Thursday, January 6, 2011

OpenCoffee Tallinn meeting in the Garage48 HUB / hackerspace

I just came from the monthly OpenCoffee Club Tallinn, this time in the recently opened Garage48 HUB of Lutheri kvartal. I had to be quite brief (car logistics and that sort of stuff) but man what an energy there! Not only was it crowded with interesting people for the Open Coffee, but the G48 HUB seems to be attracting plenty of interest (hopefully paying members), my sincere congratulations to the team for going ahead and executing such an awesome idea!

Something which is refreshing for Estonia is certainly the sense of trust and community the hub brings. Many times involving the websmurfs or my home village of Gnosjö do I hear of smooth arrangements which in Estonia would be met with the rejection "A good deed never goes unpunished". But here is a good deed, with sufficient rules, smooth for everyone involved, which may make financial sense too!

See, where I come from we have an opposite culture of the expression "The best food for an Estonian is another Estonian". A Gnosjö factory owner knows that the wellbeing of his neighbour affects him too, and at least if it doesn't hurt him directly, rather than lose a customer from the area completely when they're over capacity, Gnosjö factories will send business to their local competitors, and sometime the competitor will send business back. Also incredible informal arrangements, like sharing of facilities or that the security guard sometimes will serve as night shift machine operator, are common and remarkably lacking covering of one's own ass. They may not be brilliant driven business men, but the almost naive problem solving ability and how low-friction business runs in the Gnosjö region really is a key factor to its sustained profitability and development.

The wheels of Gnosjö keeps spinning
My personal impression is that Estonia desperately need this sort of networking as well. It must be uncomplicated to do business and there must exist reasonable service providing companies. Surely this sort of web is not woven out of dreams and society alone, but trust, handshakes, forgiveness and a lot of good will is absolutely essential!

Speaking of the G48 HUB, it is somewhat modeled on the concept of hackerspaces. We were some people who wanted an Estonian hackerspace already before, but we emphasized the communication and local community rather than the physical space, and honestly were too cowardly and lazy to do something serious. So now to complement the physical G48 HUB, we have a hefty online community in Skype where nerdy people come to chat, meet and possibly collaborate any time of day. Just ping me if you would like to be invited there!

I had the pleasure to meet some new interesting people in OpenCoffee, but I still would like to discuss with someone my ideas regarding Flattr and pricing models for near zero marginal cost content...

If you appreciate my stuff, now you can flattr me!

As faithful visitors of my blog may have noticed (do I even have any of those anymore - isn't it all driven by google reader, facebook and twitter?), I have added some colorful buttons in the sidebar and beneath each post.

The first of these are for a peculiar community called "Flattr". I hope to add some others as well, and tidy up the blog, but I feel a bit locked up in blogspot and of course as they say - the children of the shoemaker walks in the worst shoes. Anyway, Flattr is a voluntary community based on that people are willing to give away a constant pretty small amount of money every month, a "flat-rate", to things they appreciate online, which they want to "flatter". Get a better introduction to it here, in this excellent video:

Honestly, I'm participating in this experiment without a serious hope of breaking even, and I would suggest that so should you. I don't think I am the type of content producer to amass people's appreciation like that, but regardless, it is important to realize that the Internet is participatory, and every attempt to reward that should be encouraged. That's actually an interesting threshold - that mainly people who at least are producing some type of content online will be motivated to try to gain something and thus also contribute themselves.

As I discussed recently with a friend, the Flattr model has a number of weaknesses, for instance that it is so completely voluntary, the entry threshold is significant, you only have the option to give one Flattr click not more if you really like something, and finally the incentive to raise your commitment above the basic 2€ per month is way too weak. Overall thought, it would seem, as Chris Anderson would express it, that the routines for charging for close-to-zero-marginal-cost content are still completely under-developed in the economy. I will be very excited to see that development truly happen.

Finally, I think those offline flattr (also IRL-flattr) things seem adorably nerdy, would love to see some innovative use-cases of them!

I hope to have the opportunity to write a bit more about the dynamics of flattr later, stay tuned.