Monday, August 17, 2015

TIME Community & Civic Hacking

This blog post takes a short look at the intersection of the TIME community (Tech, Innovators, Makers, Entrepreneurs) and the civic hacking community. Because you’re reading the DHMN Civic Hacks blog, you probably at least somewhat understand the types of people who are in the civic hacking community. But you may not recognize the term ‘TIME community.’

The NE Wisconsin TIME community is an informal network of technologists, innovators, makers and entrepreneurs, like-minded and complementary-minded people who live in the 18 counties of northeast Wisconsin. Currently, these community members are loosely connected or not connected at all with each other. They can be briefly described as ‘doers’ and are sometimes called ‘creatives,’ ‘people who don’t watch much tv’ or ‘participants, not spectators.’ When 200+ members of the region’s TIME community become well-connected and active in local TIME community activities, this ‘virtual critical mass’ will begin to impact the culture and economy of the region. A connected community results in many serendipitous interactions between community members, making it easy to find relevant events and to connect with people who have a lot in common with each other.

There are TIME communities in every metro area or multi-county region. However, in many of these areas, the geographical density of of the TIME demographic is too low to create an in-person critical mass or ‘tipping point.’ With respect to a TIME community, a critical mass or tipping point means that no intentional person or group of people needs to connect and support the creation of a cohesive TIME community or to make many connections between individual members of that community. Where there is an in-person critical mass, there will be so many TIME activities and so many serendipitous interactions between members of the TIME community that a person interested in such a community will easily be able to find relevant events and connect with other like-minded people.

In low geo-density TIME communities, there needs to be intentional but ‘distributed’ plans and actions in order to create a ‘virtual critical mass’ if that region’s TIME community is to be well-connected and resilient. Distributed refers to two concepts. The first is that activities and connected people need to be geographically distributed throughout the 18 counties of NE Wisconsin. If we only have connected people and TIME events in Green Bay, Appleton and Oshkosh, we’ll end up with three weakly-connected metro area networks that have infrequent events with low participation levels. We need TIME events in many more communities than Green Bay, Appleton and Oshkosh, and we need TIME community members in Fond du Lac who know lots of other members in Sturgeon Bay, Shawano, New London, Manitowoc and Kiel. And we need people connections between so many other cities in the region that it’s hard to keep them all straight.

Distributed also means that the TIME community is primarily self-directed, or has distributed leadership. People in the TIME community need to take personal responsibility for helping organize TIME events, like civic hackathons, barcamps, groups for tech topics, mini makerfaires, Startup Weekends, etc. They also need to take personal responsibility for connecting like-minded members of the region’s TIME community who don’t already know each other.

The civic hacking community is, for the most part, a subset of the TIME community. Most people who self-identify as civic hackers would also consider themselves to be tech people, innovators, makers or entrepreneurs.

Because it’s mostly a subset of the TIME community, the civic hacking community in NE Wisconsin has even more of a low geo-density challenge than the TIME community, and it has the same need for intentional connecting and support. For both the civic hacking community and TIME community of our area, we need to strongly connect enough community members that a virtual critical mass is developed. We need to make more in people in the TIME community aware of civic hacking activities happening in our region. Civic hackers should also be connecting TIME community members with each other, even if they’re not interested in or involved in civic hacking.

One of my personal goals is to find a couple other people to work with me on a civic hack for much more strongly connecting the NE Wisconsin TIME community. This will be a fun hack to work on, because small successes in the early stage will lead to faster growth and a more active TIME community, becoming a virtuous cycle that reinforces itself. When you know 200 people nearby who might be interested in working on a project with you, instead of knowing two or three people you could ask, things get a lot more interesting. And when you have a TIME event, like a barcamp, or a civic hacking event, like an informal weekday meetup, you know 200 people you can invite, or you and nineteen other people each know ten different people you can invite to the event.

Speaking of civic hacking events and barcamps, one is coming up this week and another one just became available for registration this week.

On Wednesday, August 19th, you are invited to join others in an informal civic hacking meetup at the Appleton Makerspace, in Appleton, Wisconsin, USA. See the post “Civic Hacking, August 19, Appleton: Put It On Your Calendar!” for details. The event has a nominal start time of 6 PM, although I’m sure a few people will show up by 5 PM.

Looking into the future a couple months to an event on November 7, 2015, BarCampGreenBay 2015 opened up just this week for registration. Go to the event website to register (free). This is an ideal event for TIME community members, and civic hackers will also enjoy it. For those who don’t know, barcamps are participant-driven technology unconferences. I’ll be writing a post in the near future about barcamps, so check back if you want more info on that, or put Google to work for you.

Future posts will also have more about connecting the civic hacking community in NE Wisconsin, as well as the TIME community.

Hope to see you on Wednesday at the Appleton Makerspace!


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