevail if we work the pecking order just a little better than our less fortunate neighbors: we’ve decided that we will somehow buck the odds and will succeed if we advance ourselves to the detriment of those whom we’re in a position to slight. When selfishness is enshrined above the commons’ sense, the Tragedy of the Commons is as certain as if Shakespeare had penned it. And ultimately, just as deadly.

The flaw in this tragic logic is easy to see. Conservatism, like the stock market, systematically moves resources from the less informed to the more informed. Pick your sides. Only suicidal hubris allows people to assume they’re on the inside track of that power law.

Ed vs. the Coneheads

Ed Cone and his readers are conducting a spirited debate about Buckley’s capitulation over at Ed’s blog. Ed threw the gauntlet down by asking, “Why does Bill Buckley hate America?

Why does Bill Buckley hate America?

“One can’t doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed,” writes the father of the modern conservative movement in The National Review.

Well, of course, one can doubt it, if one ignores the facts.

And as the facts get harder to ignore, one can blame the media.

No fair blaming the richly-documented incompetence of the administration and widespread predictions that we would end up exactly where we are.

Ed is one of my heroes. He descends from a family of authentic American visionaries and capitalists who built a great textile business in North Carolina and struggled to keep the plants and workers together. Ed and I hung out together when he came up to document the Dean campaign and at a few subsequent conferences. It’s obvious he gets it. Maybe it’s because he now writes about IT and systems for Ziff Davis: People who think in terms of systems seem to have a larger view than those who think in terms of sound bites.

Checked by Mates

Conservatism has entered its end game and can no longer disguise its motives with platitudes and swell-sounding theories. Buckley hints at the sorry truth that this four-decade crescendo has been an intellectual exercise, sort of a stimulating debate not quite ready for prime time, unencumbered by concerns about consequences in the real world:

What do we do when we see that the postulates do not prevail — in the absence of interventionist measures (we used these against Hirohito and Hitler) which we simply are not prepared to take? It is healthier for the disillusioned American to concede that in one theater in the Mideast, the postulates didn’t work. The alternative would be to abandon the postulates. To do that would be to register a kind of philosophical despair. The killer insurgents are not entitled to blow up the shrine of American idealism.

The shrine of American idealism. The horror! Can we ever abandon our precious conservative postulates! 

Even his headline speaks to the conservatives’ distance from real-world consequences: Saying “It didn’t work” is as reflective as saying “Oops”. It’s how you characterize a patio door broken by a softball, not how you describe a conscious assault on American values, culminating in a colossal, unilateral foreign adventure that guts America’s sense of fair play while killing and maiming hundreds of thousands of peopl
e, including our own. No wonder these people who’ve never seen combat don’t want us to see flag-draped coffins. They have no sense of participation in the real fight, for theirs is an ivory tower engagement.

I’ve often said that real combat is no place for dreamers and idealists. Nor is the hard landscape of geopolitical practicalities. Those who understand the realities of insurgent warfare knew all along that this Iraqi colonialism wouldn’t work. 

What will work, inevitably, is patience. A skillful idealist should realize that time is on our side, that our pervasive media and peer-to-peer Internet-based communications is the overwhelming power in the world right now, not these obsolete imperial adventures.

Claims Made for Selling, not for Using

Conservative promises are like the complex features we never use, on all the gadgets we probably don’t need. this “philosophy” (if that’s what you call a justification for selfishness) is a set of theories and visions that are worthless once you take the appliance out of the show room (Conservatism’s think tanks and heavily subsidized media outlets) and install it at home (government). Once put into service, there’s no way we’ll use that fancy control panel for anything but a timer, and that’s where conservatism’s questionable social compact breaks down.

The entire shaky premise of conservatism has been the “trust us” assurance that Bush trots out whenever the curtain is pulled aside to expose this most questionable wizard. Conservatism has predicated its promise on a complex set of features we might use some day, but which, so far, have provided no discernible benefits to We the Users. 


Impatience Alert – Flamers take a break

Comments are on, but for those of you who adore the passion around the tiresome Liberal/Conservative “debate”, please save yourselves the trouble. I’m a practicing capitalist, shot down in Vietnam, voted for Reagan and formed more businesses than most people have worked for. Conservatives can now empathize how it felt for the liberals as the air leaked out of their movement. Get used to years of this sinking feeling. Now it’s obvious to anyone:

This conservative movement has been an unbelievably expensive detour from the American Dream, which was forged in the late 18th century out of the Age of Enlightenment and Common Sense, reinforced by the realities we grasped thanks to Theodore Dreiser, two world wars and the Great Depression. Don’t embarrass yourself by siding with Warren Harding. Go do your homework and calculate the components of your grandchildren’s tax burden. Then ask yourself if those expensive, broadcast-era slogans have been worth it.

On the other hand, I-told-you-so liberals might ask why no one has a clue what you’re talking about.

1:20:20 AM    

Neal’s Town, Home of the First

PodSlam

Why Denver? How could podSlam‘s amazing, passionate, beat-like poetry come out of what most people think is a cow town? Is there anything more to Denver than a gateway to skiing and the home of Broncomania? Check out the poets at podSlam.org and you’ll wonder too.

Maybe the first PodSlam is from Denver because Neal Cassady’s from Denver. Don’t know who Neal Cassady was? Few do. Dead these 37 years, he was Jack Kerouac’s inspiration for Dean Moriarty in Kerouac’s great American Road Trip novel, On the Road. But Cassady was more than the book’s inspiration – he gave it his voice. Jack Kerouac was frustrated with the book’s tone of voice until he realized he had to write it using Neal’s: “He picked the project up again later, after a series of letters from Cassady gave Kerouac the idea to write the book the way Cassady talked, in a rush of mad ecstasy, without self-consciousness or mental hesitation. It worked: ‘On The Road’ became a sensation by capturing Cassady’s voice.”* 

So, while we call On the Road Kerouac’s book, it’s really Neal’s book. In fact, the area of Denver now known as “LoDo” – Lower Downtown –  Denver’s skid row for decades – was inseparable from Neal Cassady’s reality. There’s even an online tour of Neal’s Denver, suggesting all its grime and grit and passion and puke. It was put up a decade ago by Andrew Burnett, himself a poet. Here’s his intro to Neal’s Denver:

A Personal Exploration

and Beat Baedeker

by Andrew Burnett

“…all the city was to become my playground…”
Neal Cassady, The First Third

“Neal is a colossus risen to Destroy Denver!”
Jack Kerouac to Allen Ginsberg, As Ever

“who journeyed to Denver, who died in Denver, who came back to Denver & waited in vain, who watched over Denver & brooded & loned in Denver and finally went away to find out the Time, & now Denver is lonesome for her heroes.”
Allen Ginsberg, Howl.

If you’re visiting Denver, or if you just wish you were, try one of these tours:

The Bona Fide Beat Train

The Beat Beatific Shuttle

The Beat Automobile Tour


In the winter of 1995, only two blocks remain of the Larimer Street Neal Cassady knew. For forty years Larimer used to stretch as one long skid-row for most of its 25-block length, but today only two true skid-row blocks remain, between 20th and 22nd: bars that open at eight in the morning (signs say “No children after 5:00”); pawn shops where Cassady very likely pawned anything he could get his hands on for quick cash; a 12-step recovery shelter, three bars, two liquor stores, a barber shop, and a Mexican bakery. At most, maybe three men are unconscious now on any given morning, where once there’d have been fifteen or twenty (gentrification has moved the shelters almost ten blocks north). Instead of Larimer, the men wait for the sun to come up at 23rd and Curtis.

Read the whole thing – it’s great. It makes you realize what no current visit can – that Denver was to the Beat Generation – and modern American poetry – what Kansas City was to the Golden Age of Jazz and, ultimately, to BeBop. I find it amazing that these two midwestern cities were the wombs for modern poetry and jazz, respectively.

As further inspiration to read Burnett’s guide, here are some more of his great phrases:

It’s hard to write about Denver and the Beats without persisting in a little city-wide anti-karmic self-justification. New York and San Francisco are true, hardcore beat sites — anything about Denver is going to sound as if somebody, somewhere is protesting just a little too much about a provincial capital with only peripheral links to Beat authors…

It’s hard, too, to write about Neal Cassady. He-man mercenary, neo-Proustian speed freak, devil incarnate, lost angel, part hipster, part huckster, half lost, half found…

He’s our Rimbaud without the luck Rimbaud had — and R. didn’t have too much. He’s an American R. behind the wheel of one of our century’s automobiles going way too fast down one of our streets. Close to a crew-cut, handsome as hell, jeans and a t-shirt, he’s got our drugs, our music, our idiom and our books…

It’s my guess that those who knew him and loved him were seduced by how vivid he was; how vivid his now was. Larimer (or Van Ness, or 116th Street) with Cassady was probably a pretty damned vivid, live and exciting place…

Literary Kicks curator Levi Asher talked about a mystique, too, in his original Denver page (“I’ve never been to Denver, but I’m dying to go. I’d get drunk on Tokay at a Larimer Street dive, and then go street-crawling in search of Dean Moriarty’s forever-lost father.”)…

Growing up in Denver, I always enjoyed having little secret Beat bits of knowledge to myself: ten years ago I’d eat lunch leaning against the Water Department building in Civic Center knowing that this was the Carnegie public library when Neal Cassady was jailbait pure and simple, in and out of juvy hall– devouring Kant and Schopenhauer when he wasn’t stealing cars and attempting to put the nth line over on the nth girl…

The best work of all about Denver and the Beats are the central texts: Cassady’s “The First Third,” Kerouac’s “On the Road” and “Visions of Cody,” Ginsberg’s “The Great Rememberer.” Buy them, come to Denver, walk these streets, get at American ghosts.

Or go to the podSlam, filmed at the corner of 15th & Wynkoop, right in Cassady’s hood, by (mostly) young poets who may not know a central truth: many of the same old white farts who now resent or regret the truth of the poet’s words once nodded to Neal Cassady’s words and spirit, channeled by Kerouac. 

Build that bridge, and the generations can be healed.

6:16:03 PM