"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

Do you like what you do?

Since getting engaged I spend more time thinking long-term about the world and my career. I've always had a yen for the big picture, but figuring out how yours truly factors in has taken on more urgency of late.

Some of it comes from explaining "what would you say ya do here" to a pool of putative in-laws who understandably have a number of questions. Part of it is needing to figuring out how I'm gonna cash the existential checks I've written with my existing career moves, to make good on my potential, to pursue the bigger-vision in more than a hand-waving context. A little bit of it is wanting to feel solid in an identity that's separate from the pop-culture caricature of Silicon Valley that's part of the current zeitgeist.

It's not a simple question. I have the most nebulous career and title in the world, "entrepreneur" and "founder". When I talk to people in the start-up game, I often extend the label to be "utility founder", like in baseball where you have a utility infielder; someone who can play shortstop, second base, or first or third in a stretch. The truth is I don't have a single job description. I have several. People in my field tend to get that. Filling multiple positions is par for the course in early-stage companies.

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On Risk

mountain biking

Last Saturday I was in Texas giving a talk at Dallas Drupal Days. The morning after I got up early to go mountain biking with Tom and Dave from Level Ten — the conference anchors; thanks guys! — and their friend Peter, who really set the pace on the ride. It was a lot of fun, and as you can see I had a few brushes with the terrain. Turns out my street biking skills don't translate super well to the offroad context in terms of maneuvering, but I was mostly able to keep up and the road rash (tree rash, actually) was totally superficial.

It got me thinking about risk. I've got a fake tooth stemming from a pretty messy bike wreck in Brooklyn back in 2003, and my chosen mode of transport has gotten me into a number of other other scrapes. I commute daily on the gauntlet of Market street, which is a chunky combination of traffic, potholes and trolly tracks, and enjoy the daily challenge, but the odd moment of jamming between busses aside it doesn't really raise my hackles. By contrast, riding up and down creekbeds and over roots and rocks felt downright dangerous.

The perception of risk is in part about experience; urban street riding is all about tracking multiple changing variables — the timing of the lights, the position and momentum vectors of traffic, the odds that someone is going to open a car door, etc — in the context of relatively flat/even/vanilla landcape, whereas mountain-biking is about maintaining momentum and clean lines of action as the landscape throws challenges at you. Both activities carry risk, but the one I'm used to feels (relatively) safe.

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In Which I Ponder My Career Path a Bit

I'm at the beginning of a shift in my career. For the past two years I've been building a product, creating this thing we call Pantheon — which, if you're curious, you can hear me go on about; nerd alert! — and it's been great. I'm still actively working on that (deployed some code today; booyeah!) but I'm also starting to focus more on public communications. In addition to talking (hopefully at a more measured pace) to interviewers, I'm starting to blog more for work, and get back into doing some public speaking, which is exciting.

And hard! And scary! I was up until 5am with butterflies in my stomach before that keynote in Munich. It's been a while since I've felt like that.

It gets me thinking again about that age-old question, just what would you say you do here? The reality is that I need to let other people who write code full-time rise up. I'm a Founder and at some point I need to get out of the way of the two or four or six people who will do what has been, heretofore, "my job". They may not know all the details as well as I do, or be able to walk the full stack front to back in their sleep, but they'll learn. Plus there will be many of them, which means that they'll be a lot better at coping with the workload than singleton me.

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Life and Times

It's been a while. I haven't just been neglecting this old blog, but really almost all my social interfaces. So a bit of a catch-up is probably in order. In this edition:

  1. Personal life and romance report quarterly update.
  2. How's business?
  3. And what about all that ranting...

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Do Unto / "Cognitive Surplus", "The New Capitalist Manifesto" and "Cloud Atlas"

I took a bunch of books with me on vacation — facilitated while traveling light thanks to the Kindle (that's my one and only plug; I'm aware opinions are mixed) — and over the past three weeks I managed to get through five volumes. Today I'm going to write a little about the two non-fiction works, Clay Shirky's Cognitive Surplus), Umair Haque's New Capitalist Manifesto and David Mitchell's novelly-structured novel, Cloud Atlas.

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Back in the US(SR)

I'm back in Estados Unidos once more, surviving 10 days in bustling, socialistic, publicly drunken Yrup. I have more extensive scribblings on the subject of "does humanity stand a chance" based on my experience, but those are for another time.

For now, notable notes:

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"Most People Can't Do That"

As most of you can likely intimate from my infrequent blogs and tweets, I'm in the process of feeling out the next iteration of my career ambitions. After four years of idiosyncratically living part-time in the woods and bootstrapping an internet consultancy, I'm relocating to San Francisco proper, and my partners and I are beginning to intentionally exploring the next level.

One of the best things about this process so far has been actively seeking out advice from older, wiser, and more experienced people in our field. One of my constant observations — verging at times on complaint — over the past few years is that I don't feel there's a really good roadmap or template for what I do with my life. I'm coming to understand that's not really the case. Certainly there are particular novelties about my experience, but it turns out there are plenty of smart people out there who have done things not unlike what I'm doing now: working in a disruptive technology space with a lot of other folks, building a business and figuring out how to make the most of it all.

In hindsight, this is unsurprising. Anytime you think you're a really unique snowflake, chances are you're at least partly flattering yourself. Even though there aren't many people from my immediate peer group that are doing comparable things, there are plenty of people on the scene here in good old Silicon Valley who are.

And, in getting to know some of these people, it's reall nice to get some external validation. Left to my own devices, I will always expect more of myself, always in some way unsatisfied with my achievements. It's easy to sit here in my office and see all the things I haven't done, all the opportunities we missed, all the work that's still left to do.

But the outside voice reminds me, in speaking of what we've built, "you know, most people can't do that."

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In Which I Ponder My Life and Career and Think About Working Out

Spent this past week at this little get-together called Drupalcon. I've done a poor job in general explaining what this "Drupal" is to my non-nerd quadrant of friends, and it's a pretty long story with a lot of angles and beautiful idiosyncrasies. And also now kind of a big deal on these old internets. Like, 3000 people showing up for a conference we organized, with major sponsorships from technology heavyweights and a presentation from the White House.


The first wave of my professional life was very startup-oriented. Silicon Alley from '98 to '01. I never made any money of course, but as a 19 to 22 year old kid it was amazing experience both on technical and business fronts. The second wave was all about politics, but definitely had that scrappy startup kind of vibe, bootstrapping an insurgent campaign and then getting the non-profit equivalent of venture financing to try out some totally unproven ideas, including building a professional space around Drupal and participating in the dot-org boom. After that I took some time off and freelanced, then started a company. While starting ones own company is an integral part of being an entrepreneur for real-real, the first few years of this were a lot of hard learning curve for me, and to be honest it was a lot harder than I thought.

Now, exhausted from an excessively busy week and battling a devilish low-grade cold, I still feel like, once again, the buzz is back. It's a new wave. I'm back to sleeping six hours a night and waking up jazzed.

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Talk Nerdy To Me Part Deux

This is my "good" presentation. I'm looking a little haggard here — this is after two more days of being on a boat in Stockholm, and two more nights out with the king of Denmark, then flying back to spend Friday/Saturday nights in Austin, Texas — but this is the best Video I've got of my "inspired by Lessig" deal.

Someday I'm going to get my own projector, a foot-pedal clicker, and a few weeks of time, and make some king-hell presentation-art. Lots of potential.

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Talk Nerdy To Me

One of the things I did while on my world-tour last fall was give a talk about Drupal and academia in the belly of a ship in Stockholm. And the cameras we're rolling.

How Berkeley and Stanford University Use Drupal (Joshua Koenig) from NodeOne.se on Vimeo.

It's not my best presentation due to jetlag/sickness and a funky mic (I also never really had my breath working right, a big no-no from Theater World), but I did a decent job of regulating my pace and I think it's a more or less accurate talk.

Huge thanks to my hosts who cut together this video really well, and gave me some lovely liquor that I didn't quite get to drink. Looking forward to showing them a really good time when they come out to San Francisco in April!

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