Commanding Chaos for Coworking, Open Source and Creative Communities

Some books for your reading list

Sun, 04/10/2011 - 05:23 -- rprice

I gave a talk at Rollins to an MBA class about Technological Entrepreneurship, taught by a friend of mine. The bulk of it was about how I have brought my career to where it is, and the things I use to sell myself.

Three things I spent some time talking about were:

  • Open Source Software: my latest mantra here is that people are putting in hundreds, thousands or millions of hours into creating this software, and you don't have to pay a penny. You can also potentially benefit from each person who uses it - that doesn't happen with commercial software, except in the very best of companies with the very best feedback systems. Even then, you may never meet many people who use the same proprietary software as you. Finding others in the Open Source world is as easy as email, IRC, Google, and a hundred other technologies that also don't cost you anything. I've been able to build all my business in the last 5 years on the back of Drupal, and people build huge companies on the same platform.
  • Podcasting and Blogging: For the amount that a podcast costs me to produce (only my time), I have gotten a lot of my business by giving away what I know. The thing is not what you know, but how you are able to teach yourself new things, and keep your finger on the pulse - watch trends, do research, experiment, and discover.
  • In-Person Involvement and Meetups: Just the fact that I am involved with Urban ReThink, Florida Creatives, the Florida DrupalCamp and BarCampOrlando has helped me build a reputation I could not imagine. At the same time, the "Long Tail" involvement I have with communities - the ones where I have a smaller impact, but am nonetheless important - simply because I am there - those are some places where I become even more well-connected. Take poetry, Film, Art, Theatre or Music as examples of communities where I don't show up often, but often enough to be known.
  • Perhaps most importantly, I have a strong group of advisers, mentors, and peers who I can bounce ideas off of, and vice versa. We can talk about things I would not be comfortable discussing with others, and I generally tell them things it would be hard to tell others, because they are not as invested in my career, with the same level of understanding of how I come to evangelize ideas. These people are an absolutely indispensable part of my world.

It may seem like I am patting myself on the back, but that is really the mindset I had to have to put together this lecture. If I am able to call myself a success in my own right, how did I get here?

In the last few minutes of the talk, I decided to put together a list of books I thought the class members would be interested in. These books really helped me get where I am now, and help me to make hard decisions all the time.


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Setting up your own Etherpad site... in short, you don't have to

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 15:50 -- rprice

Some time ago, I heard about a company that was acquired by Google that had created some software called EtherPad. If you ask me, this is how Google Wave or Google Docs should have been done. You can see the updates in real-time, everyone's changes are tracked, you can save revisions, you can chat with other collaborators, and it even uses wiki-style red links, so that when you click on a link to a page that doesn't exist, a new one gets created. It's all the best things about wikis, documents and IRC.

I set up the site at - initially to get things going during BarCampOrlando, but I plan on leaving the site up there for locals to use.

You can even embed the results in another page, almost like Wave:
Edit: I have taken out the embedded pad. Not a good idea for your home page.

EtherPad runs on Java, and the version I downloaded uses Jetty, which is to Tomcat what Lighttpd is to Apache (I think, I'm not a Java guy). EtherPad is a package in a repository that you can add to your apt-get list in Ubuntu, and it basically installs itself.

I ended up doing a little bit of customization, and turning on a few plugins, like the Twitter-style tags, which is a great way to get things to show up on a search page.

If you've never heard of EtherPad before, visit the site and create a page. Then invite a friend to come check it out and edit the page with you (or ask me). When you use it at a live event, like during a meeting, your workflow for working on meetings, and the way you think about wikis will change.


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BarCamp can be a lot more in Orlando

Fri, 04/01/2011 - 18:19 -- rprice

This is something I have been trying to articulate since the first BarCamp Orlando almost 4 years ago. The whole idea behind FooCamp and its bastard offspring BarCamp was to use Open Space Technology to create order in chaos. Our events have had both order and chaos, but the order is not ordered toward much of anything productive. Some people have started new events to achieve this: I think our BarCamp can be better on its own, but these other purposeful events wouldn't be bad either.

I have set up an EtherPad site (mentioned in the slideshow above) called - it's essentially a real-time editable wiki - think Google Wave, except it works, or Google Wave without all the crap.

My follow-up pad for the "Kill BarCamp, Embrace OpenSpace" presentation is here: it's sort of like the "required reading" for attendees, after I introduce Open Space at a high level. I don't really want to (or have time to) teach Open Space Technology, I just want us to use it, and set some goals for our event. Above all I want us to set goals, but I believe the tools will help us move the day along.


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Great Urban ReThink write-up by Seth Kubersky

Thu, 03/03/2011 - 06:21 -- rprice

I just got a phone call from my brother Stefan who asked me if I had read the Orlando Weekly - it turns out I was mentioned in a Live Active Cultures column by their passionate arts contributor Seth Kubersky. Random trivia: I actually ended up supplying one of the  bottle s of wine referenced in the article. Just trying to do my part!

I also want to correct one thing: I believe Seth meant to say "opened" at the end of this line:

I've known Ryan Price as a vocal evangelist for coworking and community networking (along with Drupal programming) since before CoLab Orlando closed.

My favorite line by far is actually a quote from our programming director Katie Ball:

Ultimately, Urban ReThink is intended to have what Ball calls a "mullet" operational model: business by day, party by night.

Today was actually a "party by morning" with the Orlando, Inc. Entrepreneur Hub event, featuring our landlord Craig Ustler. We have great events during the day sometimes as well.

Thanks again to Seth, and thanks to my brother for reminding me to blog about this.


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Giving Away the Keys to the Emerald City

Thu, 02/10/2011 - 08:59 -- rprice

In a recent post, I tried to lay out some sketchy ideas about how a visionary writer could create a universe, tell some stories about it, and then proceed to give away said universe, so that others may use it for their own personal gain, thereby increasing the value, and hopefully encouraging others to do the same. With any luck, we could apply some licensing to anything based on this universe that does not penalize people who write fan fiction or derivative works, while still granting some protection to authors - one must eat, after all.

Read My Original Post:Time, Talent, and Vision – the Iron Triangle of Open Source

Just today, I realized one popular example of this model at work... sort of.

Exhibit A: Wicked
In 1900, L. Frank Baum published The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Despite the fact that a blockbuster motion picture based on this story and it's universe was released in 1939, the book was released to the public domain in 1956. I believe this had a lot to do with a far less litigious motion picture industry in the 40s and 50s.

Fast-forward to 1995 when Gregory Maguire wrote Wicked, which has spawned a writing career for the author, as well as the smash-hit Broadway musical. You can bet your ass that story won't be released to the public domain.

In the Wikipedia article about Wicked, there is a line: "the two series are set in similar and internally consistent but distinctly separate visions of Oz". I disagree. I always thought it was a matter of perspective. Showing more than one perspective of a chain of events is a great storytelling tool.

Exhibit B: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Perhaps inspired by the rollicking success of Wicked, and the rising pupularity of Zombies in popular culture (step aside, Pirates and Ninjas), some enterprising chap named Seth Grahame-Smith said "I can make Jane Austen more interesting with Zombies!"

The wikipedia page leads us to believe that the title was actually inspired by someone trying to figure out which classic books were ripe for mashing up. Jane Austen is credited as a co-author of the book, as much of the text is actually pulled from the original.

However, is it also public domain? I don't think so, but I am prepared to be corrected.

Both of these authors have gone on to publish sequels to these books, sell the movie rights, TV series deals, and so on. Is that right? Just because something was written a few years later, does that make it any different than me doing it tomorrow?

I'm going to give this idea a name, just so I can stop dancing around it: Collaborative Universes. Whether the collaboration is welcome or not, and commercial or not, is going to vary based on the situation, but I really want to see what happens when the original author is still alive and incorporates material from the "fan fiction" into his or her own original work.

Example: "I'm the Juggernaut, bitch!" Was referenced in the film version of X-Men as a nod to an Internet Meme of the same name. But we could have so much more than that.

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How to make Fancy Facebook Pages with Custom HTML

Wed, 02/09/2011 - 17:22 -- rprice

Adding custom HTML markup to your Facebook Fan Pages couldn't be easier. Facebook has made an Application called Static FBML that does the heavy lifting. This short video shows you where to click to make it all work for you.

In order to get the most of your new custom tab, you can set it as the default landing page for "Everyone Else", or anyone who is not assigned as an Administrator to your page. The Wall will still be accessible, but behind your default tab.

If you ask me, this custom app, combined with the ability for you to give multiple users the ability to make posts to the page, is the number one reason to use Pages instead of regular user accounts.

On top of that, there are very few things you can't do with pages that you can do with user accounts - besides, the people who become your fans don't really want to let you in to the inner sanctum of their lives, they just want to get updates from your organization or other brand.

Some links mentioned in this video:


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Urban ReThink (with photo) in Orlando Business Journal

Sat, 02/05/2011 - 05:25 -- rprice

A few weeks ago, I was visiting Cocoa Village, working out of the Ossorio coffee shop with Mike, when I got a phone call from Orlando Business Journal reporter Anjali Fluker. She asked me several questions about Coworking and what I do working out of home, coffee shops and other spaces. I told her some of the benefits of coworking, and a bit about the Urban ReThink project.

Later, I got a call from an OBJ photographer, who met me down at the space last week and snapped a few photos, including one of myself and Anna McCambridge working on laptops.
Ryan Price
I haven't had a photo published in the paper since I was 5 years old. I'm pretty stoked.

Yesterday, this week's OBJ was released, and I read the story - Cool collaboration eats up empty spaces - it starts out by mentioning that three local buildings are using their empty space for Coworking and things that smell like coworking. The story is even placed in the Commercial Real Estate category on the OBJ website. Thankfully, it does mention the Urban Think! Foundation. I think the story also lost something in the translation from the printed page to the website, as far as the layouts and visuals are concerned. I am waiting to see it in print. EDIT: It really does help. It was worth finding a copy, at least for me.

Here's my paragraph:

“Big industries for creative people are growing,” said Ryan Price, 28, an Orlando independent consultant/trainer for website design, social media and marketing. Although he works from home, Price said there are times he needs more company than just his cat, or an environment more conducive to brainstorming than a coffee shop. “We need a great place to work — and these types of spaces provide that.”

For some reason it only mentions Urban ReThink's $300 membership, which is a really tiny part of what we do. It does mention that we will be holding events there, and there is a quote from Craig about "younger creative types don’t like a typical 9-to-5 job".

I'm glad John Hussey's quote includes the fact that his decision to try Coworking came from the tech companies in his building - I always think that is a great part of their story. I'm also really interested to see what Florida Theatrical Association has done over at the Sanctuary. There are currently no performance spaces in Thornton Park - this is really something the neighborhood needs to be considered a first-class neighborhood of Orlando.

When you step back and look at the article, you can tell Anjali is trying to capture something about the larger trend - how John Hussey was able to sell units, how local companies are seeking collaboration, how these spaces are improving the quality of life in downtown.

I wonder how people are reacting to the story - the comments on the OBJ site have exactly one respondent - who is pretty much a spammer. I guess we'll find out as a new wave of phone calls, emails and walk-ins accost us in the weeks to follow. I know the Sentinel Article really helped get some people in the door - the great sandwiches at Virgin Olive don't hurt either.

For the whole story, you may want to check out the OBJ. They do a great service here in Orlando, and this story certainly helps.


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Why I don't own an iPad

Sat, 02/05/2011 - 04:18 -- rprice

Here are a few reasons:

  • You still have no way of installing non-app-store apps, even 4 years later.
  • Only now have we been able to get the mobile data on more than one cell phone provider, which is a default feature in other countries.
  • Apple has been booting GPL apps (or the developers have been removing themselves) from the app store.
  • The Maker Bill of Rights: If you can't open it, you don't own it
  • I can't put my iTunes / iBooks content on other devices, unless they came from Apple, running Apple software.
  • The iPad is designed to be used by exactly one person. Do they expect every member of a family or each employee to have his or her own?
  • ...and many many more. Including one new wrinkle:

Apple responds: we want a cut of Amazon, Sony e-book sales by Jacqui Cheng:

Apple doesn't allow apps to sell content to users unless that content passes through the official Apple ecosystem, where Apple gets a 30 percent cut.

If an app lets users access content that they purchased via Amazon's website, for example, then that same app must also let users buy the same book via Apple's own in-app purchase system. If the app developer doesn't want to use Apple's in-app purchases to sell content, then the app can't access content purchased elsewhere either.

On the one hand, making things easier for users, I can see how you would arrive at this decision. On the other hand, taking a binary approach to it - you're either in or out - is what really boils my beans.

Is there anything better out there? I really haven't tried non-Apple tablets, but this is one very good reason.

When recommending a touch screen solution to a local arts organization, I urged them to get a touch screen PC and develop a website that is optimized for touch instead of getting an iPad,. It ended up being cheaper and easier to develop, including easier for them to lock down, so patrons couldn't use the other apps in their lobby. Also, if they decide they would rather use different software, say Ubuntu instead of Windows, they have that choice, and they should still be able to get support from the hardware vendor.

Are they missing a lot of other iPad stuff? Yes. However, this machine was intended for a single purpose. The iPad is not a one-trick pony, and it comes with a lot of baggage. See above.


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My Urban ReThink Story

Tue, 02/01/2011 - 08:27 -- rprice

One year ago, I was approached by Julia Young, the President of a local nonprofit organization called the Urban Think! Foundation. She was charged with transforming a soon-to-be out of business local bookstore into a Coworking space, event space, and a program to support local creatives. There were hazy thoughts about having a cafe, putting in a loft, and creating a versatile space. She found me because of my numerous blogs posts about Coworking, and my involvement in the local community.

Urban ReThink

I brought in a good friend of mine, Darren McDaniel, who had experience working at a similar space here in Orlando that was eventually strangled by bureaucracy. He had a business plan, several years of experience, and a PhD thesis paper about creating structure for freelancers and other creatives. Darren would be tapped as the Founding Director of the project, code named Urban ReThink.

We put out a survey to the old mailing list from the bookstore, and as many other communities as we could get in touch with. This concept is a bit bigger than Coworking space alone, but it shares values and lots of the superficial things many spaces have. To say this is ambitious would be an understatement. We do have some great things going for us.

The landlord is one of the original founders of the old bookstore, and he had other offers for the space - this is a passion project for him. A few months into this adventure, we found out he will be developing an area of downtown Orlando called the Creative Village - Craig and the rest of the nonprofit board are really committed to making our city better, and they have been invaluable throughout this process. From the big things like the space itself and the renovation, to smaller things like the PR and marketing strategy, and making connections with other organizations and businesses.

Starting in November, we started hosting events - film screenings, a book signing, an interactive art installation, and several holiday parties. These were a great learning experience, as our space is at street level, and on a major walking path to the rest of Downtown Orlando - the weekends are very colorful here.

On January 17th, our cafe partner opened their doors to a torrential downpour - but lunch time still brought in about a dozen people, eager to see their new neighbors. Last week, some furniture was delivered - donated from a local interior design shop - and we invited a few potential community members to start working here. Today was the final straw as the cable company connected the internet and we fired up our wi-fi - no more stealing from the neighbors!

We were lucky enough to be featured in the local daily newspaper a few weeks ago, and now I am told a business journal article related to independent workers will be landing this week - they even took my picture for it.

We still have so far to go - I'm pretty sure we're doing it backwards - the "if you build it, they will come" plan. I am feverishly trying to finish the website (just got the design on Friday) so I can stop answering all my questions via Facebook, Twitter and Email. At the same time, we know we have lots of interest - people wanting to (and already are) holding meetings here, people ready to sign up for memberships, mentors ready to give sage wisdom, and many and more things ready to happen.

In 2 weeks we'll have the start of our grand opening festivities, and who knows what will happen from there?

Website (coming soon):


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Time, Talent, and Vision - the Iron Triangle of Open Source

Mon, 01/31/2011 - 17:56 -- rprice

I've been thinking a lot lately about projects that were created with the idea of collaboration introduced early in the lifecycle (that is in comparison to when it was released to the public), or that were intended to be collaborative from the beginning. Namely, I've been trying to find a good way to start one, or become involved with one, for the better part of 5 years.

My original idea was to create a web video series with a choose-your-own-adventure storyline, and only make one or two of the possible branches from each decision point, letting others fill in to the beginning, middle or end at any of the endpoints. Then others would be able to fill in between the contributors endpoints, and so on. For the longest time, the question was "What if someone decides to sell the product?" If I made it completely wide open, someone else could come along, put a price tag on the world, and make a boatload of money.

On the other hand, this assumes a whole lot of things:

  1. That the world I and my community created was any good.
  2. That the story this fictional capitalizer created is any good.
  3. That the capitalizer has more time than everyone else involved.
  4. That the capitalizer has more spare talent than everyone else.

The talent by itself is not that useful - I have a decent amount of computer programming talent that gets wasted while I'm on the phone, that doesn't mean I make money on merit alone. Most markets require someone to put the time into a project to be successful. The interesting thing in this scenario is that there are potentially dozens / hundreds of creative teams all putting time into the same universe.

The biggest and most important is this - is the idea any good? Would I pay for the end product, or sit through advertising to watch it? This has a little to do with the talent (production value, acting ability) of the capitalizer and his team, but also a lot to do with the vision.

This is the new "Iron Triangle" Eric Marden and I theorized about in our latest episode of Our Yellow House.

Listen to OYH #2


Sidebar: Drupal App Store

In the past few weeks, a theoretical philosophical battle has been raging in the Drupal community, with everyone in the community on the same side of the "thought experiment" posed by Robert Douglass: should Drupal have an app store?

Here is one of the quotes most relevant to this blog post, left by "patcon" on Earl Miles' blog:

"perhaps if I'd been allowed to throw a bit of money at the community, I wouldn't have felt as compelled to contribute back time and know-how... Maybe offering a route for payment would strain a much greater resource.

So what I'm suggesting is that maybe freeloader guilt is the real Drupal currency"

In this case, because traditional media companies have collected a few dollars from us, they expect us to want to treat media as a broadcast versus a conversation. I think that by choosing when and where to make the cash flow, the conversation can happen, but a few people can still make money.

With the right Creative Commons license, I don't believe the capitalizers would be able to reproduce someone else's script wholesale and call it his or her own. This means that just because a good script existed, and the capitalizers had the time and talent to pull it off, that the script writer would get left out in the cold. I think the license would need to have a non-commercial clause to it, so the capitalizer would need to gain permission from any script author he or she wanted to crib from. This way, fan fiction (this whole idea is a glorified fan fiction) would thrive, while commercial interest would require original work or the permission of a fan author. However, a fan author would still be able to borrow from and build upon a commercial work. I don't think the wholesale cribbing would apply in the other direction though.

Think Jack Black and Mos Def in Be Kind Rewind - in the re-interpretation of classic films, some things were gained and lost. Only when you decide to remake a film shot for shot, line for line are you truly stealing. In the days of the Jazz greats and crooners (what we now would call Easy Listening), covering someone else's song was paying homage to it. The same could be said of theatre in the pre-copyright era. Why should a play that is put on for free have to ask permission from the author? When does it stop being art, and start being a slimy Intellectual Property business?

Parody is covered, but not cover songs. That means when you take a hard core rap song and do a lounge cover, no matter how funny it is, it's not a parody. Who decided that? Of course it's a parody, it's just that the lyrics are done straight.

If you've ever seen someone play Movieoke, you'll know that you don't have to change much about the delivery of some classic scenes to change the entertainment from serious to funny. Isn't that enough?

There are lots of questions here, and few hard-and-fast answers. My thoughts about creating a universe (think Marvel Universe, Star Trek Universe, Roger Rabbit Universe, Cirque du Soleil Universe) and giving it to the world to play in has been on my mind for years, and I'll keep thinking about it until I think the time is right.

I've got a specific project in mind to test this out, but I am not the owner of said universe; which (if you ask me) is the right place to start.

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