Five First Impressions of LabZero

I recently joined Lab Zero as a software developer. My friend Brien Wankel, one of their Principal Engineers, had been encouraging me to interview here for more than a year. I hesitated because, to put it bluntly: What’s so special about another boutique software development agency? There are hundreds—if not thousands—of them in the Bay Area. Plus, I was still trying to strike gold playing the startup equity game and I had already run my own boutique software development agency for a decade.

At long last I took the plunge, and I’m really glad I did. Ten weeks in, these are my first impressions of Lab Zero.

1. “We pay for every hour worked, no exceptions.” —The CEO

Lab Zero’s culture in three words: “Life, then Work.” Everyone here, myself included, is a W-2 hourly employee. To prevent people from worrying about using PTO when they’re sick (which eats into vacation time), we’ve done away with the concept altogether. We get paid for every hour we work—and we don’t get paid when we’re not working. That also has the side benefit of discouraging people from coming to work when they’re contagious. As a substitute for PTO, we accrue personal/family sick time, bereavement and jury duty time.

Employment here includes all the usual benefits, but without the attached expectation of working 60-80 hours/week (or more) and getting paid for 40. I surf every Wednesday morning (if the weather conditions cooperate) and I volunteer at my daughter’s school in the afternoon. I might only bill for 4-5 hours on a Wednesday. I might put in a few more hours after dinner—or not.

I haven’t put this to the test yet, but I may need to scale back my hours at Lab Zero by 50% or more to run tech for another political campaign or to get more involved in the farm-to-table movement or maybe to start a side business—or not.

2. “We follow software best practices.” —Everybody

So we put life first and work second. But does that mean that we don’t care about what we do? Hells no!

Lab Zero embraces a documented set of methodologies that make great software development possible, if not pleasurable. We have 100% or near-100% test coverage on all our projects; we write unit tests, functional tests, automated UI tests—to the tune of roughly ten lines of test code for every one line of “real” code. We practice continuous integration; we have a stringent pull-request review process and we reject pull requests for even the slightest blemish, e.g. a typo in a commit message.

This culture of doing things right at all costs may sound too onerous to be practical, but what I learned after a couple weeks here is that the effort we put into rigorous testing pays us back in spades, measured by the very small number of issues that slip through the cracks, eventually needing to be caught by QA or found in production. Plus, as long as I can keep the test suites passing, I can refactor without fear that I’m going to break something.

And if I do break something incidentally, it usually just means I need to write a better test, which in turn will help overall quality in a virtuous cycle.

3. “We do Agile really, really well.” —Our Customers

Agile prides itself on being agile, per se. (How deliciously meta is that?) Take what you want, leave the rest. As a result, there are infinitely many ways to do agile well—and an equally-indeterminate number of ways to do it badly.

Last week, I heard a senior executive at one of our customer sites tell us (in front of a room of twenty people) that we were the gold standard for agile projects at their organization. Enough said.

4. “We care about having a beautiful, functional workspace.” (And it shows.)

We have top-shelf coffee, great snacks and drinks, a loaded kegerator, automatic standup/sitdown desks (each with four presets), Apple Cinema Displays, an office sound system, massive TVs, stylin’ chairs and Fluid Stance boards. If you need anything, within reason, it just shows up at the door.

In addition to that, Nicole Andrijauskas just finished painting an amazing mural spanning the entire south wall of the office.

We have catered lunch-and-learn sessions every other Friday. On the alternating Fridays, we descend in a hungry mob to a local restaurant (like Barbacco, this past Friday) and Lab Zero picks up the tab. In addition to Fridays and the regular bevy of snacks and beverages, there are also bagel Wednesdays, eclairs one day, coffee cake another, etc.

As much as I love our office, I also love my half-time Wednesdays working from home (and/or the beach). Which is totally fine, of course. I’ve even been finding a leftover bagel or two on Thursday morning for me.

5. “Diversity is woven into the very fabric of our culture.” —Me

The notion of full-time employment does not preclude hiring people who rawk at things besides their profession, but employers don’t explicitly benefit from it either.

At Lab Zero, where life comes first—and turnover is near nil—we’ve built an eclectic mix of developers, designers, writers, agile product owners and bizdev folks who double as parents, recovering chemists, musicians, surfers, teachers, artists, marathoners, photographers, LGBTQ folks, future real estate moguls and one of the world’s leading experts on tiki.

There’s no better testament to Lab Zero’s people than this: I could do my job almost exclusively at home. I could also bill an extra two hours instead of commuting to downtown SF from the North Bay. But I actually want to come to the office.

Ten weeks in. Zero regrets. Can you say this about your job? If not, maybe you should join us for lunch.

The Best (Only?) Way to Defeat Trump

Disclosure: I’m no politician and I’m no political scientist. (What little I know about politics I learned by running the tech stack for the Larry Lessig campaign.)

That being said, it seems like there’s an obvious tactic that could be deployed to stop Trump from turning the Oval Office into a reality TV set and Idiocracy into a documentary. It’s so obvious that I can’t believe it hasn’t been done already.

We simply need a moderate-leaning conservative with good name recognition (e.g. John McCain, Mit Romney, a younger version of Bob Dole — or someone of that ilk) to ditch the ruinous GOP and run on an Independent ticket. This gives die-hard conservatives — at least the sensible ones who can’t see themselves voting for Trump and won’t switch parties to vote for Clinton or Sanders — a viable option that isn’t a Democrat or a Fascist.

This will produce one of two outcomes. In the less likely scenario, we get record moderate-conservative and independent voter turnout (as a reaction to Trump) and the conservative Independent former-(R) candidate wins. In the more likely scenario, this 3rd party candidate splits the conservative vote, securing a win for Clinton or Sanders.

Either outcome is a win — if for nothing else, then at least for common decency.

Either outcome will end the mockery Trump has made of American politics.

Either outcome also spells the end of the Republican party as we know it. Donald Trump, for all his faults, has given the world a great gift. He is the final nail in the coffin for the GOP as we know it today. Finally, the Republican Party — ironically, the party of Lincoln — will reap the seeds of homophobia, racism, xenophobia, religious hatred, bellicosity and belligerence they have sown for the past several decades.

But this only happens if Trump loses. Which is why we need a moderate conservative to step up, “take one for the team” and run as an Independent.

And by “team” I mean the one consisting of every sensible person on this planet.

Trump, Portlandia and Fascism

When The Donald first entered the 2016 presidential race, I have to admit feeling some mild intrigue. I have respect for outsiders, for people who don’t always color in between the lines. Having run the technology stack for another non-traditional candidate — Lawrence Lessig — I can appreciate the frustration many of us feel about incessant partisan bickering, pay-to-play politics and an impotent congress. Lessig, who ran on the issue of campaign finance reform, even gave credit to Trump for elevating the money-in-politics message to the national level.

That being said, I had already formed a negative impression of Trump based on a number of stories I’d read in the media about his bankruptcies, scandals, questionable business decisions, failed marriages, etc. But everyone knows that the media have their own agendas, so I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Same goes for his reality TV career: I spent five minutes with Gordon Ramsey a couple years ago and he proved to be kindhearted, gentle, humble and gracious in every way imaginable. Here too was I willing to give Trump a pass. Maybe he was just playing a character as so many “reality” TV stars are wont to do.

Perhaps because it seemed like a reasonable move for a reality TV star, Trump announced Senator Lindsay Graham’s (real) mobile phone number at a campaign event last year. While it seemed underhanded and petty, it also could have easily been mistaken for a practical joke — albeit a rather nasty one, but a joke nonetheless.

Like a Portlandia skit, Trump’s antics started out being amusing and engaging. I’ll admit it; I had a few good laughs.

Then I watched The Donald belittle Senator John McCain over his POW experience. These words were spoken not in the context of a reality show, not twisted out of context as part of some media spin job; no, he said them plainly in no uncertain terms. When asked to apologize, he refused and redoubled his attacks on the senator and war hero.

At this point, it became clear to me that Trump could not be taken seriously. No serious candidate would make fun of McCain’s distinguished service to his — and our — country. Ten years ago (or perhaps even ten months ago), a comment like that would have meant political seppuku. Trump had to be kidding. But this was no laughing matter.

At this point the Portlandia skit, while still amusing, begins to make you wonder if you should be chuckling or cringing.

Then the wheels started to come off the train. Trump said young black kids have “no spirit,” called Mexicans criminals and rapists, threatened to build a great wall between our countries (which actually is a little funny given his bizarre China fetish), called Carly Fiorina ugly and Ted Cruz a “pussy.” Note that these are just the things he’s said on record. I don’t want to know what he says when the world isn’t listening. Really, I don’t.

So at this point, we’ve established that either Trump is “just kidding” or he’s a racist, a xenophobe, a megalomaniac, a misogynist/sexist — and a grade-school bully. 

Some have said that he’s rewriting the rulebook for American politics. But breaking all the rules is not the same as rewriting them. Besides, panem et circenses has been a central theme in perhaps every political contest over the past 2000 years, so we’re not dealing with a new strategy, just a bigger one. I’ve heard something similar said about violence: if it’s not working out for you, you just need to use more of it. 

Back to Portlandia. At this point in the skit, you’re feeling downright squeamish. You’re looking around the room to see if anyone else can see that you’re watching it. You wish it would have ended when it was still funny and not so darn . . . creepy.

Then Trump told his little ditty to the world about killing Muslims with bullets dipped in pigs’ blood. For me, this was the moment where his outlandish Portlandia skit of a campaign really went off the fucking rails. Forget Portlandia! Not even Idiocracy — as prescient as it was — predicted something as ghastly as this.

We’re long past the point of “just kidding” now and moving into the territory of white robes and hoods. On second thought, the KKK isn’t even the right analogy. They’re small potatoes. Trump is huge.

At long last I have come to understand why intellectuals typically avoid Third Reich analogies: because they were all waiting for this very moment and they didn’t want to spoil it on someone unworthy.

I’m not going to mince words: Trump is Hitler. He is amassing a following of neo-Nazis and thereby starting the most dangerous movement in our country since our own Civil War.

He must be stopped and stopped now, before he makes it to the general election.

Nothing — not even the creepiest Portlandia skit — can approximate the scourge that this one man will bring upon our country if we are foolish enough to elect him.

Castro & Market “Pop-Up” Lindyhop + Streetcar Ride

Yesterday, my family and I — along with roughly two score Lindyhoppers, Balboans and Jitterbugs — danced al fresco to the dulcet sounds of Gaucho in Jane Warner Plaza at Castro & Market for an hour before boarding a vintage F Market streetcar, band in tow, to take the swingin’ party to the Orbit Room.

Sam Simmons executes an aerial with wild, reckless abandon. (Photo credit: Cathy Kohatsu)
Lindyhoppers at Castro & Market, including an airborne Mr. Simmons. (Photo credit: Cathy Kohatsu)

All around us, the Castro throbbed with some people in full skin suits (think Blue Man Group, but in several different colors) while others galavanted around wearing massive balloon animal anemones on their backs. A few wore nothing but Easy Spirits and floppy hats. A man sat hunched over a bicycle hooked to a differential gear gizmo that turned a sign showing distances to various countries in Africa, advertising that the cyclist was raising money for HIV/AIDS research. Others engaged in a vocal campaign to elect Emma Peel as Empress of the Imperial Council of San Francisco.

Suffice it to say: It was a normal Saturday in the Castro. Except for the swing dance!

So, about this swing dance: Why does this small gathering on a random Saturday deserve a blog post? Because it gives me confidence that Swing 2.0 — unlike the original craze that accompanied big band music of the 40s — won’t be needing a revival of its own, at least not any time soon. Swing is far from dead; in fact, it’s strong and growing stronger as we enter the third decade of swing’s second go-round.

For some background: My wife Allison and I met in San Francisco near the beginning of the great swing revival of the mid-1990s. As Lindy in the Park — one of the many venues we frequented — gets ready to celebrate its 20 year anniversary, we’ve come to realize that dancers of our vintage represent the old guard of new swing.

Chris Bucchere outside Twin Peaks Tavern with his two favorite dance partners. (Photo credit: Cathy Kohatsu)
Chris Bucchere outside Twin Peaks Tavern with his two favorite dance partners. (Photo credit: Cathy Kohatsu)

As we learned from the recent disappearance of one of our most lively venues, it’s incumbent upon us, whether we bring two decades of lindyhop experience with us or not, to take care of the places that offer swing dancing and the bands that make it all possible. (Note: I saw a lot of people tipping Gaucho and noticed many fives, tens and at least one 20 in the kitty yesterday.)

In addition to supporting our local bands and venues, we stewards of swing also need to find new places to dance, especially in front of people who aren’t already lindyhoppers. One woman asked my wife, “Is this whole thing just an accident?” Hardly! It was the result of the efforts of two dancers (Kristin Wojkowski and Idalia Ramos) with the backing of the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District’s Live in the Castro series.

While talking with Sam Simmons and Terra Williams, who, along with Monica Lenk, recently opened a fabulous vintage store in Oakland called OverAttired, I noticed Ken Watanabe lindyhopping with Decobelle Katrina Haus Morales, who, according to Facebook, was negative two years old when Ken started swing dancing.

I also danced a few songs with my daughter (including this extended drum break captured on video). She was negative eight years old when Allison and I started swing dancing. Literally a biproduct of lindyhop, she won her first — and only — dance competition in October of last year.

If JFK famously said that children are the best hope for the future, then I have plenty of hope for the future of lindyhop.

Dancers vs. Restaurants

Le Colonial Cancels Live Musiclec

Breaking up is hard to do.

It’s especially hard when so many delightful years of swing outs, lindy circles and sugar pushes suddenly come to a screeching halt like they did last night, when Le Colonial ended its ten-year, four-night-a-week run of free live lindyhop, balboa and swing music.

Evoking colonial Vietnam, this restaurant, bar and dance club featured a slick dance floor where patrons could swing the night away to dance-friendly bands with 15 and 20 year careers behind them (Lavay Smith and her Red Hot Skillet Lickers and Steve Lucky and the Rhumba Bums Featuring Miss Carmin Getit) as well as newer acts (The Cosmo Alleycats and Le Jazz Hot). See ing as how this was the only such venue to boast a lineup this swingin’ in San Francisco, the bittersweet cancelation of live music at Le Colonial is a real loss to dancers, musicians and, perhaps, even the restaurant itself.

desktop1My wife — whom I met 16 years ago this Saturday (you guessed it) lindyhopping — and I have been going steadily to this lovely venue 2–3 times a month since 2011, usually on Wednesday nights. There we’ve cultivated scores of friendships with dancers from age 9 (our daughter, who often accompanied us) to age 85 (Bernie Schindler, an amazing human being who deserves his own blog post, if not a whole book). We’ve celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, engagements; we’ve loved and we’ve lost; and we’ve mourned those who’ve traded in their wingtips for wings.

In light of this news, there’s been significant chatter in the local dance community — both online and off — about why it happened. While it’s easy to point fingers at the management, it’s important for us to consider that there’s more than one side to this (and any) story.

To properly frame this discussion, first I need to offend every lindyhopper on the planet by stereotyping all of us into two broadly generalized groups:

1. People who dance for sport, wear snap pants and headbands, carry towels and water bottles and generally view dance as (fun) exercise

2. People who dance for the scene, wear vintage clothes, drink alcohol and generally view dance as fun per se, but also as a means of socializing

Of course, it’s a spectrum, not a binary system. In fact, I put myself squarely in both groups. There’s a time and a place for both, for me. Everyone’s different.

Back to Le Colonial. They had the beautiful problem of attracting both kinds of dancers (and everything in between). Just as it would be strange if I showed up at Lindy in the Park on Sunday morning in a three piece zoot suit, vintage tie and spectators, it would be just as weird to bring my gym bag, wear shorts, change shoes tableside and eat my own food and drink out of my own water bottle at Le Colonial.

FullSizeRenderWhen all is said and done, both groups of dancers bear some responsibility for Le Colonial’s decision because we didn’t spend enough money on food or drink to justify the ruckus we made (often generating complaints from dinner guests and unwelcome visits from management). Far too many of us dressed like schlubs, carried in way too much luggage and were rude to the staff. Add to that the constant game of musical chairs that happens between songs, which drives the servers — who routinely also get kicked, body checked and stomped on — straight up the wall.

Despite all these problems, live music could one day return to Le Colonial. For it to work, however, the restaurant needs to stop trying to be a restaurant and a lounge and a bar and a dance hall all at the same time. They would need to block off the main staircase leading up to the lounge and turn the whole thing into a proper music venue. Then, they would need to convert the Sutter entrance into box office and — gasp! — sell tickets. Remember, the musicians we love — and who love us back — need to pay the rent, buy food and keep the lights on. With a  $10 or $20 cover, there wouldn’t be so much of a need for dancers to buy food and drink. For Le Colonial and the band, food and drink purchases would be gravy, with the meat and potatoes coming from the cover charge.

Bottom line: we dancers — in either camp — out of respect for the venues and the musicians, need to follow the “When in Rome” principle, saving the shorts and All-Stars for the 9:20 Special and trying to look our best when dancing at classier places like Le Colonial. More importantly, we need to be wiling to put our money where our collective mouths and happy feet are.

Because you get what you pay for. Conversely, you don’t get what you don’t pay for.

We didn’t pay for the world class music we enjoyed for years.

And now it’s gone.

Hidden Valley Farmigo 2015: Garbage In, Garbage Out

farmigo-logo-orangeIn my line of work — software development — we have an old saying: “Garbage In, Garbage Out” (or GIGO for short). In other words, I could write the most elegant software program ever, but if I feed in bad data, I’m going to get bad results.

The same is true for cooking. I spent more than a decade following my mother and my grandparents around the kitchen, absorbing centuries-old traditions and methods to create some of the finest Southern Italian delicacies you can find outside of the motherland. But I can’t do these dishes justice if I buy industrial, travel-worn, GMO and chemically-treated food from your average grocery store.

Two generations ago, before WWII-era plants manufacturing poison gas were converted to pesticide factories and before bomb-making facilities were re-purposed to make nitrogen-based chemical fertilizers, nearly everything in the food chain was, in today’s terms, “organic.” Many of our grandparents either grew up on farmsteads or maintained a small family or community garden. Growing up in the East Bay, we had a half-dozen tomato plants we would rotate each year with legumes (green beans, favas, limas, etc.) in the age-old tradition of naturally reintroducing nitrogen to the topsoil. As a result, we would enjoy fresh, organic caprese salad with nearly every meal all summer long and still manage to give away bags and bags of tomatoes to our neighbors, fresh off the vine.

By all means, I encourage you to grow your own food, a practice that pays back tenfold the work you put into it. But for many of us, this is too impractical or time consuming.

The very next best thing to having your own garden is using our local farm-to-table service: Farmigo. We started using it at Hidden Valley last year under the stewardship of Erin Bergman, to whom we all owe a huge debt of gratitude. This year, she’s passed the reigns to me. Farmigo provides organic, local, sustainable, GMO-free produce and an assortment of dry goods, baked goods, fermented foods, dairy products and pre-made items from local providers. It’s easy to use and not any more expensive than high-end grocery stores like Whole Foods or Fairfax’s marvelous Good Earth.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Sign up for the Hidden Valley community on the Farmigo web site
  2. Place your order by 11:59pm each Sunday night
  3. Pick up your order from the foyer of the multipurpose room Wednesday between 1 and 2pm*

As much as I love Farmigo’s food, customer service, web site and overall vibe, the best part about this great service is that Farmigo gives back to Hidden Valley.

Last year, we raised $1,443.30 for the school garden, an investment made toward raising a future generation of home-gardeners and conscious eaters.

Please join me and the 54 other Hidden Valley Farmigo Families in the local food movement by signing up today. You can place your first order by Sunday 8/30 and pick up your groceries on Wednesday 9/2. If you use the code LOCAL20 at checkout on your first order, you’ll get 20% off.

Watch this space for cooking tips, recipes and other musings on how to eat well while avoiding the industrial food chain. And remember GIGO and its all-important inverse:

Start with fresh, local, GMO-free, organic raw materials, apply a solid recipe, and you’ll likely get great results.

*As your Farmigo coordinator, I’ll hang around the multipurpose room from 1-2pm each Wednesday to oversee pickups. Before leaving campus, I’ll move any food not picked up by then to the fridge in the multipurpose room foyer (outside the bathrooms). You have until 6:30pm before the YMCA closes and locks up, but you can always pick up your food the next day.

Lessig 2016: The Internet’s President

On the heels of Larry Lessig’s historic announcement of his Referendum Candidacy came another newsworthy item: Jimmy Wales announced that he is chairing LECEC, the Lessig Equal Citizens Exploratory Committee, which consists of me and scores of other volunteers and staffers working at a breakneck pace to make Lessig’s nascent campaign a reality.

At first blush, the Wales announcement might seem like a footnote on an afterthought, but I read something very different into it. Something that reminds me of Paul Revere. But no British are coming this time. Instead, Wales penned these nine simple words and so began the largest, most peaceful, and most desperately-needed democratic revolution in human history:

When you light up the Internet, anything is possible.

–Jimmy Wales, Chairman emeritus, Wikimedia Foundation

That’s right, Internet: He may have understated it a bit, but Jimmy Wales just asked us to mobilize and elect Lessig in 2016.

Let’s face it: No one has been kinder to the Internet than Larry Lessig. In the twenty-plus years I’ve followed his work, he’s rallied against outrageous software patents, fought copyright takedowns, drafted the contracts that legally protect and enable “open source” software (which powers most of the Internet), started the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford, fended off aggressive corporate and government entities in his quest for net neutrality and, naturally, he’s spoken at TED. Four times.

Larry is and has been the Internet’s dedicated steward for the better part of his career. His body of work enabled the Internet to become what it is today: a loosely-coupled network wherein heterogeneous data, applications, and systems play in an ecosystem with minimalist governance atop a tiny handful of protocols and specifications.

No one’s been a bigger advocate for the open internet than Larry Lessig.

–Cenk Uygur, The Young Turks

If Vint Cerf, Donald Davies and Bob Kahn are the “fathers of the internet” and if Aaron Swartz was “the internet’s own boy,” then Lessig is the Internet’s uncle.

What better way for the Internet to say thanks to Uncle Larry than to use its enormous catalytic power to hack him into the White House?

And who better to do the hacking than the hackers of our own generation? We were born into a world with basically no connectivity to information, services or people. Today, we have access to pretty much every other connected person and all of the world’s public digital information (so long as we can keep our phone batteries alive).

As software developers in the mid-90s, we didn’t just witness the explosive, hockey-stick growth of the commercial internet; we actually built huge swaths of that reality ourselves. My peers and their peers built out the data centers and server racks, the gateways and firewalls, the routers and switches, the firmware and software platforms, the web servers and middleware, the web services and mobile applications — that drew billions of people into a web of inter-connectivity, knit together so tightly that a single thread can be spun half way around the world and back again in just seconds.

As my peers and I built PayPal and Yahoo! and Oracle and Amazon and Google — and the millions of companies that weren’t as fortunate — we didn’t realize this tremendous side benefit:

We created the most powerful agent of social change in the history of humankind.

In 2012, when Lessig and Swartz “lit up” the internet to defeat the SOPA and PIPA bills, scores of sites — including Wales’ Wikipedia — “went dark” in protest of these hair-brained bits of legislation.

That was the battle. This is the war.

Today we are at war with a much darker evil, far more insidious than the foiled attempts to reign in and regulate the internet. Our government has become the handmaiden of the “funders” — billionaires, PACs, multinational corporations, labor unions and other special interests — and we are fighting to restore a representative democracy back to the citizens to whom it was promised.

We are fighting “the root of all evil,” the darkest evil with the deepest pockets. And we’re already in way over our heads.

But now, Jimmy, we’re gonna light up the Internet.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.

–Martin Luther King, Jr.

If there exists one light great enough to drive the corrupting influence of money out of DC, it’s not burning torches and gleaming pitchforks. Rather, it’s the glow of a hundred million mobile phones, tablets and laptops, mobilized under a single, peaceful mandate. With every Facebook like, every share, every re-tweet, every blog post, every comment, every volunteer effort and every donation, the light spreads and burns ever more strongly, driving out the darkness.

Wales said:

When you light up the Internet, anything is possible.

I say:

Lessig for President in 2016.

Wales said anything. And it’s our job — as denizens of the Internet — not to prove him wrong.

Lessig 2016: Defining a Generation

In the Federalist Papers, published in 1778, James Madison called for a Congress “dependent on the people alone.” His generation sung a song of revolution whose refrain of Taxation Without Representation came to symbolize egregious overreaches by a corrupt monarch: currency, stamps, quartering soldiers, sugar, and of course: tea. Theirs was a government under siege.

Our Founding Fathers imagined, fought for and won a new legislature, a congress governed by the people, for the people.

Today the representative democracy our forefathers left us also lies under siege.

Not by an offshore monarchy, but by a pathological dependency upon money from special interests, corporations and the mega-mega-wealthy, who — through a system of legalized bribery (which Senator Elizabeth Warren calls “rigged”) — have created a dysfunctional, gridlocked government dependent not on the people alone, as Madison intended, but on the money alone.

So many issues about which we care so deeply — be they climate change, gun control, Wall Street, food safety, racial equality, a living wage, the tax code — end up in stalemates because of the towering influence wielded by massive campaign contributions from magnates and special interest groups. That systematic corruption, combined with the virtually limitless corporate spending enabled by Citizens United, has created a deeply unbalanced and divided country at odds with her own legislature. The 2% popularized by the Occupy Movement is not the problem; it’s the .0001%.

Money, functioning as quite literally the root of all evil, fundamentally stops any populist movement at odds with corporate interests in this country, ultimately benefiting the few hundred billionaires who run our plutocracy and kicking the other three-hundred million of us to the curb.

Ryan Borek, the Executive Director of Take A Stand PAC, estimates that congresspeople spend, on average, 31 hours a week fundraising, during which time “they must raise around $650 an hour to meet their goals for the next election.”

In the underrated and shockingly prescient movie Idiocracy, the Secretary of State says “brought to you by Carl’s Jr.” after nearly every sentence. Why? Because they pay him every time he says it. “It’s a good way to make money,” he claims, derisively, as if to ask, “Doesn’t everyone know that already?”

To address the corrupting influence of money in Washington, we don’t need another Carl’s Jr.-sponsored politician. We need nothing short of a trans-partisan — if not apolitical — revolution. We need the un-president, the Frodo Baggins president: a selfless reformer who takes power from the reigning authorities only to destroy it, for everyone’s benefit.

That is why I can say, with confidence, that:

Today’s Lawrence Lessig announcement is the defining moment of our generation.

I joined this movement’s tech team as a volunteer in January of this year, but I’ve been following Lessig’s work for the better part of twenty. In his latest book, Republic, Lost, he makes a compelling case for the Regent (or Trustee) President, now being called the “Referendum President.” The concept is simple: once significant campaign finance and voter equality reform has passed, the Referendum President promises to resign, leaving the vice president at the helm.

The historical mandate of the nation’s first “Referendum Candidate” has the power to end the endemic corrupting influence of money and return the government to its rightful purpose: to serve the people it governs.

Obviously, this won’t be easy. Many smart people have told me this idea is completely insane. I kindly invite naysayers to show me a better one.

In the meantime, I am humbly asking you to support this movement.

One of the great ironies of fighting against the corrupting influence of money is that it’s going to take money to win.

We’ve built a crowdsourcing platform upon which we intend to raise $1M by Labor Day, or else we will return all the contributions. We’re accepting small donations only (adhering to the federal per-person limits of $5,400). No corporate or PAC donations are allowed.

If you too feel that this idea’s time has come, please consider kickstarting the revolution by making a contribution. If that doesn’t feel possible, try to make it so. Every little bit counts. (Skip Starbucks and give Lessig five bucks?) This morning, after watching her dad work literally around the clock from Friday afternoon until this morning, my nine-year-old donated $5. That’s half her weekly income. While I am touched by her support, this remains our problem to solve. If not for us, then for her generation and the generations to come.

Yes, we need money. But whether you are able to give or not, please help us get the word out by sharing this message.

I hope you’ll join me and the rest of Team Lessig in making ours the generation that fixes our broken government, leaving behind what Madison imagined and implored: a congress dependent not on big money, but on the people and the people alone.

Pathable Acquires The Social Collective

Conference Mobile Event App and Web Sites | PathablePathable, the award-winning provider of social networking services for conferences and events, announced today that it is acquiring The Social Collective, a long-time competitor in the market in a cash-only deal. The terms of deal are not being disclosed, but the move continues a growing consolidation of the event-centric social media segment, following the closure of EventVue in February 2010.

“Pathable has built a very compelling experience for the event organizer, enhancing the attendee networking experience beginning months before the event itself and resulting in a sustaining community after it’s over,” said Pathable CEO Jordan Schwartz. ” The Social Collective has built a great reputation and business, serving world-class clients including Oracle and SXSW. But the needs of events are increasingly complex, and it’s simply better for everyone to have a single, combined effort to meet those core needs while we enhance and extend the existing solution.”

“We’ve always had a great respect for the solution Pathable has delivered to event managers, so we’re very pleased to be able to offer that to our customers today,” said Chris Bucchere, co-founder and CEO of The Social Collective.

We’re proud of the part we’ve played in revolutionizing how event attendees connect, and now consolidating efforts under the Pathable platform will be a boon to our existing customers and those to come.

The acquisition expands Pathable’s reach in the events industry, already firmly placed on the foundation of direct customers as well as reseller relationships with industry heavyweights such as Active Events (www.activeevents.com/), Cvent (www.cvent.com), Omnipress (www.omnipress.com) and Amiando (www.amiando.com) and heralds a trend toward a standardization of the experience.

Schwartz added:

When you’re going to a conference, you don’t want to be thinking about which social networking solution the host has chosen and whether it will be effective at helping you connect with the other attendees. You want that layer to be invisible and effortless. Our offering has always been focused on letting the event and its attendees take the spotlight.

There are over 200 million attendees at conferences, conventions, tradeshows, meetings and events in the US alone, according to the Conventions Industry Council. Social networking is becoming an in increasingly important component of serving them.


Pathable, Inc., a privately held Seattle-based company, was founded in 2008. Since that time, it has served hundreds of events, including those of Microsoft, SAP, GE Healthcare, Meeting Professionals International, and Dell, with a private, branded on-line event communities that allow attendees to connect, schedule meetings, choose their session schedules and visit exhibitors for months around a face-to-face event.