What is a DevCamp?

DevHouse + BarCamp = DevCamp

While the event is still fairly fresh in my mind, I wanted to take a moment to extract some of the elements that I think made iPhoneDevCamp such a success. I’d like to put down my thoughts on how others can emulate our model towards yet another extension of the community-run, grassroots-driven event known as BarCamp — into a new style of event that shall be called DevCamp*.

You’ll note that in the original logo deliberations for iPhoneDevCamp I was very intentional about not including iPhone-specific artwork in the mark, instead choosing something more generic to the idea of building or construction. Fortunately Louie Mantia pitched in and was able to help me refine some of the ideas that I had and we ended up with the logo above — which you can download in vector form.

Anyway, getting back to the event itself…

First and foremost, the event set out to capture the spirit of four successful event models before it: SuperHappyDevHouse, BarCamp, Mash Pit and Mac Hack. It helped a great deal to have had experience running those events before and we relied on our collective instincts to keep the event flowing and ensuring that the participants were both enjoying themselves and contributing to the overall atmosphere of the event.

Equally important in the success of the event were the people involved. It was a rare privilege to work with such dedicated and passionate folks and I really can’t say enough how much the model of selflessness Raven Zachary, Christopher Allen, Dominic Sagolla, Blake Burris, Whurley, Jerry Murray and countless others portrayed over the weekend. First time participants eagerly volunteered their energies to improving the event for others in incremental but crucial ways. In all my experiences with BarCamps, DevHouses and DevCamps, the lesson is consistently that these events are all about the people who come together for each other — and go out of their way to improve the experience of their fellow campers.

It’s truly remarkable to see, but I’ve seen it over and over again and I think it’s at the heart of what’s been called the “Spirit of BarCamp“. iPhoneDevCamp was no different and carried forth a tradition that’s come to define our community and the events that we host.

Moving right along…

An essential aspect of this event, like the first BarCamp, was implicitly “embracing the chaos” as we like to say. The first BarCamp was organized in six days and catered to nearly 300 people. iPhoneDevCamp was planned in only three weeks and catered to nearly 400 (if not more). We were able to cobble together an incredible venue stemming from a simple tweet. We pulled in over forty sponsors who provided. When Raven originally put out the call to Whurley and me about throwing this event, we had no idea how it might turned out — and embracing that uncertainty and being transparent about our progress lead us to be open to the twists and turns along the way that ultimately resulted in an incredibly worthwhile experience.

In fact, Christopher Allen’s participation didn’t materialize into much later into the event planning process. His desire to rekindle aspects of the original Mac Hack that he chaired in 1993 lead us to step back and encourage Chris to take the reigns and bring his experience to bear. Sure enough, he did a fantastic job of guiding the Hack-a-thon and presiding as master of ceremonies. He was able to deftly get people on the same page and describe how we were to work with one another and really join in the spirit of collaboration and learning.

It was this aspect of education that I hoped would resonate most with participants — and that with an open atmosphere where no question was off limits, we’d see some really interesting and inspiring thinking about how to embrace the constraints of the iPhone as an opportunity palette — and to really push what might seem conventionally possible with just a cell phone with an internet connection and a web browser.

I would argue that it was the imposition of external and topical constraints that lead to such enormous focus and productivity. I’d add to that the utter necessity of having a widely diverse assortment of skilled participants in attendance in order to be able to approach problems from multiple perspectives and skillsets and to not accept simple technical limitations as barriers to executing on a vision. As Kent Bye put it:

Twitter / KentBye: DevCamp model of connecting teams of IA/Designers, coders & UI testers to create projects is a lot more productive than BarCamp-style demos

Again, I think this underscores my point that is a good thing, simply because it enriches the fabric of the intelligence available for solving problems in new and unexpected ways. It’s no surprise that Tilt, one of the favorite apps of the camp, was developed by a small but diverse team made up of a game designer, an artist, a couple developers and a documentary filmmaker.

So the best design pattern that I would extract from this event comes, historically, from Chris Allen’s experience at Mac Hack and deserves something of a brief retelling:

On Saturday morning, the organizers were huddled in the ops room reviewing how to most appropriately award the incredible schwag our sponsors had donated. We had a bunch of iPod and iPhone add-ons, a number of tchotchkes and other ephemera, but we also had a couple iPhones, a couple Adobe Creative Suite Design Premium packs and various other top quality prizes… but we wanted to make sure that we had an equitable way to distribute the prizes. We started brainstorming:

“We could do a raffle.”

“We could have a hack contest for best app.”

Chris Allen broke into the discussion and told us that instead what they used to do at Mac Hack was reward participation and helpfulness. He proposed that staff get 100 or so total “special tickets” that we’d pass out throughout the event to people who were being the most helpful, the most constructive or generally contributing something to the event that didn’t necessarily directly benefit themselves. These special tickets were the ones that would be used for the big prizes drawing — the iPhones and Creative Suites — and the regular tickets would be dispensed as people arrived as an incentive for sticking around for the entire event.

By focusing on helpfulness and enculturating a spirit of coopetition, we avoided zero-summing the event by encouraging and refocusing energy on sharing, co-educating and building things collaboratively. Eventually people were having so much fun doing pure experimentation and hacking that they forgot all about the prize tickets… providing the perfect opportunity to swoop in and reward their participation. All in all, this approach worked extremely well and is a pattern, again, that I think should survive iPhoneDevCamp and carry forth into other such DevCamps.

To bring this all together — what I’m most proud of out of this event is how it brought people together to solve (or at least hack on) some pretty challenging and vexing problems and to do so with utter abandon, wearing one’s passion on her or his sleeve. It was an opportunity to learn in an open environment where diversity and raw talent were at a premium. There was no room for posturing or pretentiousness. And I think for folks not familiar with the camp community, like Michelle Quinn of the LA Times, this was a novelty and not something that she’s used to at conferences or events.

And I think it’s a testament to those involved and those who helped organize the event that we’ve set the bar exceedingly high for subsequent iterations. Like BarCamp and SuperHappyDevHouse before it, DevCamp offers a free, compelling, low-cost event model for organizing people around their passions. While there is already talk of subsequent iPhoneDevCamps, there is also interest in extending the model already. I’m excited to see how people can take this original design and stay true the values of openness, diversity, education, and the passionate pursuit of ideas and expertise.

came before Raven’s creation of the iPhoneDevCamp name. I believe Raven coined the name independent of the prior event but seems like a good idea to extend the name outward, while we have momentum.

Why I’m involved in iPhoneDevCamp

iPhoneDevCampWhile I’m planning to write a lengthier piece about why I think the iPhone and its constraints are important to the future of the open web, I did want to take a moment and talk about my involvement in co-organizing this weekend’s iPhoneDevCamp with Raven Zachary, whurley, Blake Burris, Dominic Sagolla and Christopher Allen and touch on its relationship with BarCamp and other similar camp-style events.

In particular, I received questions about my involvement in the event and calling it a “camp” from Jay Fichialos and Evan Prodromou, two BarCamp community members. I think that their concerns are valid and are worth answering, especially in public, as it gets at the line between commercial interests and community interests — and to what degree its okay to mix “business and grassroots” especially when, to date, BarCamp and the majority of *camp-styled events have avoided most the trappings of commercial endorsement.

Here’s essentially what I told them:

  1. For me, iPhoneDevCamp isn’t really about the iPhone. Personally, I could care less about the iPhone. What I am interested in, however, is the opportunity that the iPhone affords to promote the development and building of open web technologies in the conspicuous absence of proprietary technologies like Flash, SilverLight et al.
  2. I see my involvement as primarily to “keep it real”, to provide contacts and facilitation and to weigh in on issues of commercialization of the event. I think I represent a conservative perspective in this regard whereas my fellow co-organizers are more open to various forms of sponsor involvement. My goal is to keep the vibe community-centric and make sure that the event remain true to the spirit of prior camps, putting the participants first above sponsors.
  3. I like the idea of a productive and educational DevCamp model and would like to see this meme spread further. While this event is product-driven in name, I feel that subsequent events can morph into more product-agnostic events, extracting the base components of a “DevCamp” (part DevHouse, part BarCamp, part Mash Pit, part Mac Hack) into something more general. As with other events that I’ve been involved with, the event itself is non-proprietary and is open for reinterpretation and remixing. I would love for this event to enculturate new thinking, new ideas and new appreciation for using open web standards, open web technologies like microformats and OpenID and other non-proprietary web design methodologies. I’m sure other similar learning possibilities will emerge, but what’s important to me here is that the model of the DevCamp persist as yet another way for independents to gather themselves and self-educate.

Now, to be clear, I certainly do not care to hype the iPhone any more than it already is. I don’t own and iPhone and I haven’t decided whether I will buy one or not. Still, I feel like its release provides a grand opportunity to shift the thinking on developing for the iPhone towards open web technologies. Given the work I’ve been involved with from Spread Firefox to microformats to OpenID, this seems to be an opportunity not worth missing, regardless of the commercial implications. The web will survive the iPhone and will be made better by it. To what extent that is true, however, is entirely in our hands.

BarCampPortland and Pibb

Pibb - #pdxbarcamp

I’m here in Portland, OR at their BarCamp — it’s a great scene, but with a few differences.

First of all, this is the first time a BarCamp has been held specifically in a coworking space — in this case, an expansive collaborative environment called CubeSpace.

Second, Jay Fichialos, the original camphead, is here from Dallas and has transcribed the complete calendar into a great looking Google Spreadsheet.

Third, we’re using Pibb, a new online chat system built by Portland company JanRain, as the event’s channel. It seems to be performing really well for a new product and looks great. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem like there are permalinks available for the transcripts, but I’ve put in a request to the developers who were on-site for such a feature.

Otherwise, Dawn and Raven did a fantastic job putting the event together, there’s been plenty of food, great conversations and an impressive turnout. Oh, and Josh Bancroft’s Wii was definitely a welcome addition (even though Dawn kicked my ass).

Lastly, I’d like to commend BarCampPortland on achieving three to five male to female ratio of organizers… and yes, I mean that there five female planners of a total of eight. Attendance overall was still skewed towards male attendees, but the session that Dawn put on about Collaboration in Communities had a full 10 female participants — and it was one of the best and most interesting sessions I’ve been to. Progress is slow, but with increased awareness, continued vigilance and proactive inclusivity, I do think that the BarCamp community can continue to improve how it promotes, invites and nurtures a wider, more diverse, and more talented, community.

We found women in tech, so why are you still not reporting about them?

A Guide to the UnconventionalThere’s a good article on unconferences by Scott Kirsner in next week’s BusinessWeek. He talks about what an unconference is, discusses the rise of the wider community and the potential threat to the traditional conference model.

All in all, he does a pretty good job capturing an accurate picture of the “unconference scene” and it was great getting to talk to Scott about his piece.

I did want to take issue with his singling me out of “two fellow Web2Open organizers”, and bring some attention to gender blindness in media stories such as this one.

As with many stories in the popular press, it’s fairly typical to rest the foundation of a story on one or two key individuals; it keeps complexity low and avoids getting bogged down in details that are only of import to the characters of the story. And I’m sure that Scott didn’t intend any malice, but that Ross and Tara, who both stood on those chairs with me went unnamed strikes me as a missed opportunity to highlight not only the hard work that lots of folks have put into building this community, but in particular undermines the credit that Tara deserves for the incredible amount of work that she did to make Web2Open happen. If anyone, she’s the one that really deserves to be called out in the article.

But there’s a second and more insidious issue that I want to raise now, while the issue is relevant… If you read over the article, with the inside knowledge that I have of the background that went into the article, it’s doubly unfortunate that Tara wasn’t given more credit as a female organizer when she did far more than I did to pull off the conference; on top of that, the mention of Web2Open attendee Sudha Jamthe (a previous BarCamp organizer, no less) and Tara Dunion, spokeswoman for the Consumer Electronics Association, seem to paint them as bit players when compared to white guys like me, Dave Winer and Doug Gold.

Now, maybe I’m just over-sensitive to this kind of stuff, building mountains out of molehills and all that, but I suppose that’s the price of vigilance. And it’s also something that I can’t ignore when BarCamp is not and has never been solely about individuals, but about what we can do together, when serving each our own’s best interests. And this is especially relevant if you read Aaron Swartz’s thoughts on mysogny in the tech community:

If you talk to any woman in the tech community, it won’t be long before they start telling you stories about disgusting, sexist things guys have said to them. It freaks them out; and rightly so. As a result, the only women you see in tech are those who are willing to put up with all the abuse.

I really noticed this when I was at foo camp once, Tim O’Reilly’s exclusive gathering for the elite of the tech community. The executive guys there, when they thought nobody else was around, talked about how they always held important business meetings at strip clubs and the deficiencies of programmers from various countries.

Meanwhile, foo camp itself had a session on discrimination in which it was explained to us that the real problem was not racism or sexism, but simply the fact that people like to hang out with others who are like themselves.

The denial about this in the tech community is so great that sometimes I despair of it ever getting fixed. And I should be clear, it’s not that there are just some bad people out there who are being prejudiced and offensive. Many of these people that I’m thinking of are some of my best friends in the community. It’s an institutional problem, not a personal one.

Promoting women when they’re doing great things in the tech community has to become a top priority. Providing and seeking out the women who are serving in backbone roles within our community and bringing the spotlight to them and supporting them must become a shared priority. Working with women’s groups to create both inviting events and interesting opportunities to draw out and inspire the reluctant or hidden female talent is something that conference and *camp organizers alike must attend to.

I think I’m extra sensitive about this particular case for two reasons. The first is that we tried really hard and went out of our way to encourage and both in and in the Web2Expo. It was certainly a challenge, but I’m proud of the progress we made. I personally had the privilege to work with three incredible women on the designer track (Kelly Goto, Jen Pahlka and Emily Chang) and I think that made all the difference. The second issue probably stems from the Schwartz interview where Philipp Lenssen (the interviewer) reports:

The last barcamp I was at, in Nuremberg, had a men/ women ratio of about 80/ 2. It was quite sad, and I was wondering what the cause of this was. Is it partly also a problem of the hacker culture, to behave anti-social, and that this puts off more social people? Many good programmers I know, for instance, aren’t too social.

To which Aaron astutely replies:

I think that’s probably part of it; many people don’t have the social skills to notice how offensive they’re being. But even the people who are quite social and competent misbehave and, furthermore, they support a culture where this misbehavior is acceptable. I don’t exclude myself from this criticism.

Now, for a BarCamp to have an 80-2 male-female ratio is unacceptable as far as I’m concerned. And I would hope and challenge the BarCamp community, in particular, to do whatever it takes to work to remedy a condition like this. There are simply no excuses, only constant improvements to be made. And if any community were up to the challenge of taking head on and reversing this long term, systemic trend of making women effectively invisible, I should hope, and moreover expect, that it would be the BarCamp community to take the first worldwide steps towards addressing this critical matter and setting some baseline priorities for how we’re going to improve this situation.

BarCampAustin, BarCampPlannersSummit and CoworkingMeetup

BarCampAustin logo

Hot on the news that co-organizer Whurley has joined BMC Software as Chief Evil Genius, we’re kicking off the start of BarCamp/Refresh/Dorkbot at Bourbon Rocks in Austin alongside the start of SXSW.

A couple notes… BarCampAustin starts started today and continues into tomorrow (yes, this overlaps with the first day of SXSWi). Highlights include $10 screenprinting of your own custom BarCamp tshirt and Austin favorite SoulHat will be playing Saturday Night — along with other surprises throughout. As co-organizer Erica O’Grady says, This is definitely going to be a BarCamp you won’t want to miss 😉

Now, as for agendas… just want to point out that we’ll probably be doing both a session and a coordinating meeting of some kind related to coworking tomorrow. This is the meeting that we previously discussed but didn’t set a definite time on. I think it’d be best if we planned to take this on tomorrow from 3:30 to 4:30 — trying hard not to conflict with too many panels… so that Tara can join in, since she’ll be jetting off to Vegas to perform reconnaissance at Community Two Point Oh Con.

Otherwise, the rest of the week is pretty well covered by Jeremy Keith’s microformats mashup until we arrive at the on Thursday.

So, while I’m at it, I want to pimp out Twitter (not like it needs it — but you can follow what’s going on by sending the command join sxsw — though unfortunately there’s no “unjoin” if you want to tune us all out) and Conferenceer — both will prove indispensable tools throughout the week and beyond.

Under lock and key

Daniel Quinn has written about civilization and how agricultural farming is what has brought us to our current environmental predicament. In his books, particularly Ishmael and My Ishmael, he points out putting the food supply under lock and key (as opposed to being readily available for foraging) is a natural outgrowth of agriculture, given its surpluses and that our entire infrastructure is built around that condition.

Recently I’ve been reading his book Beyond Civilization, which, contrary to what you might think, is a treatise against civilization in general — not an advocation of improving civilization, but of an abandonment of the notion altogether, for in civilization, we find the memes that time and time again lead us down the path of exploitation and environmental desecration.

Rather than just continue building civilization in a different way, he advocates walking away — and developing a new model of making a living based on tribal economics.

While his vision is appealing to me, I’m stuck wanting to see massive change and revolution, sensing the urgency of our situation. On the other hand, no massive and complete upheaval will actually work, since inverting the triangle would simply result in another triangle.

Instead, and this is the way biological systems work, we need incremental change and new memes that shape our thinking and our approach to our reality.

I’ve been thinking about this lately and find that DRM and Intellectual Property Laws represent one side of Daniel’s Quinn’s story — and efforts like Coworking, BarCamp, microformats, open source and others represent, or at least have characteristics, of the other.

In particular, I question any institutional trend towards consolidation, crystallization, centralization or the locking up of naturally occurring resources or readily reproducible resources (like digital data). With much of my work, I’ve attempted to implement or at least follow the framework suggested by Andrius Kulikaukus in his “An Economy for Giving Everything Away”. I’ve also taken lessons from Daniel Quinn’s work and others, and have come to prefer a longer and more incremental approach to the changes that I want to see made real, and I think that this is the path of open source and biomimetic innovation.

Having visited BarCampLondon, I instantly see the value of making BarCamp open and proactively inclusive from the beginning. Retrospectively, I’m proud that there was no urge to trademark or lock down the name, the brand, the model or the community — as anathema to the spirit of BarCamp those actions would have been, they were choices that were made, either explicitly or implicitly, over time. And there are lessons to be had from our experiences.

On occasion, the notion of trademarking the BarCamp name has been brought up, primarily from a defensive perspective, to chill any attempts by “bad actors” or “corporate interests” from taking away from us that which we call our community, much CMP nearly did with their “Web 2.0” trademark. Now, I can tell you that I can understand the reasoning behind this and can sympathize with it. I can also state, quite certainly, that I’d rather the name be taken from us than to bring us back to centralization and the methods of enforcement and protection that I find so unseemly in a gift-based, community context.

Trademarks, patents and copyright all place upon the owners of such Rights obligations that do not beget community. As DRM are the economic shackles of genius, so I would not move to limit the bounds and possibilities that good actors within the community might do. That is not to say that we are immune from abuse, only that our priority should be the encouragement and promotion of proper and positive use.

To that end, we rely on a community of peers to uphold our values and principles, and do not outsource the responsibility of this work to a cathedral, a court of law, a foundation or other centralized establishment. We defer instead to the routing of the network and the creation of nodes in bearing shades of the original.

This is an ecosystem, we are the grid, this is walking away from civilization, this is rise of the tribes of BarCamp.

I’ll conclude with a quote from Daniel Quinn‘s Beyond Civilization, where he invokes an interesting word in describing “A new rule for new minds”:

We deeply believe in taking a military approach to problems. We proclaim a “war” on poverty. When that fails, we proclaim a “war” on drugs. We “fight” crime. We “combat” homelessness. We “battle” hunger. We vow to “defeat” AIDS.

Engineers can’t afford to fail as consistently as politicians and bureaucrats, so they prefer accedence to resistance (as I do). For example, they know that no structure can be made rigid enough to resist an earthquake. So, rather than defy the earthquake’s power by building rigid structures, they accede to it by building flexible ones. To accede is not merely to give in but rather to give in while drawing near; one may accede not only to an argument but to a throne. Thus the earthquake-proof building survives not be defeating the earthquake’s power by by acknowledging it — by drawing it in and dealing with it.

This is the path forward, and the path that I prefer to any kind of control, ownership or dictatorship. I believe that it also the one of the BarCamp community, and so long as we are able to accede to our environment and always respond to it positively, productively and optimistically, I think that we stand a chance to see the change realized that we wish to become.

The Burning Man trademark controversy

In this post I talk about the Burning Man trademark controversy and its ramifications for other community initiatives, for the community mark concept and then outline a few ideas relating to the advance of community-driven intellectual property.

Burning Man TM
Original uploaded by Sterling Ely and shared under a Creative Commons License.

Scott Beale has been keeping me up to date on the Burning Man trademark controversy and today Eugene Kim pinged me about the story hitting the Chron.

What’s so interesting and didactic about this controversy is that it embodies, on a grand scale, the kind of micro-controversies that open source communities have faced for a long time around intellectual property and trademark matters.

On the one hand, you have the folks from , the ones who put on the event, fearing corruption and abuse by commercial interests:

…about the idea raised in the lawsuit of putting the Burning Man name and image in the public domain. While the concept is interesting, the reality is that we’ve been fighting attempts by corporations to exploit the Burning Man name almost since the first day we set foot on the playa. Making Burning Man freely available to individuals who would only use it to make money would go against everything all of us have worked for over the years. We will not let that happen.

On the other side, you’ve got folks, like John Law who filed the lawsuit, willing to embrace the chaos, as we often say, and let the market and — more importantly — the community — decide the brand’s fate (given certain conditions):

Burning Man belongs to everyone.

Burning Man is the sum of the efforts of the tens of thousands of people who have contributed to making Burning Man what it is.

The name Burning Man and all attendant trademarks, logos and trade dress do not belong to Larry Harvey alone or to Black Rock City LLC.

If they don’t belong to anyone, they belong to the public domain. If they are in the public domain, the event can still go on and the trademarks, logos and trade dress can still be used. But the event organizers don’t own those things and each and every one of the event participants are free to use these things as they want without permission or interference from the event organizers. There’s nothing to stop the party from being as big and wild as ever.

Then, of course, there are the corporate and commercial interests, who see a huge opportunity to capitalize on the value, reputation and attention-getting that the brand has generated over the years, who, according to reporter Steven T. Jones, envision MTV coverage, a burner clothing line from the Gap, Girls Gone Wild at Burning Man, billboards with Hummers driving past the Man, and other co-optations by corporations looking for a little countercultural cachet.

It’s unfortunate that when money starts changing hands, the original ethos and spirit of creation inevitably becomes undermined and damaged. I’ve seen this happen many times over — and when it doesn’t, it’s either because the commercial potential (the true measure of modern-day success in most circles) dissipates, or the community refuses to go down without a fight and relinquish dominion over the destiny of the project — of their creation.

But protecting the integrity of a community-built brand is a massive challenge for any collective — especially when protection isn’t exactly top of mind for most members of a group (ignoring the bystander effect). This kind of protective behavior is also, in many ways, antithetical to the type of free and open ethos that was so originally attractive. Thus, when things migrate from an ethos-driven commons to a commerce-driven economy, many of the original drivers for participation are subsumed by “maintenance- and protection-mode activities”.

This is something that Mozilla, Creative Commons, BarCamp, Microformats</a, OpenID, Tribe and others have and will continue to deal with. Thus given my experiences, I’ve been trying to express ideas for an alternative to trademark in the Community Mark concept, to varying degrees of success.

With this Burning Man situation starkly highlighting how nasty trademark disputes can get (and it’s only going to get worse for decentralized communities in the future, as the burners tend to be early pioneers of digital culture).

So, the question that remains to be considered here is what kind of moral code could be applied in this situation to mitigate the harmfulness of this dispute? — and for the future, what can similar community groups do to preserve their culture, their idealism and their connection with positivity and creativity when they begin to experience internal or external commercial interest?

Gollam: My PreciousIt’s long been my contention that, if the BarCamp mark should ever be co-opted (in that the community at large would lose effective dominion over the brand’s destiny — and we’ve had our brushes with disaster as well as ongoing and continuing controversies), that the brand and name should effectively be destroyed.

It is my opinion, perhaps naively so, that the health of the BarCamp community and resultant cultural productions are far more valuable and useful as contributions to the advancement of civilization than the name or the brand. And, the brand is really only as valuable as the community is healthy, so in my thinking, the nature and organic decay that might occur over time to the brand itself is to be embraced, accepted and allowed to run its course, even if it means that the original mark be abandoned or annihilated in the interest of preserving the sinews of the collective.

I think that John Law’s proposal to put the Burning Man mark into the public domain is an interesting one, and I would hope a genuine one. On the other hand, however, he contends that if the other two owners of the mark are going to continue raking in $8M a year running the business, he deserves his piece of the pie. Such is the insidious damnation of intellectual property:

If it’s a real fucking movement, they can give up control of the name, Law told the Guardian in the first interview he has given about Burning Man in years. If it’s going to be a movement, great. Or if it’s going to be a business, then it can be a business. But I own a part of that.

Now, I have two proposals of my own to make in this case, and they probably will not come as a surprise.

The first is a response to centralization and crystallization in and of communities — in other words, a way to address the stabilization, ordering or staleness of a community leading to its isolation, vulnerability and/or co-optation. As Ori Brafman has said, the best remedy and protection is disintegration, shattering the community into its original component parts, and the sending of those pieces to the wind to reformulate elsewhere, in a wholly new and unfamiliar form. This is actually the process of conflagration that signifies the ending of Burning Man every year and should be a salient reminder of the temporal nature of these constructs; indeed such renewal is necessary for the long term survival of the global organism.

The second proposal is more specific. I would like to append an escape clause to the current thinking on the Community Mark concept. Whereas the lifetime of a Community Mark shall be “as long as the community is willing to protect and uphold the integrity of the mark, and no longer”, I think it is necessary to also stipulate what happens to the brand after a disintegration event… and, as a sort of “living will” for the community to protect against the corrupting influences of consolidation-in-the-sole-interest-of-commerce… There may be two outcomes — one, that a community mark may end up unowned and in the public domain, whereby no single entity may lay claim to it; and the second: a kind of intellectual property black hole where the mark is Robert Paulsened — that is, completely erased from memory, never to be spoken of or invoked again, at least in the context of the original meaning. Instead, and in its void, a new entity may be created, but totally new, with no connection with the former, such that the restorative acts of creation can save the community from itself and from the destructive and minimizing effects that possession, consolidation and megalomania leads to.

So, I do hope and expect that the community of Burning Man can pull itself through this and beyond the stagnating grasp of commerce for the sake of commerce, but only time will tell. I imagine that the community is resilient enough to live through this and at the same time, hope that the rest of us are able to learn from the pain and anger that that community is now experiencing.