glyph 545: network generator, freeorder generator (forge), venture in service to ancient spontaneous order, emergent by design, emergence, listening at the edges of continually reborn civilization, weavers, looms for philosophers to weave the fabric of a better world -leif smith ... making community modern world, claude whitmyer, eric utne, tarcher/putnam, book
On February 15, 1975, Leif founded an information exchange service, first called the Denver Open Network, then The Office for Open Network. Pat began working with him the following year, and became a full partner in 1978.
"The Story of the Office for Open Network" first published as chapter 32 of In the Company of Others: Making Community in the Modern World, Claude Whitmyer, editor and contributor, Foreword by Eric Utne, published by Tarcher/Putnam, New York, 1993. Chapter 32.
In 1982, we created Pattern Research as an umbrella for an array of services, including training, consulting, and research. In April of 2004 we incorporated as Pattern Research, Inc., and created a workplace education project called Siera: Learn. Teach. Inspire. (tm) in 2012 .
This is an updated version of a brief essay that Pat wrote 20 years ago to explain how the Office for Open Network operates. This is still part of our work, although the project formally shut down in 2000. We are reviving a new version of our networking project called Patterns, starting with a new series of conversation events. It is in the spirit of the Office for Open Network, with a more limited scope. Stay tuned!
The Office for Open Network is a network generator. People come to us with all kinds of quests, and we provide tools and maps, mostly in the form of connections with other people. The diversity of the quests is one thing that makes it a little different, because we do not have an agenda or agreed-upon goal.
There is no voting, no collective action. Each person arrives with his or her own ideas and visions and leaves with more ways to achieve the same. Our clients have come from all corners of American society as well as few from other countries.
If someone comes to us and does not have a quest, we do not supply a dream. We have no desire to become gurus.
One thing that controls the process is our simple set of rules:
1. Be useful
2. Don't be boring
4. Ask questions
5. Play the wild card - don't make assumptions.
Our service is based on mutual aid and trust, one person at a time. It has taken years of mistakes to learn how to make connections that are mostly successful. After 20 years, I still make mistakes, but most of our clients are now so well infected with the spirit of the enterprise that it does not matter.
If someone says, "Give me the names of everyone you know so I can sell them an idea, product, or service", that person is gently rebuffed. We will give them one name, and see if the connection works. We know now that even kind and good people can really screw up a working relationship. At the same time, we have honed our instincts so that our guesses about putting people together are able to jump across logical and obvious connections to something more interesting and risky.
We also work with many information outlets and have developed contacts deep in the book, research, and library communities.
But, and here is the important but: we don't do the work of our clients. We don't have to agree with them. We don't drop everything to support their cause. We like to think of ourselves as a well-stocked hardware store with a twist. The customers have placed the goods and tools on the shelves themselves.
Consequently, our influence has grown far beyond our own dreams and visions. We have served hundreds of people, and, I hope, inspired them to conduct themselves in a way that emphasizes mutual aid and negotiation, rather than force.
For those of you who are concerned if a network generator can work, we know it can. Our willingness to abstain from attempts to control what our clients are doing and to apply only the simplest of traffic control restrictions, has created a rich pool of opportunities that accommodates many explorations. It is a learning community, where people come to acquire skill in living in a world where a voluntary "yes" and "no" are the norm.
September 6, 2014; edited/updated February 18, 2017