Alex Hillman

Fearless leader @indyhall. Peoplewatcher. Skywalker. Used to know HTML.

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These 5 Truths

I believe in these 5 truths:

  • Learning is a part of everyday life.
  • True collaborations start with the foundation of a relationship, not a transaction.
  • Either the world happens to you, or you happen to the world. You get to choose which.
  • Success, happiness, and love are things that are not achieved but are experienced, and are best experienced with others.
  • Do, or do not. There is no try. #JFDI

This list is a work in progress and will be updated. Like anything authentic, it is incomplete and awaiting new contributions.

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There’s Never Only One Community

If you’ve ever been in a community leadership position, you’ve probably been tempted (or even tried) to wrangle or squeeze a community closer together. My bet is that you found it to be a bit like squeezing sand - it ran right through your fingers.

Communities are challenging (and rewarding!) to lead for many reasons. One that I’ve noticed that is often overlooked is that there’s never only one community at play.

As you start

I don’t want to get hung up on semantics, but the notion that communities are “built” in and of itself isn’t totally accurate. Communities don’t spring up out of nowhere - they come from the relationships & connections between people. It’s extremely unlikely that those people aren’t a part of some communities before the new one forms. In fact, existing communities tend to be the primary source of new communities - not new leaders deciding that a community...

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GitHub & Emergent Culture By Design

This post originated as an email to the current students of my Community Builders Masterclass. It resonated with them as a real world example of the results of the course’s principles-in-action, so I thought I’d share it here as well. It’s been edited slightly for context. The word “Ambition” is also capitalized because of how it’s used in the context of the course as a piece of learning language. It’s NOT the same as the dictionary definition of the word.

Have you heard of GitHub.com? Even if you’re not in the software development industry there’s a good chance you have heard their name.

If not, no worries, there’s still a valuable story here for you.

GitHub is an unusual company in many ways, but at the heart of their success you’ll hear their team and founders refer to their unique culture. They happens to sell very good, very powerful software. But what they do and sell, in the...

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Better Answers & How I Learned to Defrag My Brain

Warning: this post ends with a homework assignment.

Steven Johnson is one of my favorite authors. I wish I could remember who introduced me to him so I could thank them. The first book of his I read was The Invention of Air, and his most recent Where Good Ideas Come From.

Where Good Ideas Come From in 4 minutes

Recently, Steven started a series called “The Writers Room”. Truth be told, his last post is nearly a month old but has moved me so hard for the last month that I wanted to share.

Enter the Spark File

The Spark File, Steven describes, is a process/tool that he uses to collect “half-baked ideas” and then revisit them. For 8 years, he’s maintained a single document with notes & ideas with zero organization or taxonomy, simply a chronology of thoughts. He calls this document his Spark File.

Once a month, he revisits the ENTIRE Spark File from top to bottom, revisiting old...

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Considering My Influences

My “chosen” background was in technology - definitely not workspace, community, or any of the things I work on today.

I’d like to try to connect some dots between the things that have influenced my approach to what I work on.

Diagnosis & Systems

For a long time, I was more focused on building and diagnosing hardware, systems, and networks than on software development. As a result, I tend to look at the world through lenses of diagnostics & systems.

There’s a tendency in technology professions to want to engineer yourself out of a job, effectively make yourself obsolete by designing & building systems that can run mostly on their own. The difference between me and most of my colleagues was always that I was always a little more comfortable with my instincts. Probably because was constantly trying stuff and learning from my mistakes - and how to make mistakes so that they...

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Real Opinions Evolve

Colin Devroe has a great post about acknowledging and actively undoing your own echo chamber.

My personal favorite:

If you read someone’s opinion long enough their opinions begin to form your own. Break out of that habit. Read the counter arguments. Or ditch them altogether.

How often are your opinions actually your opinions?

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You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means

Collective action towards change can become a movement, but often, remain content being little more than animal instincts.

“Movements don’t emerge because everyone suddenly decides to face the same direction at once. They rely on social patterns that begin as the habits of friendship, grow through the habits of communities, and are sustained by new habits that change participants’ sense of self.” - Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit

Read this book if you want to create, lead, or participate in movements.

Special thanks to Amy and Ana who coaxed me into reading it myself.

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Embracing Another Point of View

I seek to understand people I disagree with. They aren’t crazy, they just have a point of view. I may never agree, but understanding makes me smarter. Sometimes (often) I lose patience. I can be rude and lose my cool. I fight feeling entitled constantly. Sometimes I think I’d be wealthier if I stopped fighting that entitlement, but I don’t think my life would be as rich.

Out of all of the parts of Tara Hunt’s honest, authentic, self-seeking blog post that spoke to me, this paragraph might as well have had neon flashing lights all over it.

Empathy is an increasingly rare resource, and one of the most challenging skills that I work hard to practice.

It usually requires meditation-like presence; as silly as it might sound, I actually try to separate myself from my opinion to make room for someone else’s opinion in an active attempt to understand and deepen my own understanding.

On...

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The money is a red herring

I agree with Ilya that people are afraid of money, and it’s a paralyzing epidemic.

He had a good point he was making, and then he went ahead and mucked it up with App.net as an example of an alternative, and that’s when I realized that even he missed his own point.

This whole arguement is a red herring for real problems and, not shockingly, the solution is a misdirection just the same.

App.net “customers” bought a pledge, a promise, a dream of what “could be”. Not something that relieves pain. Not something that will make them their $50 back or more. And definitely not $4.16/month worth of either.

Watching arguments about what App.net is or isn’t, what it represents and if it’s going to succeed or fail reminds me of the scene in Batman Forever when Chase Meridian tells Bruce Wayne that the Rorschach blot on her wall isn’t an image of a bat; she explains that it’s nothing more than...

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Launching Without Superlatives

Seth Godin points to some interesting Kickstarter Stats and then goes on to point out two valuable launch lessons:

1) Create inevitability around the projects you launch, wherever you launch them.

and

2) One way to appear inevitable is to set a lower minimum threshold for success. Setting a huge number feels bold and even macho, but it’s clear that your fans would prefer to pile on after you’ve reached your goal, not sweat or be begged to be sure you reach it in the first place.

I’ve taken notice to projects that lead with bombastic claims of being “the most”, “the best”, “the biggest, or "the first”. I believe that language has it’s place, and that place is behind closed doors, in the context of “the most/best/biggest/etc that we’re capable of”.

This alludes to another Godin-ism, which paraphrased amounts to

“Be the best in the world”, where best for you based on what you...

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