(first of all, on a complete side note, ever since Pet Holdings–the parent company of the ICanHasCheezburger Network, which is run by my good friends Ben Huh and Scott Porad–added Lijit to their sites, I cant spell cheeseburger properly…)

kosher symbolsAt SXSW, I had the pleasure of meeting a young entrepreneur through mutual friends. I often find that interesting companies have really impressive founders behind them (mostly because the idea had to come from somewhere intriguing). This entrepreneur and I seemed to move in and out of the same circles, but never really crossed paths.

Why is this important? While most people probably dont believe this, the greatest gift I get from people is education. My favorite thing in the world is to find people that know more about something than I do, or participate in something I dont, or just flatly do something better than I do, and learn from them.

If you took a list of all my friends and made notations about what makes each one special, you would find a list of amazing talents, knowledge and activity that just by proximity can do nothing but impress.

What I didnt know about this entrepreneur is that he both keeps kosher and observes the sabbath. For most entrepreneurs, limiting your diet (“What if a potential investor/partner wants to eat out?!?!?”) and work week to 6 days (“C’mon! No startup is successful when the founder works only 6 days a week!”) is just unheard of.

Yet, his company is growing, they have secured funding from really high profile investors, and he successfully drives product direction and promotion.

Which got me thinking.

I have several friends who have made specific choices about how they live their lives and what is a priority for them. Sometimes the filter is of religious origin, sometimes is a lifestyle decision, or a geographic choice.

Many people would look at these decisions as limiting. What happens if an important phone call has to be made on a Saturday? Will it just go unanswered? Does something like following kosher laws and observing a sabbath create an artificial barrier for success?

Now, it would be easy to find many folks that have been successful in spite of self-limiting behavior or activities. (Face it, any decision to not do something is self-limiting by definition). Instead, lets discuss why I decided to participate in those self-limited behaviors.

Life is about choice. It is often said that the greatest gift given man was free will. (Of course, the evangelicals will say it was Jesus, but this isnt about a religious debate.) Some have said its man’s greatest burden as well.

(Ok, the religious stuff is over, I swear to Christ.)

I have spent most of my life immersed in free will. I tend to make decisions based on the exact previous activity. I dont think more than a day ahead. My therapist often says that the worst thing my parents did was not provide and enforce clear and distinct boundaries. I lived a life full of free will.

True Free Will often comes with a lack of order.

And I, in order to make the changes I want to make in my life, need structure and order. I want, for the first time in my life, to think…and then…do.

So, I was inspired by the entrepreneur I met at SXSW. If he could continue to be as successful as he is sticking to the choices he has made, then perhaps if I do the same, I would provide sufficient structure and order to help me be more successful.

With that, about two weeks ago, I decided to follow the kosher laws.

Wellllllll, thats a lie. I decided to follow a version of the kosher laws.

Quickly: What are the kosher laws? A set of dietary restrictions that many Jewish people conform to. If you want to read more about them, this is a pretty good resource on kosher. Kosher comes from the Hebrew word “kasher” meaning fit. Non-kosher food is known as “treif” meaning torn. Literally meaning torn by another animal, killed with a dull blade (feels pain), or has a defect that disallows it from being slaughtered.

Here are the basic tenants (as I understand them):

  • * meat is ok. But, it has to come from an animal that chews its cud and has cloven hooves;
  • * pigs are out, because even though they have cloven hooves, they dont chew their cud.
  • * birds are ok, but have to fit certain criteria. For example, they have an established tradition of being kosher or be really close to a bird that is kosher. Chickens are ok; falcons are not.
  • * fish is ok, but it has to have scales and fins. No shellfish. (dammit!)
  • * insects are not kosher (thank god)
  • * fruits, vegetables, nuts are all pretty much kosher, as long as they dont have insects (see above)
  • * dairy is kosher – pretty much
  • * meat and dairy cant be mixed. (you and me, cheeseburger, we are through)

There are a few other rules (like certain foods have to be prepared by other Jews. Like cheese and wine.)

Here are the ones Im following:

  • * meat and fowl have to be bought from a kosher deli.
  • * fish is fine, shellfish are out.
  • * pork is out (which is ok. I havent eaten pork in almost 20 years)
  • * no mixing meat and diary.
  • * fruits, vegetables, diary are ok.
  • * chicken wings are always kosher. (what? I love chicken wings!)

Here is the payoff. Before every meal, I have to think about what I am going to eat. I have to think about where I am going to eat. If I go to the supermarket, I have to think about what to buy.

I have to think…then act. I have to apply some level of structure and order to my meals.

Its not much, but its a start on learning to temper my free willing ways.

Anyone know a good kosher deli in Boulder?

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11
Micah March 25th

A Community of Influence

I have spent the last several weeks thinking, talking, testing and speaking on measuring influence, trust and expertise online. Its a subject that I find wildly interesting (and entertaining based on responses), and luckily dovetails nicely with my work at Lijit.

Here is my last deck from WordCamp Denver (which I did while fighting a bad back and after taking some Vicodin. I cant wait for the video…):

In it, I spend some time talking about HOW to increase influence (which I probably should put in a blog post somewhere).

Here is the presentation in three easy points:

1) Influence is a combination of expertise, brand and trust.

2) Influence is a single action by one person, which affects, positively (or negatively) a single action of another single person.

3) Influence is truly a 1:1 relationship. Reach allows that 1:1 relationship to occur rapidly and appear to be one:many (even though its a bunch of one:one interactions).

Ok, so we all agree, right? (If not, lets discuss in the comments, and pretend we all agree so the rest of my post doesnt go to hell.)

So, how does influence manifest in a community? What is its place/value within a community?

Certainly an influential member of a community can help shape the character of a community. Look at Andrew Hyde in Boulder. The events he has spearhead (StartupWeekend, StartupDrinks and IgniteBoulder) have all contributed to the startup character of Boulder; of Boulder being a place for young entrepreneurs to cut their teeth on the tech startup game. (It has also help validate us old people, and our work with startups…) Andrew’s effect on Boulder has always been something that I have respected and admired.

But what if the influence of that community member doesnt extend beyond the community itself?

Or what if there is no community to start with?

I suppose before we can continue, there has to be a definition of community.

If we ask Google (define:community), we get:

  • a group of people living in a particular local area; “the team is drawn from all parts of the community”
  • common ownership; “they shared a community of possessions”
  • a group of nations having common interests; “they hoped to join the NATO community”
  • agreement as to goals; “the preachers and the bootleggers found they had a community of interests”
  • residential district: a district where people live; occupied primarily by private residences
  • (ecology) a group of interdependent organisms inhabiting the same region and interacting with each other
    wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

Is all community is, a group of people that live near each other? I actually believe that community is a couple of these things. It is proximity (online that would be around a site) AND “agreement as to goals.” (which I would extend to “common goals and/or intent”).

Take my current favorite community, Threadless. 900,000 designers and art lovers all interacting around art.

(This might be the worst chart in social media.)

How Influence Works in a Community
How Influence Works in a Community

Here is what that image is saying. The circles are influencers. Most influencers have overlapping spheres of influence. A single influencer attempts to exert influence.

He is only successful if he influences another influencer, who must also influence another influencer and so on…

Each influencer than has some influence internally to the community, but also externally to the community, which attracts new members to the community. Thereby, increasing the community itself, and bringing in new resources (and potentially future influencers, who will–probably–always be influenced at some level by the original influencer). Whew.

For a single member of a community to truly have an influence on the community itself, she must first have the ability to influence other influencers. As she is able to apply more influence over the community, the more she is seen as an influencer and her sphere of influence grows, requiring less other influencers.

Now, if I was an advertiser, I would be interested in not just the influencers themselves, but the of influencer of the influencers, the Influencer Patient Zero of a specific community, if you will…(but I digress)

Influence’s place within a community then has three distinct functions:

1) Self-policing. Interestingly, I would imagine that the influencers in a community have influence, in part because they feel extreme passion about the shared goals and focus of the community (super users), and its in their own self-interest to ensure that those goals/focus dont change (to ensure no loss of influence).

ICanHasCheezburger is a great example where the community itself polices comments and other aspects of the content to ensure it lives up to the standards set by the community.

2) Attraction of new resources and people to the community.

With Threadless, the vast majority of their community members start by submitting a tshirt design. The influential members of the community (those that have been printed, for example) are attracting other designers to submit designs. They attract a certain “type” of community member, who is quickly taught the rules (see point #1).

3) Drive the community’s character.

Andrew, with StartupWeekend and Ignite Boulder. David Cohen with TechstarsBrad Feld through his blog. All of these members of the Boulder community really influence the character of the community. The character of the community helps to also define who can apply influence (a vicious circle!) and ultimately attract people and resources to the community, who are people who share the community’s character (ah! its an infinite loop!).

Influence and influencers, serve the primary purpose of fostering community, by both attracting people and resources (growing the community), and policing (protecting the community).

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