post #5. I’ve spent the past half-year building with wonderful people I re/met on the internet. Our squad consists of a site, private Discord server, and a multisig wallet. With them we’ve developed a practice of building in the open and are in the midst of hosting our first experience – exquisite.land.
what’s in a squad? #
A squad is a collective identity in which I can participate to create something more intricate, comprehensive, and wonderful than with just myself. It is not a startup, nor an organization with a mission statement, nor a non-profit, nor a consultancy. Some phrases I’ve used are “open source studio”, “pre-DAO collective”, “design collaborative”, and “a shared playground for creativity”. But none quite capture the unique structure that we’ve formed.
Our calls are space we hold in which we invite one other to explore and create what wants to be built at the intersection of all our interests and diverse perspectives and past experiences. We have confidence that our thinking about these problems is aligned enough to be able to act independently yet in congruence with each other – whether on a public Twitter space or in a community bug-handling channel in Discord.
The majority of our behind-the-scenes work is on YouTube and Github. Everything from open-ended ideation sessions, focused Figma design jams, to Solidity devops and debugging. It took some getting used to working with a recorder on – but we do it with the intention of a) helping others do what we are doing and b) continually broadcasting a “come build with us” beacon. We’ve found multiple friends this way who have helped us made what we have today possible and we look forward to meeting many more.
Having everything recorded also makes it easier to catch up on a missed session or review a video to warm up context. This is resonant with the intention of working with the garage door up and we believe this may be a building block for maintining sustainable open-source community tools and media long-term.
working with a squad is fun #
Solving interesting problems with people who care about them as deeply as I do is encouraging and liberating. Spending a lot of time together talking about things, and then delivering those things tends to build confidence in each other quickly. Our main compass heading is whether what we are doing is fun and healthy. If it does not feel as such, we figure out why and how we can get it to a place where it does feel that way. Also:
- losses & wins are shared across more people – sudden influxes of attention are much easier to process as a group, as are longer periods of nothing happening
- it’s easier to hold complex context stacks as a group when they span several domains and tie together design, technical, community, finance, and creative components
- the surface area for potential social connections and outside collaborations is immensely larger with each additional member
- it’s easier to explain what I am doing when I have a website and prototypes I can point to made by a few other people on a similar wavelength
- having our whole squad in a room together establishes an environment where live iteration, experimentation, and discoveries can happen. It’s like having a social meta-context brain accessible to you at all times
This style of building we are practicing — relational and invitational — also feels more sustainable and sane than many of the past arrangements of creative + technical work I’ve been a part of in the past.
why it works #
In short, communication.
In long: talking about the way in which we are communicating, and continuously making room for that conversation. Sometimes it takes the form of back and forth to figure out what wants to be expressed. Sometimes someone has to pull the rest of the group out from a tangent we all got pulled into and re-orient us with the current focus. Sometimes it’s re-phrasing what one person said into a different way simply to see if you understood them. And sometimes, it’s raising your hand and saying I’m lost; can someone re-explain?
But always, it’s trusting everyone else in the group is committed to upholding a high-openness, high-trust, playful mode of co-creating and exploration. It’s having the confidence that whatever comes up – we will make space for the collective group wisdom to work through it and come out on the other end stronger, together. When we hit shared flow – something we can do both remotely and in-person – it feels similar to playing in a band or a video game with a close team.
the not so simple things #
This particular shape rhymes with many of our past arrangements – but it’s also unique to us and this specific moment in time we’re in. We’re always learning and adjusting to new information, developments, and questions. Some specific points of complexity:
- roles are inherently less defined and static. Sometimes there’s no obvious person for a given task or problem and we just figure out who’s going to wrestle with it and see how far we can get
- scheduling is tricky without a consistent 9-5 schedule or an office where everyone intersects regularly. The cadence changes as the specific challenges change but we overlap on at least a few calls a week
- coordination & shared knowledge graph tooling is not there yet and we find ourselves using a hodge-podge assortment of tools as the needs of a project evolve and specific people join to build with us
- maintaining a consistent “what we’re doing and where we’re headed” update feed is tricky — the best we can do so far is a series of youtube videos and blog posts
- inviting new participants requires onboarding: there is no one-pager for our work style and it’s not going to work for everyone. What does work is having people join our open calls, playing with ideas and tasks they resonate with, and progressively getting more involved
- how (far) does this scale? how do we spawn adjacent squads and coordinate larger and longer-term projects with them? how do we define our social API to be more clear and invitational?
how to start your own squad; a primer #
- have conversations with people* who have shared interests
- get a(n ens) name and a website and start writing
- play games with one another and then reflect on how those games went
- build small things together and release them to the world
- go hiking and get burritos together once in a while
- increase the size and scope of your creations
* I don’t have as much advice for finding these people. I would start with Twitter and local meetups. More thoughts on this soon!