c e n t r i f u g e

12:58 friday 24 march – mundarrah street , clovelly , sydney

onelist.com , the service i’ve been using to host this mailing list , has been assimilated by its main competitor egroups.com . since there was already a list called wanderer on egroups i’ve been compelled to modify the name . so it’s goodbye wanderer and hallo worldwanderer . it’s grossly cheesy , but heck , i couldn’t think of anything better .

i’ve been here in sydney a month now . the days have alternated pretty equally between sun and cloud , for which i’m grateful as it’s made it much easier to maintain a balance between work and shameless lounging . it also means i’ve got a modest tan rather than terminal skin cancer .

last weekend i escaped up to the blue mountains for a couple of days with duncan , a fellow brit i met a couple of days earlier . it was great to be amongst the trees , the aromatic air , the never-silent hush .

one of the main objectives in coming to autralia was to advance another stage in my mobile working endeavours . it’s twenty months since my first step in this direction , when i spent july/august 1998 roving around the isles of scilly , cornwall , gloucestershire and cambridge whilst continuing to work on a website for decca records with a team in london . back then it was just me and my little psion , which restricted my interaction to email except when i was able to hijack someone else’s terminal . i remember being enraptured by the novelty of lying on a beach and being paid for it .

my next step was when i came out to australia in december 1998 . i borrowed a computer out here and carried on working with a couple of clients in london . but my input was still essentially text-based . i didn’t get a whole lot of work done , to be honest . but i learned a lot .

after that came the experiment of spending a whole year in the isles of scilly . this time i had my full battery of equipment with me and was able to participate in a much wider range of activities . i was principally doing work for the school for social entrepreneurs , including consultancy , web production and print production . whenever i left the islands i relied on my psion to maintain email contact .

then in january i got my powerbook , opening up the prospect of being able to continue working on a full range of tasks from anywhere in the world , so long as i can get occasional access to power and telecoms . this trip to australia is the first trial of that theory . after a month it’s working well . i’ve put together a brochure for the sse , which i can send to printers in cornwall via email . i’m much of the way through producing a new website for the sse . i’ve been continuing to play a development role with the scillonia digital workshop , and will be producing a website with its members . i’ve also taken the first steps towards setting up a software development venture , whose working title is trampoline , based on my research over the last eighteen months into dispersed collaboration , learning and decision-making .

in all of these activities i’ve been working with groups of people in different places . these interactions have been structured in ways which enable me to feel i’m involved in ongoing discussions , that part of me is there with the other participants . these are delicate psychological considerations . the potential for misunderstanding , paranoia and defensiveness is much higher in a dispersed collaboration than in a conventional one . the development and sustenance of trust is critical . so in a way these experiments have been about trust , exploring different interactive structures and strategies , seeing where trust flourishes and where it perishes , where i feel like an active participant and where i feel remote , where i feel stimulated to contribute creatively and where i feel inhibited .

trampoline is the result of everything i have learned . i have come to see clear patterns in what works and what doesn’t work . from these insights has emerged a concept for a way to organise communications which will enable organisations , especially information-based organisations , to increase their creative potential .    i am particularly eager that the non-profit sector should benefit from an infrastructure tool like this . charitable organisations are typically under-resourced , thinly-spread and dependent on a wide network of influence and support . they are also blessed with high levels of commitment and shared purpose . trampoline will enable such organisations to marshal their resources more effectively . i am hoping to establish the venture in such a way that non-profit organisations will have access to services on a free or non-profit basis .

these plans took a significant step forward a couple of weeks ago when warren langley , ex-president and ceo of the pacific exchange in san francisco , offered to help guide the project through first-stage financing . there’s an amazing story behind this . at the start of may last year i was on st agnes , packing my belongings into boxes , preparing to move out of tamarisk farm . it was a fresh spring day , plump thrushes hopping about and flooding the breeze with song . there was a knock at the door and i saw a fellow clutching a laptop . warren introduced himself and explained he was staying with tim and sue hicks down at troytown . he was having trouble picking up email and they’d suggested he drop in on me in case i could do anything .

i was completely useless of course , fiddling about for a bit before sheepishly suggesting he should call the support line . but it turned out that warren was interested in social entrepreneurship , particularly social invesment , and we spent the next hour or so in conversation . we’ve remained in touch since then .

as for what brought warren all the way to st agnes , his wife ann had visited many years before on an archeological project and had been returning ever since . fate is indeed a remarkable beast .

oh , i’ve finally organised some photos from my previous trip to australia . nearly two hundred of them in fact . start at
http://www.charlesarmstrong.net/oz98 .

: cH

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