Yep… an unexpectedly moving morning. I arrived in Auckland Airport last night after flying back from France. But this time it was different. I was flying back to NZ to live. I’ve been on the road, away from NZ, and living in many amazing cities including Berlin, Amsterdam, London, Adelaide, San Francisco, Helsinki, Riga, and some others I have probably forgotten. I have also spent a lot of time in Vienna, Zagreb and Dubrovnik, Skopje, New York and Capetown to be able to say I have in some real sense ‘lived there’. Mostly though I have literally lived out of a bag, including many years not so long ago when I had no fixed abode (another way of saying ‘no home’) and was a travelling artist. I even started a consultancy at one point called ‘The Streaming Suitcase’ because I consulted with museums (Tate Modern, Walker, London Science Museum, American Film Institute amongst others) and taught free software, streaming, and how to build your own radio transmitter out of a suitcase. I left NZ in 1996 to do this. 1998 I came to Europe in search of a job, making coffee with no return ticket, and carrying everything I owned – including a Apple Centris with no monitor (it was too big to carry).
22 years ago mate.
In the time of roaming there have been times I have also had multiple ‘homes’. Which also means no home. I had an apartment in San Francisco, one in Berlin and rented a house in NZ at one point. All at once. 3 homes, but no home. Then these last years I had my house on Cabbage Tree Bay Road which I bought 3 years ago and have managed to spend about 6 months total in. At the same time I had the place in San Francisco. 2 homes, but no home.
Today I land back in NZ because I am going to live here again. I am giving up my apartment in San Francisco, cool place it was. Moving out. The stuff still needs to be shipped but I won’t be back to 805 Valencia St to live. I now have one home. 20c Cabbage Tree Bay Rd. One home means having a home. Of course, I will still travel a lot for work and to see friends, but this is where I will come back to.
So last night I landed in NZ. It felt like the dozens and dozens of times I have landed back here. I went to the hotel as my connecting flight to the Hokianga isn’t until today. I got up, had some breakfast. Went outside. Except it felt different. Here I was walking around the rather drab Auckland Airport, but here I was … back. I knew the faces. The light. The sounds. The smell. The accents. I felt like I was back. I’ve never felt that before. I was overwhelmed by the feeling and couldn’t get enough of it.
And just because I’m a sentimental bastard and just because the universe is peculiar, on my way back to the hotel I came across this…
Its a memorial to Jean Batten. First person to fly solo from the UK to NZ in 1936. Can you imagine? Amazing. It reads:
I was destined to be a wanderer
I seemed born to travel
In flying I found speed and freedom
To roam the earth
Crazy kiwis. Glad to be one of them again. I’m crying as I write this.
In the South of France (Biarritz) making a surfboard by hand at Shaper House. It starts with a computer design. I designed a ‘fish’ (type of surfboard shape). The shape gets printed to paper and then taped together to get the curves for the front and back.
Then a ‘blank’ is chosen within which the design can be cut. You cut it out and then shape it using a variety of processes and tricks. All by hand. It has been great fun… 2 more days to go and I’ll have a finished board! photos below..warning, contains rare photos of Adam in the wild…
So… it’s been a bit of a year. I was pretty busy looking back. I think I spent about 9 months on the road. I did some surfing. Bought a fridge. Plus some other stuff… so…. looking back….
The year started with a yet-to-be formed PubSweet community. PubSweet is the underlying ‘open infrastructure’ piece of the puzzle that enables folks to build any kind of publishing workflow on top of it. It is used for books, micropubs, content aggregation, journals… a lot. But at the beginning of this year there was one org building on top of it – Coko. Now, we have 9 publishing organisations building on it and 13 or so platforms in play. All that in one year… can you imagine. It is phenomenal growth. The best thing is the feeling in the community is awesome. As Geoff Builder recently said at a Coko meet “I can’t say enough how amazing it is that you aren’t killing each other”… very true.
This kind of growth and goodwill didn’t happen over night. I’ve been involved in many open source projects where there is no noticeable growth at all over many years. In fact, it was by watching these projects and trying and failing myself a number of times that I learned how to make this work. I had a plan from the start and strategised this growth. There are a few key parts… First… the proposition is transparent. It’s a no bullshit kinda thing. You can’t buy your way in, you can only be part of this community if you play nice. You must be upfront and work in good faith. If not, then we don’t want you. So it’s transparent, we require transparency, but it is required. If you aren’t transparent then see you later.
Another critical piece was to develop processes for consensus. We have a number of workgroups that have helped with this. We also have an RFC process and 3 meetings in person a year where more difficult stuff can be meted out. It works very well. It is all also, by design. You must intentionally design such stuff and I spent a lot of time working through these scenarios in my own head. It takes time because each community has its own character. You want to make sure you have the right resonance with your strategies and sometimes I need to ponder this stuff a lot, let it sit and then bring it about. Also necessary is to have leadership. I provide a lot of that but I also strategised very explicitly for Jure to be the central pin for the PubSweet community. He is an awesome leader of the PubSweet clan but also it must be noted that this doesn’t ‘just happen’. Jure and I spent a lot of time talking through these things, working out what sort of tone we needed, how to best enable people to feel they could be part of this while curating it so it’s not a free for all. Jure has really risen to the challenge and IMHO stands as a case study of good community leadership.
Andrew Smeall from Hindawi and Paul Shannon from eLife have been early leaders in this community. To have such goodwill and leadership from folks like Andrew and Paul is really amazing. They have been in boots ‘n all from the beginning and never blinked. They are heart n soul and mainstay keepers of the PubSweet community ‘way’. I feel very privileged to work with them.
Also at the beginning of the year, Editoria was alive but no books were being put through. We have since changed that with at least three scholarly publishers using it in production as well as Book Sprints using it (recently used in a World Wild Life Fund Book Sprint). We got there also by careful strategy. Alison McGonagle-O’Connell has been out there presenting, demo-ing, and explaining Editoria to all comers. Alison is a joy to work with and I admire her can-do immensely. She’s a tough cookie and now the wizard of Editoria. Alison has brought people closer to Editoria which peaked this year with a Editoria community event. We got about 35 people there and I facilitated the process (after designing the event loosely based on the PubSweet events). Critical was a newly designed Feature Proposal process. I had to design it so that publishers with no in house dev resources could ‘take ownership’ of the product and also so that publishers, rather than technicians, could write the proposals. We received 36 proposals in 2 weeks from 6 publishing orgs. Amazing. There is now a 3-month roadmap in play because of this.
xpub-collabra and perhaps micropubs will go through similar process transitions next year.
paged.js is also flourishing. I started the project with Shuttleworth funding in Feb and now it is integrated into Editoria and it has already been used for several books. It is also growing quite quickly as a community, some of this is ‘auto growth’ – growth that just occurs with no assist – and some of it is from the efforts of the paged.js crew – Fred Chasen, Julie Blanc and Julien Taquet. Julien in particular is proving to be a very good community leader in this area. They are an amazing crew doing amazing work. I don’t suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out) but I really regretted not being able to go to the paged.js workshops in Paris and Brussels in November. They looked amazing.
Then there is Wax…. the editor is growing fast. We had to rebuild it because the libs we were using were not supported and slow growing. But Christos knuckled down and got it done.. amazing. It is currently a one person endeavor but watch this space as I have plans for community growth around it next year.
XSweet, the XSLT docx-to-HTML converter is also going great guns. V2.0 with math support out in the next weeks. This more or less completes all the things we need form it and the lib will flick into a maintenance mode.
Then there is Workflow Sprints. The process I designed for helping publishers work though their workflow woes. It takes 1 day per org/workflow and has proven to be extremely effective. I’m now training facilitators to do this as it is proving popular and I can’t do them all next year if it comes down to that. Coko is also able to generate revenue from it which is cool.
Then there are design sessions which I still facilitate for various products including Editoria, xpub-collabra, and micropubs. All interesting projects and the design sessions are fun and sooooo effective. Who said publishers couldn’t design their own solutions? Not me…
Also this year I have been peripheral to the Book Sprints team. I gave up direct involvement when I got my Shuttleworth Fellowship. Thankfully Barbara was there to take the helm and has done an amazing job. We have had a couple of meetings this year and it has been awesome. We broke 1m NZ this year for the first time…amazing. Many people still don’t think it’s a real thing 😉
Also from Book Sprints we get many requests from people who love what we do but want ‘not a Book Sprint’…ie they have some other format/media/context etc they want to think about. So this year I have also founded SprintLabs to act as a bucket to put these experiments in… more on this in the new year.
Also this year I finished my Shuttleworth Fellowship having reached the 3 year maximum and became an alum. That was quite a moment. Strange thing is, I feel more a Shuttleworth Fellow now than I ever have 🙂
Needless to say my journey is unconventional. All this stuff is stuff people told me wasn’t possible. All of it. Book in 5 days, impossible! You can’t use browsers to typeset books! Headless modular publishing CMS – impossible! Publishing platforms are an intractable problem! You guys will never be able to build community, it just won’t work!
Yeah yeah. Fuckem.
And there was a lot of other stuff this year too. But honestly, where do I get the time? Where do I get the time to surf? I have no idea. One of the tricks though that I have learned is to trust the people you delegate stuff to. Create an environment for them to succeed and let them go. For the most part I just need to talk things through with them and help keep them and everything on course. They also have to go with my rather counter-intuitive, emergent, way of problem solving and doing things. If they can’t then it doesn’t work out, if they can then we do great things. Which means, of course, lots of travel is needed and talking to people. I am a great believer in remote teams but I am not a believer in remote-ness. If that makes sense. You gotta be close to people so they can trust you and you trust them when you aren’t there. Its for this reason some of our meetings happen on beaches 🙂
It is what it is. It’s been a huge year.
Still, got to make a surfboard this week and 2 Workflow Sprints to go (in the US)… no matter, I’ll be here in no time…
Yes, I just did a SuperTramp day… It started with breakfast in New Zealand. I then flew to San Francisco, had a burrito for lunch and a 5-hour strategy meet. Then (now) on a plane, on the same day, landing in Berlin at 7pm for dinner.
The craziest thing just happened. I went to Morocco and the weekend I traveled, the Moroccan government decided to cancel daylight savings. It was apparently at short notice. Consequently, my phone was outa whack with the local time and I had to switch off the auto timezone and fix it manually…y’know, like in the old days.
Then my watch, where I can set the cities and it auto updates, was also outa whack and I had to do the same. I didn’t bother changing the time on my laptop because I don’t rely on that clock too much – it takes more than the absolute minimum amount of effort to update, and when I am traversing many timezones in a short time its just a hassle.
Then a week goes by and I travel to Athens. My watch makes no sense, cause I turned the auto daylight savings off whenI was in Morocco and I can’t work out out why it is showing (what I thought) is the wrong time in Athens. I’m only here for a day and a half, I don’t care. So my laptop and my watch times can’t be trusted, no worries….I’ll go by my phone. I had turned it to auto but it seemed wrong…sometimes when you land the phone networks take a while to update, so I just turned it back to manual and updated it to what I thought the time was. But I was, for some crazy reason, an hour out. I don’t know how it happened… maybe it was cause I landed at 1am (or was it midnight?) or something. I don’t know…but I thought it was right.
So… no problems … I have a few meetings online from the hotel…no worries, when you travel a lot it doesn’t actually matter what timezone your calendar is set to – you just check the red line for the time now, and see when in the near future the meeting will be. No problems..I can work fine that way. Time being a relative thing and all when on the move, it’s not so much what time is it now but how much time there is to X (boarding…the hotel…sleep…a meeting) that is important.
Until… I sorta make a big deal, jokingly, about meeting later that day with the Coko Athens team… like, I’ve traveled 17000 km and can make it to a cafe on time, but Yannis says he will be 20 minutes late going across town…or something like that…so I kinda give him a bit of a ribbing and make a big deal out of it…
I turn up to the cafe and everyone is there…I thought I was 10 mins late so I apologize… we have our meeting and all is good. The next day I have another meeting with them and they are all there on time (or so I thought) and we go through some more stuff, have some coffee…etc…
Then its time to go to the airport. I order a taxi and in the taxi see a clock on the dash… wait a minute…. it’s an hour later than what my phone says…I ping Yannis and ask him if I was 10 mins late for that first meeting…or if I was an hour late (horror!) … an hour late he says…both days….
Oh my… can’t believe it. I hate being late and I turned up late twice. BY an hour! Worse still, the very kind Greek team didn’t even mention it though I had hassled them about getting there on time… I still can’t quite believe this happened….amazing…
Jenny, Karien and I took a day to go explore a valley in the Atlas Mountains just outside Marrakesh. It was an awesome day. Started on the rooftop of the apartment I rented..
Then Jenny, Karien and I met in the Medina square (Jemaa el-Fnaa) for breakfast and hit the road… Jenny had organised a local guide for the trip.
First stop was to look at the mountains and we stopped at a Berber co-op to look at locally made crafts. I bought a tagine and hooded cloak (Djellaba). Will take pics and post later.
Next to the craft shop was a small building where they put metal bands around the outside of tagines. They let me snoop around as they wielded the bands to the tagine.
Then we drove for a bit and stopped at the base of the Atlas Mountains. There were a lot of cafes along the roiver bank and we stopped here for some food and just to hang out. Jenny went for a walk while Karien and I hung out.
We then drove back down the valley, taking a few photos of other cafes, as well as some villages, as we went.
Then the guide took us to a Berber family home for tea… they were lovely people and gave us permission to take some photos of their house. Inside they had a cow, a heap of tagines and the coal cooking pots for tagine, a millstone for making flour, a bread oven … it was super fascinating. Our hosts were wonderful and the team and assorted nuts and biscuits were delicious.
We returned to the square at night and had dinner together before going our separate ways… each off for our own Moroccan adventures over the next days…. it was a perfect day.