Commanding Chaos for Coworking, Open Source and Creative Communities

Crowdsourcing a Name

Wed, 08/25/2010 - 02:52 -- rprice

Since the beginning of the year, I've been involved with a project to create a community center in the Thornton Park neighborhood of downtown Orlando. The space will be run by a non-profit, the Urban Think! Foundation, whose current project, Page15, is a beacon of great service and creative inspiration to the city's youth. Now, the focus turns to the working creatives of the city and their needs - Organization, Validation and Integration (if you ask my buddy Darren McDaniel, who wrote a PhD paper on this subject).

The most visible way the Foundation will be providing for the community is by opening a space to work, learn, share and network in the heart of the city, in the former Urban Think! Bookstore. A few months ago we put out a survey trying to understand who is in our community, what they're working on, what they need, and how they may be interested in working together to provide for our community.

To that end, we are asking for the community's input on one of the very most visible parts of our project, the name. You can go to our site and vote on these names. I have copied the text here for convenience and posterity's sake.

We came up with (way more than) 5 names, and one person was assigned to write a sentence or two to give the name some weight, backstory, what-have-you. Here they are:

(or sharehouse)

Inspiration statement:
The single word that best reflects the spirit, activities, diversity, and potential of the space is share. Beyond sharing ideas, workspace, talents, and experiences, share speaks to the collaborative mission ahead. While also German for house, our haus is homage to the kindred spirit of the Bauhaus movement and its hallmark of uniting art, craft, and technology to improve society. Sharehaus. Organic, distinctive, and inviting. A new term for a new horizon.

Urban Rethink!

Inspiration statement:
A profound and transformative look at the role of a space, once a bookstore, in the fabric of a neighborhood, a metro area, a community of patrons, and the lives of creative individuals. Always reinventing ourselves, rebuilding the community, redoubling our efforts, and rewarding our patrons. The name has been used for the last 6 months to collect support for the as-yet-unnamed space.

Urban Think!
(or Urban Think! _____ (third environment defining word to be determined))

Inspiration statement:
If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it! The Urban Think name has long been synonymous with creativity in an urban neighborhood and although books won’t be the focus of the new space, creativity will always have a home here. The name pays homage to the original bookstore as well as the Urban Think! Foundation, which will continue to operate the space.

(or livelihood)

Inspiration statement:
This concept defines a place where creative professionals, enthusiasts, and beyond do more than exist or congregate – they thrive. Lively expresses the energy, vibrancy, vitality, and diversity intrinsic to creativity. Hood stems from our location inside one of Orlando’s most recognizable urban neighborhoods: Thornton Park. Lively+hood provides sustenance and a means by which creatives can grow, evolve, expand, and thrive.

Think! Collective

Inspiration statement:
The first word Think! pays homage to the former tenant of the space, the Urban Think! Bookstore, and the positive impact it made on the community of Thornton Park. The word Collective expresses the new chapter of this community staple and also defines the space as a place where creative individuals, as well as individuals who support creativity, can gather and exchange the same belief that community inspires creativity and vice versa.

We're asking people to rate these names, 5 being best. Please visit our site and give each a rating. I really can't wait to show you what is planned, and to get you involved in what we're building, not just on a local scale. Keep believing!


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Happy Coworking Day

Mon, 08/09/2010 - 03:15 -- rprice

#coworkingday - On the global Coworking mailing list, someone pointed out that today, August 9, 2010 is the 5th anniversary of the start of the Coworking movement. Brad Neuberg repurposed the word from a man who was trying to create a system for telecommuters, at a space called the Spiral Muse. Shortly thereafter, the Hat Factory became known as the Garden of Eden for Coworking. Citizen Space started to spread the idea, among others, and I would say Independents Hall and New Work City might be the most "visible" spaces - at least from where I'm sitting.

I heard about Coworking from a friend of mine, Alex Rudloff, about 4 years ago - we met online because he had an avatar (user picture) showing my college's logo - he was working for AOL/Netscape Propellor at the time. Alex and myself started an event which we called "Coworking Fridays", essentially a Jelly, in order to build support for a possible coworking space in downtown Orlando. Now that group meets for Coworking Tuesdays at Stardust. A few years later, a commercial real estate landlord named John Hussey created CoLab Orlando, and we had our first space.

I have written several posts in other venues, and on this blog, about why I decided to get involved in the movement (I was interested in creating an "open computer lab" as early as 2003), and why working together is better than working alone (inspiration, collaboration, validation, community, integration). Tara Hunt asked everyone to write a blog post or tweet about these following subjects:

  1. how you first heard about the movement
  2. why you decided to get involved
  3. when your space opened up or you started working out of a coworking space
  4. why coworking is better than working alone (or in another situation, like a coffee shop)
  5. Tag your tweets #coworkingday at the end of posts about coworking

What gets you excited about Coworking? In Orlando, or elsewhere?

P.S. Don't hyphenate that word.


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Inspiration comes from our Environment

Wed, 07/28/2010 - 09:51 -- rprice

In my past few years trying to create community, I have had to make a lot of decisions, whether conscious or not, about my environment. By environment I mean not only the room I'm sitting in, or the street I'm on, or the neighborhood, or even just the state of the US. I'm also talking about the people around me, individual beings, their companies, organizations, movements and activities. Then there are the memes, which seem to travel on air currents, over IP tubes, or via word of mouth at varying speeds. All of these things and so many more are part of my environment, and I can choose to give those things importance by spending my time and attention on them.

I have spent considerable time and attention on several podcasts in the past, including one I conducted for Florida Creatives, and some I have helped friends produce. In this way, along with my co-hosts and guests, I am able to become an environmental factor for others.

This is all a very long way of introducing a new podcast, whose name is derived from the building where I spend most of my waking (and sleeping) hours. My home is near downtown Orlando, and it is a distinctive Yellow color. Therefore, I would like to introduce the Our Yellow House podcast. (please excuse my plain-looking site)

The first episode features a great friend of mine, Eric Marden. It was recorded a couple of weeks ago, but I'd say few people outside of Twitter have seen it yet. I have included the player here for your enjoyment:

Download Eric Marden MP3
Download Eric Marden OGG

Why a new show? I thought about recycling old show titles, and I listened to several episodes from my past audio adventures, searching for the passion that brought me to create the first fleet of shows back in 2006 and 2007. I decided the driving force was a sense of curiosity and wonder, and that discovery needed fewer boundaries. Several of my past shows seemed to be "about" something. One show was even (poorly) titled Art::Meta, before I re-named it Florida Creatives. Therefore, the new goal is less agenda, more talk. More free association, more passion, etc.

It's certainly not "a show about nothing", and I am starting to get the idea that we will end up following breadcrumbs from show to show. In this first show, we touched on Temporary Autonomous Zones, the GPL, Free Agency, Coworking, and a few other topics that deserve some more exploration. I certainly believe I will be inviting all kinds of people to the show. If you're interested, drop me a line. We'll chat. While you're at it, subscribe via RSS, iTunes or on Miro Guide to follow me.


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What makes a Coworking space great?

Wed, 06/16/2010 - 04:07 -- rprice

Today I saw a very happy post by CoLab Orlando for getting mentioned on a blog for entrepreneurs. The blog had named Orlando a top city to start a company, and this was a follow-up list of Coworking movements in those top cities. Orlando squeaked by with a grand total of one space describing their offering as coworking.

From 53 Coworking Centers in the Top Cities for Entrepreneurs:

Of course while bootstrapping a business every entrepreneur is looking for ways to keep what little money they do have but build an empire at the same time. Coworking is a relatively new option for business owners when it comes to getting office space.

If you don’t already know coworking centers are places that allow you to rent a desk, office, or simply come to hangout in an open room with other business owners doing the same thing. The centers will offer wifi, coffee, comfortable furniture, printing and of course an innovative setting. You have to signup for one of their packages that could range from $10 for a day pass to a few hundred dollars to rent your own desk for the month and a variety of options in between.

Whatever you do it becomes a cheaper and often more comfortable and innovative setting then renting your own private office space.

Very nice, I can save some money. I was glad to see the list of spaces so long - 53 spaces in 10 cities - but I was not very happy at their coworking sales pitch.

Edit: Plus there is a picture of a bunch of folks at a Jelly working in someone's living room (I assume JellyNYC). That's fine. There was even a token female in the picture. I was not too sure this screamed "entrepreneurship".

My reply:

Your description of Coworking is abysmal. It does not lend any help to differentiating Coworking from a shared desk, pay-as-you-go office environment.

One of the most important things about a great coworking space is the safe atmosphere it creates for collaboration and mentoring.

At a coffee shop, I can't turn to the person next to me and ask their opinion on something, or brainstorm an idea for my project - they would look at me funny.

At many shared desk environments, it's dog-eat-dog, and if two people are in the same business, they'd be in direct competition, and likely stealing clients from each other.

Since the coworking space is more collegial, you can share that project with your potential competition, or hand it to him when you get to busy, and he might be inclined to hand the next one to you.

Also, the vibe of a great coworking space is hard to match, even at most places that use the term "Co-Working" somewhere in their sales pitch. The collected energy, passion, and raw talent is often dripping from the walls. There are many spaces where people are not just getting started, they're putting down roots.

Since I'm involved in creating a space with Coworking elements right now, I feel like I am a bit more touchy about this subject than otherwise.

P.S. If you haven't taken the Urban Re-Think Survey yet, I'd love it if you did. It would really help us out.


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Orlando Arts Scene: Trolling on Yelp

Sat, 06/12/2010 - 04:39 -- rprice

I've been spending the morning setting up my new EVO and checking out the Android Market applications. However, this post is not a review of my new HTC phone. While I was adding the Yelp app I decided to head over to and look at what's been going on. I saw this discussion headline:

Orlando Art Scene 1 hour ago

...and I just had to read it and leave my two cents.

There was a comment by Colleen B, the local community manager for Yelp. Then there was a comment by Neon F, whom I know to be Neon Forest, a new art gallery opening up down the street from me next week.

At the end of Neon's post, there was this line:

Orlando Art Fair 2011, who's on board? I'll help get it organized...let's see who's really motivated

Ouch. One of my pet peeves is people who say "hey, let's start something huge and complicated!" It's one reason why I tread lightly before agreeing to work with a startup company, and why many of the emails I'm sent about building some crazy website go into the Archive bin pretty quickly.

Then I started Trolling. I probably was too extreme in my commenting, but I tried to add some positive stuff in there too:

Please don't start any more big festival events, Dustin. ( I assume you're Dustin, anyway )

I think there are enough nascent efforts that just need some support and people to shout about them in bullhorns.

Before I go on, I want to say I'm very glad you're opening a gallery in this neighborhood. The Orange/Michigan/SoDo/Conway area really needs some more culture and nightlife.

I think one problem our scene has is that people decide to start something new without really taking the time to become involved with all the other events that are out there.

The problem with starting YET ANOTHER new thing is that in order for these large events to be successful, they require more than one person to be involved. A micro-scene. At this point, so many people have started their own scenes, they are all spread too thin.

The only way to make sure people aren't spread too thin, without any of these events dying off, is to add new people into the system. One great way to get new people involved is by having events that are so large and well-established that the word of mouth brings in all kinds of new people, particularly the haters and out-of-towners Colleen mentioned in her original post.

::phew:: Sorry about that. I think you hit on a sore spot.

I'm really looking forward to coming to your gallery. I'll be out of town for the opening, but I'm not far away. I am pretty close by.

Too harsh?

I would just really like if there were fewer people saying "I'm starting" or "I just started" or "can you help me with"; I'd rather hear "we've been doing" or "can you give us some help with?".

It's not to say I've never wanted to start something new, or big, or complicated, or naive, but I just hope my comments can make more than a few people pause and think about exactly what it is they're committing to.


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Re-Thinking Urban Think, Fill out this Survey

Tue, 06/08/2010 - 09:48 -- rprice

In the past few months, Downtown Orlando and Thornton Park lost a great gem - the one independent bookstore within miles of town. The Urban Think! Bookstore was a community-minded, education-focused, welcoming, original, and fun place to be. The many iterations of the store over the years, including the kids bookstore, the cafe, and even local vendors selling baked goods, handmade items, and other local goodies made it an exemplary space for other local businesses to emulate.

Urban Re-Think

In March, Urban Think! closed its doors after 8 years. A few years ago, their education and children's programs spawned the Urban Think! Foundation and Page 15, their first project. Now a new project is beginning, dubbed Urban Re-Think for now. I have been involved with several preliminary meetings with Julia young, the executive director of Page 15, and Darren McDaniel, the former Programming Director for the Downtown Media Arts Center. There are many other people involved, such as the Urban Think! Foundation's Board of Directors, and Katie Ball, local pot-stirrer, and star of public radio. I'm sure the list will grow beyond blog-post length before long.

Right now, we have reached a point where we want to reach out to you, the Orlando community, and find out what you'd like to get out of a community center in the heart of Downtown. There are lots of benefits to the location and the involvement of the people who have been brought in so far, and it can only get better.

For myself, I'm looking to gain a place to work, hold meetings, events, provide training, meet my creative peers and role-models, and continue to support the community in any way I can. If we had a clubhouse, a place where we could feel safe, and where we had control, I think we could build something really amazing.

I've got all kinds of fun ideas, but before this becomes Ryan's own personal Urban Think!, I'd like to point you to our survey. Please check it out, and take a few minutes to tell us about you, your creative pursuits, and how this community center might help you reach your goals, and take away a few of the road blocks we all face.

Take the Survey


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TED: How great leaders inspire action

Thu, 05/20/2010 - 11:09 -- rprice

In his talk, Simon covers a concept about Starting with Why? - and he mentions "Crossing the Chasm", which is something that comes up often in the Drupal community. We say we can cross the chasm with training, or documentation, and I think those are good things to dial up. Ultimately, the members of the Drupal community have the "why" down, it's just a matter of showing the rest of the world.

Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action

TEDxPuget Sound, Sep 2009
More about Simon Sinek


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How to save Local Bookstores and your App

Mon, 05/17/2010 - 02:17 -- rprice

Back at BarCampOrlando this year, I gave a (mostly finished) version of this presentation, about the fall of the local bookstore, and a strategy for saving such establishments. As BarCamp is filled with programmers, I then tried to give them a relevant example: how to make your app better. (read: website, product, video, etc.) My argument is to focus on storytelling, and think like a Boutique. Credit goes to Tara Hunt for the idea of boutique stores. This is also related to a post about bookstores on this blog.

Some posts about this year's BlogOrlando:

[caption id="attachment_893" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="BarCampOrlando 2010 by JRNoded"]BarCampOrlando 2010 by JRNoded[/caption]
Thanks to Jim, Hewie, and all the other photographers for all the great pictures.


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New Media Orlando Meetup

Wed, 05/12/2010 - 01:53 -- rprice

Had a great meetup last night. I've left some audio notes here.

Download New Media Producers Meetup


Length: 3:13

The original meetup post and facebook event are around, but I took some great notes during the New Media Producers meetup using iEtherPad.

Also, I planned to show a YouTube video I recorded with a public media veteran and documentary filmmaker from St. Paul, MN, Barry Madore. However, it was way too noisy in Stardust. I like the idea of priming people's brains with a short talk or story, but you'll just have to check it out here:

Barry on the Tube


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