Table of Contents
You'll notice that we are top-heavy with news this issue. That's because things are really starting to gel for our community as we boldly move into this new century.
And as much news as there is here in this issue, more cool stuff has already happened and we are anticipating some 'plays' to bear most interesting fruit in the near future. So expect another newsletter in fairly short order as we bring you fully up-to-date on what's happening and how you can get involved in the Sohodojo community.
As to our feature article this issue... Well, sometimes we feel a bit guilty calling our zine Sohodojo's Rants and Raves newsletter. We are so long on raves about BIG ideas for small business and entrepreneurial free agents that we don't rant as much as we should. We make up for that deficit in this issue.
--Jim Salmons and Timlynn Babitsky--
Welcome Jim Schneider to the Sohodojo Advisory Board!
Please join us in celebrating the BIGGEST development in the short history of Sohodojo as we simultaneously announce the formation of the Sohodojo Advisory Board and induct its first and most strategic founding member, Jim Schneider, LL.M., of San Diego, California!
If you don't already know Jim, check out his capsule bio at his Taxsavings.Bigstep.com website. Jim is fast becoming the leading legal expert and vocal advocate of tax reform to level the playing field for home-based small business.
By accepting this position, Jim becomes the resident Legal Expert at the dojo. In this capacity his first order of business is to advise and assist us in formally setting up the Advisory Board and properly incorporating Sohodojo so it may take on a life of its own as a dejobbed small business. [See Bridges' JobShift for the BEST presentation of the dynamics affecting you and your business(es).]
Sohodojo will be owned and operated by an elastic network of nanocorping, entrepreneurial free agents. The dojo will be established with a mission to serve as the Entrepreneurial Free Agent and Dejobbed Small Business R&D Lab exploring and developing new business models and their associated technologies in support of concurrent entrepreneurship (Malone's elastic networking or what we call the nanocorp business model).
As part of our agreement, Jim has granted Sohodojo the reprint rights to select content from his Taxsavings website and has agreed to allow Sohodojo to create and maintain the exclusive reprint and indexed archive service for his 'The Taxman86 Speaks...' newsletter. In return, the dojo will provide technical assistance to improve and extend Jim's excellent Bigstep.com website.
But most importantly, Jim has given his personal commitment to proactive, precedent-setting efforts to help Sohodojo chart, then advance, the limits of home-based entrepreneurial free agency and nanocorping small business!
As you can imagine, we are thrilled with this development. Once properly incorporated, Jim will take a seat on the Board of Directors and an equity stake in Sohodojo. We plan to issue Qualified Small Business Stock to fund the dojo's growth (transformative and replicative, only) and development.
Please join us in welcoming Jim Schneider to the Advisory Board. Expect even more exciting developments in the weeks to come.
The Small Business Revolutionaries Webring keeps growing
Join us in welcoming new members to the Webring of Small Business Revolutionaries and visit their websites to see who they are.
DON the Idea Guy THINKS for a living and he wants to help you kick start your own innovative ideas. Visit Don's interesting website to get a boot in the seat of the pants, a whack on the cerebral cortex, or whatever else it takes to get your exciting entrepreneurial ideas percolating. Read Don's The Meathead's Point of View; it's one of our favorites.
If you are ready to 'do what you love', Suzee Ebeling of The Center for Intuitive Learning will help you trust your intuition to find out what that is. This web based coaching and training company offers individual and group coaching, teleclasses and dialogue groups. See the Top Ten... lists for useful insights about your own intuition.
There are thousands of multi-level 'opportunities' being touted out on the Internet. Chris and Eileen Tucker of Time 4 Success have 'kissed a lot of frogs' while looking for theirs. They too offer a multi-level marketing model for on-line entrepreneurs, but these folks are not just hype and $$$. For starters, ask Chris to send you Ingredients For Success, an excellent guide for evaluating multi-level business opportunities.
Tall Poppies and 'The Ripple'
"The tall poppy gets chopped down" is a proverb you hear in the Far East. It is an admonition of sorts to not make waves, to not stand out, to go about your business quietly, to just fit in.
At Sohodojo, we support and celebrate Tall Poppies -- those inspiring individuals who show us that making waves can generate positive social change. Ms Fanhong Chen, China's recently crowned Miss Internet is just such a Tall Poppy. She stood up to contest organizers who tried to prevent her from competing by suggesting that her cancer meant she was 'damaged goods' unfit to serve as a role model for Chinese women.
Ms Chen, you are the inspiration for and the very first recipient of Sohodojo's Tall Poppy award. Congratulations! (Read her courageous story here.)
Love and a shared vision of the Future can fire the Entrepreneurial Spirit just as surely as Greed and Power too often do. Read The Ripple, Jim's Valentine to Timlynn that carries a few thoughts we'd like to share with the rest of the Sohodojo community.
TechSIG on the move... TechBytes newsletter announced
Last issue we reported that Sohodojo had submitted a funding proposal to the U.S. Department of Commerce's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program for FY 2000. We are very pleased to report that our proposal, XML for Business Modeling and Workflow for Entrepreneurial Free Agents (E-Lancers), has passed administrative review and is on to the all-important technical reviews!
You know how it is with small business and government funding. So we're not counting any eggs before they are hatched. Keep your fingers crossed along with us until we hear 'yea' or 'nay' in the late May, early June timeframe.
In the meantime, we are very excited to report that a recent small business site development project has allowed our TechSIG to design and develop its first seriously cool chunk of code which will become part of our role-based executable business modeling frameworks!
We are using a PHP/MySQL/PHPLIB platform for our initial efforts. This is an all Open Source, widely available, industry standard server-side platform. While PHP is not as purely object-oriented as Python or Java, there is more than enough object support for our initial efforts. (Tip: The PHPLIB module is one of the best-kept secrets in the scripting world. If you are using PHP without PHPLIB, check it out.)
We have done a slick extension to the HTML Widget framework which comes with PHPLIB. Our extension is fully object-oriented and uses an inheritance mechanism to implement a 'two-tier' meta-model. The first tier supports the creation of abstract 'wrapper' classes that facilitate the description and maintenance (MySQL persistence) of domain objects within the framework. Second-tier subclasses support the creation of role-based workflows and user views onto these wrapped domain objects. These second-tier subclasses are all parameterized, rather than hard-coded, to support non-programmer creation and dynamic maintenance and customization of role-based user views onto an executing business model.
If this sounds like mumbo-jumbo to you or is something in which you are not interested, no problem. We are solving our 'how deep is too deep' editorial dilemma by announcing our TechSIG's own publication, Sohodojo's TechBytes! If you would like to subscribe to this new publication, drop us a note.
We think it was P.T. Barnum who said, "The only bad publicity is NO publicity," or words to that affect. So it is with the free agent movement which is getting its share of the limelight in the popular Press.
It's not surprising that with popularity comes detractors. A case in point is the recent theme issue of The New York Times Magazine which hit the stands on March 5th.
The New York Times Magazine "blows the lid off" Free Agency
The March 5th NYT Sunday magazine carried a cover theme, The Liberated, Exploited, Pampered, Frazzled, Uneasy New American Worker (Note: The NYT site is a free site, but you have to register the first time you visit.) By and large, the issue is filled with insightful and interesting stories which cover a broad range of timely and helpful topics related to the changing workplace. Among these otherwise balanced and insightful articles was one which was most disturbing.
Nina Munk's The Price of Freedom purports to blow the lid off "the much-romanticized free-agent nation" where "workers are liberated from routines, dress codes and office politics. As well as benefits, vacations and regular paychecks..."
We won't waste time telling you how biased and shallow we think this article is when you can follow the link above and decide for yourself. This piece so aggravated us that we had to take pen to paper and write an official, snail mail (and e-mail too, see below) Letter to the Editor.
What we think about 'The Price of Freedom'...
Letters to the Editor
While we applaud the overall intent of your editorial features on the New American Worker in the March 5th Magazine section, we must object loudly to the most irresponsible and inaccurate portrayal of the free agent movement by Ms. Nina Munk in her poorly-written and poorly-researched article, The Price of Freedom.
Was the editorial staff asleep at the wheel when Ms. Munk's article passed through its step of the production process? Ms. Munk's selection of editorial detail was pure Yellow Journalism. We don't care that Mr. Horowitz's office was "cheerless," with its badly framed Pollack print and Snowboarder picture rescued from someone's trash. Characterizing Fast Company magazine as the "organ of new-age management" is pure bunk. Organ of the "New Economy management," perhaps, but "new-age"... please. More disturbing than such irrelevant detail is Ms. Munk's use of an unattributed, hearsay quote to undermine a responsible and credible voice of the free agent movement. We expect such shoddy journalistic techniques from supermarket tabloids but not from The New York Times.
Ms. Munk is selective in her presentation of facts. She paints a picture of Dan Pink which is unjust and unwarranted. As free agents, we think of Mr. Pink as the 'Studs Turkle' of the free agent movement. Ms. Munk wants us to see Mr. Pink through her jaded and conspiratorial eyes. She tells us about Mr. Pink's stock options in Mr. Horowitz's free agent website. She tells us that Mr. Pink gives "(paid) speeches" promoting free agency and she suspects that, once published, he will "take his free-agent publicity machine on the road" to promote his new book.
While Ms. Munk mentions Mr. Pink's own website, she neglected to report that BOTH Mr. Pink's website and his excellent monthly newsletter are fully free of advertising and he makes no attempt to sell anybody, anything through the website or his newsletter. As to taking stock options as a form of payment for editorial and advisory services rendered, good for him. Mr. Pink deserves to participate in the New Economy as much anybody.
We could go on nit-picking Ms. Munk's shallow, biased article, but let's turn to the overall conspiratorial theme: that entrepreneurs are attempting to profit from the free agent movement. Yes, and your point, Ms. Munk?
The United States is a capitalist country. Entrepreneurs jump at market opportunities. This is surprising? This revelation is about as shocking as the fact that there were merchants who took advantage of miners during the Gold Rush by selling them picks and shovels at high prices. Sure this happened. But was merchant profiteering the whole story behind the Gold Rush? Certainly not.
Ms. Munk mistook means for an end; The Price of Freedom.... for what? Free agent freedom is not as pedantic as whether we get to take a meeting in our pajamas, set our own hours or leave behind office politics. Nor is it some ephemeral search for spirituality as Ms. Munk tells us Mr. Pink has speculated.
Freedom is a prerequisite to pursuing personal vision. Talk to successful, happy free agents and you will find a group who measures success on its own terms. It is not about how much we make, it is what we do and with whom we do it that counts. Increasingly, this means that the domains of free agent and small business overlap in new and interesting ways. Ms. Munk, like too many others, believes that entrepreneurs and free agents are mutually exclusive; that you cannot be one without giving up the other. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Many free agents sell our bodies (our marketable talents) in the 'temp worker' marketplace to fund our own entrepreneurial ventures. At Sohodojo -- our 'by free agents, for free agents' R&D community -- we call this business model the nanocorp -- the corporate conglomerate writ small and dynamic. Our subsidiary holdings are an evolving collection of dejobbed virtual companies. (Ms. Munk should read William Bridges' excellent JobShift, among other relevant titles, before writing another article in this domain if she truly believes that virtual companies are hard to find in the New Economy.)
The entrepreneurial free agent is a vital and growing segment of the free agent population. We practice concurrent, rather than serial, entrepreneurship. Many of us have started and grown conventional businesses and understand that "Money changes everything." Rather than run at Internet Speed, we make our plays based on Internet Accuracy. We find and evolve niche opportunities by keeping total control of our businesses by not selling out to venture capitalists in the early stages of our ventures' lifecycles.
We are breaking the 'feast or famine' cycle of conventional small business by nurturing a portfolio of persistent involvements that produce varying, concurrent revenue streams. We accept responsibility for taking care of ourselves. We wouldn't have it any other way, despite the uneven playing field and cultural biases that work against us.
If Ms. Munk wants to turn her righteous indignation loose, let her pick the source of true inequities. Let her wail against Federal tax codes which discriminate against home-based and small business. (See Jim Schneider's website for more on these vital issues.) Let her comment on the picture frames in the offices in medical insurance company executives who treat independent and small businesses as second-class citizens. Let her question the motivations of SBA lending programs which assume that conventional growth (hiring employees and getting 'bigger') is the only viable means to a successful, sustainable business.
If Ms. Munk would turn her attentions to the real issues underlying the significant transitions in the American workplace, then the trees needed to run her next story will not have died in vain. As it is, we'll send a donation to Rain Forest reforestation as a penance for your having wasted so many trees to run Ms. Munk's shallow and inconsequential article.
Her piece aside, please keep up the good work reporting on the significant changes in the American workplace. There are few issues with as profound and far-reaching implications to your readers.
--Jim Salmons and Timlynn Babitsky--
Hosts, Sohodojo - The Entrepreneurial Free Agent and
Dejobbed Small Business R&D Lab
Raleigh, NC 27607
P.S. Fred Andrews mentioned Sohodojo and our crusade for The Home as the Enterprise Zone of the 21st Century in his November article, Merger Mania Got You Down? So, Think Small. Mr. Andrews did an excellent job covering the MIT conference on Inventing the Organizations of the 21st Century. Perhaps Ms. Munk could start her research in the archives of your own publication before attempting her next writing assignment about changes in the American workplace.
Let your voice be heard, too...
What do you think? Did Ms. Munk hit the nail on the head or miss the point? Regardless of your opinion, consider taking some time to let the NYT editors know what you think about free agency. You can give them a piece of your mind by snail mail, e-mail or on-line forum.
Here are the magazine's letter writing instructions:
"Letters should be addressed to Letters to the Editor, Magazine, The New York Times, 229 West 43rd Street, New York, N.Y. 10036. The E-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. All letters should include the writer's name, address and daytime telephone number. We are unable to acknowledge or return unpublished letters. Letters may be edited for length or clarity."
Or if you prefer, post your thoughts on the Times website's Abuzz section.
Let your voice be heard. It'll make you feel good and it will help others to understand who we are and what we think.
Still undecided or need more info? Read Bridges' Jobshift
Implicit in Munk's and other articles in the NYT theme issue is the assumption that there is always a choice between jobs and free agency (not-jobs).
In the small, this is true for some individuals in certain circumstances; there still are jobs to go around for the foreseeable future. But to think that jobs in the aggregate are not going away and being radically transformed in significant ways is to be living with your head in the sand. There simply will not be the conventional job, and certainly not the paternalistic reward for loyalty career that so many of us grew up thinking was the way things worked.
If you don't understand the dejobbing of the workforce as a fundamental dynamic which will affect your worklife and your business(es), or if you don't feel you have given this dejobbing stuff much more than a cursory Oh yeah, I know that, then you need to read William Bridges' outstanding book, JobShift: How to Prosper in a Workplace without Jobs.
Published in 1994, Bridges was among the first to cogently and dramatically encapsulate the trends and implications of the transformations of the workplace. Whether you are an employee, free agent or business owner, Jobshift is REQUIRED READING for the 21st Century.
Had Ms. Munk read this excellent book before she selected her ax to grind, we'd have likely gotten a completely different article.
Each issue of Rants and Raves includes a mini-survey of three timely and topical questions. The results of each poll are reported in the following week's newsletter.
What were you thinking last issue?
In keeping with last issue's feature article on Michael Schrage's brilliant book, No More Teams, our questions delved into your current tools and techniques for collaboration.
A. Do you have a white board (or chalkboard) in your home office or small business workspace?
We encourage Barbara to get hers out of the garage and into her workspace as she said she would. (We counted you in the 'Yes' column, Barbara, so you have to follow through on this now.)
B. What's your current software of choice for collaboration with colleagues?
Your answers included e-mail, Vicinities.com, MS Office, shared file directories, whiteboards, SDKs, Caucus, MS Word 2000, Corel Wordperfect, and Adobe PDF. And then there is "The Lone Wolf" in our community who makes sure his work doesn't require him to collaborate; he likes it that way.
As we all might have expected, the overwhelmingly most cited collaborative software was good ole, text-based e-mail. Universal access and simplicity win over proprietary feature sets every time.
We (Jim and Timlynn speaking as a nanocorp) fight this battle in the small often. There are some slick commercial groupware products out there. But commit to one and you can paint yourself into a box, cut yourself off from those who don't share your tool choice. Yet, as good and essential as e-mail is, we find it is often the 'weak link' in projects and relationships that go sour.
This gets at one of the underlying reasons for our interest in developing Open Source role-based executable business modeling technologies. There needs to be something WAY better than e-mail to facilitate our entrepreneurial free agent and small business collaborations. And that collection of technologies need to be open and non-proprietary so web-enhanced collaboration can be universally accessible to our community. So we won't paint ourselves into boxes by buying into one vendor's solution or another.
C. What do YOU think is more important for free-agent or small business "opportunity security"?
This was a tight, too-close-to-call race. Even though 57% chose, "collaboration skills" over "talent," most qualified the choice by including talent and/or collaboration tools in their comments. Several folks said that "knowing when to say 'No' " was vitally important. "Keeping promises," "keeping your skills up," and motivating yourself to "dig up new work" were also keys to a number of folks. Tony gave us a hearty chuckle by pointing to sage advice from Woody Allen: "90% of success, is showing up."
Thanks to all who gave us feedback on the state of your collaboration tools and tactics. We always appreciate your comments, critiques, and especially the insights into what you are doing that sparks your life.
At the front of Rants and Raves #13, we asked you all how you use your car as a marketing tool, Peter Siler, Director and Founder of Fathers First Online, pointed us to an interesting idea for mobile advertising that he uses. We were taken with the ad idea and even more so with Peter's "Fathering for the New Millennium" website for Dads.
This week's Quick Three... What do you think?
Our polling process is simple, but effective. Simply follow these steps and give us a piece of your mind:
We respect your privacy. Totally. Nobody gets access to ANY information you provide us for any reason. Period. Your participation in our community dialog is crucial to helping improve Sohodojo.
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A. Have you ever taken a Home Office deduction on your taxes?
B. What form of business organization are you?
C. What self-employed and small business tax reforms most interest you?
(Rank order 1-5, please. Non-U.S. folks: Tell us what tax and regulatory reforms are being considered by your local and national governments.)
D: If I could tell Jim and Timlynn a thing or two, it would be:
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( Click and paste, respond and send.)
As always, thanks for reading this issue of Sohodojo's Rants and Raves newsletter,