Categories
communities Content Neuroscience

Building a buzzing (+ kind) community

This week: Community polyamory. Ness Labs’ success – how to build, grow and nurture your network; creating deeper connections; the evolution of digital behaviour; how the use of the internet is causing us to lose empathy; Freelance Business Month: the future of work as open talent.

Happy October! I’ve signed up for Sungod’s Strava challenge – runs or rides every Sunday in October to get as much daylight as possible before the clocks change on 31 October 😱

Excellent performance sunnies and a growing online community – a brand to watch.

Speaking of communities, I’ve been exploring as many as I can lately, and the one I keep coming back to is Ness Labs. It’s inspiring to see how Anne-Laure has built a buzzing, kind community and worth a look at why it works. Read her AMA with Product Hunt here.

Growing a newsletter and a website to 35K subscribers and 100K visitors per month in 2 years. AMA👇

Ness LabsEvidence-based content around productivity, creativity, mental health and knowledge management. 2K community members.

AL now has two full-time employees and hires freelance writers via Upwork. Her main source of revenue is sponsored interviews and paid memberships. She does a bit of 1:1 coaching but says that’s negligible. 

It’s interesting to see how she’s done it in a crowded space of personal development and productivity. Some thoughts on why it works…

Building a kind community 

  • A personal journey: Anne-Laure loves learning in public and shares her successes and failures openly. She’s active in the community with regular Q&As. I’m curious to follow her progress and happy to support a creator. Personal onboarding is a nice touch, and sharing content on a closed platform gives a sense of psychological safety. It’s interesting to see most people have their cameras on during workshops, which creates intimacy.
  • Great value for money: it’s ridiculously cheap compared to other online communities. I paid $35 to access a growing library of content and community. AL says the biggest surprise was people writing to her telling her to increase the price and gifting memberships. 
  • Values of kindness and pay it forward: People are engaged, generous and want to be seen, and it’s down to the topics she’s exploring – personal development, mental health and creativity. It’s not overly self-promotional – there have been a few posts lately from coaches, so she’s created a coaching directory/channel where they can promote their services at no extra charge.
  • Content-first approach: I like the Circle platform – it’s simple, easy to use, minimal friction. The focus is on high-quality content that’s easy to find. It’s organised by channel so you can follow your interests, contribute topics and connect with members.

    *Creator Spark* is a new space where members can host a talk or moderate a panel in a safe, supportive space (people said they felt shy about sharing their stuff). It’s a shame we’ve been conditioned to see sharing our work as boasting and bragging – it causes so many hangups. You have to get your work out there on different platforms: 50% writing, 50% marketing.

    Emotional and informational content works!
  • Online and offline meetups around the world. I’ve signed up for the London event on 18 October, so meeting some of the community in person will be interesting.
  • The zeitgeist – Ness Labs has grown organically during lockdown – we all need connection. It’s also tapping into the current mood – the great resignation, a power shift to the creator, working smarter, not harder, and mental health and burnout at work.

People have set up sub-groups on and off-platform – a sign of a healthy community. I’ve joined the Newsletter Mastermind – an active Twitter group and weekly Zoom.

My only criticism is there’s too much good content in the newsletter! I don’t have time to read all the articles in one go, so I bookmark stuff to come back to (my Pocket is sagging) This can be demotivating – sometimes less is more. I’m mindful of that with this newsletter and being respectful of people’s time.

What communities do you find useful – and how do you make the most of them? 

I carry a notebook around with me for ideas, quotes and things I’m curious about so I can build up a bank of content. I need to get ahead rather than writing last minute. Taking publishing breaks in August and at Xmas gives me time to catch up.

I love online communities but I need my local tribes too. I’m on a mission to turn Hastings into a tech hub. I left London 14 years ago – part of the second wave of regeneration and we have the third wave with the pandemic. It’s good to see new faces, startups and energy – I love all that. Hearing a few moans about how “it’s all gone too far” and property prices…


🔗🖐5 Things 

☁️ Rosie Sherry on how communities are cool again and everybody wants to own a (profitable) one. The tools exist to make it happen but it gets complicated, messy and fragmented pretty easily. I’m using WordPress and Substack and have held back on the community aspect for this reason. I don’t want to complicate things with more platforms. The best and most impactful communities are custom-built like Nomadlist – something we need to talk about more.

🌱 Building, Growing & Nurturing a Kind Community: Q&A with Anne-Laure from Ness Labs. Whether you run a community or are thinking of starting one, here are some solid community-building tips and strategies based on her experiences. Friendliness, the personal touch and psychological safety are important and interactive events that bring people together.

🕵🏻‍♀️ Tribes, Flocks, and Single Servings – the evolution of digital behaviour by Rahaf Harfoush. Nice work creating a visual framework to help her capture the spaces she’s tracking. The interesting bit is the overlap and changes that occur. Rahaf is my go-to for digital culture analysis – Hustle & Float is excellent.

🤔 How the internet is causing us to lose empathy by Eli Baum – written in 2014 but still super relevant – why are we not talking about this more in MSM? Empathy is valuable and the fact it’s declining is alarming – we need people skills, useful products and deeper connections. We can’t slow down tech but we can get the story out to promote change and be mindful of it in ourselves – do the EQ test.

👩‍💻 Freelance Business Month – the largest global event for freelancers. Talks on the future of freelancing, starting and growing your business, freelancing in Europe, the future of work as open talent and more. Learn new skills, speak, and connect with the community – founded by the amazing Elina Jutelyte who is totally on it and open to collaboration. Programme and registration here – there are a few free tickets left.

I’ll be there!

Nicci


I’m a digital writer studying UX and content design – a badass life path 🙂

My mission:

• Making delightful digital products that improve people’s lives.

• Bringing more humanity and creativity to business and technology.

• Solving your problems using better communications – data-driven writing and design thinking skills.

The Shift is my lab where I explore digital culture, creativity, mindful productivity and independent work. I have a ‘pay what you can’ model – you can buy me a coffee or make a regular contribution to support what I do via my Ko-fi page.

Want to talk? Find me online at Polywork, Twitter @niccitalbot or email nicci@niccitalbot.io.

Help me build a forest! To offset the carbon emissions of my online work, I plant 12 trees every month via Ecologi 🌱 🌳

Categories
future of work remote working work culture

The Shift: Why you need a work wife 🤷‍♀️

A birthday card arrived yesterday from my second work wife – it’s 20 years since our first shift together at Wine Rack in Dulwich. She taught me the ropes, and we bonded over ‘cups of tea’ (you can’t recommend a wine to a customer unless you’ve tried it, a few times.) Eight-hour shifts, so we had plenty of time for deep conversations about everything. I thought she was super glam: tall and blonde in her sharp grey suits (she worked 9-5 in a Japanese bank), and she’d bring in baked fish for supper. 

She was my north star and confidante and made me feel at home in London. I enjoyed those shifts more than my ‘proper jobs’ because we had fun and I had a tribe and community. Whenever I drink wine, I think about our ‘cups of tea’, and when we chat, we pick up from where we let off, no dramas. I’m happy she’s still in my life. 

Are work wives or husbands a good idea? Academic research finds risks and benefits. Katie Heaney has written a history of the work spouse and says we need to lay the term to rest. ‘That we’ve adopted this language for co-workers reflects an overidentification with our workplaces, the result of a culture that recast workaholism as ambition and asked us to lean in and work smarter and stay hungry.’ 

But I’ve found them invaluable. My work wives have kept me sane, made me happier and mentally healthier. After the basics are covered, food and shelter, we need to belong. And they’re not confined to the workplace either. I have a coffee shop wife – the owner of a vegan cafe I’ve been going to since it opened in 2007. I’ve watched her build her business, mother her kids, survive a health crisis, split up with men, and keep going, always a smile on her face. She’s a huge inspiration.

I’m curious to know how you find meaningful friendships when working remotely and doing project work? And in a culture that’s focused on busyness and burnout, leaving even less time for socialising. How do you do it and avoid being a work widow? Elizabeth Uviebinené has some great ideas in her new book The Reset‘we need to ‘invest time in growing our local, work and digital communities.’ 

My current work wife is virtual – we met while freelancing for a client. She’s a graphic designer, photographer and digital marketer, so we’ve teamed up to offer a package for clients looking for digital comms. We’ve hired each other for little jobs and passed work on. She’s a brilliant friend and advisor and challenges me to get out of my comfort zone, i.e. charge more! It’s a friendship I treasure and mostly digital now as we’re no longer in the office. She’s a mum of three and living in a different town, so I go over there to co-work.

Working remotely with friends has its challenges – you have to be super clear on communication, deadlines, feedback, and money when you’re both bosses and mates. It’s new territory to explore, a different way of working, but no less exciting. Good team energy leads to great products and services.

I’m also starting from scratch in a new field of work, building connections and starting small with virtual coffees and Slack chats to try and find common ground. Sereena Abbassi, former Head of Diversity and Inclusion at M&C Saatchi, has some great ideas👇 on networking and mentoring – giving and adding value, so it’s a two-way street. 

I admire Sian Meades-Williams and Anna Codrea-Rado’s working relationship – they’re good mates who have set up the Freelance Writing Awards to celebrate and champion UK talent. They seem to have a lot of fun working together and have each other’s back—lots of banter and silliness on Twitter. The awards ceremony is on 30 June – you can see the shortlist and book your free ticket here.

Have a fabulous weekend. It’s my birthday so I’ll be having drinks later with another work wife – my old boss. Ten years on, and we’re still mates. I’ve even forgiven her for introducing me to my ex 😉 

Nicci


Tools for thought 

👨🏽‍💻 Freelance and microwork platforms not fair to workers (Irish Tech News) Oxford researchers have been looking into labour practices like ‘cloud work’ and found these platforms don’t provide minimum fairness standards for their workforce. A good benchmark if you’re using platforms to find work. The report is a call for better standards as poor practices aren’t visible online, and many lower-income countries won’t push back. You can join the Fair Work Pledge here

📵 Reddit/NoSurf: ‘A community of people focused on becoming more productive and wasting less time mindlessly surfing the internet.’ I love the no-surf activity list: a comprehensive list of awesome hobbies and activities to explore instead of mindlessly🏄🏻‍♀️ like cooking, writing, reading and dancing. What did we all do before smartphones? I’m delighted to find this little corner of the internet dedicated to digital wellness – please share! 

🎧 Sereena Abbassi on how building inclusion starts with empathy (Hive Learning) and using the arts to create a sense of togetherness through feeling. Tips on how you can build inclusion by interacting with people you wouldn’t normally. Know everybody’s name. Do someone else’s job for a day. On networking and how using co-working spaces helped her to avoid becoming ‘institutionalised’ at M&C Saatchi (same applies if you WFH home full time!)

🏢 The problem isn’t remote working; it’s clinging to office-based practices (The Guardian). Alexia Cambon on how maintaining this way of working in a remote environment is causing damage to employees. ‘We need to stop designing work around location and start designing work around human behaviour. Employees will work better, stay at their organisation longer and keep healthier if they are placed at the centre of work design – trust me; we have the data that proves it.’

🦅 The rise of ‘third workplaces (Axios). People aren’t working from the office, but they’re not working from home either. We’re seeing the rise of ‘third workplaces’ — teleworking spots in cafes, hotels, or co-working spaces where you can rent space by the hour. I’ve signed up with Flown, the Airbnb for teleworkers. Book yourself into a remote-work-ready property in the UK, Spain or Portugal. Plus virtual co-working and a library of deep work resources.

Just don’t curate your day too much 🤔 


The future of work is now

Let’s build it. The Shift is a newsletter about humans, technology and wellness. Rethinking how we live, work + play. Weekly curated tools for thought and ideas to share ✍️

Question or comment? nicci@niccitalbot.io
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To offset the carbon emissions of this newsletter and my online work, I plant 12 trees every month via Ecologi. I encourage you to do the same in your country – here’s a list of climate action groups 🌍

Categories
digital nomads future of work remote working Social media

🕵🏻‍♀️Building a country on the internet

The big idea💡

Could we build a country on the internet?

Sondre Rasch, CEO, SafetyWing spoke about this at Digital Nomad Summit 2020 and has just launched Plumia, an unrecognised country on the internet. Their core product is global health insurance – a ‘social safety net’ for remote workers but their long-term mission is building a digital country as a membership product.

A fast-moving and software capable, technology-startup that is build from the bottom up like a company selling products.

Exciting idea.

I’m not sure if a private company is best placed to do this but then someone has to build it, and that’s probably going to be a tech startup with a global workforce. They have the education and motivation to do it. They can create a portal, start the movement and bring others on board. But they can’t do it alone.

Now is the time. Covid-19 is accelerating things and remote working has gone mainstream. As Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO said, we’ve gone through two years of digital transformation in the last two months. Brexit is finally done 😿 And we’re back in lockdown so it’s a good time to be learning online, developing ideas, and doing the groundwork.

Here’s a summary of his key points – watch online here.

A nation of borderless workers

There are 150 million remote workers worldwide with estimates of 25 million digital nomads living abroad – predicted to rise to 1 billion by 2035. This is the size of a large country and growing fast. We have a nation of borderless workers with the same needs as everyone else, which aren’t being met. We also have remote-first companies like Gitlab and Zapier showing you can build big enterprises as remote first, paving the way for others to follow.

But while the internet is like a global city, the infrastructure is not. Infrastructure is usually built along geographical divides. We have a social safety net in our home country but we can’t take it around the world. Which is why they started SafetyWing.

Not having this is a barrier to equal opportunities and freedom. The internet and remote work mean people can apply for jobs anywhere, start remote companies, and be freelancers earning a living online. But there are many grey areas e.g. where to pay tax.

5 reasons why

1. Geographical borders are obsolete and impractical. Built at a time when it made sense that people were based in one place – i.e. agriculture and making a living off the land. The internet has already removed borders – you can earn your income elsewhere.

2. A lot of countries are really bad – see the Corruption Index and you get little back for what you contribute. Common problems aren’t being solved. Can we build a better country on the internet?

3. People want a tribe and they don’t have one. People to talk to and rely on when they’re in trouble. Fun and meaningful connections. Societies are atomised – we have less identity from corporations and work – especially freelancers who work on projects.

4. The internet and technology open up the possibility to create better countries. The infrastructure will be faster-moving, with less red tape, and we can adapt quickly. There’s huge potential for improvement on what we already have.

5. Innovation and competition in citizenship are good for people. Governments will have to compete for citizens, they can’t take people for granted. They will have an incentive to improve their services. Until now, countries have had a monopoly but the balance of power is shifting back to the individual.

How do we do it?

We can either lobby to be recognised as a new country online or do it in partnership with forward-thinking countries like Estonia (e-residency programme) to solve shared problems. The first country on the internet has to be built as a membership that’s recognised by other countries. It should protect its citizens from theft and exploitation – using encryption. And have the benefits of a tribe and a legal framework. It should aim to be 10x better than the existing alternatives.

It makes sense to build on the existing infrastructure rather than trying to reinvent the wheel – those ‘60s communes didn’t work.

I’m excited about this – it’s a great idea. It’s time to rethink how and why we do things and look at what’s not working. People want meaning in their work – work/life integration. Why retire at 67 if you’re doing project-based knowledge work that’s not hard physical labour? Most people want to contribute to society, build connections and stay active – and they have tons of experience and a world view. I have a real problem with brilliant brains dying and that info not being downloaded. Loneliness is also a huge issue across all age groups.

Do we still need annual holidays if we work remotely and can travel more often? And why do we have restrictive visas that mean digital nomads have to country hop? People would stay in a place for longer and contribute more to the local economy and community if they were allowed to. Why should you pay all your tax to your home country if you’re based in other places throughout the year – and those places don’t benefit from your stay? There are lots of problems to solve – and we’ll see more digital nomad visas being introduced.

Join the movement

They are looking for leaders and contributors in remote work and nomadic space to get involved. There’s not much on the Plumia website yet but they will be sharing more info in early 2021. It needs to be transparent so we can see the business model.

We have a network among founders and politicians to make a real difference in the world, and we need a global presence, great leaders, and a large number of citizens to make it happen.

There’s also this initiative to create the world’s first e-nation (beta) and private network of global digital nomads.

National and cultural identities are great but there is a need of an additional ‘complementary’ global identity that transcends national borders, solves global challenges and presents digital nomads’ agenda to the world. This is not a replacement of any existing identities, culture, heritage or overriding ancestors. We have a huge respect for those identities. We are just addressing a need of global citizens and our new digital world.


The Advice 💬

Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies, by César Hidalgo.

Humanity is unique in that we accumulate information in the form of new products.

What makes humans so special is our ability to “crystallize” information, to create something from seemingly nothing but our imagination. A computer or a robotic leg are things that don’t appear in nature but had to be imagined before they could be created.

But crystallizing takes a lot of effort. When we want to create a new physical order, we need to push the limits of reality, and this can rarely be achieved by one lone individual.

Thus people work together to develop new products with the knowledge they’ve collectively acquired from older products made by other humans.


Toolkit 🛠

👩‍💻 Plumia: An unrecognised country founded by thought leaders and entrepreneurs in the remote work space

🎧 Conscious Culture: Rebuilding Infrastructure For The New World

📑 SafetyWing: 13 Reasons Why We Should Soon Expect The First Country on The Internet

📹 Digital Nomad Summit 2020: Building a Country on The Internet

📱 Digital Nomads Nation App: First e-nation and private network of digital nomads


👋 I’m on Clubhouse nosing around. It’s a drop-in audio chat social network where you can meet new people, listen to conversations and join groups. The perfect place for Plumia to nest! I love audio – it’s intimate, empathetic and you can join from anywhere – no need to dress up, write anything and you can quietly leave the room when you’ve had enough. It’s like being in a swanky hotel bar and eavesdropping on conversations – Gary Vaynerchuck! This will fly. Well done to the founders. Great marketing – they’ve been everywhere this week with people scrambling for an invite.

You can join the waitlist here.

I’ll do a proper review next week.


Welcome to my bookshop! 📚

I’ll be sharing books in my bag and recommended reads on Bookshop.org here. They pay a 10% commission on every sale and give a matching 10% to local bookstores, an integral part of our culture and communities. Please spread the word and help support the high street 🙏


Work with me 🙋🏻‍♀️

Leopard print, always. Worry less and rock a red lip. Internet person, Croissant co-working, global citizen, flâneuse, problem solver.

💡 Thoughts, ideas, feedback? Leave a comment or email nicci@niccitalbot.com.

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