Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Boot Boards: Open Source, MRE and Bootstrapping

Bootstrap's Open-Source Model has resulted in the launch of our newest initiative: Boot Boards. I'd like to describe the "process" by which this occurred so readers can peek into how this and other initiatives (like the Boot Rap, Book Club, etc.) come to be. Simply described, this is bootstrapping at work.

At our January kick-off meeting the community expressed an interest in having consistent and ongoing support from a group of their peers. Stan Tyler took this on and began to research how other groups conduct similar forums. Meanwhile, I was having independent conversations with David Swedlow and Michelle Ewalt exploring ways they could provide a service to the group. It became clear that the (still unnamed) Boot Board Initiative could be a nice fit, aligning their interests and talents with an expressed need of the community. Introductions were made and we began to meet.

The Ideation Stage continued for a few of months. The MRE balance of energies on the team (Stan/Maven, Michelle/Evangelist, David/Relater) was quite wonderful and amusing for all to witness, particularly when we had a mismatch of roles and energies. It didn't take long to get it right and soon we were seeing the magic of the "Power of 3." Michelle moved the ship forward, Stan helped us deepen our thinking and David kept us centered around community and connection. It reminded me of Neil Meili's wonderful MRE Poem. The process was non-linear and even chaotic at times!

Being in Ideation and talking amongst ourselves could only take it so far and it was time to present the ideas to the group. A bootstrapper knows that she must take the demo to the customer - however imperfect - and get them involved in the process as soon as possible! It was at this planning meeting that the initiative finally got its name. The team presented the "demo" at the April Bootstrap Get-together. Bootstrappers provided feedback and expressed their interest and a follow-up board-formation meeting was scheduled. At this meeting on April 24th, the kernels for three boards came together with different themes: Growth, International and Diversity. Each board is now assembling, articulating their theme and broadcasting it back to the main group.

I'm very excited to see how Boot Boards evolve. We will hopefully hear from David, Michelle and Stan on this blog with updates.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Bootstrap Austin: An Open Source Community

I gave a talk recently to TAG Austin on the Open Source aspect of Bootstrap Austin. The audio and slides are available on the Boot Rap. Through the services option for full membership in Bootstrap Austin, we now have 80+ bootstrappers (of our 500+ members) providing some kind of negotiated product or service to the group. The bootstrapper benefits by gaining reputation in the community, experience and improvement of their product or offering. Bootstrap become a customer and Evangelist for the bootstrapper and gains in the richness of offerings for our community. If the Bootstrapper has learned something through serving Bootstrap, s/he can take that learning and monetize it outside the community. Indeed, the Boot Rap itself is an example of this; it is produced by a Bootstrap member company, HearThis. They record, edit and produce Boot Rap and make it available on iTunes and on their website.

If you are a community builder, I hope this gives you some ideas. If you have interest in using any of the technologies/services to build your community, please contact those companies directly.