The people who I see making the most progress in community building (at any level) are the ones who can effectively articulate the things that they are working toward, what they're for, and then get other people excited about different ways to make that happen.

The people who I see doing the most damage to community building efforts are the ones who only seem able to talk about the things they are against.

Maybe you recognize these different profiles?


  • Is usually dreaming about ways to make something better
  • Celebrates existing strengths and accomplishments as a foundation to build on
  • Understands possibilities for the future, describes them well
  • Lets their ideas evolve as they get feedback
  • Connects with stakeholders and figures out how to help
  • Engages through questions, observation and collaboration


Continue reading For/Against

Mini book reviews

It's been a good year of reading so far. Here are some mini-reviews of what I've been taking in. As always I’ve linked to an online purchase option (with a small referral fee coming to me if you actually buy), but please consider buying from your locally-owned bookseller or visiting your local library first.

Purity: A Novel by Jonathan Franzen

I hadn't read any of Franzen's work before picking this up, but I'm planning to now. Purity's storyline takes on several generations of culture, world events and political-technological evolution while remaining a very personal and rich study of a few particular relationships. I enjoyed the way journalism, social media and other tools of the digital age were woven into the plot without becoming perfunctory. Some parts of the book felt a bit rambling or under-developed, but overall I found the writing to be really compelling and the book as a whole a moving and rewarding read.

Disrupted: My Misadventures in the Startup Bubble by Dan Lyons

I have to pace myself when it comes to reading "insider looks at life in Silicon Valley" books. Partly because I spend my professional life working in tech and I don't always want to read about the tech industry for fun, and partly because it seems like too many of those books are thrown together to create a quick payday and/or ego boost for the author, without a lot of substance to make them worthwhile.

When I saw Dan Lyons` book I thought the concept sounded interesting and fun: "old media" journalist tries to join in the "new media" tech world, hilarity ensues. I also thought it would be interesting to learn more about HubSpot; I've been hearing about the company years now but I could never quite understand why what they did was of any value. So I dived in.

Continue reading Mini book reviews

Power in a distributed org

It's striking to see the differences in where power gathers in a distributed organization, compared to where that happens in a more traditional office setting.

When people come together in a physical space there is a lot of time and energy spent on appearance. The work isn't just about "what are we doing" but also "how do we look and how do people perceive us while we're doing what we do."

When people come together to work in a virtual/online space, the focus shifts.

In an office setting, I see power and influence gather around...

  • The person with the newest, coolest and/or most expensive clothing
  • The person with the larger corner office
  • The person with the most assistants
  • The person with the most impressive sounding title
  • The person with the closest parking space
  • The oldest, richest, whitest males
  • The person who's allowed to create or interrupt meetings
  • The person with the most impressive social and public-speaking skills
  • The person who uses their power to get what they want

In a distributed organization, I see power and influence gather around...

Continue reading Power in a distributed org

Speaking at SupConf NYC

I'll be speaking at the SupConf New York City 2016 conference behind held at the Digital Ocean HQ in Soho on November 15th and 16th.  My talk is on a topic I've enjoyed thinking about and working on over the years, moving customer support interactions from transactions to partnerships. I'm also excited to meet and hear from some other great speakers.

If you're interested and can make it, tickets are available now. I'll also be sure to share the content of my talk here after the event.

Figuring out what to write

I've started about five or six different posts this past week, but none of them have made it to "Publish." No matter how firmly I was convinced when I sat down to write that I would make it through to the end, one of these blogging insecurities always managed to creep in. I was even trashing drafts of tweets, sure that I would just waste some of the most frequently wasted digital space. Ugh.

I want to write about elections and politics in the U.S. But I have spent so much time reading other people's commentary and I'm in such a dark place about finding any hope in political systems that I just don't have anything all that constructive to say.

I want to write about the people I know who have recently died of cancer, or who are struggling with it right now. But I don't have the patience to find words that move through the anger and sadness toward something good, or even useful.

Continue reading Figuring out what to write

Parenting, year one

I haven't written much in this space about my experience of parenting so far. I suppose that's partly out of reluctance to claim any special insight in such a well established and oft-documented part of the human adventure. Partly it's because much of the time I've spent in the past on writing has instead gone to parenting itself, or recovering from the lack of sleep involved therein. And partly it's because I only have mostly gushing, positive things to say about it, bordering on the disturbingly hyperbolic.

But here I am at a year into the experience - we celebrated A.'s first birthday last week with family and cupcakes - so it seems important to acknowledge that milestone here too.

First I'll get some of the clichés out of the way:

  • Everything changes
  • It's a miracle
  • Sleep when they sleep
  • It takes a village
  • It gets easier
  • Just when you find a routine, things change
  • Hardest and most rewarding thing you've ever done

All of those have been true for us in some form or another. Details available upon request.

A point Kelly and I acknowledge often is how much harder parenting would be if it wasn't something you wanted or chose. We feel fortunate every day we get to parent A. because it is something we decided to do, knowing full well that it would be a challenge and a life-changing experience. My empathy for people who weren't ready to be parents, or for whom parenting is much different than they expected for whatever reasons in or out of their control, has grown significantly. For me and I think for Kelly, even on the hardest, most exhausting days of parenting, we still know and feel that there's no other way we'd want it to be.

See, gushing. I warned you. Ready for more?

Continue reading Parenting, year one

Dispatches from my Internet of Things

A few years ago I noticed that a couple of different tools and services I was using at the time were offering the option to tweet when I engaged with them somehow. I was interested to try it out but I didn't want to clutter up my human-authored Twitter feed with a bunch of software-authored stuff that I couldn't necessarily control the timing or content of.

So, I created the @JCHThings Twitter account, and it's been a steady stream of activity from the Internet-connected devices and tools in my life ever since.

Sometimes it shares some bad news:

Continue reading Dispatches from my Internet of Things