In late 2015 I left a fabulous job at The Hypothes.is Project and stepped out into the void of "funemployment" to see where I'd land. This wasn't just blind faith or me drawing "The Fool" at random from a Tarot deck. I did this on purpose. To myself.
I was an entrepreneur once. For 7+ years I coded, marketed, made coffee, cleaned my desk, planned business plans, dreamed, hoped, and generally made quite a bit less cash than I could have elsewhere. It was educational. It was painful. It was promising.
I closed up shop in 2010 and took a tour of startups who each went through various states of feast and famine ending in buyouts, mergers, or...closeouts. It too was educational, sometimes painful (far less so, though, really), and in its own way, promising.
Now, I find myself between these two worlds of "full-time employment"--either for "myself" or someone else.
I'm "gainfully unemployed." Making things, every day, that add value to the world, but not making a "red cent" from any of it. I could, perhaps, by making a new startup (or two), but then I'd have to set down many other things in favor of the "non-generative" work that goes into greasing the gears of selling, accounting, etc. If my time goes there (again), it won't be going to making, creating, coding.
Every day I spend time making something. Code, content, stuff. Often, that's with other people (or at least from their work and/or contributing back to their work). I wake up, make value somewhere, repeat. I benefit from their work. They (hopefully!) benefit from mine. Often, neither of us are in a place to exchange other value (read, money) for the work we're building together--and often we find "more" value in the co-creation than from the $$ we could make my preventing that collaboration or limiting it by pre-fixing a dollar sign to all the value being made.
What if it were possible to stay "gainfully unemployed?" Could the collaboration continue by taking money off the table through similar means? Confused yet?
If you're a frequent "youtuber" (consumer or creator), you've probably heard of Patreon. It's one of many attempts to build a collaborative mode of commerce. In this new(ish) world, "customers" fund "creators" before (or more often along-the-way-of) the creator's creating things.
The creators on Patreon are making--some of them have been for years. They're often making something (videos, how-to guides, creative assets, code) that isn't a singularity (a "product"). The things they create are fluid, constant, hard to quantify individually. Patreon's idea is to shift the model away from purchasing a "product" and toward funding creativity--from which (already) come many "products."
High Tides Raise All The Boats
In the world of open source software development, there's (always) been a hope that by collaborating on common areas of (typically) code, that everyone will benefit. That by our collective, collaborative effort the world will be improved and our personal creativity and output not get lost in the void of the market or the back office.
My personal hope is that these worlds of open source, commons-based peer production and diversified patronage (through having more than one patron...ala Patreon & Co.) could be combined to "raise the boats" for the folks who do the coding, designing, and other useful content creation.
If, sometime in the future, I could reach what would amount to a voluntarily provided basic income, it would allow me to explore areas of my creativity I've only dreamed about. There are things I've wanted to make for decades. Most of them are quite possible. Many of them couldn't be "productized." Some of them (like the Web) could change how we work, collaborate, and create.
It's never been clear that "full-time employment" (either for myself or someone else) could ever bring those into being. I tried for 7+ years, and learned about many of the tensions and inhibitors to creativity when money is a constant concern.
So, if you have an interest in the things I product (or have benefited from them!), I'd love your support via my new shiny BigBlueHat Patreon page or (if you'd rather) via a PayPal donation at http://paypal.me/BigBlueHat
I'll be making stuff regardless. Your support just means I'd do it more often. The more funding, the greater the "risks" I can take. It's not required, but it'd sure be helpful. Thanks, all!