Hyperlocal living and doing the HeyBK podcast

For six years, I ran Etsy, a global company that did business in nearly every country in the world. I spent a lot of times on planes, meeting with people in countries all over the world, and doing calls in all time zones at all times of the day. This sounds glamorous to some people but focusing on a global business that needed constant attention meant that I didn’t connect with folks in my immediate neighborhood as much as I would have liked. I was always on the way to somewhere else.

Since then, I’ve been happily spending most of my time within a small chunk of Brooklyn. Everything is there: home, the two non-profits where I serve on the board (St. Ann’s Warehouse and Jalopy), a little office space I rent to do work related to my coaching business and the class I’ve been teaching at Cornell Tech, and the music shop where both my son and I take piano lessons.

It’s in that hyperlocal spirit of living that I did the HeyBK podcast with my friend Ofer Cohen. I talk a little bit about my background, building Etsy, what makes NYC tech special, and finding real community in Brooklyn. Check out the episode here.

(The episode just before mine was with my friend Susan Feldman, the amazing Artistic Director at St. Ann’s Warehouse for nearly 40 years and one of the people I admire most in Brooklyn! Check that out, too.)

Why you should support Occupy Sandy

I have been following Occupy Sandy and am both amazed and moved by the efforts of those who are organizing and helping. I’m writing this blog post for people who might be skeptical or even hostile towards a self-organized group of relief workers under the Occupy banner to urge you to reconsider. I know some people are thinking, “Why would I give money to an informal organization with no specific leader?” I think anyone with the means should donate to Occupy Sandy. (Note that I have total respect for the Red Cross and am giving to them, too — here’s their donation link).

Here’s how Occupy Sandy describes itself:

Occupy Sandy is a coordinated relief effort to help distribute resources & volunteers to help neighborhoods and people affected by Hurricane Sandy. We are a coalition of people & organizations who are dedicated to implementing aid and establishing hubs for neighborhood resource distribution. Members of this coalition are from Occupy Wall Street, 350.org, recovers.org and interoccupy. We have fiscal sponsorship from the Alliance for Global Justice.

You can follow Occupy Sandy at their site, which also points to Twitter and Facebook. You can make a donation via their WePay page.

Now, to address some of the questions you might have that may prevent you from giving to Occupy Sandy:

Does this kind of organizing work?

In my professional life, I have always believed in and promoted the principles of self-organization, whether it’s the self-organizing marketplace on Etsy (which I talked about at the Senate earlier this year, and which Sara Horowitz described so well in her seminal “sharing economy” piece for the Atlantic) or the first Hack Day I organized seven years ago. Read the “Punk Rock” section of my Hack Day post to see the magic of self-organization in a totally different (and far less urgent) context. This is exactly what I was talking about in my TedX Brooklyn presentation a year ago about using the hacker ethic to shape the larger world (slides, video). Self-organization works.

I think we’re seeing a major triumph of a new kind of humanitarian aid happen with Occupy Sandy and an effective (though distributed and mostly leader-less) response, focused on helping people in real distress. I’m not at all surprised that it appears to be working so well. Again, I also support the Red Cross,but these two pieces are worth reading for the skeptical: “Is Occupy Wall Street Outperforming the Red Cross in Hurricane Relief?” and “Occupy Wall Street Leads Way in Sandy Relief.”

Is the Alliance for Global Justice legitimate?

If you’re unsure about the organization behind Occupy Sandy, I checked into the Alliance for Global Justice, their fiscal sponsor, on the IRS.gov site. Publication 526 about Charitable Contributions (PDF) on page 2 points to a tool called Exempt Organizations Select Check. A search shows that the Alliance for Global Justice qualifies — here is a screenshot (PC stands for “public charity”):

A representative from the Alliance for Global Justice has been answering the same questions on the Occupy Sandy Facebook page:

What if I don’t agree with the politics of Occupy Sandy and/or the Alliance for Global Justice?

Politics doesn’t matter when it comes to people in need. Effectiveness does. I’ve given to Southern Baptist church relief efforts in the past because I know that they do an incredible job with disaster response (you can donate to their organization for Sandy, too).

I’m proud to add Occupy Sandy to the short list of organizations I support, and hope you will, too.

A quick report from the trenches at Etsy

“Busy” does not adequately describe my first two weeks living in Brooklyn and working at Etsy.

To give you a glimpse into what I’ve been doing and dealing with, check out my first post on Etsy’s blog, the Storque and the resulting forum thread on Etsy’s forums.

I’ve had to jump in head first and there are plenty of challenges, but I’m loving it. Expect light posting here while I focus on the work at hand.