Holiday?

Yesterday, Emma (@hubmum) asked "is this a charity thing or fund my holiday?"  today the ever-charming Milo (@nerosaid "Social media moron redux http://t.co/tH7OOfT Is this a spoof? The guy just wants you to pay for his holiday… What am I missing?"

I know that if someone's prepared to call me a moron, at least I'm doing something worth talking about.  On the other hand, I think it's an interesting reaction and worth answering.  

Do I just want you to pay for my holiday? No, course not. The simple answer, I gave to Emma on twitter yesterday is that it isn't a holiday at all.  "It's a performance, a writing and film-making project" and I'm using the tool of crowdfunding that is increasingly used as a way of people being able to make art projects happen by going straight to their audience beforehand without jumping through complicated funding hoops for big chunks of cash from big funding bodies or corporations.

I guess there are two bits that people have been interested in funding.  The first is the performance.  They'll enjoy watching me make my way coast-to-coast, seeing what happens, where I go, what I learn, being part of the adventure without having to go and do it themselves.

Then there's the writing and film-making – people want  to hear the whole story with some reflection and analysis – some people are particularly interested in the social capital angle, understanding what the value is of working in this way – some people are just taken with hearing a hero's journey played out by someone they know.

That's why I think people are supporting my work, but I'd be fascinated to hear more from those who've already  contributed and anyone who's wavering too.

Originally posted on Please Look After This Englishman

Day 0.1

So today is the first day of the week before I leave for the US.

This time next week, I'll be on Pacific Time and though it'll feel like 11 it'll actually still only be 2pm 

Blimey!

I'm worn out tonight and going to bed very soon, but I've decided I need to be keeping at least some notes from now on, to keep you, my supporters and detractors aware of what's going on and also to be able to remind myself later when I come to re-tell the story.

I'm going to make a little video diary in a minute too, but not for publication yet – it's the beginnings of the movie.

So today brought another $185 of contributions to the indiegogo pot.  

There was an awful lot of tweeting and retweeting - In general, the people who get it are very supportive.  Some of those who don't get it yet are asking questions which is really useful because it's making me think, but I had a couple of prior engagements today that meant I wasn't able to respond as quickly as I'd like, I hate writing posts saying I'm going to blog about this tomorrow, but that's what I'm going to do.

I drew the attention today of @paul_a_smith aka @twitchhiker who did something similar but waaaaay more ambitious a couple of years ago – Somebody else had asked  about this privately too , so I'm writing a post about the question of whether and how you should do something if it's "already been done".

@hubmum asked whether it was "a charity thing or fund my holiday" I replied that it's neither, it's a performance piece, a writing and film-making project.  This needs some more explanation too.

@techfluffTV want to do an interview with me before I go, so I'm going to do that tomorrow

I had an approach from someone working with a car-rental firm in the states about potential support.  Thank you! Sadly I don't have a driving licence as I've never taken a test so that's not going to work unless I take my own driver with me :)  Still looking for interesting ways to interact with brands large and small on this.

Right, enough.  I'm making a rule that I'm in bed before midnight this week and tonight well before…
 
Tell me if something else happened  today that you think I should have mentioned!  

Originally posted on Please Look After This Englishman

Why I’m not working with a “good cause”

I'm in the process of asking for donations to help fund the trip – I'm going to write about the process some more today, but basically yesterday I started systematically asking twitter friends to make a donation and spread the word.  After I'd gone to bed last night, Drew Buddie tweeted a link to the indiegogo page and one of his followers, @rachelala said "I really like @lloyddavis plan http://bit.ly/platefund  but couldn't some of the funds raised be donated to a 'good cause'?"
 
Great question, thanks Rachel!  I'm not thinking of doing this at the moment.  Here's why.
Firstly I have a bit of an allergy to institutionalised, corporatised charity – I'd rather do things face to face with people or help them organise their own way out of difficulty than give to another body, which although they do fantastic work will always have its own overhead and despite the best intentions of all involved, that overhead can sometimes be poorly managed.  I know that not all "good causes" are in this category but that's why it's not my first thought.

I'm also certainly not trying to compete for funds with anybody doing "good works".  If you only have a certain amount of money to give and you see what I'm doing in the same category as helping folk who've been shot by their own government in Libya or giving to your local pet rescue service then please don't give it to me.  I'm in a different category in my own mind, more entertainment, interesting adventures, experiments, storytelling that kind of thing – it's art.  Contribute to my journey instead of buying a DVD boxset, or something.

And I'm not going to bang on about this, but I'm satisfied that I do plenty of good work in life, some of it paid for, much of it not.  Some of it is publicised and talked about on the web, much of it is private, between me and individuals and small groups and part of the deal I have with those people is that I don't talk about it and I'm not going to start now.

I see it as a way of letting other people in on the creation.  It's giving people the chance to contribute if they want to and show their gratitude for this and other work. Steve Lawson talks about this in the context of music sales.  And so here's an interesting thing – that desire to contribute is only transitive to a degree.  That is, my immediate friends, people who know me already may be readily willing to help without question, but that degrades to "interest" and possibly "suspicion" when we get just one step removed in the network to the friends of a friend.  If you read what Steve has to say about gratitude, you can see why this might be so.

I don't know Rachel and I'm not ascribing any motive to what she was saying, but when I've come across it before I've interpreted this idea of association with a good cause as a suggested way of me assuaging some guilt for going on the trip and having the experience myself.  I think that's the logic, I'm not sure, please put me right if not.  I don't feel guilty about doing this trip – it's not a jolly though I'm sure it will be fun.  It's not work in the way that I've worked at a desk all day in the past and in the way that many other people make their living, but it's the way I am drawn to do things.  And I will not just be taking as I travel around, I'm giving something of my experience all the time to the people I visit, some of them will find that inspiring, others will find me boring and annoying, c'est la vie!

I also want to remind you that part of this trip is to understand the value of the social capital one can build in online social networks.  To that end, I'll be accounting for as much of the trip as possible – so that I'll be able to say broadly where the money came from, what the value was of things given me in kind were and broadly where the money was spent and then compare that with an estimate of what it would cost to do without any online presence.

I'm trying to be open-minded about this and I'm happy to keep talking about it – indeed talking about it is *part* of the project.  If you were wavering or just felt the need for clarification, I hope that this helps – as ever, it's helped me to write it, thank you.

Originally posted on Please Look After This Englishman

Preparation over Planning

This picture reminds me to just keep taking the next right step.

By far the most frequently-asked question of me at the moment is “How is the planning going?”  I had a bit of deja vu writing that sentence and thought I must have written about it last year, but I’ve just had a look back at the entries for February, and I can’t see anything.

So yeah, “planning”.  We’re taught that failing to plan is planning to fail.  But I can’t say enough that this trip is an improvisation, it has some structure that makes the concept understandable (I’m starting on the left hand side and ending up on the right…) but beyond that I will be making it up as I go along.

There are two bits to that.  

Firstly I’ll be making it up, I don’t know what it is yet, I don’t know what’s going to happen.  Even the things that I think I know are actually uncertain. The trip will unfold just like every other bit of our lives.  I’ll be making decisions about what to do and whenever I remember to (or whenever there’s time to do so), I’ll be asking you for help making those decisions.  So actually, we’ll be making it up.

Secondly it’s as I go along.  I’m not going to make big decisions beforehand.  There are things that I’m strongly drawn to – I do want to spend time in Austin for SXSWi,  I do want to visit certain people.  But the story will be whatever the story is and it will emerge day by day.  It may turn out that I need to make decisions about later in the trip, but I will be trying to consciously observe and reflect on that decision-making process and always asking whether the actual decision has to be made now.

So I’m more interested in preparation than planning.

  • I need to take as much rest as I can and look after myself this week – I’m going to be on the road for a month and I need to be match-fit for that.  No late nights.  No helping out people on their projects who really can do it themselves.
  • I need to put some things in order back here – y’know all the little bitty things that I would somehow have managed to get done during March but it would be better to get done before I go rather than waiting till I get back.
  • I need to make sure I have appropriate clothing for the length of the trip and the likely differences in weather that I’ll encounter.
  • I need to get to know any kit that I’m taking so that I can use it confidently from the very start.
  • I need to have a spending plan to help me make decisions based on however much money I raise.
  • I need to make sure all my bills get paid on time here while I’m away.
  • I need to pack, but not really until next weekend.

I think that’s all, but I’m bound to have forgotten something

Originally posted on Please Look After This Englishman

What Perks?

IndieGoGo has the concept of Perks – incentives for people to contribute, these might be simply emotional: "We'll love you forever and you'll feel warm and fuzzy"; they might entitle donors to access to early product "Get a DVD of the rough-cut  of our movie"; or something else connected with the project, t-shirts, high-res images, etc.  It really can be anything you can give to people.  You then associate levels of perk with levels of donation, so the ones for $100 are cooler than those for $10.

I'm having a bit of a creative/imagination failure about what I can offer here.  Last year we sent postcards to everyone who made a donation (and gave us a postal address)  I'd like to do that again, but it might be nice to have some way of expressing gratitude at the very low level as well as higher up.

So what would *you* want?  What can I give you, associated with this project that would encourage you, or people you know to make a donation?  No promises of course, and I can keep it without perks until I have some good ideas, but I'd quite like to add something in.

Originally posted on Please Look After This Englishman

Jeopardy

This is me at the end of the line last year – sitting in Union Station, Los Angeles having made it coast-to-coast despite my constant doubts that it would happen. I'm starting to have those doubts again from time to time, but I look at myself there and see my shaggy unshaven self just off a 36-hour train journey and I remember the cool fresh spring air (yes, in downtown L.A.!) and the sunshine and knowing that there never had really been any doubt – uncertainty about the detail perhaps, but no real risk that it wasn't going to happen.

This is the nub of good story (and I think by extension, a good life), we want to know it's all going to turn out all right in the end, but we also crave doubt, uncertainty, jeopardy.  We need that uncertainty to throw the success into relief – if all we ever did just worked out exactly to plan we would never know the ecstacy of success, it would all be the same – win after win after win after win.

The trick as an artist, performer, writer, human being is to remember that we have created the possibility of downside *in order* that the upside can exist, and to make it all the more delicious.  The journey is much more comfortable though if I can remember that it's just an illusion that I'm using to make the story interesting and to motivate myself to action.

So I know that at the end of March, I'll have some similar shot of me looking tired, wrinkled, dishevelled, but happy and satiisfied that I've completed something.  And then I'll start all over again.

Originally posted on Please Look After This Englishman

Playing with photographers outside the Really Free School

A wise friend just said to me when I was explaining what i'd been doing this afternoon, "I don't know what the laws are around squatting".  Neither do I, I suppose I should have at least given it some thought before I entered one, but you don't do you?  I mean I've never read the Transport for London bye-laws but I get tubes and buses every day.  And I've entered into god-knows-what EULAs without thinking or reading.  So I might have been naughty this afternoon, but I'm not sure that I've done any harm to the owner of the property.

Anyhow, so I went along to the latest incarnation of the Really Free School aka "Guy Ritchie's £6m mansion in Fitzroy Square"  I went to show one of the British Council films from the 1940s that have recently been digitised and made available online to run a discussion about it.  I chose General Election (1945) which tells the story of the election as it happened in Kettering, Northants (including a tremendously over-confident Lt Col John Profumo as the Conservative candidate)

But when I arrived, there were a group of photographers waiting – I don't understand why it's still a story, I suppose anything to do with anyone famous requires 24hr coverage.   I was met by "Dan from ITV" (he's the one with the video camera) and 3 other photographers all of whom kept silent.  Dan asked me whether I knew who owned the building.  I said I did, that I'd read the newspapers.  I asked them what their names were and where they were from.  I also said something like "and you can have your release forms ready in a minute" to which Dan said "it's a public place" and I replied, noting that we were actually on the doorstep and probably within the curtilage of the property "well either  i'm on someone else's property or I'm in a public place, you can't have it both ways" oh dear, too clever by half sometimes…

Luckily at that point our friends indoors let me in and we got on with what I'd come for.  People enjoyed the film and we had a discussion about how politics has changed in the last 70 years (not much in terms of mechanics – quite a bit in how we talk about it)

On the way out, my self-righteousness rose up again and I shot a little video of them.  I love the way one photographer just stood stock still completely ignoring me while the other one just used his camera to cover his face and keep taking close-ups of me.   Some cringeworthy banter followed…

It left me with a very playground feeling, the need to be right and be seen to be right, the need to come out on top and have the last word.  I don't come across much confrontation with strangers like this (I know, this isn't serious confrontation – it's a measure of how little I do see that I describe it that way) so it felt unusual and then I just thought, "Poor sods, they must be freezing, what a way to earn a living".  If I go there tomorrow I might take them a cup of tea.

Originally posted on Lloyd’s posterous