All posts by Jure

2015-10-29 17.50.12

We need more mentors in our communities

Meritocracy is now a bad word. It’s increasingly used to describe communities that are built around outspoken individuals. They often don’t have clear rules and code of conduct.

Alternative to that, is mentorship or apprenticeship driven community. In this model, new members are given clear roles and are presented with the expectation and rules. They are also assigned a mentor that makes it their priority for them to succeed.

This model doesn’t necessary clash with the idea of meritocracy, but it makes it much less likely. In order to make on-boarding new members efficient, it  requires that these processes are written down. This removes a lot of power from individual members, as they can’t arbitrarily decide on what they want from new members.

I believe that such model also allows for greater diversity inside the group. Removing individuals’ discretion forces community to make it easier for more diverse group of members to participate.

Code of Conduct

I think that having a Code of Conduct is a basic building block of such a community. It doesn’t mean it’s welcoming or healthy, but it greatly increases the chances when coupled with clear on-boarding path.

Further Work

15 years ago we got the Joel Test. It presents 12 questions to ask your prospective employer. Since it came, a lot of these are given and things improved a lot.

I think we could benefit from having a similar test for online and offline communities. I sure don’t want to waste any more time with larger communities without CoC and without designed onboarding process.

Creative Corner

3 things I learned at  Creative Corner in London

Last week I gave a talk at Creative Corner in London. Most event attendees were in the creative industries: design and music.
Listening to talks of Simon and Patrick, I learned that our experiences are not so different.

1. Coding process is not much different from creating Music or Designing a book

They all need their own time and focus. We are all distracted by external stimuli. That’s why it’s important that carve out that piece of the day, when create our most important work. Paraphrasing Patrick: “If you’re creating music, that’s your work. Don’t spend all your time, creating marketing content on social media.”

2. We all want to push the boundaries of our work

Simon shared promising designs, that got rejected by his clients. They ended up delivering much more bland and safe options. This is something I see often, when I explain the potential of web sites to my clients. Sometimes it works, but most often they don’t feel like innovating.

3. Our own work matters the most

At the end of the day, we’re most proud of our own work. The one where we could decided that safe, is not an option. It’s also often the case, that this is one of our best work that we end up showing for years to come. But the only way we can do it, is if we ruthlessly make time for it.

I really enjoyed the event and discussions afterwards. Make sure you attend next month!

CC By David Orban - https://flic.kr/p/4CvhZp

Books recommended by #MicroConf Europe attendees

I’m addicted to learning. So it was refreshing to find another group of people, that are similar minded. During lunches and dinners, I asked people to recommend me their favorite books and audio books.

I’ve written down only the ones that were new to me. I still ended up with a huge list. I plan to go through it in the next few months.

CC BY - jaime.silva -https://flic.kr/p/aqSpgW

Reflections on MicroConf Europe 2015

I go to conferences. That’s one of my quirks. I think there’s an evolution of a conference goers. You start with big, flashy conferences. Everything is exciting, new city, people, big brands, technology. But then you start noticing the cracks. Talks are just marketing hype for new technology – not too useful in everyday engineering. Big parties and participants that just want more free beer and to party. The stress of it all.

At some point, you start going to smaller events. Targeted, single track, speakers mingle with attendees. These are either a hit of miss. MicrConf was a hit.

MicrConf is a conference that’s targeted towards bootstrapped entrepreneurs. Because the focus it’s not on how to get VC funding, it significantly changes the discussions. 

Christoph already made good notes from the talks, so I won’t publish mine. What follows are more high level ideas that I got at the event.

Being inspired by success of others

It’s possible, the dream is real. People can actually make money by producing content that others want. While I have friends that have done it, it still doesn’t feel real. But talking to 10+ people, that make good money from WordPress plugins made it real for me. You can still make money by selling shareware!

I got a lot of nudges from people, to put all the online advice into practice. Just publishing that first WP plugin and making a paid upgrade is enough. You won’t get rich, but you’ll learn enough to improve on it.

That was an overwhelming theme of a lot of talks. Explaining how they were looking for a product/market fit, how they recognised it and what kind of challenges they faced.

Asking the right questions

At technical conferences, people don’t usually talk about their feelings. It’s easy to be unhappy about customers when you work for somebody else. When you are self employed, you can decide. Did you pick your customers because you want to work with them, or just because they had money?

The other way of thinking about this problem is – what is the natural size of company, that is solving this problem. A small plugin can be done by a single person, while more feature complete software as a service app, requires a team. The decision becomes – do you want to lead your own team, or would you be happier alone.

Forming good habits

It’s easy to dismiss business books as “nice story, but not for me”. Then you hear the stories from people, that actually followed their advice. Going to a retreat, where they rethought their strategy. Started writing down operating procedures. Hired people that actually wanted to do important things, that they were avoiding or were too stressful for them. Understanding your own shortcomings and working around them.

A new world

I think I burned out on startups. All that pressure to raise funding, get insane growth numbers and prove that you can get more funding, isn’t for me. But in this community, the focus is on every single user. Why did they join, what made them select this service and how does our service help them. There is still pressure to deliver, but you don’t the extra stress of unrealistic expectations. 

Talking to attendees of MicroConf, showed me that it’s possible to be an entrepreneur, without having to raise funding. Now to see what I can build in the next 12 months.