As Josh and I have talked about the Creative Pfoundry, as the concept has evolved, community has been a central theme. I’ll be the first to admit that part of that focus is selfish. We want a community of awesome creatives around us.
My best work, and Josh’s also, has happened soaking in the soup of collaboration with our peers: other photographers, makeup artists, models, writers and others. Sometimes those collaborations occur on paid projects, but most often, they are the result of conscious, hard work on our part, such as our annual creative retreat in Langtry.
When we bring like minded creative people together, amazing shit happens, full stop. We might have no idea what that will be a priori, but we are rarely disappointed. The journey is always worth the effort.
A Social Network
Real world collaboration requires real coordination, and a large network of possible collaborators. We all maintain that network, some better (Josh) than others (me). Keeping in contact with folks requires real work, just like friendship or marriage. There is no free lunch. You can’t get something for nothing. In fact, the opposite is true.
The more you give, the more you get.
Our best collaborations have required weeks or months of planning, coordinating and energizing our network of collaborators. Someone has to lead those collaborations, and the weight of finding and organization the group falls on them.
Much of that work, at least in the past, has been done on Facebook, or as I like to call it, “all your (data)base are belong to us!” The promise of an all pervasive social network like Facebook is that it’s a one stop shop for finding, communicating and sharing with possible collaborators. And it keeps you in contact with each other (in between inflammatory fake news posts and invasive ads) so you don’t forget you each exist.
And for a while Facebook was a great resource, and it still can be if you accept the cost. Cost is the real issue here.
If you aren’t paying, you are probably the product, not the customer.
Far from being the customers, users of Facebook are the product Facebook sells. They sell the data they collect and they sell time in front of your eyes, all to the highest bidder, regardless of morality, motive, or your safety.
I’m personally tired of my private life being sold to the highest bidder. While most people are on Facebook, finding anything older than 10 minutes is nearly impossible, and the signal to noise ratio is terrible. You have to wade through more ads, fake news, and other rubbish to find anything. Far from aiding collaboration, Facebook has become a serious impediment for us.
A Private Online Community
That is where a private community comes in, hosted specifically for creatives, and not open to the public. The core idea is that the product is the community, and the customers are the user. Because the business hosting the community (that’s us!) is in the business of creating collaborations and helping creatives, not mining and selling data, things shouldn’t go off the rails like Facebook has.
We are going “old school” and setting up a forum using Discourse, a modern system that is pretty great.
You remember forums right? You log in and start threads under different categories. Searching for useful old threads is easy. You can even jump right back in replying to other users if needed. Sharing photos, video and other files is trivial.
Forums allow member-to-member communication as well as easy ad-hoc groups of collaborators. And it is all private to the Pfoundry and your fellow collaborators. I don’t know about you, but that sounds perfect for what I want.
There are of course several large barriers to success. Hosting an active forum with several hundred users requires reasonably serious hosting and technical know-how. Luckily, I have the technical know-now. Paying for the server is already a part of our plans for the Pfoundry. Besides sharing the cost of the physical space, members are sharing the cost of the online space.
Beyond the obvious costs of hosting, building and fostering a community is a full time job. Facebook has 1 big advantage over other systems: critical mass. Everyone is already there.
But, bringing in the right people and building that community is a job Josh and I actually really enjoy (that is part of why starting NAPfS was such a pleasure). That makes all the difference. We will also be looking for members that love to do the same thing to help.
Plans and Plans
So, right along side the physical Creative Pfoundry co-working space, we will be building a virtual space for our members. Every member will be given access to the forum. That forum is exclusively for members of the Pfoundry. Conversations there will be private and we will never sell that information, or grant access to third parties without the expressed consent of our users.
Our business is building a community, not information brokerage or advertising.
Our sincerest hope and goal is to create a vibrant online community of Austin creatives, and that it be the type of place were collaboration flourish between all of our members. We want to see the fruit of those collaborations shared on the forum, and we also want to hear about the failures and mis-steps.