Freelancing Gods 2015

21 Jun 2009

Link: All for Good

"All for Good helps you find and share ways to do good." US-only, though.

13 Dec 2008

Link: Open Space Technology - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"a method to run meetings of groups of any size."

17 Sep 2008

Three Twitter Tips

Now, I’ve been known to rail against people saying “This is the right way to use Twitter” – but there’s a couple things that I’ve started doing over the last few months that I think are worth sharing. I’m sure the expert Twitterers amongst you won’t find this new, and it really is only a couple of tips – so please suggest others in the comments – but perhaps some will find it helpful.

So, first up: If you’re following a lot of people (say, more than a couple of dozen), I recommend you don’t try to read every tweet everyone says. You’ll go crazy from the information overload. Don’t trawl back through the pages of tweets you missed while sleeping – just live in the moment.

Secondly, keep your eye on the Replies tab. This tracks every tweet addressed to you by others – whether or not they’re following you or you’re following them. That in itself is useful, but what makes this extra-special is the RSS feed for that page. This makes it super-easy for keeping track of messages, with one caveat: you need a feed reader that supports authentication (such as NetNewsWire).

The last tip I have also ties into RSS – the feeds for results from Twitter’s search. I use this to track messages about me (so I do get some duplicates with the Replies feed, but I also see all tweets that mention me but aren’t addressed to me), as well as a few other keyword searches – in particular, Rails Camp and Thinking Sphinx. The latter not only shows me the occasional tweet of people liking my plugin, but also gives me the opportunity to contact those with issues or complaints, see if I can help in some way.

See, told you I didn’t have too much to say.

So, how do you use Twitter? And what tips can you share?

14 Jul 2008

Link: Evil Willow Made Me Do It: Pancake Tuesday should be a national holiday

"I see people gathered around the symbol of the pancake, coming together in a holiday of peace and love and lemon and sugar. Stuff xmas, pancake tuesday should be the day of days in my opinion." (Bias: I am the friend in the PS)

08 Jun 2008

The End of Charity

As I’m travelling, I’m reading more – so that means it’s time for another impromptu book-review/idea-sharing post.

The book in question this time around is Nic Frances’ ominously titled The End of Charity. The points of the book aren’t that scary though – I find them to be pretty spot-on with what’s needed.

A quick overview:

  • Society’s siloed approach isn’t working: Leaving businesses to focus on making money, and charities to making the world better isn’t really getting anywhere.
  • Value needs to represent more than financial worth: Goods and services need to be given more accurate values which incorporate social and environmental worth.
  • Businesses need to incorporate social and environmental mindsets into their operations: Remove the silos. Don’t leave the ‘doing good’ to a separate organisation (examples: Google Inc and, Microsoft and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, McDonalds and Ronald McDonald House Charities).
  • The market will make it all work: Okay, that’s a little simplistic, but the market does a decent job at helping the best value goods and services come to the fore.

Now the book itself is far more detailed – Frances draws a lot from his own experiences, both in charities and in socially-minded businesses, so there’s no end of real world examples. It’s also extremely easy to digest, so I highly recommend reading it, even if you don’t have much of a business-focused mind.

Granted, some of these ideas can take some getting used to, especially on the left side of politics where broad strokes paint businesses (particularly corporations) as Bad, and charities and other non-profits as Good. A lot of what’s discussed in this book isn’t particularly new to me – I was introduced to the concepts while working at MBO (now Ergo Consulting) (which, perhaps not so surprisingly, had an awesome culture non unlike what Frances outlines for his own Cool nrg). I remember bristling at the idea put forward by our then CEO Paul Steele (who is currently COO at World Vision Australia) that business is the best way to enact social improvement.

A few years have passed since then, though, and I’ve come around to agreeing that the combined approach is far more likely to succeed than the old, siloed way.

Now, this hasn’t led to any dramatic chances in my freelancing lifestyle – but it’s got my brain ticking away, so you’ll just have to wait and see what comes of it. That said, what do you you think about all this? Do you agree? Disagree? Do you have some suggestions on how to make the organisation you work for take a more holistic approach?

27 Mar 2008

Link: disambiguity - » Ambient Intimacy

"It helps us get to know people who would otherwise be just acquaintances. It makes us feel closer to people we care for but in whose lives we’re not able to participate as closely as we’d like."

08 Feb 2008

Infotopia: A Vague Review

(Wasn’t really happy with the first version of this post, so writing it again from scratch. If you didn’t catch my initial attempt, don’t stress, you’re not missing much.)

A while ago – sometime in 2006 – I picked up a copy of a book called Infotopia, by Cass Sunstein. I know I wasn’t really familiar with him at the time – nor am I now – but I think I read positive reviews about iton either Lawrence Lessig’s blog, or the O’Reilly Radar (or possibly both). Once I got it, fearing it was a little dry, it sat on my bookshelf collecting dust. Doesn’t help that I’m not nearly a prolific reader as I once was.

Holidays, however, usually give me the chance to power through some books, and even while I was busy travelling through the south island of New Zealand, being filled with awe at every turn, I managed to devour a few tomes, and Infotopia was one of them.

Now, it’s not the most intersting of topics – how to aggregate a group’s knowledge to achieve the best possible results, and avoid (as much as possible) the common pitfalls along the way – but it’s pretty damn important. I found it particularly relevant with regards to my efforts leading the committee for Nullus Anxietas, and I know some of my friends will find it useful as well (Steve in particular). It’s also worth bearing in mind within the context of the Ruby and general open-source communiies.

The main value in the book, for me, was the clear descriptions of the different issues groups can face. There’s a lot of them, but here’s a few I want to share.

Group Polarisation

“When like-minded people cluster, they often aggravate their biases, spreading falsehoods.”

Perhaps you’re familiar with the idea of cocoons or echo chambers – surrounding yourself with similar perspectives, which then limits the growth of your own views. It can be seen all the time in politics, and online as wel (the hype around Web 2.0 is one example that seems to get mentioned now and then).

An extension of this is group polarisation, where the consensus in a bunch of people can be driven to a more extreme viewpoint. Sunstein regularly quotes a study on this, but even without that, it makes sense – if everyone’s pushing in one direction, can’t really expect a group to become more moderate.

Social Pressures

Generally, if people feel their views are not important – in the context of the group (perhaps beause they’re a minority, or they’re in the presence of a known expert), or in a larger scale – they’re much less likely to share what information they have. To combat this, Sunstein recommends emphasising the equality of all group members, to minimise social status as much as possible. I’d like to think I’m not too bad at this (due largely to the influence of a former employer, MBO (now Ergo Consulting)) but I’ll leave judgement up to others.

People may also hold back fom sharing as they don’t want to upset the group dynamic by disagreeing with what may be the majority view. An answer Sunstein has for this is to encourage the view that a team player is one who focuses on the best outcome possible for the team, not on team harmony.

Worth Reading?

While the book is useful and informative, it is a little dry – but that’s to be expected really, considering the topics covered. I also feel it’s perhaps a bit long – I think it could lose a third of the size and still be ust as effective – and the focus is more on the problems than the solutions (although Sunstein makes it reasonably clear that’s not the goal of the book).

That said, if you manage groups of people in some shape or form, it’s definitely worth getting your hands on a copy.

24 Jan 2008

Link: Global Nerdy | How to Work the Room

"Be more of a host and less of a guest. Make introductions and make people more comfortable."

15 Jan 2008

Link: With friends like these ... Tom Hodgkinson on the politics of the people behind Facebook | Technology | The Guardian

Sounds a bit conspiracy-ish, but still, just another reason or two to steer clear of facebook.

12 Nov 2007

Link: The Power of Charity

26 Oct 2007

Link: MicroPlace, an eBay Company: Make an investment, help relieve global poverty.

"Your investment dollars are used to provide loans to the working poor."

25 Feb 2007

Link: Pulse Laser » Blog Archive » 3C products


23 Feb 2007

Link: YouTube - Web 2.0 ... The Machine is Us/ing Us

07 Dec 2006

Link: Werewolf

10 Dec 2004

Link: Wired: Why nerds are unpopular

Interesting article on why nerds aren't popular

01 Nov 2004

Link: LiveJournal 'Six Degrees of Separation'

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About Freelancing Gods

Freelancing Gods is written by , who works on the web as a web developer in Melbourne, Australia, specialising in Ruby on Rails.

In case you're wondering what the likely content here will be about (besides code), keep in mind that Pat is passionate about the internet, music, politics, comedy, bringing people together, and making a difference. And pancakes.

His ego isn't as bad as you may think. Honest.

Here's more than you ever wanted to know.

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