picture of Josh

Hi! I'm Josh. I write about projects, code, and the adventure that is life. Find me elsewhere on Twitter, Medium, Github, and Speakerdeck.

Evolving Work—Paris

>> read on, or go directly to the slides

Recently I was asked to give a talk about startups to the prépa classes of St. Jean de Passy in Paris, France. These are top French students on the business school track. They’re super sharp and it was a privilege to spend time with them.

Giving the presentation startup dress code ftw

I chose to talk about how startup teams are structured and why thoughtful organization design is becoming a big competitive advantage. I wanted the students to think about questions like: How can companies grow large without succumbing to bureaucracy? and What makes work fun?

The book Reinventing Organizations by Frederic Laloux deals with these sorts of questions and has become a big inspiration to me and my startup colleagues. Early chapters look at different ways that humans have organized throughout history. Later chapters make a compelling case for what lies ahead, including case studies of several modern-day Teal companies.

Teal company characteristics a slide about Teal characteristics

This presentation is my attempt to share some of the book’s wisdom with St. Jean’s students. Here’s a link to the full slides.

Technical Note: The presentation was created using the excellent open source reveal.js HTML presentation framework. It works on desktop and mobile and supports direct linking to individual slides. The source code is on Github.

Not Goodbye. Until.

Last week marked the end of my journey with Keen IO. What an incredible two and a half years it’s been! I want to thank the founders, employees, investors, and community for the opportunity to be a part of something very special. It was a privilege working with each and every one of you. I’m so excited for the future of this company and the wonderful people behind it.

Keen is an experience I’ll always treasure, and was highly formative. Every reservoir of talent, heart, and grit I have was tapped and tested. But each time replenished—topped off higher than before—by the thrill of success, or the outpouring of support when success was still another peak away.

When I joined Keen in January of 2013 we hadn’t made a buck yet. The majority of events we collected were from an eastern European game developer who refused to pay us. This month, May 2015, Keen will accept billions of API calls from thousands of developers, a large number of whom pay for our service. My how we’ve grown.

I architected the core of the distributed system that stores and queries these terabytes of data. It remains one of the most flexible yet powerful big data systems in the world. The day it went into production—after thousands of commits, a half dozen design iterations, weeks of fussing over every last detail—was the high point of my technical career. I want to recognize the patience and support that came from Dan, Kyle, Ryan, Michelle, Micah and others during that time. Your collective belief in me was the wind in the sails. All I had to do was steer.

Today, Keen’s technology is in very capable hands. Teams of brilliant individuals are adding power and reliability to the product every day. Keen’s developer community and open source efforts remain well represented by some of the biggest hearts in the business. The teams doing this work are organized like the technology they develop, with an emphasis on autonomy, wholeness, and peer-to-peer communication. Every team at the company works this way. It’s one of the reasons I’m betting big on Keen in the years decades to come.

I’m sad I won’t be seeing these smiling faces every day, but I’m very excited about some of the new smiling faces I hope to meet. I’m embarking on a self-guided study of spontaneous creativity and human interconnection. My discoveries—if I’m fortunate enough to have them—will be shared through art, writing, and conversation. I’ll keep you in the loop here and on Medium.

To the Keen family and the wonderful people I’ve met in my (tri-continental!) Keen travels: I will miss you, but I’ll also be right here just doing my thing. Stay in touch and don’t hesitate to reach out. There are no goodbyes, only until next times…

Photo booth how did we fit six people in here?

Why I Ended My Open Source Contribution Streak At Burning Man (And What I’m Doing Next)

Streak and Burning Man are in the title but I assure you that this post is G-rated AND family-friendly.

As of August 23rd I had contributed to open source for 66 days in a row:

Github snapshot

Then, like any Whole Earth Catalog-carrying cybercounterculturalist living in San Francisco, I went to Burning Man.

I’m glad I did. 2014 was my 3rd and best year, thanks to this good-looking group of hard-working campmates:

Amazecamp Group Photo


The Streak

The contribution streak started in June. The idea was to make at least one commit to open source software (OSS) for 365 days in a row.

My goals were to boost productivity and give back to a movement that has given me so much. I also wanted to inspire others to do the same.

To that end I tweeted my progress and I created the @oss365 Twitter account to recognize other “streaking” developers. It was cool. Other developers chimed in with stories about their progress:

As of today, October 30th, Lloyd is CRUSHING IT at 555 days!

Dieter a.k.a. ruleant is still going strong at 291! Coincidentally, he was just in SF this week from Belgium, so I had to buy him a beer:

Beers at Mikkeller

That’s us in the back. Also pictured is the Mild-Mannered Mustachio of Community, @elof, and a friend of Dieter’s.

Other developers chimed in with words of support and encouragement:

This stuff was really inspiring and validating. It made the decision to end the streak in August really difficult.

Cerebral Renovation

I had planned to keep the streak alive at Burning Man. I brought my laptop. There are camps with WiFi. I figured it would take about an hour a day.

But there on the playa, in the moment, even one hour a day is too much. It would have disrupted the flow and gotten in the way of the playa’s special, mind-remodulating magic.

Call it cerebral renovation, it’s a big reason I come to Burning Man. I can re-center myself by radically changing the context around me. The context at BM is delicate, however, and inviting in even a little of the default world can damage it.

So I decided to let the streak lapse on the first Sunday. A few hours later I was blissfully cruising the playa with, as Dustin would affectionally say, ”these dorks”:

This crew

How often do you get to ride bikes on the moon with your best friends? Not nearly enough.


I’m not the kind of person that streaks. I live a pretty routine-free life, complete with its fair-but-welcome share of interruptions. I haven’t had a 9-5 in forever, and even then it was consulting and travel every week – not exactly predictable.

Today the more open my calendar the less anxious I am and the more creative I’ll be. This is why a contribution streak was intriguing. It would be different and structured and challenging. I would learn something.

Learn I did. I reinforced an obvious-but-important belief that one commit leads to another. I learned that even I, the un-routiner, can increase my productivity by adding a little structure.

But I also learned that streaks are a dangerous thing for someone who lacks a real routine to hang them on. In the absence of routine context is allowed to shift freely, and streaks don’t appreciate these context switches. The resulting tension between continuity and spontaneity creates stress, and worse, it can be unfair to the original intent of the streak. What if I only made it 364 days? Is that a failure? No way. Compared to any lesser number of days it’s a victory, maybe a big one. More open source software still exists.

Streaking Alternatives

If streaking isn’t the right road to reward, than what is?

Streaks break a bold, abstract ambition down into concrete, bite-sized chunks. Small chunks are easier to start and easier to finish. This much we know.

But the oft-overlooked connection is that streaks are also a mnemonic, a memory aid. They’re a cheap and consistent way to remember that the bold, abstract ambition still stirrs. If I’m searching for a streak substitute, it has to be something that keeps the goal top of mind; something I’ll see all the time.

I think a strategically placed open source contribution dashboard could do just that. The dashboard would show stats like:

  • How many commits have I made so far this week? This month?
  • How many different projects am I committing to?
  • How many new stars or contributors do my projects have?

It’d be public too, so I can also play to my strengths of Competition and Significance.

Data Plus Dashboard

Since it’s no longer a daily streak, I’ll need something beyond just Github to track the data. I’ll use Keen!

Adventure Keen

I’m already tracking my Github activity in Keen using the github-webhook-collector utility I made a few months back. I can make the dashboard using the responsive templates that were just announced yesterday. Alex and I are going to pair on this next week when he’s in SF.

The next question is where to put it physically. A 55” display right next to my desk? Maybe not – that’s a little too much reminding. Of course if you want to buy me one I will consider it.

What about the New Tab screen in Chrome? Or I could use Pushpop to send me an email report of my metrics every so often.

There’s lots of possibilities and I’d love to hear any other ideas you have. The project will (obviously) be open source so you can set up your own contribution dashboard and contribute too.


Thanks for wading through my personal journey of commit streaking! Come along for the rest of the journey in the upcoming weeks and months. My hope, true of anything I write, is that you find something that’s applicable or useful to you.

Whole Earth

I actually do own a bound copy of The Last Whole Earth Catalog:

Whole Earth Catalog And I

It cost me more than $5, but it’s been worth every penny.

Access to tools.