Dangercast #12 – Leadership in Gangplank

Jade Meskill, Derek Neighbors, Trish Gillam, and Chris ‘Dragon’ Lee discuss how leadership works in Gangplank.



Jade Meskill:  Hello and welcome to the “Dangercast.” We are going to talk about the culture and design of Gangplank. I’m Jade Meskill.

Derek Neighbors:  I’m Derek Neighbors.

Trish Gillam:  I’m Trish Gillam.

Chris Lee:  And I’m Chris Lee.

Jade:  Today, we are going to talk about, what does it mean to be a leader inside of Gangplank?

Derek:  Inside of Gangplank, what does it take to be a leader?

Jade:  What does it mean?

Derek:  Oh, what does it mean?

Jade:  Yeah.

Derek:  I just say that what is takes would be too stupid that you are a leader.


Jade:  No, no. We don’t want to talk about that.

Derek:  What does it mean to be a leader? It means that you are inspiring and motivating and modeling and showing the way for other people. It’s equal parts doing and inspiration.

Jade:  How’s that different than being a leader somewhere else?

Derek:  Leader somewhere else ‑‑ usually it’s you adopted the title Leader because somebody gave you the title of leader.

Chris:  Here, you just work to make things happen. Nobody’s necessarily telling you what to do or giving you the authority to go do something. You just step up and start doing stuff and start making things happen.

Derek:  I’d say outside Gangplank, the way leadership tends to work, or that I see it in most organizations, is somebody is given the title of leader. Usually that title of leader is manager, director, vice‑president, president, CEO, you name whatever title you want to put behind that.

Two things are extended via that title. One is authority. You have the authority to do something, usually over other people. You have the authority over other people and resources to do things. If we don’t get results, it’s your fault. You get accountability.

What happens is that those that report to “said leaders,” view it exactly as that. You get to lord over me, so I have no stake and no ownership in the outcome that is to be. If anything goes wrong, it’s your fault.

Jade:  That’s positional authority.

Derek:  Positional authority.

Jade:  We’ve used the term “leaderless organization” quite a bit. I think that causes some confusion, so maybe reconcile that idea with what we’re talking about. Chris said there’s no positional authority at Gangplank. We’ve talked about that idea of being a leaderless organization. How does that actually work in practice?

Derek:  A lot of people when they think when you say “leaderless organization,” they immediately jump to, “Oh man, it’s just 100 percent chaos. Nobody’s in charge. Nothing will get done. How do you resolve any dispute? How does anything happen because there’s nobody that is ‘in charge'”?

“Who do you go to when the shit hits the fan,” is what people immediately tend to think. When people say leaderless or organization or we talk about it maybe in Gangplank at times, I don’t think we say as much anymore because of the problems that it causes.

We really say that there’s no appointed leadership. There’s no institutional authority. It’s the people that rise to the occasion. There’s still leaders, but they’re leaders because they’ve gained the influence by either what they’re doing, what they’re inspiring, or through some form of integrity. The leaders exist.

I would expect if you walk into most Gangplanks and you said, “Hey, how do I get this done”? Or “Who’s in charge of this”? There’s some idea of somebody who you might talk to, even though that person isn’t necessarily the anointed leader of something.

Chris:  That’s definitely a good example. When people come in and they ask about how they do something, there are definitely the people that we point to based on what they’re interested in participating in.

It’s not something where somebody said, “Hey, you’re the guy to go do this,” but just through their actions over time they’ve just shown that they can help with things and make things happen. Then we point people in those folks’ direction, depending on what they’re looking to participate in.

Jade:  It’s a meritocracy?

Derek:  Yeah, that’s a good way. We used to call it “showupocracy” which I think there’s a lot of value in that, but sometimes people can just show up and not actually provide guidance, cannot provide actually doing things.

Then you have an entitlement problem, which we’ve seen as well where, “Hey, I’ve been around here a long time, and I show up every day, therefore I should have final say and authority in absolutely everything because I’m the oldest turd in the room.” That’s really great, but what have you done for us lately?

Jade:  I think when that phrase originally was used, the idea of showing up and doing were one and the same.

Derek:  Yes.

Trish:  I think it’s the difference between taking initiative and the turfer ownership. Sometimes people come in and they try and claim that because they’ve been involved with some initiative or some area, but it’s theirs and everyone must get permission from them. We really go towards to whoever takes the initiative.

Also, it doesn’t really matter what title people have given you, if you’re not actually taking initiative, no one really looks at you as the leader.

Derek:  That’s an interesting thing that I definitely have seen over the last five, six years, whatever. There is a pattern of people that tend to want to come and participate in Gangplank. You can substitute the word Gangplank for community.

People that come into community generally want one of two things. They either want authority, “I want to be the whatever leader.” “I want to be in charge of this.” “I want this thing.” What they’re really saying is, “I want to be given institutional authority over people and things.”

Now, it might be a scope of things. “I don’t want to be the president of whatever this community is,” but “I want to be in charge of this aspect of the community. Please anoint me and give me that title, so that people are forced to do what I say and I’m entitled to certain resources that are available to me.”

The other thing I tend to see is that people want possessiveness of some kind. They come in and they either want the authority portion of it, or they want some form of possession.

Jade:  Exclusive domain over something?

Derek:  I would almost call it power, maybe even it is reverence from other people. I want people to have to respect my authority, because I am the thing. What we have found is that when people come in and do that, and you give them any form of leadership, it always, always ends poorly.

It either ends poorly because they don’t have the best interest of whatever they’re trying to lead, it’s really all about them. Or they tend to fall down very quickly because the minute that something starts to grow, and I think you see this in community when community really blossoms, it’s like that hockey stick growth in a start‑up.

It explodes so fast when it explodes, that if you do anything to contain it, you actually kill it instead of really letting it go. When you get those type of people, what happens is, community starts to build itself and that person is trying to wrangle, “But, I’m the boss, I’m the boss, I’m the boss. Why are you doing the podcasting? You didn’t check it out. You have to go through my process before you can use that resource, because I’m the podcast manager.”

You get all of this weird possessivy crap that starts to happen that turns people off. That’s one of the big differences between traditional community and an organization that’s a company. People that show up to company show up for a paycheck. They’ll tolerate a whole lot of shitty leadership in exchange for a paycheck.

When people come into a community and they’re not getting paid, they tend to tolerate a whole lot less of that kind of behavior before they’ll leave, or before they’ll say, “Yeah, I’m just not getting engaged. I’m not going to give you 100 percent of the best me that I’m interested in because of that.”

Jade:  How have we dealt with that problem?

Derek:  We suck at dealing with that problem.

Jade:  How should deal with that problem?


Derek:  Some of it is we have to get better at teaching people how to be good leaders. What I mean by that is, the world’s model currently of leadership is much more of an organizational, positional title of authority role. That is the status quo when you look at most leadership programs, even if they say, “We’re about servant leadership.”

At the end of the day, what they’re really trying to do is teach you ways to manage people. In Gangplank, it’s how do we teach people how to get the best out of people, not manage people. How do you inspire people to do really great things? How do you teach them the skills to be able to be more effective at what they do?

Jade:  I think one of the big things that we’ve done is, I used to call it “picking winners.” We were doing a lot of assigning people roles and authority and we’ve really put a stop to that. While that causes a bunch of chaos in the short term, the long term benefits far outweigh having some of that certainty of having this person in charge. We used to do that a lot. You were in charge of this initiative and we would ask people to take ownership of it.

Derek:  People were like children they begged. They begged us for a title. “Can I please”? And then we got stupid and we were like people are begging for it, maybe these, some of these initiatives that we have that we don’t have anybody to be dumb enough to be leaders for, maybe we could sucker them into being leaders, by giving them a title.

Then we found out, oh my God, they turned into these possessive ass holes the minute you give them a title. Maybe this is a bad thing but that is another pattern that I see or another thing that is very difficult about this type of leadership style and I am seeing it in organizations that are for‑profit businesses trying to go to a much more organic, self motivated…

Jade:  Autonomous.

Derek:  …autonomous type of things. What happens when nobody is motivated to do the thing that I think is really important so if we allow, OK here are these 10 initiatives, or these 7 initiatives, or these 3 initiatives, or this one big thing, or one big program and it’s necessary to be successful in a community and be a Gangplank.

We need people to step into that and you hear the crickets strip, and nobody steps into that, what do you do? Like, I know we did, we panicked and said, oh God we have got to get sucker somebody in to paint the fence like Tom Sawyer here and anoint them with, “You are in charge of this thing.” We used to do the thing of “Hey Chris, you are going to be in charge of whatever it is. Nobody will take, until you can find somebody else to be in charge of it.”


Derek:  And it solved some short‑term problems but it created all sorts of long‑term pain. Because either Chris really wasn’t interested in it or wasn’t interested in Gangplank. He wasn’t doing anything for it anyways. So we had this false sense of somebody was taking care of it and it wasn’t or if he didn’t and he did it than he got drunk with the power of “ho ho ho or moo ha ha, I am now the overlord Czar of this thing and I started to do all sorts of…”

Jade:  And he rules the calendar with the iron fist.

Derek:  Yeah.


Derek:  He could do all sorts of stupid stuff…


Derek:  …so I think, it’s a hard thing to do, it’s like, how do you inspire people to fill the holes that our organization has?

Jade:  What are some of the challenges that you guys have seen?

Trish:  I think one of the challenges, I mean it’s scary to be a leader. That trade‑off when you have managers that you have agreed to put up with your crap because they deal with the blame.

Jade:  I think it is really scared to choose to be that leader. Right?

Trish:  Right.

Jade:  Because it’s your fault.

Trish:  Yeah.

Chris:  I think one of the other challenges is that we still have holes that nobody has stepped up to fill. I remember the old days when people got appointed, we had all the different initiatives and at least had someone in name that was supposed to be working on something.

Since that doesn’t happen anymore, you have some people that are passionate about the initiative that they are working on and they are actively moving it forward, where we have other initiatives that really not much happens because there is nobody driving that. I think some of those things are important at Gangplank still.

Jade:  So how do we fix that problem?

Derek:  Some of it is, we do a poor job articulating why those things are important. It’s the classic kind of why problem, like we don’t say, why those things are so critical to a healthy successful Gangplank. Instead of just seeing it as a ship work, I will never forget like talking to [inaudible 14:23] about little bit about music and saying, ‘Hey, we really could use somebody to step up in this space.”

And at the time his big thing was like “What the hell does that even mean, like music”? Because it wasn’t the musical studios. I start talking about so much more than music. I think he got really interested in it, but then he was like “Yeah, but now it’s too overwhelming. I am not a physical artist and I am not of this and I am not of that and now I feel woefully underqualified to even begin to do that”

And I really think, especially in the instance of Gangplank ‑‑ it’s not just a community, but each one of those initiative is a tiny community within that community. You’ve got the community of a city and then you have got the community of the building and the space and the people within the city and then you have got another little subset inside of that ‑‑ that is an interest, am I interested in health? Am I interested in studios?

The hardest part about being a leader is how do you get followers? How do you build that community and that’s where we have really fallen down. We have not shown people how do you go out and solicit like what you are doing and what your vision is to other people to get them interested and get them to help you go where you want to go.

Chris:  Yeah, I think that’s true but the other thing that you said about letting people know how important some of these initiatives are to Gangplank is key, because you know there are people trying to lead initiatives that can use the help that you just mentioned but we have these other holes that we need to get filled. So I think really focusing on talking about the importance of those roles and functionalities is something like that can be really helpful.

Trish:  Could we do a podcast on each initiative?

Derek:  I think, we already did some of them. I think Gangplank Junior we might not have done, but the rest of it we have done.

Trish:  OK.

Jade:  That’s all the time we have for today. Thanks for listening to the Dangercast. If you have any suggestions or things you would like to hear us cover please email info@gangplankhq.com. Thanks.

Dangercast #11 – Code For America

Jade Meskill, Derek Neighbors, Nicole Neditch, and Luke Norris discuss Code For America.


Jade Meskill:  Hello. Welcome to another episode of the “Dangercast.” We’ll talk about the culture and design of Gangplank. I’m Jade Meskill.

Derek Neighbors:  I’m Derek Neighbors.

Nicole Neditch:  I’m Nicole Neditch.

Luke Norris:  And Luke Norris.

Jade:  We have Nicole and Luke here from Code for America. Tell us a little bit about what Code for America is about and then we’ll get into some of the other things we want to talk about.

Luke:  Yeah, sure. Code for America is a non‑profit start‑up based in San Francisco, California. We have the notion, that not only coding across America takes place just in San Francisco, Boston, and Chicago, but it’s actually’s happening around the US and around the world now.

We aim to help cities better leverage technology, become more innovative in the way that they respond to the needs of citizens, use technology and engage with citizens to create a democracy or government that’s for the people, of the people, and most importantly by the people.

Jade:  Awesome. We were talking right before we hit record, about how this ties in well with Gangplank’s Local initiative. On the Dangercast we’ve just started getting into the details of some of the different initiatives that we have.

Derek, you had some interesting thoughts about how those align. Maybe you could share that with the listeners.

Derek:  Yeah, one of the things that Code for America does…we’ve got a local brigade here. We’ve done several hack‑a‑thons. Our Labs program, as well as our Local program, participate in Code for America quite a bit, and the number of initiatives around it.

One of the things that gets lost for people that tend to be more techy in nature is they think that it is solely about code and hacking, but in reality it’s really about changing how we think about how we govern people, and what the governance model looks like.

A large part of that is creating more transparency, in creating better ways to engage. In making it easier for the people to be active in how they’re governed, and how they run their city, and how they create their city.

Which I think completely overlaps with what we’re trying to do with our Local program. Which is really not only those things, but also how do we create attachment to place, how do we do place‑making, and a big part of that is feeling like you’re an active participant in moving your community forward.

So there’s a whole lot of overlap. We certainly tried to get Code for America in Chandler three or four years ago when the program first started, and it just…Things weren’t quite right for that to happen, so we’re super excited to see them do some regional stuff here with some partners.

I’m excited. I’m super excited about what the potential is there. Maybe you guys could tell us a little bit about ‑‑ we’re familiar with it, but I don’t know if all the listeners are, maybe you could tell us a little about Code for America brings in some fellows to work with a city and community partner.

Maybe you could us a bit about like how somebody, how those fellows are chosen. What looks like how many there are and what the relationship is between the city that they go to and what the expectations are/aren’t, and what the goals are around some of that.

Nicole:  Sure. Code for America operates…it’s a competitive program so both cities apply to be a Code for America city and fellows apply to be fellows. We had about 650 applicants this year that were from all over the country and we chose about 30 that are going to go into 10 cities this year.

There are three fellows per city and usually the team of three consists of a designer, a UX designer somebody who is thinking about the user experience. A programmer, somebody who is going to code that experience, and then a project manager or a researcher, something in that type of a role.

Those three fellows that come out ‑‑ they go through a month of training in the month of January and then they come out of each of the cities so Mesa is one of the cities this year and they are going to embed themselves in the cities for the entire month just to do a ton of research and that’s going to go into creating an application that has impact and scale within the community.

Derek:  And so all of the prior work that’s been done by fellows in cities, is that available for other cities to use or how does that work? Is it that then a property of the city or does it go back an open source what does that look like?

Luke:  Yeah, absolutely. One of the things that we’re most interested in and committed to is building an open source environment. And so fundamentally, if you think about the role of cities, whether there are cities with 2 million people or 70,000, fundamentally cities face the same types of problems, in the way that they deliver service to their citizens.

When we go into cities, we build the applications that are in an open source environment that allows for those applications to be re‑deployed in the other communities and so the fellows’ primary objective is to create new piece of technology that impacts some types of problem that exist in the local community that we also know is evident around the other communities in the US.

But while they are there, they have the opportunity to turn back to some of their fellow alumni as well as Code for America to talk about how you can redeploy applications like a Doctor Hydrant or you can leverage other types of technologies that may have spun out into civic start‑ups which is something that we also really promote.

It’s an interesting part of our model and the way we help grow companies that can now become a part of the system of providing new service to government. Getting a piece of this 140 million dollar industry ‑‑ that is just huge for state and local IT spends.

Derek:  It’s really interesting that…I don’t think enough people choose to understand enough about how they’re governed to understand that cities, generally, are just giant companies that provide a number of services.

We tend to think of fire service and police service, that’s pretty easy to translate. It’s like having a plumber come out.

Jade:  It’s very tangible.

Derek:  Right, it’s very tangible. I understand that. I pick up a phone, I call it, somebody comes out, performs some service. I get that. But they don’t necessarily think of zoning, or planning, or code enforcement, or those type of things nearly being as service‑based as other things.

I find it very interesting that we do, Jade and I, both, do a lot of consulting in the start‑up or innovator space in technology. What I really hear you describing is a small start‑up team. You’ve got a designer, you’ve got a developer, and you’ve got a product person of some kind, whether it’s research or management. Whatever you’ve got.

Somebody looking out for the greater thing. You’re trying to attach them to a problem space within a service. How do we improve service delivery of some kind, either whether it be holistic service delivery, or an individual service delivery.

How do we basically create a mini‑startup around that in a short amount of time, and deliver and iterate on it?

To me, the thing that’s exciting is if we can start to get cities to start to believe this way, not only is there an opportunity for the private sector, but I there’s an opportunity for the public sector to start to say, instead of having these monolithic, siloed departments for service delivery, could we instead line up our organization, to say, what problems are we trying to solve?

Can we create these very small teams, maybe it’s not three people, maybe it’s five, people, six people that are focused on how do we best solve that problem. People need to do permitting, maybe we have a permitting team, and it’s their job to integrate technology and problem solving and design and a number of things to say, how do we make that a super easy in our city? How do we make that the best service possible?

So is part of that…what are some of the things you’ve seen developed in previous classes, or previous segments of Code for America in other states? What are some of the biggest successes or lessons learned that you’ve seen come out of that?

Luke:  Maybe I’ll talk a little bit about something that came out of Philadelphia, in part because you touched on some of the opportunity, then Nicole can definitely speak a little bit about what was built in Oakland and San Francisco.

You brought up planning as a function. A lot of really important decisions about cities and the way their built and the infrastructure that goes into those are made at small meetings where they’re at seven o’clock at night in a small room at City Hall, they’re not well publicized. Sometimes the room can’t accommodate more than 10 people, and they’re totally boring.


Luke:  In Philadelphia, which was a fellowship project in 2012, they basically said this is a problem that exists for us and other communities, so how can we fundamentally change the way that citizens interact with these planning decisions?

We looked at that and decided, what if we built something with really basic SMS‑based texting capabilities that overcome some of the issues of the digital divide? What about now asking people for input at the point of service where they’re encountering problems, or maybe where these decisions are actually going to impact.

If you now have this poster on a bus, or you’re at a line in City Hall, if you ask these questions now you can get really good, real time input from the people that are experiencing those problems.

By using just basic texting features ‑‑ and not smartphone enabled or having people go to a website ‑‑ you’re actually getting feedback from people that probably, A, would never have come to that city meeting, but more importantly people that probably would never have had the ability to ever know that they could provide feedback.

That’s a great example. We’ve done some incredible work in Oakland where Nicole actually was the city partner, and also did some really great stuff in San Francisco and San Mateo County this year as well.

Nicole:  In Oakland this year we were looking at access to information and what that looked like. As you touched on, the government provides service but we don’t necessarily always think of it as a service provider in the same way that you would imagine some of the private sector businesses would be.

Part of that is because we’ve got a monopoly on the service that we provide. There’s nobody else that is competing for this service delivery mechanism. So we don’t have anything to gauge ourselves towards except maybe other cities.

Something that was happening in Oakland a year ago when we were starting our Code for America fellowship, we had Occupy Oakland, there was a lot of requests for public information about how things were handled around the Occupy Oakland protests in Oakland. We were seeing a lot of backlash about people not feeling like they were being able to get the information that they needed about how things transpired and how the city was governing the town during this time.

So tons of service requests coming in, tons of public information requests coming in. People wanted copies of all emails over a certain period of time, things like that. The city wasn’t really providing those in a really timely manner.

We were getting a lot of press about how that was happening and it was hard on the city. It was a hard time for the city. So the fellows came in and they saw some of this tension and just this lack of trust between the citizens and the city, that was happening because of all of these that was happening at the time.

So they looked at how do we provide access to information in a more transparent, more easy‑to‑digest way? What they worked on was a public records request tracker basically and so you can submit a public records request. In the past, you submit a public records request, it gets thrown over a wall, you don’t really know where it’s going, who’s seeing it and when it’s going to be responded to.

They created a public view for that so that it was all transparent. So that you could see what requests were made, you can search on those requests, you can see the responses that came from the city. It really helped the city in ways that were great because the city is now able to actually see the different requests that are coming through, also and be able to monitor how it’s doing as a city as well.

In San Francisco we saw another application that was developed that was around food stamps. Basically what they noticed in San Francisco was that a lot of people were falling off food stamps and they didn’t even realize that that was happening until they were in line at the grocery store and they want to go and pay for their food, and they had their kids with them and all of a sudden they were ineligible for service.

They had been getting these letters in the mail but they were these long letters, they were very complicated letters. They were the kinds of things you kind of shove to the side until you have time to deal with.

They took a look at that letter and they thought, “OK, why is this happening? How do we notify people of this before they actually fall out of the system”? So they had started out wanting to make a Web application and then they realized that the people they were trying to target really weren’t using the Internet.

They didn’t really have smartphones and so they created a text message application. It’s a very simple application but it just goes out right before you’re about to fall off food stamps and you get a notification so that you can call and you can make the arrangements and you don’t fall off. It’s a very simple application but it’s going to do a ton for the city of San Francisco. It’s something that can be leveraged across cities.

Derek:  The thing that’s interesting is bringing up something that a lot of technologists forget. Which is, we tend to be the minority not the majority when it comes to our level of access to technology, to smartphones, to high speed Internet, to a number of those things. There are a lot of the services that are provided by cities aren’t available.

These are some of the design hacks or some of the hacks are how we do use older technology or how do we use things that we wouldn’t traditionally think of but can bring kind of that like hacker ethos. Sort of that technical bench to it to provide something that’s existed for a long time but people haven’t thought of it as a way to deliver it.

The other really interesting thing I heard you guys talking about earlier when we’d gone through the process of exploring for Chandler. One of the things that is unique about Code for America is it really requires a community partner as well as a city partner.

So it’s not just enough for a city to step up and say, “Hey, we want some fellows, let’s do this,” but I think that you guys recognize that there is need for community. So maybe you could tell us a little bit about why that decision is made and what some of the expectations are among the community partner side outside of essentially hoping for funding or what not but what is the expectation or why did you decide to include community and how do they fit into that process?

Luke:  Yeah, it’s really multi‑faceted. One of the reasons for that is often times, governments are doing really incredible really innovative things that there is not necessarily a communication channel for the city to share or there is not a lot of visibility into the community. So as we have community partners we have an opportunity to highlight some of the work that is really happening in cities that are making a difference.

The other part of it is we fundamentally want to engage citizens in the process of designing government and more importantly understanding how government can respond to their needs and how they can participate in their share of the economy. And so, as we have community partners we start to build a network of folks that are committed to demonstrating capacity we want to step up to that.

In some cities that we’re working in we have as many as 25 partners that are putting money on the table to say, “Help us bring Code for America to our city.” We are incredible fortunate here in the area to have ASU as the primary supporter of the project and I think that speaks volumes to not only who ASU is and the importance in value that they place on an innovation, but also the incredible access that they have to people, both academic students, community leaders across the region.

When you combine that with a really great forward‑looking, innovative group of folks in government, the success is just too incredible.

Derek:  Yeah, the thing that is interesting, Gangplank plays that role a lot of times for the cities that we are partners with. We see two things happen as we’ve seen a lot of people that tend to have distrust towards cities and so giving them like an intermediary where it’s easy to interface with Gangplank and there is a high level of trust there, then it bridges like a friend of a friend, like we can make the introduction and help get involved there.

But it also comes back the other direction and a lot of times the city ‑‑ they’re not techy enough or they don’t hit the right creative community but they’re OK telling their story to somebody who gets a snail mail water bill, or goes to the library on a regular basis or the senior center, but they’re not so good at the really busy fast‑paced person who like gets all of their consumption through email, or Twitter, or Facebook, or different things and so it’s sometimes nice to be able to submit those things back.

We definitely see a much higher level of engagement in people that participate in Gangplank and that all we’re really doing is rebroadcasting stuff that’s already coming straight out of the PR department or the city staff or what not.

It’s just stuff that they would never ever see because it’s released in a press release that nobody will read, oppose to, a 140‑character tweet with a link to a newspaper article or something somewhere.

I think it’s a great strategy, I mean I love what you guys are doing.

Jade:  We’re going to wrap this up but I am going to ask you a really hard question first before we close. The Gangplank, our core philosophy is that we need a radical transformation of how communities are built and grown and developed and the thing I am curious to hear from you guys is what does it look like when you’ve accomplished what you want to accomplish with Code for America?

How does the world look if that happens?

Luke:  Yeah, that’s definitely a tough question. I think it looks like a totally different environment that we live in, right? Where there’s higher levels of trust between citizens and government that’s driven by transparency and engagement on both sides.

We’re doing a lot of work around, “What are the principles that 21st‑century cities look like”? Those include a lot of things.

They are engaging in technology‑led innovation. They’re creating a culture of innovation. They’re leveraging partnerships both with public and private institutions, but also around multi‑jurisdictional or multi‑municipality type things.

Fundamentally it’s going to change all of the ways that a lot of us think about government, while they’re still providing these core services. I think what it’s going to change is more the attitudinal response that all of us have to government.

I think that the most aspirational role is ‑‑ what if people could love their government as much as they love their iPhone and their Android device?

When you think about that as the aspirational goal, that gets you there.

Jade:  That was an excellent on‑the‑spot response. I like that. All right, that sums it up. Thank you guys so much for coming out and recording with us.

Luke:  Thanks for having us.

Jade:  Yeah. We’ll catch you next time on the Dangercast.

Dangercast #10 – Initiatives

Roy van de Water, Jade Meskill, and Derek Neighbors discuss the Gangplank initiatives.


Jade Meskill:  Hello, welcome to the “Dangercast,” where we talk about the culture and design of “Gangplank.” I am Jade Meskill.

Roy van de Water:  I am Roy van de Water.

Derek Neighbors:  And I’m Derek Neighbors.

Jade:  Today, we wanted to talk about the different initiatives that we have going on around Gangplank. Where should we begin?

Derek:  Maybe we could talk a little bit of what initiatives are. When I look at Gangplank, it started to boil down…What is it that we really need in a community to be successful? And so those became the initiatives.

These are the big broad strokes of ‑‑ these are the thing that a creative community needs to thrive and to grow and to continue to move forward. Those became the initiatives. The general rule of thumb is that anything that happens in Gangplank should align to one or more of the initiatives in Gangplank.

If it doesn’t we have to ask the question “Is it something Gangplank should really be doing or not doing”? Or “Is this something new enough that it needs a new initiative”? We’ve got enough out there, we probably are not going to find too many initiatives we need, they’re going to fall underneath them.

Which is not to be confused with programs. Programs are actual things, whether it be events, whether it be tracks, whether it be different implementations or tactical pieces. Think of as the strategy of Gangplank and programs under initiatives are the tactical implementation of “How do you make that initiative come to life”?


Jade:  I just want to give a simple example.

Roy:  Would the Brownbag be a program and it would fall into the Academy initiative?

Derek:  That’s correct. Something that might happen on a regular basis or be an event or a different structured thing, that happens to be a program. Brownbags are a great example of…Brownbag happens every single week.

The goal of the program is to provide content to people in an informal learning environment that fits within their day. Short bite, onetime thing. You might only come to one a year, you might come to one a week, you might come to one a month.

It falls under the initiative of Gangplank Academy which is really about learning and doing those. The program should align to the initiative that is trying to be achieved in the area.

Jade:  Just like having a podcast studio is a program that belongs under our studio’s initiatives.

Derek:  That’s correct.

Jade:  Let’s list off what initiatives we have at this moment. I’ll read them off. We’ve got Academy, Business, Health, Gangplank Junior, Labs, Studios, and Local.

Roy:  Guessing off that, I’m assuming academies is learning‑based. About self‑betterment in the form of knowledge, like, increasing your own knowledge and skills?

Derek:  If you remember, one of the manifestos items is learning over expertise. One of the things Academy was really designed to do was be two‑fold. One, yes it’s a learning piece, but the second thing it was designed to do is…

Right now, the educational system is kind of defunct in that you don’t have a lot…

Jade:  Just kind of.

Derek:  Yeah. You don’t have a whole lot of practical knowledge happening. It’s a lot of theory. One of the things Academy was trying to do was go out and get people in the real world who do this for their living to get them to come in and to teach other people in short, burstable formats.

So we get a lot of people who would like to learn something new, but they are not willing to sign up for a community college or a university program that’s 25 weeks long, or 20 weeks long, two to three nights a week, or one night a week. But they would gladly come in for a one‑hour session three times in a month, or come in for a single half‑hour session.

That was part of it. But also to get people who have real‑world experience. The second aspect of Academy was that a lot of the educational opportunities that exist are not progressive enough.

Meaning, if a new language, or node JS came out last year, you can’t go find a class on node JS in a community college because it takes on average about five years from the time somebody produces or promotes, creates something, to the time it’s approved. In a really good university, it’s three years.

We know in technology, especially, shit that’s three years old is dead a lot of times.


Roy:  If you’re just now learning the stuff from three years ago…

Derek:  Yeah. If you want a go programming language, you could probably find that in Academy, you’d have a hard time finding that at the major university.

It was also a way to do that. Then there are other things where maybe there are things people like but they’re not things that any university would really do.

Maybe I’m really into geocaching but I don’t know how it works. Somebody wants to give a geocaching workshop to show how geocaching works and go out and do an adventure on it, or do something.

It’s also to help provide those learning opportunities that a traditional institution would not be able to provide you.

Jade:  What about Business?

Derek:  Business, that’s the entrepreneurship one. It’s everything that is involved in supporting business.

When Gangplank came about, it was really a bunch of small business owners that put it together. One of the things that we really felt was we were getting a lot of support from each other. A big part of the business initiative is a mentoring program.

One of the programs inside of the business initiative is mentoring, which provides a number of opportunities to be paired with people who’ve been there and done that, and help support you in moving your business forward.

It also has programs whether it be start‑up weekends, lean start‑up camps, you name it, we use to say, “Hey, I have an idea, how do I take an idea into some form of implementation”? To pitch nights. “Hey, I’ve already got a product, how do I go about seeing how it stacks up to other products”?

Anything that would help you, basically, either start a business, grow a business, evolve a business. It’s everything from, “I have an idea,” and “How do I get moving,” to, “Hey, I’ve got an existing business, how do I grow it, or how do I get to a stage where I can sell it”?

Anything in between is really involved there. Anything about moving a particular business forward, or supporting a business owner would fall under the business initiative.

Jade:  Health is next.

Roy:  This one seems to be all about if Academy is about improving your mental capacity, Health would be about improving your physical self.

Jade:  I think even more so than that it’s the whole person. Your physical, your mental, your emotional. Really taking the whole person into account.

Derek:  Yeah, and it’s a lot about lifestyle. It’s trying to integrate, if you look at the programs around Gangplank Health, they’re generally are things that try to either promote awareness of, hey, maybe I could make some better lifestyle choices. Or they’re things that try to build patterns in you that become native, good, healthy choices.

A great program we have within Gangplank Health is the Gangplank Mile. Where, hey, you’ve got a bunch of people working in a space, sedentary, at a computer all day long, and every day at a certain time somebody gets up and says, “Hey, I’m going on the Gangplank Mile.”

You walk a quick mile, it takes 20 minutes or less. You come back. You got out from underneath your chair. You got to socialize with some other people.

What it’s trying to basically build in is it’s not healthy to sit in a chair for four, to six, to eight hours at a time without getting out and getting there. As part of that, it doesn’t have to be a hard‑core physical work out.

You could go have a good conversation. You could still be doing business, but not be doing it necessarily in your chair or behind a desk. So it’s trying to create those kind of lifestyle awareness pieces.

Everything from eating, to true, hardcore fitness to small lifestyle changes, as well as mental thinking. How do I deal with problem people in my life? How do I deal with…some of those overlap.

We see a lot of times initiatives overlap, where almost every initiative we have ends up having classes that are Academy classes. You get a lot of overlap.

Jade:  Let’s skip over junior, come back to that one at the end, because it’s very different than the rest. Let’s talk about labs. Labs is really looking at the maker movement. Focusing on 3D printing and laser cutters, and Arduino…

Roy:  It’s a lot about making things. I don’t even think it has to be a physical something. Just making.

Derek:  A lot of the computer science stuff that’s in here as well. Which, early on it was really truly maker space, making stuff, but a lot of stuff, then, has started to come in after the fact. Whether it be a book club on how to be a better engineer?

Anything that is around trying to learn how to make things, whether they be digital things or whether they be physical things, the act of actual making is where lab sits. There’s a fairly large science component involved in that as well.

Jade:  Also, had a lot of hacking. Hacking a quad copter, or hacking some different things. Making regular things do things they weren’t necessarily intended to do.

Roy:  I think everybody is capable of coming up with awesome ideas, but everybody is also capable of making them if they are provided with the right support. Ideas have no value unless you execute them.

Derek:  It’s really across the board. Tonight there was a science pub quiz here at Gangplank where a bunch of scientists got together and were having, basically, drinking, having trivia around science quiz ‑‑ a trivial pursuit for science nerds.

It’s embracing science and technology, and making and hacking, and all of those things and really trying to breathe that culture in. It’s about trying to create that hacker ethos within Gangplank, comes out of a labs initiative.

Jade:  Studios is next. Probably one of our most misunderstood initiatives. We started a lot around music, but expanded to really encompass all of the creative arts.

Derek:  Yes, all the studio arts, so whether it be sculpture, whether it be…

Jade:  Painting, photography…

Derek:  Painting, photography. You can probably hear a background noise. There’s an improvisation group literally happening next to the studio. All the giggle and laughter and yelling you hear is an improvisation group doing some improvisation training. It really is every art form. We got comedians that come in, you name it…

Jade:  Writers.

Roy:  Artists.

Derek:  …The podcast studio that we’re doing right here is all part of the studio. We’ve got videographers.

Roy:  [inaudible 11:22] is a makeshift green screen.


Derek:  There’s some argument sometimes between the initiatives, so if I’m a crafter, is that part of Studios or is that part of Labs? Because technically, I’m making something physical because I’m needing but it’s…

Roy:  There’s so much overlapping and so much a selected science that you mentioned earlier. Is that part of Labs or is that part of Academy?

Derek:  Right. So we try not to be so particular, we try to say “Choose a primary channel to put it in.” But ultimately it’s going to probably bleed over and things like Academy and Business tend to cover a lot of them.

If I’m going at making something and now I want to turn it into business is part of that business? If we have a class on how to take your physically made goods and turn into a business on Etsy, the art…Is it a Studios thing? Is it a Lab thing? Is it a Business thing? Or is it an Academy thing? It’s probably all of those things.

Jade:  Part of our ethos is collaboration. Those categories don’t exist to exclude each other, they’re there to help each other out. They are there to reflect…these are the things that we believe need to be happening, around a Gangplank community.

Derek:  When we’re talking about these things, these things all are symbiotic to..they all are required to really change an economy and change a place. That’s what it’s really about, it’s the infrastructure.

The example I just gave “Let’s give a class on how to take your homemade product and sell it and make a living out of it.” If we don’t have the promotion infrastructure for classes that Academy has created, how do you get people to attend that class?

If you don’t have the classroom to teach it in, where do you teach it? It’s the infrastructure that’s created for Academy helps make that happen. But at the same time, if you’ve got a bunch of people making things and wanting to learn “How do I make a business out of it,” now you’ve created an audience to have that particular class.

If you don’t have somebody who’s business savvy, that can say “Hey, this is how you take that” and you don’t have a strong business program, who do you have teach the class? All of these things play well together, so that you can have much more of all the programming happen, because now the programming is not siloed by each one of these things.

We see the problem with so many either co‑working spaces or incubators or initiatives is they’re so siloed, you might find something that’s a really great maker house, but it has gotten no business sense and it’s got no ability to teach classes on it.

It’s got no ability to have experts in health or another area. Or you might see a really great business incubator, but they have no access to actually create physical things or they have no ability to teach. I think one thing we’re trying to say is we really need to be cross‑functional in that.

We really need to be able to say…We need people that are able to do the full stack, so that we can offer programming that nobody else can offer, because they only have access to one or two of those things, not all of those things.

Jade:  We know that innovation happens when those worlds collide.

Derek:  Yes. It goes back to the belief that we really think everybody is born a creator, and while we might create different things, one person might create music, another person might create scientific experiments, somebody else might create a physical good, somebody else might create a business.

Somebody else might create a new workout regimen and somebody else might create a curriculum for somebody. The reality is the process of creating is the same for everybody who creates regardless of what they are creating, and that is our common theme.

Our common theme isn’t what you create, it’s the fact that you go through a process of having to create. And that you can be inspired on…You see this all the time. A musician will watch an artist and get inspired to create new music after watching an artist create something.

Or a programmer can listen to music, or listen or watch the process of a musician creating something and be inspired to bring that back to their programming world or to their physical‑making world. It’s about how do we become muses for each other and some of that.

Jade:  Let’s talk about Local. You’re pretty involved in Local, Derek.

Derek:  To me Local was one that emerged after the fact. It’s that common thread of local pride in place, it’s one of the other big things around Gangplank. It’s why it’s not specifically about the place itself, the place becomes an epicenter, so to speak, of activity that happens to unlock some of this.

How do you create that beyond just the physical space? Gangplank by itself in the ether…It’s a just a small building, it’s not enough to change the community.

It starts to become ‑‑ how do you broadcast out the ethos of Gangplank to a community, as well as how do you take the awesome things that are happening in your community around education, around health, around all the initiatives, how do you start to bring those in or expose people coming through Gangplank that there is already good stuff happening in their community?

How do you help support small business? How do you help support your local library? How do you help support your local Fire and Police Department? How do you help evolve government to be more adaptable…to be dangerous?

It’s equal parts of “How do take be dangerous outside of the walls of Gangplank and outside the Gangplank community into your physical located community”? As well as “How do you take the people who are doing awesome stuff in your local community, and help expose that to the people inside of Gangplank”? It’s like the connective tissue between Gangplank philosophy and the outside world.

Jade:  I know we can do a whole podcast on Junior, so let’s come back to that one in a different podcast. How do people get involved in this initiative? They might be really drawn to one of these particular things…How does somebody go about doing that?

Derek:  Right now it sucks.

Jade:  [laughs] I agree.

Derek:  We don’t do that well. In an ideal world what’s happening is an abundance of programs are happening and all of these initiatives, then when somebody comes into a Gangplank, it’s very easy to discover the programs that they are passionate about.

They are able to partake in those and then they are able to very quickly ask “How can I help with this”? They are given their freedom and empowered instantly to be able to either create new programs that they are passionate about, or help further programs that they are interested in.

The problem right now is, in some of the Gangplanks not all of these initiatives have a lot of programming or very little programming. So people don’t even know they exist.

Or the other problem is, because we’re a non‑hierarchical structure, it’s very difficult that somebody comes in and says, “Hey, I’ve heard of about this, like, studio things. How do I get involved”? If the person doesn’t know right away like, “Hey, this is who you go to talk to about that,” they just get the shoulder shrug off, “I’m not sure,” and it dies on the vines. That’s something that we’re working about, and we’ll probably talk about in a different podcast.

The first part is getting it out, talking about this podcast that all these things exist in…If you want these in your community, if you don’t have a Gangplank, and this stuff sounds appealing to you, like, “This is how you start a Gangplank.”

If you take one of these initiatives, and you say, “This is really awesome, and I want to do that in my community,” and you start doing awesome stuff around it, and you start saying, “The really great thing is we need to be doing all these other things, and I need help because I can’t do all of these initiatives.” In reality, it’s difficult to do a single program really well, much less an initiative well, much less a Gangplank.

Which is the beauty of it, is you have to get to the point where you say, “I can’t do this shit by myself. I want my community to change. I can be a light for that change, but unless I can get other people in my community onboard with me, I can’t do this.” That’s the beauty of it. Once you get people onboard and doing it, it becomes a living organism that is really, really strong.

Jade:  Awesome. Catch us on a future episode, we’ll talk to you a little bit more about Gangplank Junior, and some of the things we were doing to improve the situation. Thanks for listening.

Dangercast #9 – People Over Personalities

Roy van de Water, Clayton Lengel-Zigich, Jade Meskill, and Trish Gillam discuss the Gangplank Manifesto: People over Personalities


Jade Meskill:  Hello, welcome to another episode of the “Dangercast.” We are going to talk about the culture and design of Gangplank. I’m Jade Meskill.

Roy van de Water:  I’m Roy van de Water.

Clayton Lengel‑Zigich:  I’m Clayton Lengel‑Zigich.

Trish Gillam:  I’m Trish Gillam.

Jade:  We are wrapping up our principles of the Agile manifesto. No, of the Gangplank manifesto.


Jade:  We just did the Agile podcast a few minutes ago. We wanted to talk about people over personalities. Who’s ever met any personalities around Gangplank?

Clayton:  I think I’ve seen a few. Usually you overhear them.

Jade:  You overhear them?


Jade:  That’s a good point. I remember when we were talking about this. We had a lot of very strong personalities in Gangplank, especially during the early times when it was this very raw unformed thing.

What we’re really trying to get at here is that we really value all of the people of Gangplank and not just certain personality types, or certain strong personalities that were in the community itself. Really the power lies within the whole community. Have you guys run into a situation where maybe there’s a dominating personality in the room? What effect does that have on a community?

Roy:  I remember we did a podcast with some guests on “Agile Weekly” where we talked about the effect of when you have a certain type of personality in a company. They tend to hire other people that are that same personality. Soon enough you have a company filled with just that personality, and you have this homogeny of opinion, and it starts halting innovation and it starts halting all this other stuff now because everybody is just the same.

Clayton:  I think more than anything with the personalities, especially at Gangplank, it seems to block everyone else out. So you get the one personality, and then there’s like the acolytes that are just trying to follow along. “Well, I kind of like this personality so I’m just going to do what they want,” and it kind of squashes the creativity and some of the new ideas that might have come about.

But they ended up not coming about because that’s not what the personality, or personalities, wanted.

Jade:  What do we do when personalities are starting to get in the way?

Roy:  Tea Party?

Jade:  [laughs] Yeah.

Roy:  I think when…I’m trying to think of examples for Gangplank. But it seems like with the way that we’ve handled that, Gangplank has kind of marginalized the personalities and made it so that it doesn’t matter if you have one. Like, that’s nice and all that you think you have this persona and that you are putting on this act every time you come into the space but that doesn’t matter, we don’t care about that.

I think that has worked pretty well. Some people are obviously pretty persistent with that, and they really try and, “No, you don’t understand, I am a really awesome personality,” and they want to keep going. But emphasizing the egalitarian nature of it all…

Clayton:  That’s a word that’s way outside my vocal range.


Roy:  The idea that you could just pluck anyone out of the Gangplank audience so to speak, and they would be a valid person for almost any task, or any activity you were getting into. It’s not about having the right personalities to do some activity or some event or to start…have an idea. You should be able to pick anyone and ask them their opinion about this, and that’s just as valid as anyone else.

Jade:  I think you’re marginalizing the strong personality who’s trying to disrupt the culture. That is something that we’ve done quite a bit, I think unintentionally. It makes me think back to when we made one of our first terrible mistakes, which was allowing people to have their own private offices.


Jade:  We had some very strong personalities. That was very integral to their participation in Gangplank. They needed to have that private office and private space. We realized how anti‑collaborative that was and really how much it violated our culture, and there were people that wouldn’t give it up.

We didn’t have a good way of resolving any of that conflict at the time, but we certainly started to marginalize those people’s influence and importance. Because, really, they had marginalized themselves, they had locked themselves away from the culture itself. When it finally did come to a head, some people chose not to participate anymore because of that particular issue.

Roy:  I remember that specific example. Being in that office for some reason and thinking, “Am I allowed to be here?” I don’t think I ever really thought that about Gangplank. There was never anywhere in Gangplank that I would have been and thought, “Should I be here?” That even goes for the women’s restroom.


Roy:  There was a point when it was cool to go in the women’s restroom.

Jade:  That’s right, we did call it restroom number two.

Roy:  Exactly.


Roy:  I never felt like that, but here I am sitting in this person’s office and it’s like, this feels weird. I’d never experienced this before.

Jade:  It was very much against the spirit of what we were trying to build. How else have you dealt with difficult or interesting personalities? Oh come on, Trish, I know you’ve got some good stories. Don’t hold out on us.

Trish:  I think some of it’s, as far as dealing with difficult personalities, sometimes it feels like it varies by personality. But more often than not, it feels like it’s really just like they’re trying to push whatever their personality is. It’s letting the rest of the community know that they need to also get their input.

Jade:  I think a lot of times it’s tied to their agenda, right?

Trish:  Right, I was actually thinking, so this kind of relates to [inaudible 06:00] agendas, as well as learning about expertise because what it all reminded me of is that it’s not just about the personality. So anybody can come in and we give you that opportunity to learn, even though you’re not an expert. So, the same kind of idea, the personality doesn’t have to be already this persona of the expert. Anybody else can come in and give that opportunity a try.

Clayton:  It seems to have formed a self correcting situation by virtue of not having the idea of titles and hierarchy. Because if I were to be a personality, I would be a personality for personalities sake, but I wouldn’t have that title to go along with it.

As soon as people get sick of my bullshit, they just stop listening to me and do something else. They don’t have to listen to me because there’s nothing other than them wanting to listen to me that causes them to.

Jade:  So there’s no authority to worry about.

Clayton:  Right.

Jade:  Because it’s not like we’ve gotten rid of personalities. They definitely still exist. Gangplank is not a bland place where everybody’s afraid to be themselves. That definitely doesn’t happen. But you’re right, there’s no advantage to, I guess, embracing some of the darker side of our personalities.

Roy:  Like, you’re going to climb a curtain rail out of here? The only way to do that is by getting people to actually like you and the only way to do that is by being vulnerable and your genuine self.

Jade:  Right, and by participating and doing and following all the other parts of the manifesto that come into play. I think that’s the interesting thing about the manifesto. All the values really do reinforce each other. They’re very highly dependent on each other.

What do you think about…When we talk about people, lets switch to the people side of the equation…

Roy:  You mean resources?

Jade:  Yes, human resources.


Jade:  How does Gangplank value people? What does that mean to you?

Clayton:  I like what Trish was saying about anyone can come in and learn expert stuff. One of the ways I see that Gangplank values people is just by the sheer fact that literally people that just wander in off the street and they get engaged in some conversation, or they talk to somebody about something they’re interested in.

I feel like that’s a very core human type thing of seeking connection and making a connection with another person.

That’s one of the ways I think is probably the most powerful, and it’s so easy to do. I think people get so worried about coming into Gangplank, and who am I going to talk to, and what am I going to say, and do I fit in.

I’ve seen so many times when people just show up and, even their first time, and 10 minutes into it, they stumble onto some conversation the third or fourth person they made a connection with, and now they’re talking about something they really care about. I think even just having that makes such a big difference. I think that’s a great representation of the people aspect.

Trish:  We were talking earlier today, it came up in the community meeting people. It seems like everyone else liked the idea of a directory, and one of the things I was pointing about with the directory of, for me with Gangplank people walk in the door and you don’t know, are they the CEO of some huge company, or are they currently without a job.

One of the cool things for me with Gangplank is that people have to choose a person. They don’t know…a few minutes have a look at their LinkedIn profile. But typically they don’t know what you’re advertising yourself as, and really people just approach you as a person They may find later that you have a certain title or you have certain assets that can help them. But from the start, it’s just a conversation with another person.

Jade:  Some of the proudest moments I’ve seen is when we’ve had one guy who is mentally handicapped kind thug that lives in the rough neighborhood behind Gangplank Chandler. He came in and people were very wary of what he was doing here. But some of the more interesting personalities at Gangplank really embraced him and treated him like a real person, and tried to help him out and did a bunch of things for him.

I thought that was a really cool thing to see. That really no matter what, you don’t have to be a geek, you don’t have to have money, you don’t really have to have really anything, and people will still treat you like a real genuine human being around here.

Clayton:  One of my favorite stories like that was the time when I heard there was two people about how they had to get to Tucson but their car broke down, or they didn’t have a ride or something, and they had to go that night. Someone else in the space shouted out, “Is anybody going to Tucson later?” and some random guy raises his hand. “Will you give him a ride?” the guy was like, “Sure!”


Clayton:  So just stuff like that, here’s this connection. I don’t know where else you could facilitate something like that, where people wouldn’t think that you were totally nuts. But in this space, that made sense. That’s a totally legit thing to do.

Jade:  Anything else on people and personalities? I think we’re going to wrap up this discussion of the values of the Gangplank manifesto. Join us next week on the Dangercast.

Dangercast #8 – Learning Over Expertise

Derek Neighbors, Jade Meskill, and Ankit Sura discuss the Gangplank Manifesto: Learning over Expertise


Jade Meskill:  Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Dangercast, where we talk about the culture and design of Gangplank. I’m Jade Meskill.

Ankit Sura:  I’m Ankit Sura.

Derek Neighbors:  And I’m Derek Neighbors.

Jade:  Today we wanted to talk about…continuing to talk about the Gangplank manifesto. We’re up to “Learning over Expertise.”

Derek:  Do we have an expert to talk about this?

Ankit:  I’m just learning what’s happening around here.

Derek:  Perfect.

Jade:  We came up with this. We were faced with a lot of people who like to project themselves as the experts. The problem with experts is they tend to shut down conversation and exploration for other people who don’t feel that comfortable.

Just like the other values of the manifesto, it’s not that we don’t value expertise. It is very important. It’s something that we think is useful. It’s that we value learning so much more than somebody who claims to be an expert.

Derek:  A lot of it goes back to some of our work with agility and the concept of inspect and adapt. If you’re constantly challenging the status quo it means that you’re doing stuff there are no experts on. You can only be an expert on something that already exists and already has a large body of work.

If you want to do something new that nobody else has really done before, by default you can’t really be an expert because everybody is learning what that is. The second thing we wanted to push in is, a lot of times when you are exposed to something and an expert is the one teaching it to you, not only do you feel inferior, but oftentimes you will not actually learn.

You’ll take it from rote memory. “Give me the cheat sheet, I’ll just use the cheat sheet that the expert gave me,” instead of taking the time to really learn what that is and master it yourself. We wanted to reinforce that the culture we want to create is that you should always be learning.

It goes back to “Be Dangerous.” Be Dangerous is always doing stuff that is so new to you that you feel uncomfortable, that’s part of being dangerous. The only way you can do that is be in learning mode all the time. If you’re in a situation, you’re like, “I totally got this, no sweat, no problem. I’m not challenging myself.” You’re not challenging yourself, that’s the problem.

Ankit:  On this note, actually, something very interesting comes into my head. “The Learning Organization” by Peter Senge, I forgot the name.

How do we create an enterprise, an organization which is constantly learning, but coming to a space where people are working in different settings? How to facilitate learning between different people in a space requires a culture, and probably this ethos that we are emphasizing over here is trying to cultivate that. That’s how I feel.

Jade:  There is no expert of how to be in Gangplank. It’s never been done before, we’re doing new things. We have to build that into the culture. It has to be based around teaching other people to be comfortable with learning new things, or we’re never going to go anywhere.

Derek:  Some of that is part of the culture is rewarding people who learn. When people take risks and say, “I’m not the expert, but I’m willing to learn it,” we should be rewarding that. The culture should reinforce that behavior and say, “That’s good, do more of that.” We try to put things in place where we don’t hold people’s hands a lot.

When you walk into Gangplank for the first time, it’s kind of scary. You don’t know what to do. You have to learn how to go through even that process. Just to engage in Gangplank is a learning thing, and you see it in people’s eyes. They walk in the door. They look around a little bit. “Maybe I’m supposed to fill this out, maybe I’m not supposed to do this…”

But they learn, and they figure it out. It’s how do we create interactions, how do we create mindsets that propagate that? If you come in here and you’re like, “I’m the expert at this, and you should listen to me because I’m the expert,” people should reject that almost instantly, and you see that.

Jade:  And they do.

Derek:  When we see [indecipherable 04:34] speakers come in, or prisoners come in, and they come off with that ego of, “I know everything.” People round here are like, “Yeah, their ideas are tired and old. They think they know everything. Let’s move onto something more important.” Which I think is great.

Jade:  So you’re pretty new to the community and you said you’re still learning some things. How have you felt? When you walked into the Gangplank community for the first time, could you feel that learning was very important around here?

Ankit:  Let me build on what Derek just mentioned. When you go in the process of learning itself, stepping in the door, it happened with me too. I just read Gangplank, on the website, what it was. It’s a free co‑working space. I couldn’t believe it then, all the beautiful stuff that was there. I came over here and entered.

Someone walked up to me that was Brian at that time. He walked up to me, leaving his work, and said, “Are you new over here? Do you want a tour?” Gave me the feel of the space, what the space is all about. When I got the feel, and afterward they’re summarizing it with the manifesto, introducing me to what they believe in, what this is all ‑‑ why does he hear, why?

When I understood that, it just clicked. Then you just have to get to know people, introduce yourself, what you do and what they do. Learn about the people, get to know them. That’s where the relationship building process starts. Learning happens with good relationships that you’re building on.

Derek:  That’s a great point. I think one of the things that we’re building is a culture of sharing. If you see somebody struggling, the deer in the headlights, you see that, that you’re willing to help teach. If you’re going to build an organization that says we value learning, you also have to build a culture that says that we value people teaching new things.

That goes hand in hand. You see it a lot when people come in. They’ll say, “I need this.” Usually people won’t say, “I’ll give you that,” they’ll say, “I can teach you how to do that,” which is a very different thing. If you’re willing to own learning how to do it, I’ll help you. If you just want me to do it for you, I’m not really interested in that.

That is a big part of the culture and building those relationships. I think the other part of having a strong learning culture is that people understand and collect who knows what. “Hey, maybe I don’t know Spanish, but I know so‑and‑so talks Spanish. If you want to learn Spanish, you should maybe talk to so‑and‑so.”

Ankit:  Go to…


Derek:  Yeah. It fosters or propagates learning. When you do that through relationships…If Jade wants something and I know you know how to do it, and I say, “You want to learn that?” I make that introduction, Jade is more likely to teach you it because there’s a relationship there, even though maybe you two don’t know each other.

Those are all corresponding things within Gangplank. When we talk about Gangplank the collective, that’s what we’re really talking about. How do we start to connect nodes on the system? Whether they be physically in or outside of the buildings that we have, how do we connect those nodes to continue learning, and to foster even more deep connection and learning?

Ankit:  Derek, since you have been with Gangplank ‑‑ and Jade, you two have been with Gangplank for a very long time. I’m a very new person in this enormous, beautiful concept. Could you give me an idea of how the offline physical learning, physical interaction is happening and how are you building on the virtual learning, learning that’s happening in virtual spaces? What’s happening there, how are you doing that?

I see some things happening there too.

Jade:  That’s something that we still haven’t mastered. We’re definitely not experts in that area. We were very focused on the physical connections and face‑to‑face for a very long time because it is critical to building a strong community. Now we’re starting to experiment with some other ways of connecting.

Now we have multiple Gangplank locations, we have communities that are starting to be built that don’t have a physical location. We’re experimenting with a whole bunch of different ways of helping them to learn and teach each other. Really, it comes down to having presence with each other. We’re experimenting a lot in those areas.

We are learning a ton on what is working, what isn’t working. We are certainly not experts in this area, and I think some of the unique nature of Gangplank itself ‑‑ there really are no experts at all for what we’re trying to build because this is a very unique thing. To tie that back into the teaching thing, my favorite way of learning ‑‑ and I love to learn ‑‑ is by teaching people.

When you’re truly teaching, you’re not just dumping knowledge into their head. You’re exploring, together, what the possibilities are. I usually learn so much when I’m helping someone to learn something new. They’re always teaching me something.

Ankit:  That’s actually true. When someone teaches, they actually learn themselves.

Jade:  Of course. I find no better way. To really know something, I need to be able to teach it to someone.

Ankit:  You actually become better and better at it.

Jade:  Somebody who doesn’t know anything, they can ask the questions that you can’t think of any more when you think that you know something.

Derek:  Or they need it explained in a way that is difficult for you, which opens up new ways for how you think about it. I also think there’s a lot to be said on helping somebody to do something. Maybe I know how to do it, I don’t do it for them, but I have them do it and I help them do it. That tends to unlock a couple of things. It tends to unlock a better understanding.

Watching somebody else do something that I know how to do makes me understand how even I do it better, because I have to explain to them the intricacies that are committed to my memory, or my muscle reflex, that I don’t think about. You see this when a guitarist that’s really experienced teaches someone who’s not experienced.

They’re like, “Just do this.” When the person doesn’t get it, you can see their head think…


Jade:  …Just do a G‑shaped bar chord, and then blah, blah, blah….

Ankit:  This is like implicit and explicit knowledge, something, something.

Derek:  The other thing it does is it really creates a bond or connection between the teacher and the student. That bond is part of what really makes Gangplank. It builds that vulnerability and trust. It takes an enormous amount of vulnerability to say, “I don’t know to do something. I’m an infant, I don’t know to eat, I don’t know how to drink.”

Even if it’s, “I don’t know how to play guitar,” I have to admit that and say, “I’m totally at your mercy. I don’t know how to do this.” Taking that responsibility and walking in that person’s vulnerability to help show them how to do it and grow with them creates this event between the participants that then carries on to other things.

Ankit:  Gangplank is a great place to start just coming over here and learning. Learning is a lifelong process and it just goes on. This environment that I have experienced over a short period is that learning can never end, because there is so much somebody knows.

Different people know different things, and you can just go on talking about different things, learning new things, having new experiences, through other people’s experiences.

Jade:  One of the things we’ve tried to do from the very beginning is make it OK, and make it easy, to fail. That’s a fast track to learning. If I can try something and find out that it doesn’t work, I’ve learned a whole lot along that way. Now I have the confidence to try something else because I tried it and it didn’t work, but it wasn’t really that painful, right?

I failed, but now all these people know I want to do this and they’re all going to help me, teach me. I’m going to learn new things.

Derek:  The other thing, too, is it allows people to try new things. Sometimes it’s not even that I fail. I might even be doing OK at it, but it’s like, “I really thought I wanted to play guitar, and then I went to some lessons, and that’s not really want I want to do. What I really want to do is digital music and mess with things with the computer.”

It gives people that ability to not have a whole lot of pressure. When you have this expert coming up and telling you all this, and it’s all really formal, it’s a lot harder to say, “This isn’t really for me.” It’s like opening up a book, reading the first chapter, and saying, “I don’t really care for this book, but because I bought the book, I’m going to read the whole thing anyway.”


Derek:  The same thing happens when you get too formalized in learning. “I already paid for the class, I’m two classes in, I’m just going to stick it out because…Whatever.” If it’s a much more informal thing, it’s like, “That wasn’t really for me, but this other tangential thing is,” and nobody really looks down on you on it.

“Oh my gosh, you didn’t get the degree in whatever it is you were wanting to learn?” Doesn’t matter. Just move on and explore what you want to explore. That’s another part of it, is exploring. I think Gangplank creates a culture where it really encourages you to explore. I almost think of it as like temptation heaven for people that want to learn.


Derek:  There’s so much stuff going on that is interesting. You walk in here and it’s like, “But I want to learn that, and this, and I only have an hour here! How am I going to…I want to build a 3D model, I want to print, do music and I want to hear this podcast…”

Ankit:  You have to get focused, right?

Derek:  Now I have to choose, right? When my son comes here, that’s one thing he really articulates. There’s so much to do, it leaves him a hunger for “I want to come back because there’s other stuff I want to try.” If you don’t have that learning environment built in, it’s all about becoming the expert. If you don’t do that immediately it just sucks, it’s like a grind.

Jade:  We’ve been doing this for a long time and I still feel that every week. There’re still new things for me to learn, new things for me to try. It never runs out.

Ankit:  It’s fun, actually. Learning is fun.

Jade:  Great fun. I would’ve quit a long time ago if there wasn’t more opportunities to learn.

Derek:  It’s funny you say learning is fun, because I don’t know if we’ve got anything around fun in the manifesto. I don’t believe we necessarily do, but I think at least for Jade and I, learning is fun. For us, that was a big part of ‑‑ being the expert feels like the suit and tie kind of…

Jade:  It’s a burden to carry.

Derek:  It’s a burden. Learning implies when you make a mistake, nobody can criticize it because, “Hey man, I’m learning. I didn’t know any better.”


Derek:  “I’m sorry I blew up the car, I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to cross those two wires.” I think that some of the element of Gangplank’s fun is that playful curiosity of a young child learning. I think that’s in the spirit of the culture as well, is that it’s OK to play. Learning is playing and playing is learning, so play a lot.

Ankit:  That’s like being dangerous, right?

Derek:  Yeah, sure.

Jade:  Awesome. Well, that’s all the time we have. Join us again next week, when we talk about “People over Personalities.” Thanks.

Episode #7 – Boldness over Assurance

Clayton Lengel-Zigich, Roy van de Water, Derek Neighbors and Jade Meskill discuss the next item in the Gangplank Manifesto: boldness over assurance.



Jade Meskill:  Hello, welcome to another episode of “The Danger Cast” where we talk about the culture and design of Gangplank. I’m Jade Meskill.

Roy van de Water:  I’m Roy van de Water.

Clayton Lengel‑Zigich:  I’m Clayton Lengel‑Zigich.

Derek Neighbors:  I’m Derek Neighbors.

Jade: We’re continuing our series and talking about the Gangplank Manifesto. We talking about Boldness over Assurance.

Derek: I don’t know if I feel comfortable talking about this.


Jade: Let me assure you, Derek, it will be OK.

Roy: I am only participating because you said this would be good.

Roy: Is it all right if I participate in this broadcast?

Jade: We’re demonstrating how assurance might work.

Clayton: Well we got all the jokes out.


Jade: Derek, you remember why this came up?

Derek: I am trying to rack my brain on this, I am not remembering an exact example or an exact reason why this came up, but I think it was more that people had scary ideas a lot, but they wouldn’t really act on them.

I think part of what Gangplank started to do was be like the teenage catalyst that like, “Hey, it’d be really cool if we lit a can of hair spray on fire.”

Jade: I did that once.

Derek: Normally, you’d think, “I wouldn’t do that, that’s dangerous,” but instead Gangplank became a place like, “Yeah, you should totally light that on fire. You should throw it.” It escalated to that…


Derek: “You know what would be cool, if we’d throw the whole propane on the fire. That would be awesome.”

Roy: Then we made it into a kid’s event.


Derek: This is kind of the one that embodies the kind of whole “be dangerous” spirit which is, it’s the thing that says, when you have something in your gut, that you totally know, “If I could do this, this would be a really big deal, and this would make a real impact.”

Then your lizard brain talks you out of it, tells you that you shouldn’t do it or that you’re not good enough to do it, that sort of thing.

What we tend to do is, we tend to go around and try to get assurance from other people that It’s going to be OK. Not until we have enough of that currency of assurance do we actually execute. This is saying, “Just go out and execute it, and if it’s a right thing, it will be awesome, if not, that’s OK. People will support you.”

It doesn’t mean be bold from like a jerk’s perspective, when you know you should be doing something, do it. Don’t be passive in doing it.

Jade: Just like “be dangerous” doesn’t mean jump off a cliff without a parachute. It’s about taking risks.

I remember that we’re having a lot of trouble with getting people to even show up. There was this weird resistance to, needing to be prompted a whole bunch of times, told by a whole bunch of people, to even walk in the door at Gangplank.

I think that also informed this virtue that we put out here is that, you should just be able to take the leap and just walk in. Don’t worry about it being scary, it probably is scary and that’s OK. Just do it, just get out there and try it.

Roy: That’s interesting. That’s always one of those things where I’ll like, if Gangplank costs money, it would be easier because then you are buying your assurance.

Jade: We’ve had a lot of people tell us that. If I can make some sort of transaction, it eases that tension.

Derek: I actually think that, now you kind of spark my memory a little bit. I think a lot of where this came in is, we got so many complaints when we moved the Gangplank.

Gangplank 1.0 you had the kind of Come in, there was a secretary downstairs for another business. When you came in, you are like, “Is this Gangplank?” They would say, “Oh no, they are upstairs.”

You’d come upstairs, when you open up the stairs, there were some desks right at the front of the stairs that you could kind of say, “Am I in the right place?” You could get assured twice before you engaged.

We moved into the new building, you walked into a lobby and there was no desk in the lobby, there was no receptionist in the lobby, there was nothing in the lobby.

When you walked through the lobby, you were still in this wide open space where there were no desks. It was obvious what the primary desk was. We would get complaint after complaint, “You should really put a desk up front so that people know who to talk to before they come in.”

It was a pattern that kept repeating continually, people that were in the space all the time, “That’s dumb, just come in and talk to people.” What we kept hearing was, “Because some people, they need to understand, and they need a way to interact.” We started to really talk about, “If that’s the type of person you are, Gangplank’s probably not right for you.”

I think that translated into the Boldness over Assurance. If you need to come in and you need to be coddled, that’s probably a deficiency in interacting with Gangplank culture that is going to hurt you long term.

Roy: And hurt Gangplank, if it’s so difficult like that.

Derek: Hurt you and hurt Gangplank where if you come in and you are going to say, “Yeah, I am going to have the confidence to walk in and own it, and deal with it and do it.” You probably are embodying that boldness of like, “I am scared crapless. I don’t know anybody here, I don’t know what I am doing here, but I am really scared but I am just going to put a smile on it and act like it doesn’t bother me.” It works out.

Jade: You know what’s funny? I still feel that way sometimes. I was away for a while and I came back and I didn’t know most of the people that were here.

I went from knowing everybody to knowing just a few people. Definitely had to re‑kick in those values, “That’s OK, I’ll just go talk to them because they’re here and they’re a part of Gangplank, too, so it will probably just work.”

Roy: They don’t want to be talked to, they probably would’ve stayed home.

Jade: Or gone somewhere else.

Derek: I think that’s translated into everything from relationships to municipalities to relationships to third parties, to starting new initiatives, to.. you name it. That’s one of the things in community building that’s difficult.

If you are going to try new ideas that are truly new, you’re never going to get assurance. In fact, you are going to get the opposite of assurance. You are going to get people telling you, “That’s not possible, you can’t do that, that seems scary.”

Clayton: Yeah, nobody tried this before.

Derek: Right. If you don’t have boldness in what you are doing, you are never going to make it. We tell people all the time one of the ways you know you are doing good work is when people are getting mad at you. Because when you challenge the status quo and you put it in people’s face, that you are making a dent in the universe, they will attack the shit out of you.

If you’re not bold in doing that, what do you think is going to happen when you start to get attacked? You are going to fold like a two dollar Walmart chair with a 400‑pound fat lady sitting in it when they come after you. You got to have some boldness to own it.


Jade: Just like that analogy, that was pretty bold.

Roy: Walmart chairs are even made for 400‑pound fat ladies.


Derek: Or a 400‑pound fat dude.

Jade: Don’t discriminate there.


Derek: I can say that, as a fat kid.

Jade: Another dimension to this is, we have a lot of people who are entrepreneurs, who are starting their business, trying to make it work, trying to grow.

There are different phases of their organizational life. Boldness is certainly required in that area. If you are looking for assurance, starting your own business is no way to get it.

Roy: Can you imagine being the boss of your own company, who are you going to ask for permission?


Clayton: There have been a lot of people that I have talked to that, based on their personality and the things that they enjoy, would be good fits for Gangplank. They’re very creative or they have the streak in them. I see them a lot, especially on social media. They’ll be talking about how they’re upset about work, they’re upset about this. They don’t have enough, whatever.

I’ll tell them, “Hey, you should go to Gangplank.” It’s amazing they can talk such a big game about all the stuff that they want to do. They talk the game of the status quo basher and the be dangerous stuff.

When push comes to shove, the litany of excuses comes out. “It’s too far. I don’t have the time. Who’s going to do this? Blah blah blah.” I always think that’s interesting that it’s very easy to sound especially bold but then the actual practice of being bold, that’s the part that’s impossible for some people.

Derek: They especially have no excuse because they even got a person on the inside, for them it’s safe.

Jade: Giving them assurance.

Derek: Right. They should be able…

Clayton: I worked with someone once. It was actually right after I left to come work for Integrum. He was still with the old company, he hated it even more. I told him, “Hey, you’ve got to come to Gangplank. You are a designer. There are all these people you can talk to.”

He showed up, we talked for five minutes, I said, “Yeah, this is over here.” I did my best to make him feel welcome. He sat on the couch for 10 minutes and then he left.

Jade: We’ve received numerous angry emails about how “I showed up here and I sat down at a desk, nobody said a word to me, how dare you guys run an operation like this?”

Derek: I think my favorite email exchanged something like that, it kind of relates a little bit to this. I made some comments about downtown Phoenix in the state of downtown Phoenix, it upset some folks.

Somebody drove all the way from downtown Phoenix, came right up to the door of Gangplank. They took pictures of the outside of Gangplank, took pictures of the sign of Gangplank. Then they drove back all the way back to Phoenix and they wrote this blog about how horrible Gangplank was, a bunch of things about the people inside of Gangplank.

It was hilarious to have almost everybody at Gangplank call them out, “Did you really just drive 20 miles to come take a picture on the outside and not come in and talk to anybody and then say how horrible we are?”

The person, they’re human, their response back was, “I came because I wanted to talk about it but then I kind of chickened out the last minute, then I just took a picture and turned around and left.”

I think that’s the status quo, that’s what we were talking about when we were not only criticizing this particular thing. It’s also the embodiment of that’s what happens when you look for assurance and you’re not bold.

If you are really passionate about it, why wouldn’t you come in and talk about it? Because you are afraid. I think that boldness over assurance is saying, look, it’s OK to be afraid. It’s OK to want to be coddled and want to have assurance. Everybody wants that when they’re afraid.

It is the difference between walking through that fear and doing it anyways and turning around and walking away instead of entering the door. That, to me, is in a nutshell what boldness over assurance is.

It’s walking through the door when you’re scared shitless instead of turning around and going away, and making some excuse why you can’t walk through.

Roy: It’s not just about walking through the door either. It’s about everything that you do inside of the space and everything you end up doing in life.

Jade: Sure, that’s the great thing about boldness is that it’s really easy to continue being bold. The hardest part is doing that first part where you just open the door and walk in.

That’s obviously a metaphor. It’s not just about coming into a Gangplank but it’s just taking that first step down whatever trail you’ve started, continuing that momentum gets easier and easier and easier.

That would be my advice to someone who is struggling with not having boldness in their life, something scary that comes up that you think, “I don’t think I can do this.” Just do it. With practice, you’re going to get so much better and be able to not worry so much about needing that assurance.

Clayton: I found that I am really good at building up in my mind all this stuff that’s going to happen or the way interactions are going to play out. The way people are going to be and how good or smart, or whatever they are.

One thing that’s helped me is, to try and remember, just assume that I am wrong. “I think I am right about a lot of stuff, but I am going to assume that I am wrong, that everyone in Gangplank is better than me, and they won’t pay attention to me.” If I assume that I am wrong, I’ll just see what happens. That’s the same thing I think you’re making a punch in.

If you take that first step, then you can shatter all those assumptions, that whole thing you built up in your mind breaks down and now you are dealing with the reality of it and it’s a lot easier than you thought.

Roy: And it gets easier every single time that you are bold because almost every single time that you are bold, you’ll get a successful reaction. Every once in a while it will fall back, it will fail. It sucks if it’s the first time you tried, that you failed.

The nice thing is you can show up at Gangplank and I can assure you that walking inside, you are not going to fail if you talk to somebody.

Jade: Even if you fail, that boldness still lives on. You still have that success of just being bold enough to try.

Derek: I guess, if up to me, if I think of this a little like perfection. I see a lot of people that don’t ship their work, or take forever to do something because they are waiting for it to be perfect like, “Oh, if I just get this one last thing, it will be perfect.”

When we look for assurance, we are doing the same thing, we’re saying, “I am afraid of something.” If only I can be assured of this, then I would do it.

I would quit my job and go do this other thing if I could be assured that I would have health care. Well, then if somebody says, “OK great, you’ve got health work.” “Oh, well, I would also need to be assured of this.” You can continue to just say, “that if only I were assured.”

When you walk and you move into boldness, what happens is, you are not any less afraid. If I am afraid of public speaking, getting up on that stage and taking about it, I am just as afraid every single time. The difference is by acting in boldness, I start to believe that, “OK, I am just as afraid but I am able to reassure my own self much quicker because I’ve got more boldness than I have weakness.”

I think that’s one of the things people think of, “Oh, if I only get to this level, I’ll stop being afraid.” The reality is the best people in the world are still afraid at some level. I guarantee you there are major league pitchers that go out to the pitching mound and they’re still afraid. The difference is they just walk through it. They have the ability to say, “I am just going to walk through it.”

Jade: I think that wraps up our discussion on Boldness over Assurance. Be sure to catch us next time on The Danger Cast. Thanks.

Dangercast #6 – How Gangplank Works with Municipal Governments

Roy van de Water, Derek Neighbors, Jade Meskill, and special guest Trey Keeler discuss the some common questions we get asked about how Gangplank works with municipal governments.


Jade Meskill:  Hello and welcome to the DangerCast where we talk about Gangplank culture and design. I’m Jade Meskill. Today, we have a special interview with Trey Keeler. He was asking us some common questions that we get asked about how we work with local municipal governments. We thought it would make a really great podcast so we recorded the interview. We thought our listeners would be interested in hearing some of the answers. Hope you enjoy it.

Trey Keeler:  Cool. I guess the biggest question I had for you is, I was talking to Gangplank RVA. I met with these guys at that day. I talked to a guy named David Walizer. Usually nice and I spoke to him about what Gangplank is all about. It was really awesome, because Gangplank is new to the Richmond area, so a lot of people are just kind of learning about it right now.

We’re visiting a lot of different coworking spaces because we’re doing this project on different coworking models. I spoke to him and the project that we’re working on is with an organization that has city government funding to do sort of a similar idea. At least the mission or the goals they have are very similar to sort of what Gangplank has already done.

I was kind of picking his brain and he had mentioned that Gangplank in Phoenix had some sort of relationship with the local government, or somehow interacted. I don’t know at what levels.

Derek:  Yes.

Trey:  That’s why I was calling you guys to figure out how that works and how that all started.

Derek:  Yes, perfect. So, I think there’s a couple of different ways that we’ve done Gangplanks. Maybe I’ll just go over those, and one of the second two would probably be one that would be applicable to what you’re talking about from a government relationship perspective.

The first way was the way that Gangplank was originally funded, which was really the altruistic model or the benefactor model. Where a company has extra space or extra resources and really wants to invest in their community. So they give time, and/or space, or resources to the community and say, implement a Gangplank in our space. I think that’s the current model that Richmond is going under. They have a provider, a space, a company that’s got some extra spaces letting them use that space in exchange for being around smart, creative people.

The second model that we operate under is doing a service‑based agreement with a municipality of some kind where we provide a number of services. It’s a service contract just as any other service provider would do. They then would pay us for those services. Those services would be put directly back into the Gangplank in that location. So, what normally happens there is a number of services are created in a contract that says we will deliver these 20 services or these 50 services.

A lot of those services are the things that Gangplank natively provides whether that be brown bags, entrepreneurship programs, coworking space, maker space, all of those type of things. Then, the funding that is created goes back to basically pay for the rent, the Internet, the electricity. And then, what we do is we basically give all of the resources away at no monetary cost, but the people that participate in the programming, we ask that they give back through social capital to basically provide the services that we’re under contract for.

So it’s like the city kicks‑starts or the municipality kicks‑starts the program by providing the building, and in exchange for that building they get a bunch of services back. And what happens is all of the programming is provided by the people who are freely partaking in the services, right?

So, instead of charging for those services, we say the only way you can pay for them with is your time, which actually connects people back more deeply that of the community which is kind of the whole goal, is to basically jumpstart communities.

Trey:  Exactly, so in the past when you were talking about the city or the municipality paying for services. Traditionally, that has been through allowing you the use of the space or building, or has it actually been monetary?

Derek:  So, the second way that I was talking about just now was that’s through monetary. Maybe the municipality doesn’t have an existing structure, or an existing building that they can put a Gangplank in, but they do have budget. So what they’ll do is they’ll say, “Hey, we’ll allot this budget, and the budget is pretty much magically equal to the amount that it costs to rent a space, and to provide electricity for a space, and provide Internet for a space, and in return we get these services.”

The third model that we have is a model where a municipality or a government organization actually has physical space, where they own the space. They say, “Hey, for a dollar‑a‑year rent, or a dollar‑a‑month rent, what we would like to do is provide you this space, we’ll provide you the electricity, the maintenance, the physical property to basically run your programming out. And in return, you’ll offer these services for us.”

When it comes to working with local government, we can do it either one of those ways. We can either do it as a you don’t have a space and you’re providing funding, and we take that funding and we basically rent the space with that funding. Or, if you have physical property we can just do it in exchange for that physical property. We do it both ways.

Trey:  I guess the case I’m working on that is a organization that has the physical space and probably lacks the resources and the human capital.

Derek:  Right, so that’s perfect for Gangplank. That’s what it’s made for.

Trey:  So in a case like that, how do you guys keep the culture of Gangplank a Gangplank, and how does the municipality feel like they’re actually benefiting from it? Cause municipalities as always like to take credit for things and kind of toot their own horn. How do you sort of create that balance?

Derek:  I think that’s the beautiful thing in Gangplank. One of the things that cities really struggle with is being dangerous, right? Like they have to do everything by the book which is totally anti‑entrepreneurial, totally anti‑place making, What happens is we enter into a relationship where pretty much they’re able to say Gangplank go do the stuff we’re not necessarily allowed to do, or that our PR is not necessarily comfortable doing, and if it works and it’s awesome, we’re going to share in the credit.

We’re going to say, “Hey, we fund that. We do that. That’s part of us. Aren’t we cool?” And if it’s something where it’s like, “Oh, I don’t know. That’s a little too dangerous for us.”

They can easily go, “Oh, that’s those Gangplank people that’s not a city thing.” It kind of gives, especially politicians, it gives them a way to adopt the wins, and distance themselves from the things that are maybe scary to them.

What we find more often than not, maybe they don’t embrace something because it’s scary but it actually turns into a win and they adopt it after the fact. For us, we don’t care. It doesn’t matter to us. We just want good stuff to happen in the community. We don’t care who gets credit for it. I think that that is one of the biggest benefits that we give cities, is we give them an ability to be like a startup without having to go through like a bunch of pomp and circumstance every time they want to do anything.

Trey:  Very cool. So you guys I guess are on paper more or less a tenant and then if things work out beneficially for the city then they can sort of jump in.

Derek:  Yeah, we’re a service provider. So it’s if it’s not working out they can fire us just like they can fire any other service provider.

Trey:  OK. Very cool. I guess the next question I have is that the entity that we’re working with is, when you think about the coworking, obviously people think about coders, designers, more of the creative class or I guess what popular culture decides what the creative class is. Have you guys ever worked with somebody that has a small business in the classic sense of a small business? Say somebody is a plumber, or a contractor, or somebody has an idea to sell ribs on the side of the road. Do you get to that sort of granular level or is everything have to be sort of trendy‑business business?

Jade:  [laughs] We’re not interested in being trendy at all. What we’re really interested in is that cross section of people who are creators. And that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re in the creative class, it means that they are really interested in doing things, making things happen, trying new things. Like Derek said being dangerous.

We’ve met plenty of people who are chefs, or running a restaurant, you know doing these very mundane things, but they’re doing it in very unique and interesting ways that makes them part of that Gangplank culture. You don’t have to be a hacker to be here, but somebody who probably has taken on some of the that hacker mentality and applied it to whatever it is that they’re doing, they’re going to fit in very well with the Gangplank culture.

Trey:  Cool.

Derek:  We’ve seen everything from somebody who was really inspired by Gangplank and how it works and likes the collaborative nature of it. They were really into baking cupcakes, and cakes, and pastries, and they actually went out and started the equivalent of a Gangplank that was for bakers. Where they would share kitchen time, and they would create things, and they were basically starting businesses around cooking or baking.

We’ve seen things like that launched out of Gangplank. We’ve seen one of our current companies that is in Gangplank Chandler, great example, is they’re a coffee distributor, a coffee grinder. One of the things they do is they actually are in the business of investing in coffee refineries in third world countries, teaching them how to grow coffee, process coffee, and bring it back and then distribute it here.

That’s about as non‑high tech as it gets, it’s almost farming. “Chow Locally” is sponsored out of here, which is a way to get farm to table type of stuff why that’s kind of a trendy thing that’s happening right now, it’s certainly not what I would consider your normal high‑tech artsy incubator type of stuff that’s happening.

Jade:  We have another group that’s involved in social services. They’re trying some new interesting things and they fit right in.

Trey:  Very cool, very cool. In the past the Gangplank models that have partnered with government entities, what sort of a process been you as approaching them or they approach you, and how does that relationships ever grow?

Derek:  I think to date they’ve always approached us. I think we do two things as part of that. The first thing we do is, are they a good culture fit for us, because we’re very culture‑driven. We look at cities or municipalities that will be strong partners and let us be who we are, and really jumpstart their community. So it’s usually municipalities who say, “We want something radically different and we know we can’t. We know our culture will eat us alive if we try that, but we would like to partner with you so that you can be the culture we want in our city without us having to change our entire structure.”

Which is I think is a big upside when they approach us. It means they’re ready to have those kind of conversations opposed to if we’re approaching them. I think once that’s in place, I think the next thing is we assess is the community ready for it. Meaning, do they have a community leader that’s willing to really promote and move forward, because there’s no paid positions in Gangplank. It really is like bootstrap, raw, community‑driven stuff.

Do you have people that are hungry enough to build a city and build a community within a city that they’ll invest their time in doing it? If they have those two things, it’s usually pretty easy. We’ve done this enough times that we’ve got boiler stuff that’s city‑approved. Multiple cities have done it, so we can usually give that to a legal team and say, “Here’s a start point, mark it up. However, you need it to be to fit with your organization.”

We can usually put them in a touch with a number of mayors, council members, and economic developers, at places that we’re at who they can talk to and get their questions answered at a very real level. I think, once the matchmaking part is done, the execution of it is usually pretty easy to do.

Trey:  Very cool. What city, what Gangplanks are using this sort of private/public partnership right now?

Derek:  Avondale and City of Chandler are currently using this model.

Jade:  There’s a couple others exploring, they’re in the early stages of going this direction.

Derek:  Yeah, our Sault, our branch in Ontario, who also is currently undergoing. They’ll probably finalize something here in the next 30 days.

Trey:  Cool. This is all really, really awesome.

Dangercast #5 – Some Gangplank History

Roy van de Water, Derek Neighbors, Jade Meskill, and Trish Gillam discuss the some of the Gangplank history, Gangplank Jr., and Gangplank Labs.

Jade Meskill: Hello. Welcome to another episode of the “Dangercast.” We’ll talk about the culture and design of Gangplank. I’m Jade Meskill.

Derek Neighbors: I’m Derek Neighbors.

Trish Gillam: I’m Trish Gillam.

Roy van de Water: And I’m Roy van de Water.

Jade: So today, we have some questions that a loyal listener has sent to us. And, we’re going to… We’re just going to answer those questions. Some of it is about the history of Gangplank and some of the reasons why we started this whole thing.

Derek: It’s like an inquiring minds want to know kind of thing.

Jade: Yeah.

Roy: So, the first question is “When was Gangplank started and by whom? Why did you feel that it was necessary to start off a Gangplank?”

Jade: Oh wait, wait, you’re asking too many questions.

Roy: This is the first question.


Derek: One at a time.

Jade: [laughs] We’re not very smart.

Roy: “When was Gangplank started and by whom?” Do you guys, Do you guys know the original creators of Gangplank?

Jade: I do, yeah, yeah. We stole the Gangplank from them.

Roy: OK

Jade: [laughs] it was like Mad Max…

Jade: No, we started Gangplank in what about like formally in about 2008…

Roy: OK. Who as we?

Jade: Oh, that’s the next question…

Roy: No, that’s the first question actually…

Jade: …Oh, Derek and I are I guess through like the formal people who started Gangplank…but it’s really started by a group of people that we were connected to…

Derek: Yeah. I think…for those closer was Ward Andrews James Archer Josh Strebel…


Derek: [inaudible 01:28] Jade, myself and then the some of the original companies that we incubated which were basically [inaudible 01:39] Beau Frusetta Steve Swedler and Chase Granberry.

Roy: And, how long ago was this?

Jade: …by 2008.

Roy: 2008, so why did you guys feel it was necessary to start of with Gangplank?

Jade: So it really started from a desire to we had a consulting and development company, and we want to find more great people to work for us and work with us. That was really the original intent that we started out with…I think we realize very early on is that we were interested in solving problems that were much greater than just that.
We really want to be around excellent people that were doing all kinds of different things. They didn’t have to be working for us or work with our company in any direct way to perform. We really want to be around the best people in phoenix.

Derek: I mean I think we’re doing other things that were unusual for a company out of size at the time, we had a real both Jade and I’ve a real love for learning and exploring and creating. Internally, our company was doing a hack night every week, where we were working on projects that were outside of our normal work.

There’s just fun stuff to work on, or stuff we thought was interesting. All of our employees would give a brown bag every week, where they would talk about a new topic, or a new technique, or a new technology, something.

We already had some things that were happening that were, really easy for other people to gravitate towards, and I think we both have done a lot of work for the Free Software Foundation, so we’ve got very much like a culture of sharing and of openness, and like “Ideas want to be free.”

When people would stop by and say, “Hey, this looks really cool. Do you mind if I sit through the brown bag”?
I say “Yeah, sure. Awesome. That’d be great, in fact would you want to do one sometime? You know a whole lot about this topic, and we would love to learn from you.” I think that just started to build that community up.

Roy: How does that differ Gangplank from what most people think of as a coworking space? Because I think that’s what most people who don’t really know per se Gangplank has a co working space. I don’t know if that applies, but how is it different?

Jade: Our intention was never to rent people desks. We don’t have a business plan. We weren’t trying to make money off Gangplank. We were trying to solve other, more visceral needs that we had to be around interesting and creative people all the time.

Derek: That’s correct. I think originally Gangplank was doing a lot of…Gangplank entity…was doing some incubator activity, which I think did have some potential motives, to do some financial stuff, but I think all of the community stuff was really separate from that.

I think we transitioned fairly quickly away from incubation, and translated it into all community work. I think we changed from an LLC to a non profit, to represent that change as well. The two big ways we’re different is, number one, we’re vision based, and it’s all about a shared community. It’s not about a desk, so it’s not like “Here’s a space, and go ahead and do it.”

The second way that we’re radically different is, we’ve always taken more toward companies and teams, than individuals. So most coworking spaces tend to like really struggle with what happens if a company of four people comes in. They’re really more targeted forward freelancers, and why we totally love freelancers, and we have tons of them around. That’s not how we see the future economy working is a bunch of freelancers working for themselves by themselves.

We see the world as a bunch of small, talented teams working to change the world and buying into a very opinionated culture about how things should be done. I would say we’re very culture based and very non-transactional based.

Roy: If I’m a member of the Gangplank community, what kind of perks and benefits and offers do I get with that? What’s my signup package look like?

Jade: [laughs] It’s a good question. I think the perks that you get are you get to be around other really interesting, like minded people.

Derek: You’re going to change the world.

Jade: Yeah.

Roy: Get any coupons?

Jade: You have one free coupon to change the world.

Derek: We don’t have any paid membership. Membership itself is like this weird thing for us. We have people who are literally in the space more than once a week who feel like they are not members because they are waiting for the check marks, like “Where do I check the box to say that I’m a member”?

I think if you’re participating, you’re a member. There are people who consider themselves Gangplankers who maybe have never stepped into a physical Gangplank before. I think that’s another way that we are radically different than coworking spaces.

We’re really about community and about doing the work. A physical place is just a way to rally around that work, where a coworking space tends to be all about the space. Doing something outside of the space would seem foreign.

Jade: I’ve taken to saying that you can be a Gangplanker anywhere. As long as you believe the philosophy of Gangplank, that makes you a Gangplanker. A physical Gangplank location is just a manifestation of the Gangplank philosophy in a place and time.

Derek: Yeah. I think a good way to do this, and maybe we’ll do a podcast with this group. We have had a number of Gangplankers who have moved to other places. Whether that be Seattle, whether that be Portland, whether that be San Francisco. What tends to happen is one or two of them will move out.

The first thing they’ll say is, “Man, I can’t find anything that’s like a Gangplank. I’ve been to a bunch of coworking spaces, but it’s not the same.” Because what they’re saying they’re missing is not the physical place. They miss the people.

Portland is a great example where we’ve got about 10 or 15 ex Gangplankers. It’s not uncommon that they’ll meet up together to try to experience the fellowship of being Gangplankers, even though they don’t have a physical space. I think that that is really really different.

If I was just a coworking space and I dropped in, it’s like I could go to any other city and probably find another desk, pay my money for it, and we’re totally good to go. It feels fine because I never really deeply interact with people anyway. I’m just there for Internet, power, and a place to work and a conference room.

Jade: There are co workingspaces with strong culture. We’re not trying to…

Derek: Yeah. Shout out to Indy Hall and New Work City. They are two, I think, that are really pushing the bounds of changing what contemporary coworking looks like from a community perspective.

Jade: I just think our culture is different.

Derek: Yes.

Roy: More than ever before, the economic sustainability of a community is based on a workforce that is able to change, adapt, and acquire new skills. How does Gangplank and Gangplank Academy help in acquiring these new skills every week?

Jade: Gangplank is all about change, embracing uncertainty. It’s just build right into the culture. People who interact with Gangplank, people who drink the Kool Aid, I guess, they become part of…

Derek: Sorry, we’ve got a fly buzzing around the studio.

Jade: [laughs] It just flew right in my face, straight into my mouth.

Derek: It’s really harassing the person who happens to be speaking at any point.

Jade: [laughs] I don’t even know what I was saying. Let’s see.

Trish: Something about chaos.

Jade: Yeah. Really Gangplank is about embracing chaos, and that really is the future of the new workforces. We are entering very uncertain times that are unlike the last 50 years. It’s going to be highly critical for people to have the skills to be able to change and adapt.

I think just by participating in this very strange different culture already gives you a leg up that you are willing to be a part of that. I think we’re taking steps further where we’re very much obsessed with learning new things and obtaining different skills. Roy, you talked the other day, “I want to learn this thing. I have no idea what I’m going to use it for, but I just want to learn how to use a CNC machine or do these other things…”

Roy: In my case, it’s arc welding.

Jade: Yeah, arc welding. We want to give people opportunities to learn those skills, even though they don’t know how they’re going to apply it just yet in their life.

Derek: I think there’s a digital blue collar coming right? So, we’re seeing a ton of, I mean, this is no different than when we made a major shift a few hundred years ago from an agricultural society to an industrial society.
You had farmers that started to get displaced because, with modern machinery, what took hundred of farmers to produce, a single farmer could produce with high fangled machinery.

You had farmers starting to say, “OK, great! I don’t need to be a farmer anymore. There’s not a lot of economic viability for me. I need to branch out and do something else. Maybe I need to learn, can I transfer my skills to be an assembly worker at Ford? Can I you know, learn some other skills to move forward.”

I think we’re seeing that right now where you’re getting a lot of displacement when you have industrial manufacturing, really being able to be replaced by smart equipment, robots. Right? And you’ve got factory workers, you’ve got, certain things, even when you look at like, construction.

A lot of construction that happens now, the walls and the roofs and the trusses are all built in a plant somewhere they’re like manufactured and brought in on a truck, and you just need a few people to basically stand them up and put the nails in, to you know, put them together. You’re not talking raw construction like, I’m taking a 2 by 4 and do everything like step by step.

So what happens to people that maybe have some skills, right? But they don’t know how to translate those skills into meaningful work for the next century. So Gangplank tries to get people and tell them like, there is opportunity there, right?

It’s all about your mindset. If you have a mindset that I can learn new things, most of the stuff that’s out there in digital blue color isn’t all that difficult to learn. It just takes the ability to say, I’m capable in learning something new.

I think that’s what academy tries to do as it tries to do, basically it, no cost, no risk, other than your time, give you the confidence and the ability to try new things that you normally wouldn’t try and see if you can find out what’s the right thing you really want to pursue.

Jade: I think we refuse to put people on a box. So, we’re not teaching you how to be a dot net developer or a clay pot maker. You might be acquiring a lot of those skills to be able to do some of those things. But we’re not saying that you are defined by just that one particular skill.

Roy: So, you guys have been doing a lot of stuff with junior programs as well, right? Like first legal league and the junior journalism program, and DangerScouts. How has that been benefiting the kids that we’re attending these programs?

Jade: I think it has benefited the adult even more than the kids. Working with kids is an amazing, enchanting experience, you know? They’re just little learning machines. They soak up information so quick, they ask you really hard questions. Trying to teach them something helps you learn so much more about what is it that you’re teaching.
For us really, at least for me, my kids are the future, right? Everything I do for Gangplank is for them. To make a different, better future, possible for them. You know, some of the things that we’ve tried have been grand experiments, some have gone so great. Some have gone fantastically well but all of them, we learned a lot of things on how to work with kids, what kids need to work in the Gangplank environment.

You drop these kids into the Gangplank culture and they totally thrive. They come alive because there are, the boundaries are so few and far between that they have every opportunity to learn and experiment and really just be happy with all of the new awesome stuff that they’re able to try out.

Derek: Yeah, what it really is is trying to bend the way how we think about we teach kids. I think all the programming we do for junior, at least the majority of the programming within our, it tends to say like, whatever a normal school would do, don’t do it here. So if you’re not allowed to play with fire at school, let them play with fire here.

Jade: [laughs]

Derek: If you’re not allowed to have a sharp instrument, give them a sharp instrument. Right? If they’re not allowed to touch the keyboard, force them to touch the keyboard.
Whatever your school says to do, do the exact opposite of that in you’re doing in Gangplank junior. Some of the benefits that we’ve seen from this like, for me, the three experiences to me that just do it, for me, for Gangplank junior that says this is our future.

One is we had a, they do fall on summer break, out where we’re at, and that gets, basically a week or two off for the kids. It’s very difficult for parents sometime to find what they’re going to do with their kids.
So, we said, hey, why don’t we just have a day, a couple days where the kids can come in and we’ve got the LEGO robotics competition going on. We’ve got all the boards set up, we’ve got all the electronics. We’ve got art supplies. We’ve got all sorts of, just bring, bring your kids in to work, whatever and we’ll do something for them. Hahaha, let’s put a program together.

Well, the program consists of all the kids here, all the stuffs you’re allowed you know, that’s here, you can do whatever you want with it. Let us know when it’s lunch time and we had kids from eighth grade down to probably four years old.
What was amazing to me is, nobody told them what to do, they just said like here’s a podcast, here’s a video recorder, here’s robot. Five days straight, eight hours a day, they totally figured that out, never came and ask for help. But what was amazing was you had eighth grader making sure that the fifth grader was included, or the five year old was included.

You had the, third grader helping the forth grader learn some topic they hadn’t learn yet. Right? It’s just like this total organic, raw learning and exchanging information.

Jade: The kids were teaching each other Geometry and computer programming and all kinds of stuff without any adult back there telling them what to do.

Derek: Yeah, it was just crazy, and like their diverse interests, right? Like, I mean.

Roy: Just because like, they just felt like teaching each other Geometry? Or?

Derek: Well, no.

Jade: They were playing with robots and trying to make the robot do certain thing, and they had to understand ingles to get there.

Derek: Right, so like, I want the robot to turn and I’ve need the, to turn the radius, to turn that. And so, like, I don’t know, I’m twelve and you’re nine, how do I explain radius to you. I can’t use the word radius, so I get on a board and I start to draw a circle and I start to, so I’m teaching somebody Geometry but all I’m trying to teach them is this is what you do to make the wheel turn so that the robot turns, right?

Jade: Uh hmm.

Derek: And it’s awesome to see that kind of stuff. Another one that I think it’s just totally awesome is during robotic competition. One of the things we had with all of our instructors for robotics, we basically said “You’re never allowed to solve a problem for a student and you’re never allowed to touch a keyboard.” Those are the two rules.

Everything, there are so many times these kids are doing something wrong. Like, oh my God, you’re solving this in the most stupid way ever. I totally want to tell you how to solve this because it’s, and so we drop hints like, “Man, do you think that’s going to be reliable?” OK let it fail much.

What was great, they go into a competition, they end up having a challenge that fails where they did like 6 things all in 1 run. So, they program the robot, it does six things before it comes back. The forth thing in fails.
The robot comes back, they’re almost out of time, they’re ready to go, and they want to get the points for that thing. You see the two kids start to argue with each other and all of us were like, “What are you doing? What are you doing? Do something!” They put the robot down. They run one of the other programs it wasn’t designed to do and they go and get their points.

They totally because they understood the point values, they understood how the robot worked, they understood the programs they totally improvised in the face of complete failure.

Nobody else at the competition saw that but us as coaches were like “Holy shit! They did it! They did it! They’re thinking for themselves. They’re solving problems on the fly, under pressure with a clock going down on them.” That was huge.

In the last one, obviously I’m very passionate about Junior and what’s going on here. The last one is, I had my son come in for an entire summer and said, “here’s a list of stuff that you need to learn. Nobody’s going to tell you how to do it. You can ask for help. There are plenty of people in this space that will teach you how to do it.”

He did that. He did program Minecraft with Python on a raspberry pie. He created music videos. He learned songs.

Jade: He learned WordPress and HTML.

Derek: He learned WordPress, HTML, went through all the code academy. All this stuff isn’t what was impressive to me. What was impressive to me was at the end he said, “Dad, do I have to go back to school?” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “I come here and I learn so much more and I have so much more fun. Can I just go to school at Gangplank?”

That just told me how…I mean, my son does really well in school. He gets straight A’s. All his teachers love him. It’s not like, “I’m having problems in school and I want to avoid school.” It was literally, “I learn here and I want to learn here. Why can’t I do this more often?”

I think that we’re hurting our future generations by not letting them be who they are. Not letting them learn the way they’re capable of learning.

Roy: You guys have this concept called Innovation Labs, right?

Jade: Gangplank Labs.

Roy: Gangplank Labs, OK. What are some of the most innovative projects that have come out of GangPlank Labs?

Jade: Some of the most fun ones have been solving real problems. Gangplank has a very limited number of toilets.

Roy: That number is one.

Trish: For the males only.

Jade: We have a large male population. We had a serious problem in that it’s a pain in the butt to get up…

Derek: Literally.


Jade: …yes, you’re already feeling a little urgency. You’ve got to get up walk all the way down to the hallway, go to the bathroom, walk in the door, realize that, “Nope. Everything’s full.” Walk out the door, stand in the hall looking like an idiot sometimes for ten or fifteen minutes.

Derek: Words with Friends is your worst enemy when you only have one toilet.

Jade: That’s right. So we created a really awesome system to show people whether the bathroom was occupied or not. It involved all this, we had a bunch of Arduinos. We had a bunch of wireless stuff. We ran to Wal Mart and bought all these crazy parts because we were trying to figure out how could we easily detect if the stall door is open or closed.

We ended up building a really awesome system that would light up a light out in the main space if the bathroom was full or occupied. It would turn off the light. We also have a urinal in the men’s room too, so it could detect if you were standing at the urinal or not. So we had a number one and number two sign that would light up. It provided a lot of really great information.

We had a ton of other people in co working spaces wanting to buy the system from us because they were all suffering from the same exact problem. That was bringing together a ton of different things: open source, a ton of different programming skills, hardware, sensors, and really fascinating stuff just to solve our bathroom problem that we got really frustrated with.

We open sourced all the code and all that stuff.

Derek: There’s been some good stuff coming through. There’s a guy that does a bunch of these battle bots for kids that are really cool. We had a guy coming through recently basically doing a guitar effects pedal that fits in the sole of your shoe. So if you’re a musician, you basically just drop this thing in your shoe and you have a full guitar effects pedal everywhere you go.

Almost like the flip flops that have the beer opener in them, only for a musician you have a nice built in effects pedal.

Roy: I’d add a beer opener too.

Jade: That was really cool because they were working with people who knew about the 3D printers, people who knew about audio modeling, they were applying these complex algorithms to the sound that was coming in. They were testing it out with a bunch of different people. They pulled in musicians to try out their stuff and play around with it.
That was a really cool cross section of a lot of different people at Gangplank.

Roy: Lastly, how difficult was it to scale up Gangplank from just a coworking space to a place where you not only space but also vision?

Jade: Gangplank never started out as a coworking space. I think very early on we created the manifesto. We realized we had a whole lot of vision for what we wanted that maybe wasn’t expressed in a way that was consumable for other people.

It helped very early on to put our values down and say, “These are the things that make Gangplank, Gangplank,” even though they might be hard to understand sometimes or lacking some context for people who weren’t there. Those are the things that keep Gangplank honest with itself.

Derek: I’d say scaling the original location was easy because we’re just us. We just let the values organically come from the people who were in the space and what was happening in the space. I think we talk about spreading Gangplank to other spaces, that became a little harder.

We can’t transfer us, we can’t transfer the values everywhere. Those are the kinds of things we’re dealing with now.

We’ve got this really strong culture, how do we get to the point where we can pick that up and basically put it down somewhere else, and let it flourish, and then let someone else pick it up from there, and let it flourish.

Those are the problems we’re currently dealing with. We keep going back to it’s really about having a strong culture and if that happens, good stuff happens. When we start new Gangplanks it’s all about getting the right people seated at the beginning that understand the culture and are permeators or carriers of that culture. When that happens we get really phenomenal results.

Roy: Cool. That’s all my questions.

Jade: All right. Thanks for listening to the Danger Cast. We’ll talk to you later.


Dangercast #4 – Friendship over Formality

Roy van de Water, Derek Neighbors, Jade Meskill, and Trish Gillam discuss the Gangplank Manifesto: Friendship over Formality.

Jade Meskill: Hello and welcome to “The Dangercast,” where we talk about the culture and design of Gangplank. I’m Jade Meskill.

Derek Neighbors: I’m Derek Neighbors.

Trish Gillam: I’m Trish Gillam.

Roy van de Water: I’m Roy van de Water.

Jade: Today we want to talk about more about the Gangplank Manifesto. We are on “Friendship over Formality,” and if you haven’t read the Gangplank Manifesto, check it out, gangplankmanifesto.com.

Friendship over formality. We were just talking about this before the podcast started. What does that mean, in Gangplank terms?

Roy: I’m thinking contracts, so talking to people and speaking to them, and making a deal over a handshake, rather than in triplicate.

Derek: I’ll say that where this one came from, because I remember exactly where this one came from. I’m pretty old, and I don’t remember a lot, but I do remember where this one came from.

When we were first wanting to do Gangplank, we had reached out. We’re not even Gangplank. We want to invite some people into our office, to be near some cool people. We had started a dialogue with James Archer, who was with Forty, who had recently merged with another company.

They’d gotten kicked out of their garage, because you couldn’t start companies in garages, that would be un-kosher. We invited them in, and as part of that, we said, “We just want you to go ahead and come in for free. Just take an office. We’ve got an office, we just want you to take it.”

I don’t know if it was our lawyer, or our landlord at the time, said “I don’t know about this, you really need to talk to the lawyer,” so we talked to the lawyer and said, “What do you think?” They said, “You can’t do anything for free! If you do it for free, you can’t have a legal and binding contract.”

We’re like, “We don’t want anything,” They are really convincing us to charge a dollar. They said, “You have to at least charge a dollar. You have to exchange something of value, in order for there to be a legal contract.”

Jade: First, they said, “It is totally unsafe to do any of this. You shouldn’t do anything. Shut it down, don’t do this.”

Derek: Yeah, “Why would you ever invite somebody in?”

Jade: “But if you must do it, then…”

Derek: “Then you must have a contract. In order to have a contract, the only way that contract is legal and binding is if it has something of value tied to it.” We started to say, “OK, what about a dollar?” The lawyer’s like, “I think that’s a really horrible idea, but yeah, that would be legal and binding.”

We had a go-around for about a week, two weeks.

Jade: Yeah, we debated for a long time.

Derek: We’re like, “This is just stupid. Why the fuck would we do this for a dollar?” At some point, let’s just stick it to the Man, and so we just said, “We’re not doing it.” I think that’s where this really came…

Roy: By “We’re not doing it,” you mean we’re not charging a dollar, right?

Derek: We’re not charging a dollar!

Jade: We’re not doing Gangplank.


Jade: You’re not even listening to this podcast.

Derek: Because we didn’t want the contract. It wasn’t about the dollar, it was about the contract. The way that we summed it up internally is, “Think of this like you have a kid brother, or a sister, or an aunt, or a parent, and they found themselves homeless. You said, ‘I want to do a good deed for you, and I would like to let you stay in my house.’ Sure. Go ahead and move in for a little bit.”

I’m not going to make you sign a lease agreement and sign it for a dollar so that I have a way to evict you, because we’re family.

Jade: Do you know what kind of risk you’re taking on, Derek?

Derek: We’re taking a huge risk, right. But I can assume that if you’re being a jerk, at some point I can just pack your crap up, and throw it out the front door and say, “Get out,” and I can get some police help with that, actually because I — don’t — have a contract with you.

Jade: So you’re trespassing.

Roy: What you guys are saying is, you don’t charge your family a dollar each to come over for dinner?


Derek: That’s correct.

Derek: I think that became the spirit, once we did that, is, “Why don’t we treat more stuff like that? Why do we have to be so formal, with committees and policies, and contracts?” I think that doesn’t mean, “Be irresponsible, and never ever sign a legal contract.” I think it’s, “Be smart where you need to be smart, and where you can be friends, be friends.”

If you’re friends with somebody, let’s do things over a handshake when we can do things over a handshake, and when we can’t, then we’re probably getting further and further away from where we want to be. Means there’s probably a level of distrust there.

Jade: We see a lot of people who come across Gangplank, or maybe they’re even part of Gangplank, that really struggle with this idea of friendship over formality. Why do you think that is?

Derek: Some if it’s control. If you have some kind of formality, you’ve got some control. “I’ve got you on the hook.” That’s why the lawyer wanted it. “You need a contract, and you need to execute that contract, so when something goes wrong, you can really stick it to them.” Force that contract.

Roy: I bet a lot of it’s fear too, because those lawyers have made a business of…American culture too, of people getting sued for all sorts of crazy reasons, and being charged ridiculous sums of money.

I think people are just plain scared of lawyers, and anything to do with legality. They’d rather give in and do the legal, safe thing. Even if it’s a crap-ton of extra work, because they are so afraid of the consequences.

Trish: Yeah, I think it’s a safety thing, the fear. Just in general, if we have defined our relationship, and we’ve said “You’re going to do this and I’m going to do this,” and we have this defined role, there’s less fear in that.

Roy: It’s probably less ambiguous too, because that way they know the expectation is. If I do a handshake deal to help you out with something, Jade, does that mean I’m helping you out for the rest of eternity? Or does that mean I’m helping out for the next 10 days, or what?

Reasonable human beings would say, “I’m helping you out until it becomes absurd, and then I’m cutting you off, and I’m going to talk to you about it.” People aren’t used to that, because that means I’m going to have to talk to you about it. That’s going to be a conflict. I’d much rather point to the contract, and be like, “We’re done.”

Jade: The contract becomes the arbiter of the conflict, instead of having a conversation.

Derek: Exactly.

Jade: What are some examples that we’ve seen the negative side of this play out?

Derek: Where bad stuff is happening?

Jade: Where people want formality over friendship.

Derek: One that comes to mind is, art is a particularly difficult topic. It’s a difficult subject, in the sense of…There’s a lot in that world that is very formalized, which you wouldn’t really think.

But when you start to show art, when you start to do things with art…At one point we had…In a space, there was a lot of concern about, “We want to hang some people’s art that’s not ours. We haven’t purchased it. What do we do with that?” We really struggled with that.

We came up with some, not liability waivers, but some kind of waivers. “If you want to put your art here, and you want to sell it, that’s great, but we’re not really liable for it.” I think as you start to escalate, you get more expensive art, you get artists that are used to dealing with art houses. There’s a lot of formality that goes for how do I deal with that?

I think any time where we see where people want indemnity, or they want process, they start to really creep up on formality. They really start to get into anything that there’s an existing norm around it. “When I normally do this, this thing happens. How come Gangplank’s different?”

Jade: If I host an event…

Derek: We have this coming up with somebody who’s doing a pretty big event. They’re taking a bunch of space, not just the main space. Some of the space is space that’s not necessarily Gangplank space, and they’re concerned.

They’re like, “I want some document that demands that I get what I want, no matter what. I need to make sure that I have this space for my event, or bad things will happen, and I want you to guarantee that.”

Roy: It is people that are getting the space for free?

Derek: Yes.

Roy: [indecipherable 07:56]

Derek: Yes.

Jade: [laughs]

Derek: I think that’s one of those, “That’s really nice. Here’s what we can do. We’re not going to say, ‘If you don’t get the space, we’re going to refund you thousands of dollars that you didn’t pay,'” but it’s very difficult.

Roy: We will give you a full refund!


Jade: The problem is though, it really burns our social capital, which is hard to get back.

Derek: When we actually do end up reneging on a contract.

Jade: If we do something like this, yeah.

Derek: I think that some of the friendship part of it, though, is, if we’re really getting into process with you, if we’re crawling into bed with you, we both look bad if the event doesn’t happen. The only way we would not provide you space is if something really bad happened that we weren’t able to provide you space.

It’s not like we would just, “Oh well, because you didn’t pay anything, ha ha, too bad.” If you’ve got 1,000 people coming to a Gangplank and last minute it gets canceled because something happens, we’re not doing that because we like to look stupid.

Maybe the building caught on fire, or maybe there was a flood. There’s going to be some reason for it. We’re not going to reimburse you for that, when you didn’t pay for space.

Roy: We’ll probably work with you to try to help you out with the problem anyway.

Derek: Yeah, exactly.

Jade: Because we’re friends.

Derek: I think what comes up is, “If I were renting space at a hotel, they would provide me that.” It’s like, “Then maybe you need to rent space at a hotel. If you absolutely have to have that kind of formality, maybe Gangplank’s not the right facility for you.” It’s hard for people.

Jade: Friendship comes with a lot of uncertainty.

Derek: I think some of it, especially in the case of liability, the rest of the world hasn’t quite caught up to this. We’re still very litigious, or however you want to say it. I don’t know how to pronounce it.

Jade: You got it right.

Derek: People still really like to sue people over stupid stuff. People want a lot of formality around anything that has any amount of liability to it. I think that’s another place where we get a lot of concern.

Another place that I think we see this a lot are if there’s normally something that has a lot of process to it. This is why I fucking hate the concept of anchors, because the first thing anchors do is they feel special. When they feel special, they start to exclude.

When they start to exclude they build rules to exclude others, and they start to add all sorts of formal process into place about, “Everything becomes a vote,” and then, “How do you get your vote? If you’re here on the first Thursday of the second Monday and your hair is blond, you get a vote, but if not, you don’t get a vote.”

Jade: Hey, Roy, you’re in.

Derek: All right! I get a vote!

Jade: [laughs] like a lot of formality.

Derek: It gets really formal.

Roy: I think I think that’s the same thing as with the contract, as in you’re allowing the formality to be the arbiter.

Derek: Yeah.

Roy: “It’s not us.”

Jade: “It’s not us. It’s the rules.”

Derek: “I would totally allow you to vote, but everybody says, ‘Only people here on Thursday that are blonde…

Jade: [laughs]

Derek: …like myself, are allowed to vote on Thursday.”

Trish: Hey, it’s not Thursday. No voting.

Jade: It’s Thursday somewhere.

Derek: You get a ton of policy in there as well. To me it’s, anytime I start to see people wanting to make a bunch of policies, it’s like, “You have a culture problem.” Because Gangplank is all about culture in a very, very, very strong culture, that you should be able to look at the norms in the values to make decisions. You shouldn’t need policy to make decisions.

What I see is people tend to want to use policy incrementally to devalue values, and to override culture. If we say the “Friendship over formality,” it’s like “OK, yeah. I totally get that, I totally agree with that. But this one small little section over here? This little bitty slice? I’d like a slight policy. Oh, no policy? OK, I want a committee to decide that stuff. OK great.”

Then that grows, and grows, and grows and grows. Then when somebody goes “Man, that doesn’t match your manifesto,” somebody goes “It’s the policy. I’m sorry, that’s just how it works now.” That’s how culture gets redefined, is when people start to pull policy out. To enforce what they want, instead of what the culture wants.

Jade: Right, and for me that doesn’t scale.

Derek: No.

Jade: It doesn’t scale at all to the level that, that we would like to see Gangplank permeate the world. Especially the philosophy and, like you said, the culture of Gangplank. We can’t have a bunch of policies. It slows things down so much.

Roy: It prevents people from being rational, because you can no longer have a discussion about it, because every response is just, “I’m sorry. I understand that this is an exception, and I totally agree with you, but this is policy, so we’ve got to follow policy.”

Derek: What it turns is, the only people that can get anything done are the people that have the better lawyers. That whoever is better at the legalism is the one who gets what they want, at that point.

You don’t do the right things, you do the things that are either the path of least resistance, or you do the things where you have support from somebody who can out-legal-maneuver the other policy person.

Roy: I could see some great some television spot, totally. “Today in Gangplank court…”


Derek: That’s what we need, we need the People’s Court for Gangplank.


Jade: That could be fun.

Derek: We need a Judge Wapner. Maybe Francine could be Judge Wapner.

Jade: Have we run into occasions where formality was warranted?

Derek: Sure. We have, say, trademarks on our logos, and on Gangplank. The problem there is that somebody outside of our culture could take and do something with that, and so it’s a defensive ability to say, “Hey, if you’re starting to step outside of the bounds of that, we have legal agreements in order to work with cities.”

Jade: To lease the space.

Derek: Yeah, to lease space.

Roy: Haven’t we even, in the past, rented space for a dollar?

Derek: Yeah, sure we have. I think that the other things that will generally have some formality around them, we do carry liability coverage. It’s about not being stupid on purpose.

I think where it is is the better friends you are, the less formality you need. The less friends you are, the more formality you need. So it’s not an “either or.” I think we try to side on the side of friendship as much as possible. If we feel like we need the formality, we should default to, “How do we strengthen our friendship?”

If my gut reaction is, “I want you to sign something, I don’t trust you, and I want this thing,” maybe I should say, “Maybe we don’t do that yet, maybe we should become better friends. We become better friends, then maybe this wont matter.”

Jade: Where most that formality exists is people who aren’t bound by our culture?

Derek: Correct.

Jade: When we’re dealing with people who are completely outside of the Gangplank influence?

Derek: That’s correct.

Roy: That’s interesting though, cause it’s a matter of expectation, not necessarily a fear of the consequences, often times it drives people towards formality. Totally going back on what I was talking about earlier.

I was trying to think of an example of last weekend, when I was at a rock climbing festival. I was climbing on a wall, and I set up this anchor at the top, which means that you’re putting pieces into the wall. It’s kind of dangerous because, you’re setting up an anchor that everybody is going to be hanging off of.

People walk by, and are like, “Hey, do you mind if I jump on this climb real quick?” Because you’re saving them a bunch of work.


Derek: You had them sign a disclosure form, right?

Roy: No, I did not.



Roy: They totally hop right on, and it’s no big deal. This is somebody I’ve never met before in my life, and they eyeballed it, and said “That looks fine.” and hop on.

But then I took a clinic with a class that was all on the ground, and they were just teaching us stuff. Because the class was being run by a local climbing shop, they had us all sign waivers ahead of time to acknowledge that the information we were leaning was dangerous. It felt so weird and out of place.

Jade: The person actually risking their life had no assurance from you.

Roy: Exactly. They had the consequences, but then it felt totally fine for me to be signing a form for a class, even though I was never in any danger at all, because I was just sitting there.

Derek: I think that’s a perfect analogy. The reason I say it’s the perfect analogy is, you’re hanging a thousand feet up from a rock. You put a clip in, and you hang from it. You put your life in that clip.

If I come behind you and say, “Do you mind if I put my life in that clip?” I’m pretty sure that you’ve done something pretty reasonable, because you put your own life into it.

Roy: That’s true.

Derek: I think if I walk into the rock climber shop, I’m expecting you to be the expert, but I have no ability to know if you’re really an expert. You could be telling me something that is total crap, because I am not seeing you put your life on the line for it. I might be a little more likely to come after you as an expert.

I think that’s one of the things that happens in Gangplank, is when we’re doing things…If we partner with an event, and you’ve got a thousand people coming, we’re in it together. “You’re putting your reputation into this as much as I am, so I don’t need this formal document.”

Whereas if somebody off the street, who doesn’t know us, we don’t know them, says, “I want to do a thousand-person event,” we say “Yeah, sure, great. You can have it.” We’re not putting our name behind it, we’re not endorsing it, we’re not putting social capital into it. I could understand why they would say “I want some assurance that this is really going to happen.”

I think that that’s a good way to look at it. If you are in it to together, it’s a hell of a lot easier to not be formal about it. When you’re not in it together and you’re faceless about it, you tend to want that, because you want some reassurance.

Jade: So really, it just comes down to trust.

Derek: I think so. And pragmatism.

Jade: We can talk about that later. All right, that’s about all the time we have. Thanks for listening to the Dangercast.


Singer: Arrrrrr. Arrrdy harrr. Arr, it’s Gangplank, they’re a creative bunch. Come and bring your laptop, and drink the fruit punch. Arr arggghhhhhh. With some rum.

Dangercast #3 – Participation over Observation and Doing over Saying

Roy van de Water, Derek Neighbors, Jade Meskill, and Greg Taylor discuss the Gangplank Manifesto: Participation over Observation and Doing over Saying.


Jade Meskill:  Welcome to the Dangercast where we talk about the design and culture of Gangplank. I’m Jade Meskill.

Derek Neighbors:  I’m Derek Neighbors.

Greg Taylor:  Greg Taylor.

Roy van de Water:  And I’m Roy van de Water.

Jade:  This week, we wanted to talk about the third value of the Gangplank manifesto which is participation over observation. Why did we come up with this?

Roy:  This totally puts an image in my head of a high school dance where everybody is just standing around the wall around the outside of the dance but nobody’s actually dancing.

Derek:  You went to every event circa 2005 in the Phoenix Metro area.


Jade:  I think that’s exactly why we came up with this.

Derek:  Bunch of wallflowers.

Jade:  There was a lot of that.

Derek:  So I think a lot of this was in our communities, in particular, there’s always incessant bitching about how this wasn’t right and that wasn’t right and how this wasn’t perfect and if only we had this. It’s like, “What are you doing about it? What are you contributing to it?” Always the answer was a big fat goose egg of, “Wo…Oh…” I think that really became part of the Gangplank mantra.

I can’t tell you how many times people tried to slow us down. We had no marketing campaign, we had no agenda. We’re just going to do cool stuff with cool people and we’re just doing it. And every time, we say, “Oh, did you talk to so and so about that?” Why the fuck would I talk to so and so about doing that?

Ed and Francine, I love you but I call you out on it. It’s not your fault, it was the community.

Jade:  This is the Dangercast today!

Derek:  One of the things that people told us early on was, “Oh man, have you talked to Ed and Francine yet?” “No.” They’re like, “You should.” “We’re here doing shit every week, if they want to come, they’re welcome to show up and come and check it out.” That probably took about six weeks, a month, whatever, I don’t know what the timeframe was.

They came and we had this great conversation. We’ve been great friends since and everything else. That was very indicative of the culture of, “You can’t do something at all without going through the 65 check proof process and, “Did you get approval from these people?” Why do I need approval to do something? I’m going to do it. I think that kind of stuff was the exact thing that was like…

Another one, Evo, this goes out to you. I remember we were talking about podcasts at one point and I think he had mentioned, “Oh, you guys should do a podcast during Hack night or something,” and I said, “Great, why don’t you do that?” He was, “Uh…” and I was like, “Well, you can’t just sit around and bitch that you wish there was a place to podcast if you don’t do any…”

Next week, he showed up and he had a little mixing board and a head deck thing and Jade brought some stuff in. Within a couple of weeks, there were two or three podcasts being recorded every Wednesday night, and to this day, some of that same equipment’s probably still floating around here.

Roy:  We’re using it right now! [laughs]

Derek:  But I think that was the exact kind of spirit at the time and still today was, “Don’t say something unless you plan on doing it because you will be humiliated by everybody that you say it to if you don’t do it.”

Jade:  So the next value is doing over saying, how are these different? How is participation or observation different from doing over saying?

Greg:  In my mind, everybody asks me, people who walk through the door, “How do you get involved with Gangplank? How do you do this?” I say, “You come in, you pull up a chair and you get things done, you talk to people and you just do.”

We’ve had a lot of conversations recently from anchors and community members, “Where’s the handbook for being an anchor? How do I find out all this stuff?” Well, you participate and you find out. You talk to the person next to you and that’s how you find out.

Roy:  It’s interesting because if you’ve seen it, and the way you explain it, it sounds so simple, and it is so simple. If you just show up and help out and there’s enough stuff to do, it’ll be appreciated.

Greg:  And there’ll be a place for you.

Roy:  But it is so unusual that it’s hard to believe. If I want to participate in anything else, I don’t know if I’d have the same confidence. Let’s say, show up at the public library and just start helping out. Now that I think about it, they’d probably take my help and figure out something to do with it.

Jade:  For me, the difference between doing over saying and participation over observation is the fact that Gangplank is for everyone who comes. It’s open for you to jump in and be a part of whatever’s happening. There’re so many different things happening.

Greg:  In whatever way you see fit.

Jade:  Yeah. I think that really the intent is that Gangplank is not for sitting back and watching. If you show up and you sit quietly in the corner, that might be all right but you’re not going to get the full benefit out of Gangplank. I think doing over saying is really for the people who complain a lot, “We wish we had this and we wish we had that.”

Derek:  To me, I think they’re linked in ways that are almost inseparable. One of the things I would say about participation over observation is I think a big part of the mantra here is that if you leave unsatisfied, it’s only on you. If you come in and you don’t participate in getting that result, you only have yourself to blame for the result you got. I think that that is something that is wildly fantastically different thinking for most people.

We had a guy that had come in to one of the Hack nights. There were probably 100 people here. There was music going on, there was a DJ, there was video games, there was codeine, there was paint. It was one of the Hack nights where it was virtually bumping, everything going. This guy’s, “Hey, I’m going to come down to Hack night. It’s going to be my first time. What time does it start?” somebody tells him, Twitter, email.

About six hours later, there’s violent email or blog posts, I don’t remember which one goes out. “I can’t believe it. I drove two hours from Lake Pleasant to come down to Chandler and I came in and there were hundreds of people there. I came in and I sat down and not one person introduced themselves to me. Nobody asked me at all to do anything with them.

I sat there for 45 minutes and only one person even asked my name. I can’t believe that you guys run a place like this. This is so horrible, I’m never coming back. You guys are going to fail. Your customer service is horrible.” All of us were, “There was some dude in here?”

Jade:  I’m pretty sure that story was the direct inspiration for this line of the manifesto.

Derek:  Yeah but if you drive two hours to something and you can’t even muster up the guts to say, “Hi, my name is Derek.” You’d better expect pretty crappy results. I think that’s just the expectation.

The reason I say doing and participation are interlinked is I think the corollary is, if you can’t find something that interests you to participate, then you need to create it. If there’s stuff that interests you, if you show up to a meet‑up, if you show up to the Ruby group or if I show up to a start‑up event or if I show up to an art event or a music event, and I’m interested in that. I choose not to participate and I don’t like the result, that’s on me. That’s not on the pursuit, which is very different than I think how most spaces or events think about.

Then I think it rolled into a leadership role. We came up with a showupocracy. So decisions were being made and you’d have people that would only come in, anchors only come in every three days or something. Somebody would move something or do something. “Oh, how come you guys did that?” It’s like, “Hey, man.” Show up if you care about that stuff. If you’re not going to be active in the space, if you’re not going to participate, you lose your voice and I think that’s another element.

The people that are participating are the people that are driving. There’s nothing wrong with being an observer, being a passenger but don’t get in the back seat and then bitch about the direction the cars going in if somebody offers to let you drive.

Jade:  I fully sympathize with how difficult this is to is to participate over observe. I’m very much an introvert. I don’t like unstructured social interaction. That’s just like you said, Derek, if I go to an event and have a bad time, it’s probably on me, that I chose to have a bad time.

The awesome thing about Gangplank in its many manifestations is there probably is the right thing for you to come and participate in. It might not be Hack night. It might not be some of the other things that we have going on. But there is something that you can participate in.

Greg:  And if you think that there’s not, make it. [laughs]

Jade:  Yes, these things are so linked. Let’s go into doing over saying. We’ve touched on it here and there. We created that because people were complaining that there’s not this and there’s not that. How has that changed the Gangplank community?

Derek:  It goes back to even our previous conversation which was really about community over agendas. I think one of the things that you see, just how we said when you connect other people, your note gets more powerful. More so, than if you’re just trying to connect people to you.

In the same way, one of the most influential things you can do is do and participate. People get behind people who are getting things done. People get behind people who are giving them a voice and participating in a voice.

I cannot tell you how many council meetings I have been to where you’ve got one crazy nut that comes up and says something. And the council will think twice before they do something because they’re definitely afraid, “Man, if there’s somebody who cares enough to come up to one of our boring ass meetings and throw a tantrum and sit here for two hours to wait to throw that tantrum, how many people are sitting at home with the exact same thought? I’m going to maybe think about not doing this because I want to get re‑elected.”

Jade:  Especially when that guy’s name is Derek Neighbors.

Derek:  I think when you’re talking about people who are representing hundreds of thousands of people, sometimes all it takes is one or two voices from them to say, “I’m going to pause and think about this.” Think about the power of that. The power of participation.

I think that’s one of the things we’re trying to do too, not only participate in Gangplank, not only participate in the community but participate in everything you do. When you go to work, participate. Be a voice in what you’re doing, what you’re creating. In your community, in your civic duties, participate and be a voice in what you’re doing. There’s so much power in that, it’s so attractive to people.

Roy:  But it’s so difficult because if I participate and screw up, now it’s my fault. Before, I could blame you.

Derek:  I think that’s why most people don’t participate. I’d rather not vote and bitch about the person who’s in office than to actually vote and have to say why I voted for this person. Or, hey, the person even got elected and now I’m not really liking what they’re doing and I’ve got to admit that. You have to stand up for it.

Greg:  I always think about my days working in the skate park business. Skate parks were built because people went to city meetings and said, “We want this.” The city council probably shut them down the first 10 times they showed up. But then when they showed up and said, “We raised x amount of dollars. We want this in our city,” a movement starts.

Derek:  Absolutely.

Greg:  People are listening. I always think around here, if I want something done, it’s on me to start. Actions speak louder than words.

Derek:  I think that’s it, right there. That’s why I think these things are so linked, because if it’s not happening it’s your responsibility to do it. Once somebody takes the charge and starts doing it, if you care about it, it’s your responsibility to participate and to help them move it forward.

It takes somebody to do it, to move the ball forward, and it takes people to participate to help keeping it go forward. It’s just stuff that you don’t see. Everybody likes to say how great they’re going to be. Nobody likes to do the work. Everybody’s got great ideas, everybody’s got great ways to implement them. But the number of people that really want to do the work to be great is pretty small.

That’s where doing over saying thing comes. It’s really easy to talk shit about how awesome you’re going to be. It’s really hard to be awesome.

Jade:  This directly applies to myself. I’ll use this to make a confession, I really like to complain, really like it, a lot. The thing I’ve figured out is, it never makes me happy. Ever. I could complain forever and I’ll get some perverse joy out of it, but I’ll never be truly happy.

Making this part of the core DNA of Gangplank has forced me to reconsider that position. When I find myself complaining, the only thing that’s ever made me happy is to do something about it. I’ve created so much more ever since we’ve made that a part of what we do than I ever would have before. I’ve never been happier with myself or the things that are going on around me.

Derek:  I will say that the best part about doing over saying is that it is probably the only value we have that comes in with a built‑in meter. It has a meter that is so strong and so in tune, you can tell whether you’re doing, by how pissed off you’re making people.


Derek:  What I mean by that is, if you sit around and complain, everybody and their fucking brother will join in with you and complain and sing praises with you. But if you go out there and you start to do, boy, wait until you see those complainers fucking get pissed off about you should have done it. Because man, does the complain go to 2000 because what you’re showing them is that they had the power all along to get what they wanted and they chose not to do it. Boy, does that piss them off.

If you are doing stuff, and if you’re doing good stuff especially, expect the community to just roast you like a marshmallow because they are insanely jealous that you’re getting what you want and they’re not.

Jade:  I’ve said it for a long time, if nobody hates you, you’re not doing anything worth caring about. That wraps up our time.

Derek:  Two for one at that.

Jade:  Next week, we’ll be talking friendship over formality.

Roy:  We’ve got to find friends to get that one done.

Jade:  These are values, not necessarily reality.

Derek:  Maybe we can hire some friends?

Greg:  And wear ties.

Jade:  [laughs] All right, we’ll catch you next time on the Dangercast.