Or: What To Do in the Last Decade of the Anthropocene

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I’ve spent most of the past 2 years travelling with my partner Nati, trying to discover what is the most strategic & wise action to take in a world that seems to be accelerating towards collapse. After an enormous amount of consideration, I have a strategy that feels good enough to engage my will and commitment. This document is a statement of intention. All going well, it’s where I want to invest my productive energy for the next 7 years or so.

I’m developing this plan in three phases:

  • Phase 1 is a lot of conversation and contemplation.
  • Phase 2 is this writing and re-writing process. Writing in public forces me to fill in the gaps in the argument, and to make my assumptions explicit. …

How to take care of people at an event that could kill them

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Stock photo by Cristina Cerda

Hosting events is a big part of how I earn my livelihood and how I do my community-building work. My year started with a plan to hold at least four retreats, each with around 40 people living together for a few days. Then the pandemic happened and we had to change plans. In the end we decided to cancel everything, apart from one gathering we hosted in France in September.

Event production is always a big job but the health situation made it significantly more difficult. In this post I’m going to share some of what I learned in the process. …

Running the Finances for our Freelancers Collective with One Awesome Spreadsheet

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This is partly a tutorial about how to make awesome spreadsheets, and it is partly about how we manage a flexible profit-sharing agreement for our collective of freelancers (The Hum). If you’re familiar with “microsolidarity”, this is the point where things get really spicy: sharing money between peers.

We currently have 3 partners in our collective, and we sell a combination of consulting services and digital products. We have a separate profit-share agreement for each product and each consulting job. The idea is that anything we sell through the company makes a contribution to the “common pot”, and the rest is split between the 3 of us depending on how much we contributed. The common pot pays for overheads and provides a wage buffer in case of lean times. …

How to: record great-sounding podcasts over Zoom

I’ve been experimenting with different methods for improving the audio quality of my videocalls, both for meetings and for recorded conversations like podcasts. So I have a few suggestions to make your next call sound less like a laptop, more like a studio.

I’ll start with some microphone basics. Then, I’ll show you Zencastr, a tool for recording audio without losing any quality due to the compression of sending realtime audio over the internet. Finally I’ll show you how to use OBS to apply audio processing in realtime to remove background noise and change the dynamic range.

1. Get a mic

Option A: cheap earbuds headset

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You can spend a couple of dollars on the cheapest headset (earbuds with a little mic attached) and generally do a lot better than your laptop’s built-in mic. Two…

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Photo by Will H McMahan on Unsplash

Engaging volunteers; learning loops; decision-making; care; celebration

Today I had a call with Manu Alzuru from Fight Pandemics, a brand new volunteer project enabling peer-to-peer mutual aid in response to COVID-19. I gave him 30 minutes of rapid-fire advice, some of the “top tips” for a new self-organising network like this. You can watch the video here or keep reading for the ultra-condensed version of the top 5 tips.

Thanks Manu for learning out loud with us 😻

1. Don’t expect 100% engagement.

“Participation inequality” is to be expected, e.g.

Updated March 21st

I’ve been producing my own charts to understand the Johns Hopkins coronavirus data. Here’s the situation on March 21st.

Reported Deaths

Here’s all the countries with 100+ reported deaths. I have zoomed in on the first 4 weeks since the 10th death.

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This linear scale obscures what’s happening. We need to switch to a logarithmic scale to get a better view.

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How to think about exponentials

If you have a human brain you may find exponentials counterintuitive. I’ll try to explain but I’m also unfortunately limited to a human brain so bear with me.

With the log scale, each step up is 10 times bigger than the last. …

A practical guide for the aspiring DIY data scientist

Living in Italy is intense right now.

It took only 17 days to go from first noticing the COVID-19 outbreak, to having to refuse people care because hospitals are overloaded.

Human brains do not intuitively grasp exponentials. We need prosthetics. That’s why I have been learning a bunch of math and amateur data science this week, to help me get my head around the spread of the pandemic.

I’m not an expert at all, so my epidemiology opinions are not relevant. I’m pretty handy with a spreadsheet though, so read on if you want to learn how I used Google Sheets to create a COVID-19 dashboard that’s giving me the charts I need to understand the spread of the virus. …

A Simple Structure to Hold a New Microsolidarity Community

Last week I published the latest story in my Microsolidarity series, explaining how to start a new mutual aid community (a “Congregation”). That chapter was exclusively focussed on the initiation process: where do you start?

For this chapter, I want to advance the clock a few months. Assume you’ve had one or two amazing gatherings, and there are 20 or 40 people ready to commit to supporting each other. What’s the minimum organisational structure needed to hold them together? I’m going to make a short sketch of a complete structure, as a first guess. …

3 Essential Pillars For a New Mutual Aid Community

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Weaving image by Wei-Cheng Wu on Unsplash

I published the Microsolidarity proposal a year ago and really struck a chord with people. I’m overdue to give folks an update, and there’s really a lot of exciting news. So first I’ll give a quick recap, then I’ll share what’s happening in 2020.

The essence of the original proposal was to start a small exclusive community, oriented towards a deep kind of mutual aid: where we support each other in our personal growth, generating health and prosperity for our collective, while producing significant benefits that ripple out into wider society. I explained that I have experienced this kind of community once before at Enspiral, and now I want to learn how to start more of them. I introduced some specific words, like “congregation” for a community like this (<200 people), and “crew” for a small densely connected group (<8 people). The purpose of the crew is to provide reciprocal peer-to-peer support for its members, who could be engaged in any kind of meaningful work: e.g. freelancer co-op, a learning club, activist collective. …

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Photo of Piopiotahi (Milford Sound) by Peter Hammer

A lot of 1st-time visitors to Aotearoa New Zealand have an experience they can’t articulate e.g. they might say “I feel like I’ve come home at last”.

I think what’s happening is that they meet a critical mass of peace and don’t know the word for it.

Compared to other nations, a lot of NZ people have an easeful life, e.g. less fear of police, less corrupt institutions, more social connectedness, more intact welfare state. [Note I said by international comparison: also a lotta ppl have a terrible life in NZ.]

The thing I call “peace” is encoded in the biosphere. There’s a lotta wildness. Indigenous sovereignty has remained intact despite extreme colonial violence. Therefore many people know how to live in right relationship with human & nonhuman kin. …


Richard D. Bartlett

I write about working together (http://richdecibels.com). Loomio cofounder (http://loomio.org). Enspiral member (http://enspiral.com).

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