Is this thing on?

awillem's picture

microphoneA part of me really wanted to open this blog with a snappy anecdote about how 'dream jobs only come around once in a blue moon', and expressing deep gratitude for the good fortune of having come across the NetSquared family vis a vis the quirky and awesome NetSquared Local group in New Orleans. As with any good network, everyone I met that summer seemed to point me in the direction of their Meetups – but it took the adept persuasion of one of their more notorious prophets (Ray Nichols) to actually get me through the door. As you might expect in New Orleans, the presentation itself was second only to the food, the drinks, and the sound of laughter that wafted from the room in waves.

I wanted to wax loquacious about how fortunate we are in this day and age when we can find a group of like-minded individuals working towards a goal that resonates with our own personal missions. As I was preparing to write, I heard the star-spangled banner playing in the background of my mind, and was ready to belt out something motivational about not giving up on finding the job of your dreams even in these difficult economies, but as soon as I placed the words on the screen it just felt wrong.

Don't get me wrong, I am VERY grateful, and the team/family of NetSquared is very VERY awesome. The part that I think would have been misleading about my statement is that it was to be build squarely on a foundation of scarcity: where there are few 'dream jobs' and even fewer that are hiring at any given moment. The truth is that I simply no longer think that needs to be the case.

Let me explain.

When I initially came on board at NetSquared I was being hired to fix and manage a website. Period. I did not expect, 2 years down the line, to be collaborating with a great team building a social network platform that connects geeks with non-geeks with non-profit organizations with projects and all with the chief goal of making good things happen (in every sense) to more people.

The new NetSquared platform intends to break the myth that people doing the good work are hard to find, or that there are not enough resources to get paid to do work that feeds your heart and soul, or that collaborating on real-world projects has to happen in a local space. Essentially, we built this platform so that more people from distributed locations can participate in collaborations geared towards building a world that is more inclusive, more fair, and that inspires goodness in all of us.

Consider yourselves empowered. Now let's take a tour.

I am a geek so I will open the tour saying that this social network is built using free / open source software (drupal, CiviCRM). We chose open source software because it is built on the notion that sharing is good and profitable for everyone.

When a piece of software is open source, it means that the code that makes up the software is available for anyone who cares to look. It means that as a developer, I can make improvements or additions to the code which can then, in turn, become available democratically to others and at low or no cost to the consumer. It's a way of developing software that brings the goods democratically to the masses, and enables large scale development to happen for the greater good of all who will use the software in the future. Essentially, the Open Source movement is the technological equivalent of shopping local or buying organic (except that it is FREE both in the sense of 'free speech' as well as in the sense of 'free beer').

Now back to the site itself.

The first step is to register on the site, and build your profile. Once registered, you will have access to tens of thousands of people (and in a few months probably double or tripple that) who also have an idea or a desire to collaborate with folks doing great things. If you navigate to the 'People' tab, you will be able to search for these folks, and they will be looking for you as well. Be sure to tell people what your needs are and what you can offer to the network – as this will help situate you for maximum visibility to the network.

But how will people know what you are up to?

Creating a 'project' is essentially your game card. It's where you tell us all about what you are doing, and how you are going about it. You can think of a 'project' as being an idea with talking points: your idea transforms into a 'project' the minute you write it up. The fields you will enter give you a way to bridge with other social networks, but also give you a road map or checklist of how to assemble yourself for maximum benefit. The more fields you can fill in, the better poised you are to collaborate with other people on the site, as well as with folks in other networks such as twitter, linkedin, facebook, google and the like. In fact, if you post a '#dailybit' on the site, it will publish directly to your twitter feed.

At this point, your project will become visible to other folks within the site, meaning that if someone in the Network is interested in facilitating your work, collaborating with you, or talking with you about cross-pollinating with what they are doing, they can do so easily. Your project will be search-able by topic, enabling folks interested in similar types of things to quickly get to know one another.

At some point, you might see fit to take your project to the next level, and enter it into a Challenge. Challenges are forums that are sponsored by larger organizations for the purpose of championing projects and enabling folks to take their projects/ideas to the street with real-world cash. Challenges give projects access to a broader audience than would have otherwise been possible, and have launched projects into recognition that might have not otherwise seen the light of day. They are often (but not always) submitted to community vote, and winning or featured projects are highlighted on the site. The exposure they generate is often profound.

As mentioned earlier, 'Local Groups' are the way the NetSquared community brings the global to the local. It is a great venue in which people in a specific geographic area meet, eat, and collaborate in a more 'local' space. Camps are a larger convening of people in a conference-like setting and include folks from larger regional areas.

(phew) It's a lot, huh? But actually pretty simple. We have made the way ready, we have prepped the beds and the soil is fertile, and we've assembled a great group of people ready to make things happen with you. Everything is ready for you to plant the your seeds, and water them and watch them grow.

We look forward to seeing what you come up with!