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status: mission

Fri Mar 20 17:30:50 EDT 2009

Two status messages in a single year is a record for
 2009. (yey me!) Next week, I'll write about our struggle against
 Goliath and how we're rooting for the big guy to win. The week
 after, I'll probably write about formal parameters in Perl or how
 people are reacting us ending our hosting service.
 La Presidenta KZ and I are just back from a board training cleverly disguised
 as a focus group. I learned (duh!) of research that says that
 easy to recruit board members tend to do more and better work
 than hard to recruit board members.
 Another useful bit was that many non-profit board members don't
 know the mission statement of the organization they govern.
 It's a bit embarrassing to admit how true this last bit is. In the
 last two months, (2) CSL board members approached me and said
    "I think we're doing great work, Here is a $150
     check. What is it that we do again? I know
     don't host websites any more."
 Part of the problem is that sensible people would rather eat a
 plate of live cockroaches dipped in rat poison than attend a
 retreat to develop a mission statement. See:
 My brief period of bitterness with started
 when I learned the official mission statement was **not**:
    Eliminate poverty housing from the face of the
    earth, by making simple decent housing a matter
    of conscience.
 ...which was what founder Millard Fullar kept telling people. It was 
 something a lot more complicated which I still can't remember.
 Anyway lately at conferences, bars and weddings, I've been
 telling people:
    We write open source software to run
    web directories of social services.
    You search on food, you get the locations
    of food pantries, food stamps and WIC.
 ...This seems to go over a smoother lot better than the previous
 mumbo jumbo about how Richard Stallman:
 ... is the greatest prophet since the old testament.
 Still this lacks vision. I'm thinking our medium term mission: (new! I'm 
 just making it up now!) is:
    To exploit talent
    that would otherwise
    be ignored.
 We've had our share of privileged, white, male programmers, but
 most of them have been a little bit out of the mainstream.
 (College dropouts, jobless, juvie jail alumni, "at risk",
 medicated, vegetarians,etc)
 We've always been about 50/50 male/female which is way more PC
 than tech industry as a whole. In the last 2 years 4/5 of our
 programmers have been Indian women. --not a group
 traditionally known for their position of power and influence.
 The use of the word "exploit" is deliberate. The goal is to get stuff 
 done. Most of the people with talent that isn't ignored want $50/hr. It 
 sure is nice to build skills and help move on to market rate jobs, but 
 that is a side effect not a goal.
 Longer term, our secret mission/ulterior motive is of course to bring 
 about the post scarcity society: making the values of the hacker sub culture (transparency, 
 meritocracy, generosity, etc) the values of the entire culture.
 I suppose this will do until we hire an expensive consultant to 
 obfuscate it.