Tell me your passions

For some time, I have been interviewing user group organisers (community managers each of them, no matter what their day job is) about their groups.

I’ve been fortunate enough to interview leaders of groups like the London Java Community (upwards of 3,000 members), Hacker News London (approaching 5,000 members), and many other group organisers from around Europe. It’s a theme I’m continuing, and I have reached out to several other organisers recently.

I love to write, and I love hearing people’s stories. I once trained and worked as a journalist for this very reason, but found in the real world of a news desk on a regional daily newspaper it wasn’t that simple.

For some time, I have had an idea: I want to interview successful people who are well known for one particular thing. But I want to interview them about their other passions. I have a theory that people who are passionate and successful in one area of their life are often just as passionate in other areas.

This is something I started exploring in my community manager interviews: my final question was always along the lines of “Aside from your work, tell me about something else you are passionate about?” — though I never had the time to pursue these leads any further, with a day job to do.

Now I want to ressurect this project. While continuing with community manager interviews — about how different groups find speakers and grow their communities — I want to hear about passions.

I had a false start once before when I contacted my hero Carol Ann Duffy to ask if I could interview her, and got no response. But now I am going to try a slightly different approach, using social media to both share this article and reach out to some public figures. And since I have contacts in the Open Source community, perhaps I can find some well known figures in the industry to tell me about their passions.

Of course, if anyone should have friends or contacts that would be useful, please let me know — these things are always about who you know.

Sometimes fires don’t go out when you’re done playing with them

The Mongolian Derby

The Mongolian Derby
Source: http://bit.ly/SkQxxb
Adventuring has been quiet of late. For the entire month of October, I didn’t leave the country — and it seems strange that it has become normal for me to be packing up and flying out, dashing from one place to the next, waking up in the night and feeling a sense of panic when I can’t remember where I am.  As I say, October has been quiet.

But November is back to business as usual: this week holds a last minute trip to Paris for a couple of events, and some time digging stuff, then a couple of days at home before I board the Eurostar again to Antwerp  These are a bunch of first times for me: my first trip on the Eurostar, my first trip to Paris (as a disclaimer, I have visited France before, and even driven my car to Lille on one occasion, just never Paris), and my first trip to Belgium. We can expect more blog posts with pictures and journal entries from these new cities: and I should really brush up on my French.

In other news, last month I presented to a crowd of about 500 people at the Hacker News London meetup.  As I had arranged for my company to be a sponsor, I got to have two minutes just to say a few words about us.  I had planned my presentation carefully to be almost exactly two minutes long and cover all the important points I needed: but on the night, I changed my mind. The sponsor before me said only a few words, and I didn’t want to look out of place giving a more prepared and much longer intro — so I followed suit, just explained who I was, who my company are, and told the crowd to come to our next user group meeting.  I regretted this when the two sponsors who followed me did give longer intros.  I have resolved to do better next time, and to somehow make it interesting and if possible slightly funny. It’s not beyond me: I can make people laugh with self deprecating humour when I perform at open mike nights, I just have to work on it.

At this Hacker News I was lucky enough to see a presentation from Linda Sandvik on, in her words, “Making things better”.  Linda was inspirational to me as an adventurer: she takes Mondays as an opportunity to force herself to do things she wouldn’t normally do, from little things like making phone calls to much larger things — such as the longest, toughest horse race in the world, the Mongol Derby.

Linda decided one day to enter the Mongol Derby, despite not being a professional nor having ever competed in anything more strenuous than gymkhanas and openly admitting to not having been fit in several years.  Linda just decided she would enter — and what’s more, she did it, too.  She didn’t just talk about it, she didn’t give it up as a bad idea: she actually went ahead and competed in the Mongol Derby.

Admittedly, she didn’t complete the race and was hospitalised for several days with a collapsed lung, and other injuries, but to me it’s the taking part that’s important. Linda is the kind of person who would enter the Dakar, even if they had never ridden a motorbike before — and even if people said it was crazy and dangerous.  After all, when I first started talking about it people said that my dog sledding challenge was crazy and that I’d freeze to death.

For the minute, I have slightly less lofty goals: as well as the year of the dragon (which is progressing well, even if I think it will take many years to master the art of dragon boat paddling) I’m discussing the idea of presenting at one of my work’s conferences some time next year.  Not being technical, all I could present on would be community management. My boss is fully supportive of the idea, to the extent that with her encouragement I am founding a meetup group for community managers: just a place for people like me to discuss their experiences, and on opportunity for me to learn what I have to offer.  I would also like to present a whole talk to the Hacker News London meetup, rather than just the two minute intro.

These might not seem like big adventures, but they form a part of trying to be a better person: as well as getting fitter (I am now visiting the gym several times a week, as well as dragon boat paddling), and trying to be more positive (to be happier), I am also trying to be the person that does things, and doesn’t just talk about them.  I also have to balance this with trying not to take on too much or risk burning out: so there’s an adventure in trying not to have too many different adventures all at the same time.

10k Bootstrap Challenge

Last Friday night I was fortunate enough to see Rob Fitzpatrick present to Hacker News London on his 10k Bootstrap Challenge.

Rob’s talk was one of the funniest and most interesting stories I have heard in a long time — and it occurs to me that he is an adventurer of sorts himself. He might not long for grand treks across continents or ancient South American civilisations, but he is a man on an adventure just the same.

His challenge is quite simple: Rob is betting £10k that he can build a portfolio of products which is profitable enough to live off before he runs out of money.

Watch the video and see for yourself how the adventure is going: http://player.vimeo.com/video/43036150