Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

ET ThinkLab

by ChrisCook Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 04:45:17 AM EST

A request from siegestate for ET assistance is in this morning's Klatsch.

It's entirely in line with the current Migeru-sparked Bootstrapping the ET Think Tank , and Sven Triloqvist's spin-off Bootstrapping ET practical.

There was some approval of "ET Think Lab" as a "brand" for the sort of loose "meta-consultancy" / networking etc now possible within an ET "umbrella".

I have advocated for some time a simple partnership-based framework within which ET'ers might cooperate, and I understand from Paul Spencer that he is working on a draft protocol for such an "umbrella".

As a practical point we might usefully create on the site a new sector "ET Think Lab" sector analogous to "Debates" so that the relevant threads don't disappear too soon off the ET radar screen.

Anyway, over to siegestate:

Will someone please erase this if it is not within acceptable bounds?

I am starting a company and need advice in 3 areas. Is there anyone in the community whose expertise deals in:
1 - ISO9001 protocols, defining, advancing
2 - using software such as Moodle for on-line training
3 - where does one set up an international, substantially on-line company these days?

Of course, the company will be worth billions very soon, but now it is nothing, so walking into Monaco to set up a Gibraltar company operating from the Isle of Mann wouldn't impress anyone. We aren't really Chamber of Commerce friendly since we won't be hiring scads of people-the inspectors will be hired freelance and world-wide on an as needed basis.


Display:
As a practical point we might usefully create a new sector "ET Think Lab" sector analogous to "Debates" so that the relevant threads don't disappear too soon off the radar screen.
I'll look into that.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 04:56:33 AM EST
I am starting a company

My premise is that the legal form known as the "Joint Stock Limited Liability Company" or "Corporation" is obsolescent in the face of the evolution of new partnership-based alternatives such as the US "Limited Liability Company" ("LLC") and UK Limited Liability Partnership" ("LLP").

The LLC is mis-named as a "Company", because it is many ways a partnership, while the UK LLP even more misnamed as a partnership, because the LLP legislation specifically states that it is not a partnership but a corporate entity.

So my advice in respect of forming a Company is

 Noooooooooooooooooo!!!!!

The structure I would advocate for your proposed networked enterprise is the one I also advocate for ET, to wit:

A "framework" LLP or LLC with stakeholder members as follows:

(a) a "Founder" / Custodian - either formally constituted (eg as a "Not for Profit") or merely the individuals;

(b) Capital Members - who invest either "Intellectual Capital", consisting of the concept and its description, or "Financial Capital" in money (easy) or "money's worth" eg software, equipment, office or both;

(c)Operator Members - who are actually putting in the time out there, and actually use the "Capital".

The framework LLP/LLC agreement simply states how the revenues (if any) from Customers would be shared. eg 10% to the Capital Members and the balance to Operator
Members.

It also sets out the governance of the LLP/LLC - in particular the relationship between the stakeholder groups and the veto rights of the Founders, who act as "Custodians" of the original aims and objectives of the enterprise. The analogy here is the way that J K Rowling kept rigid editorial control over the "Harry Potter" film rights (and thereby prevented Hollywood from f..king up the films into the usual schmaltz.)

In tax terms it's dead easy, because the LLC and LLP are what is called "pass through" in the US and "tax transparent in the UK.

ie they do not pay tax as entities, but their members do in their "home" tax domicile, in respect of income and capital gains made through the LLC/LLP.

Used in this way, an an LLP at least is what I call an "Open" Corporate (an LLC is not technically a Corporate because it has a "sell-by" date on it or finite lifespan).

It doesn't own anything, employ anyone , or even do anything: but it's members do. It's not a conventional "organisation" therefore, but a "framework" within which individuals "self organise".

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 05:30:35 AM EST
Thanks Chris. Obviously, I have to study this a few more times to make certain I have the concept correctly.

Generally though, this goes to the 'why' of an entity, whether corporate or LLsomething.

Primary is limited liability, which all of these imply. This means there is some type of corporate veil that protects the members personally should something (non-fraud) screw-up that makes the 'group' liable for something.

Second is financial quid pro quo with the state. The state is lending some credibility and rights that a person would not have; including but not limited to the ability to tax exempt or defer certain expenses and investments more easily than a person could, as well as allowing mundane things such as bank accounts, as well as the use of terms such as 'including but not limited to' in a contract.

Your point of different terms and meanings in the States vs. England brings up that there are really different LLC, LLP, etc., laws for each of the 50 states. I transferred a corporate entity from California to Wyoming recently. Now I will have to examine the LLC or P in Wyoming as well. (I picked WY as they don't have a state tax and they aren't Nevada. (Noting against Nevada, except that it is a red flag for California corps which transfer there since some people do it as a dodge. Which wasn't my situation.))

One thing, as I read through your comments above. There are sometimes when I want to have money (profits) stay in a company, growing year to year; to fund R&D that takes extended time, to tide one over when it is obvious that the future won't be as good as the past, or just to delay profit allocations to a year when the profits (and taxes) won't be so high. This would be a downside to a LLwhatever, no?

These have been important to me in the past, but I was paying employees. It may not be as important as your theoretical non-profit, but the ability to sit on a gold mine that allows freedom to make a 'different' decision, without having to distribute it at the end of the year might still apply.


Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 07:37:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I may have a more flexible structure than this, at least for some projects, but I don't currently have time to diary it.

I'll try to put something together over the weekend.

Incidentally, as I understand it, in the US it's traditional to incorporate/domicile in Delaware because taxes and red-tape are lowest.

This doesn't mean you need to be in Delaware, but a registered office does.

There are also offshore options, but I'm not the person to talk to about those.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 07:58:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I may have a more flexible structure than this

Not sure about the US LLC, but a UK LLP (NB siegestate: the UK LLP is very different from the US LLP variety) is infinitely flexible in that the LLP agreement need not even be in writing, and is anything the Members consensually agree.

However, there are certain "Default" regulations, based upon partnership principles, that apply by way of default.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 09:10:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I wouldn't recommend incorporation in the US, anywhere, if you're seeking sales and income tax and liability/indemnity advantages, especially if all core business will be virtual and fee for service variable (as opposed to publishing, price per unit). UK GAAP and business law, generally, are more um flexible than that in the US which is biased in favor of increasing scale, irrespective of revenue volume or declared status, eg LLP, LLC, C, S, 50*(c)*. Alternatively, of course, one could sacrifice a moment of one's vacation in a Caribbean island to file the paperwork.

And since no one asked me (heh), I suggest non-profit tax status and project pricing structure based exclusively on contributors' bids on project requirements. That way the P&L sheet always balances and the portfolio of property and labor diversifies risk; everyone gets what they need. In my experience, known participants will price their own time fairly and will not price to undercut imaginary competitors. Transparency is good  for the group and the client.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 11:43:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One thing, as I read through your comments above. There are sometimes when I want to have money (profits) stay in a company, growing year to year; to fund R&D that takes extended time, to tide one over when it is obvious that the future won't be as good as the past, or just to delay profit allocations to a year when the profits (and taxes) won't be so high. This would be a downside to a LLwhatever, no?
There is nothing to prevent the custodian or any of the members of the LLP from being a company (or LLP) as well, which will own assets and accumulate capital, fund R&D, etc. Chris's point, I think, is that you can have a wrapper that straddles borders if you have international members, and that the wrapper itself just shares revenue so it doesn't accumulate anything nor pays any taxes.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 08:17:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is nothing to prevent the custodian or any of the members of the LLP from being a company (or LLP) as well, which will own assets and accumulate capital, fund R&D, etc. Chris's point, I think, is that you can have a wrapper that straddles borders if you have international members, and that the wrapper itself just shares revenue so it doesn't accumulate anything nor pays any taxes.

I am confused as to what you mean by "wrapper" here.  Is it supposed to be the custodian or LLP member set up as a company/LLP to "own assets and accumulate capital, fund R&D, etc."?

If so, wouldn't this "wrapper" qua member of the LLP have to pay taxes to its "home" tax domicile, in respect of income and capital gains made through the LLC/LLP?

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Fri Nov 9th, 2007 at 12:50:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In Chris' basic set-up the LLP "wrapper" deals with those "outside" and the aggregate revenue and outgoing happen through it, but as Chris proposes revenue and cost sharing, the LLP itself has zero profit each year and so it need pay no tax. Chris has called this "tax transparent". I'm sure he can explain it better than I can. And the word "wrapper" just refers to the fact that it is a legal structure to bring together a number of interested people or legal entities to perform different function, but the LLP itself does little.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Nov 10th, 2007 at 02:00:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not quite.

UK tax law stipulates that although it is a "Corporate Body" ie a separate legal person like a Company, unlike a Company it does not pay tax in its own right ie "Corporation Tax".

Instead, the revenues or gains flow through to the Members, wherever in the world they happen to be.

In the US, when applied to an LLC (there is a choice of treatments for LLC's) this is known as "pass through".

We in the UK call it "tax transparency".  The bottom line is that I have to fill in the partnership page on my UK tax return, because as far as the UK tax-man is concerned he ignores the LLP I am a member of, and treats it as a Partnership.

An LLP can indeed make a profit (all conventional ones aim to), which it then splits among its Members in whatever way they agree, but as Migeru says, if ALL of the stakeholders, including suppliers, are brought within the LLP as Members, then while there is no "Profit" per se (you can only have a "profit" if there is an "externality"), there will still be taxable revenue or gains created and shared.

In this "Full Strength" LLP model, VAT isn't charged either, because there are no Inputs, Outputs or invoices.

Th interior of such an LLP structure is an interesting twilight zone, tax-wise and I believe it may work across borders in a way that a global multinational engaged in tax juggling would probably recognise....

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sun Nov 11th, 2007 at 07:22:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
UK tax law stipulates that although it is a "Corporate Body" ie a separate legal person like a Company, unlike a Company it does not pay tax in its own right ie "Corporation Tax".

Instead, the revenues or gains flow through to the Members, wherever in the world they happen to be.

So, does this mean that the LLP cannot accumulate a cash reserve itself, or "make profit", so as to never be liable for tax, itself?

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Nov 12th, 2007 at 07:20:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Can the LLP even have a bank account with an average balance such that interest gets paid to it? It's a strange "body corporate" if it can't.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Nov 12th, 2007 at 07:22:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru:
Can the LLP even have a bank account with an average balance such that interest gets paid to it? It's a strange "body corporate" if it can't.

Yes, and if so would the tax on this interest be paid in an "allocated" fashion similarly to the way tax on profits would be paid as Chris described here?

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Mon Nov 26th, 2007 at 06:51:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
An LLP can operate quite normally and do everything a Company or an individual can do, including owning assets, employing people, accumulating profits/Equity, opening bank accounts etc etc.

Indeed, that's what virtually all LLP's currently do.

I am pointing out however that it may also be used as what I call an "Open" Corporate, and operate PURELY as a protocol/framework for its members to "self organise".

This is because the LLP legal protocol is infinitely flexible, and indeed need not even be in writing.

I may, if I wish, "clone" any other legal form, or combination of them (and anywhere in the world), simply by incorporating their terms (and jurisdiction).

But why would I wish to do that, when I can do so much more?

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Mon Nov 12th, 2007 at 09:40:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So the LLP pays no tax only if you arrange the cash flows to/from the partners in such a way that the net tax base for the LLP is zero for each tax year.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Nov 12th, 2007 at 09:59:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No.

An LLP never pays tax. This is what "tax transparency" means.The tax man treats it exactly as though the members are members of a partnership.

If conventional profits are made, then they are reported to the tax-man as allocated between the "Members"/ quasi partners whether they are retained in an LLP bank account as "Equity" or not.

Example
A three person LLP makes £1200 profit, allocated 3:2:1 between A, B and C, and half is retained as reserve and the balance distributed.

A retains a balance of £300 on his LLP Capital account; B £200 and C £100.

A reports and is taxed on the basis of his £600 profit share; B on £400; and C £200.

Capiche?

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Mon Nov 12th, 2007 at 10:22:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Now I do.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Nov 12th, 2007 at 11:52:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for teasing this out.  This was exactly the point that I could not understand (i.e. how an LLP can "retain"  earnings without getting taxed on them itself.)

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.
by marco on Mon Nov 26th, 2007 at 06:46:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The "wrapper" is the "framework" LLP which has the various classes of "stakeholder" members, and these classes may be constituted either formally or informally.

As just explained elsewhere re "tax transparency", LLP's don't pay tax themselves, and every member of an LLP is liable to pay taxes in its home domicile in relation to the gains or income it receives through the LLP.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sun Nov 11th, 2007 at 07:30:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Siegestate:

In a former professional life, I have helped companies to obtain the ISO 9001 certification. With a little research to update my knowledge, I could help.

I am knowledgeable on training, training design and training policies (I was a consultant in this field and I used to teach it in the university's business school). I had even developed an approach called "Quality management applied to training".

But to help you, I would need to know more about your project.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 05:59:39 AM EST
Name OK but you can google a 100 of the same ThinkLab name. It is the ET bit which is unique. ET is the brand - the rest is a tag.

Can't help seigegate, but highly recommend the Man from Lyon.

Digtator is the king of dynamic content management, but sadly only in Finnish:

http://www.digtator.fi/digtator

F-Secure is about to announce a new online security service package which I would highly recommend. They basically take care of all your machines remotely.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 07:44:19 AM EST
Training criteria and formula are faulty premises of corporate organization and consultative processes. Training presupposes an unstated political hierarchy, firstly, which doubtless prescribes uniformity to the knowledge product(s), secondly, which would be likely unenforceable, given the current skills, conflicting obligations, and dispersion of the current constituency of the ThinkLab. Who knows or will know what is or how to assign the instrinsic value of occupational skills, experience and education, attitude, or physical location ThinkLab collaborators bring to a given project, irrespective of ThinkLab 'training' -- and before the first assignment is even completed?

That is, what would collaborators be trained to do? If training is directed to manipulation of specific (custom or package) tools, then recreation of manufacturer documentation is redundant. If training is directed to applications of ThinkLab bylaws, then someone must first establish bylaws. If training is direct to 'sales' generation, then excludable and preferred methods must be enforced by some type of documentation, then formulated for reproducability.

Finally, training is a cost center, in financial terms, inevitably consuming productive activity, and in intellectual terms, subordinating heterodoxical inputs.

Also note that a client's need typically is presented as a question which may or may not be properly, accurately constructed to identify the problem. I would imagine then that any discussion of 'training' ought merely reinforce effective investigative techniques and sources provided by one or more ThinkLab participants.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 09:59:04 AM EST
There is a danger of perceiving the ThinkLab as an "organisation" with laws and by laws to be imposed, when in fact it is no more than a consensual "framework" and possibly a "protective coating" (the limited liability bit, which is as problematic ethically for an LLP as it is for a "Plc" or an "Inc") within which we may "self organise".

It would not really be much more than a "Forum" or a "Space" within which stakeholders interact and transact bilaterally and multilaterally they see fit.

In terms of training it would be for the people seeking expertise to find on ET people they judge may not only have the necessary expertise, but also the capability of impoarting it.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 10:42:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes. In retrospect, the word I was searching for in lieu of 'training' is procedure for authenticating projects and processing projects to completion.

Either this exchange (Forum) will be automated to match blind participants* or structured to assign volunteers (bidders) by some administrator who may or may not be the client -- proprietary or self-service, if you will. Organization is inevitable, commensurate with goal directed human activity, where one observes the spectrum of play 'Space', amusement, to commodity production to invention.

In any case, the questions emerge, What is for sale (the revenue source)? and What transaction claim besides shares of the exchange facility justifies participant/stakeholders' income? If these questions cannot be satisfactorily answered and agreed, discussion of the tax status of the business entity is premature -- no matter how the exchange is ultimately implemented.

-------------------------
* matching participants/stakeholders: There currently exists a great number of custom and package software "directories" to facilitate exactly this resource problem (expertise) for employees (and prospective clients) as well as development of "communities of practice" (or "centers of excellence") and "knowledge base" repositories (continuing ed). This, ancillary to HR database management isshues. Since Lotus, since "freelance" job boards, dating services, and despite blogs.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 12:39:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Chris - you wrote that I am working on a draft protocol for an "umbrella" - presumably organization. Not true. I am working on a compilation, edit, and suggested organization of the threads that are related to this topic. Migeru wrote that we need an "archivist". As I take his meaning, that is my project.

You on the other hand are engaged in drafting the protocol, and I applaud.

Siegestate - I have an ISO 9001 Lead Auditor certificate, and I have created, modified, and managed several iterations of such systems (currently, still managing one).

paul spencer

by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 11:00:38 AM EST
Oh no! Don't take everything I say at face value.

I wrote that I need an archivist because poemless is a librarian for a living.

We may indeed need a professional archivist if and when we get an archive, but that was just an inside joke. On the other hand, if you've taken it upon yourseld to keep track of all the projects and skills people are throwing around in this "Bootstrapping" brainstorm, that will be really useful. Thanks!

poemless:

Oh great.   Now I'm going to have to spend the rest of my life explaining that I wrote for ET before it became a shadowy institution devoted to finding intellectual-type bankers employment after the worldwide financial collapse and to promoting anarcho-monarchist propaganda, often suspiciously placed in the LTE sections of high-profile European newspapers...
Migeru:
We could probably use an archivist.
poemless:
I could probably use $20/hour and a laptop ...


We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 11:05:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
:)

Well if he's willing to do the archivist gig for neither pay nor perks, from a business perspective, he might be a better fit for your evil little think tank...

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 11:19:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
however, I see this work as seed capital for the organization that Chris is going to define for us - with everyone's help, of course. So - no pay for now, but oodles of shares. Right, Chris?

As far as 'evil little' - I take offense at the second adjective.

As for a name - I started a food co-op in 1967 and incorporated it under the name Milo Minderbinder Memorial Co-op. It survived for several years, but is long since gone. How about Milo Minderbinder Memorial Enterprises or some such like?

paul spencer

by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 11:33:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
rings on in all our aging minds, I think ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 12:38:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I like the idea of being part of a shadowy institution. ;)

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Fri Nov 9th, 2007 at 12:05:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I misunderstood this

My next contribution to the subject will be an attempt to synthesize some of the components of the thread into an outline of draft bylaws

from your recent (as yet unanswered!) email...

The best I can do re the protocol is assist with an outline of the architecture and the bullet points to be covered - I hate detail, and I ain't particularly good at it.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 11:38:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I mis-stated to some degree. I left out the idea that this synthesis was going to be more reportorial and editorial than proposal. The outline part was the substance - draft bylaws could be an outcome after further critique on ET.

Sorry - I rushed off that note to you primarily to convey my excitement about this project, and I should have edited my statement. Not a good start for someone who proposes to edit the thread comments.

paul spencer

by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 12:07:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Am I the only one who sees a lot of carts being put before horses here?  

I just feel like there are a limited number of people who want to use ET to launch some project that will benefit themselves - promote themselves - without really coming clear about what this project is supposed to accomplish or on whose behalf they will be speaking, acting.  I have not even seen any consensus that it is approved of by any majority of members here.  

I am extremely uncomfortable with the use of this blog as such.  What happens on the day when what is posted here does not support whatever agenda you all adopt for your little "think lab?"  I think it's a great idea to pool the resources of the people you've met here to do something meaningful and profitable.  But if an insular select group of individuals with certain impressive backgrounds and resources are being used to promote some agenda - and there is always an agenda - and any kind of profitability is involved, I really think that flies in the face of the whole premise of community weblogs.  Nothing wrong with taking things to the next level, but it does seem to undervalue the freedom of expression these kinds of blogs ensure, and doesn't really appreciate how tenuous that freedom is.  

People bitch about Daily Kos for this very reason.  It's still a very open forum, but there is an agenda, and once people have become professionally invested in an agenda, that takes primacy over letting the the masses voice their concerns, criticisms, etc.   And don't think the people at DKos aren't convinced that their agenda, their purpose, is every bit as noble and selfless and beneficial to society as we think our goals are.   Everyone who starts a think tank or lobby does.  

Right now the people who talk the loudest are being heard.  But there are many contributors and members who are not here to promote themselves but what they contribute is every bit as important.  To be honest, it feels like ET is on the verge of being hijacked.  I'm sorry to say it.  I want to know the only motives people have in posting are of the intellectually lucrative kind.  I just don't think a think tank is as condusive to the free exchange of ideas that the salon-like nature of a community blog engenders.  In the end, I guess the question is, do we want ET to be an outlet for the free exchange of ideas, or the launchpad for talking points, careers, etc., and if it is the latter, who chooses?, and on whose behalf?  And what impact will that have on shaping the dialogue among the ET community at large?  

I just want to go on record as saying I hate loathe and despise this idea with every bone in my body.  The world is full of consultants and lobbyists and experts.  But an intellectual space like this is truly rare.  Still, it's not my decision to make.  Though, if it seems there is some approval, I just want the record to show there is some disapproval as well.  

Carry on...

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 12:44:05 PM EST
I did not see this idea as a way of changing ET, I imagined that an additional structure will be built up and that this blog would continue as usual. Obviously there'd be some changes in terms of the posts you'll see if some of the contributors go there. But the blog as it is doesn't need to be changed. But maybe I misunderstood?

I also think that the main motivation is not pecuniary, at least how migeru set it out in terms of a 'research university'. It's about providing a structure that will give people independence in developing their own projects/research/whatever in a way that follows their interests.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 01:02:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
  1.  That does not answer my questions about who will be speaking for ET.  Who chooses what is a legitimate project and what is not?

  2.  You do not seriously think "research universities" are without agendas, profit motives, corruption, people elbowing each other for funding, publication, etc?  Do you?


"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 01:20:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So you think Jérôme (who, by the way, owns the "ET" trademark and can step in with a "cease and desist" in case anyone else starts creating "ET-brand" products) doesn't have an agenda already?

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 01:28:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not talking about one individual.  I am talking about the difference between an institution and a blog.  Jerome is free to have his agenda, as we all are, and in every article or interview I have seen or heard, he doesn't claim to speak for anyone but himself.  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 01:32:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nobody's talking about changing the nature of the blog.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 01:33:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's what concerns me...

I have no intentions of getting in your way.  I just don't trust you. :)

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 01:37:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Re-1: I did not set out to answer all of your questions (didn't know the answers to them all). I cherry-picked. Still don't have the answer to that one.

Re-2: Of course they also are. The key is finding a framework that will prevent this. I think that what Chris and Sven are talking about has some potential in this regard (preventing status/rent-seeking).

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 05:18:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Beautifully put, poemless.

And bearing in mind our collective experiences of the existing social and economic system I don't blame you for a minute in suspecting and dreading the worst.

Now I can't speak for anyone else, just myself, and my Agenda is quite simple.

It's to assist as best I can our current cancerous and inherently evil politico economic system in reinventing itself into something better.

That's it. Period.

I gravitated here and was attracted by the standard, breadth and depth of discussion. I've since actually met a few ET'ers, and feel that I know many more from reading the reports, feedback and discussions which pepper the site.

I actually believe - mad though it sounds - that there is a new - a genuinely, once in a thousand years, new - way of doing things now evolving that involves:

  • Common Purpose, rather than Individual Agendas;

  • mutual creation and exchange of Value in ALL in its forms, whether "money's worth" or purely spiritual or emotional;

  • an end to "Profit" and to "Loss";

  • an end to "Jobs" and working "for" rather than "with" others;

  • and so on... you've seen it all before...

I despise "consulting" or "lobbying" and self appointed "experts" as much as you clearly do.

I left the City years ago because I had had my bellyful, and I'm happy to live in semi-genteel poverty in Scotland with someone I love, working together to a common purpose.

It's not about "using" ET to obtain "lucrative" work. But if ET'ers can come together in mutually creative and stimulating "intellectually lucrative" (I like that) ways to solve problems, AND cover their costs in doing it then I see nothing wrong in that.

Neither Solveig nor I has the luxury of a "job" and changing the world for the better doesn't pay too well.

ET is a Peer Group the likes of which I have never come across. Sometimes - but rarely - I get the sensation of axes being ground, but the grinders don't tend to stay around that long.

I have not even seen any consensus that it is approved of by any majority of members here

IMHO ET isn't a democracy and it isn't a dictatorship: it's a "space". Those who wish to work together will work together collaboratively and in a networked fashion. They already do, and this will continue as formally or informally as the individuals involved wish.

There have been discussions for as long as I have been participating as to how the ET load may be shared more equitably, since there is a limit to how much generosity with money or time people actually can spare.

I just feel like there are a limited number of people

I guess there will always be fewer active ET members than passive.

an insular select group of individuals

You surprise me by saying "insular" because my personal experience is that I have never come across a less insular group once I began to participate.

Right now the people who talk the loudest are being heard.

Heard, maybe, but are we being listened to? Probably not, in my case.

There has to be a better way of doing things. As far as I can tell, that is why Jerome and others were instrumental in creating ET.

I'll work with anyone,through ET or otherwise to further that "Agenda" and I make no apology for it.

It just saddens me that you take such a pessimistic view of the motives of others, particularly when I know you are not alone in that view.

We all need trust transplants, I think...

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 02:10:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
poemless - if I seem to be panting and drooling, it is because of the possibilities of creating a model of successful democratic organization - success being measured in several metrics.

If my Milo Minderbinder Memorial brand is taken literally, let me promise that it was the epitome of snark to me. (For years I have played a cover of the Beatles' version of 'Money' with my brother, with my son, with various friends; and everybody who knows me knows that it is pure sarcasm.) My joke about "evil little" is of exactly the same type. I see nothing evil about this project.

My goals for many years have been to create effective, democratic, ecologically sound, and productive organizations, gratifying to the participants. At this point we are just brain-storming, but there's no reason that I can see that this - idea - cannot be just one feature of this excellent salon.

paul spencer

by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 04:11:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, we could subtitle this thread 'ET Sells Out.'

Which is more or less the Poemless angle, I think - not just sells out but goes over to the Dark Side.

But I think it's useful to understand we're talking about four different things here:

  1. ET as blog.
  2. ET as think tank and policy influence putting out formal policy papers.
  3. ET as ideas lab.
  4. ET as commercial consultancy and job agency/network/cellular organism/etc.

As I understand it the point of 1. is to become 2. To be honest, so far ET has been a bit of a failure from that point of view. It's fun to write for, but I think our audience remains somewhat niche and our attempts to have any influence at all on energy policy in Europe have - realistically - been almost non-existent.

A large part of that is because we're still wasting time debunking ridiculous marketista propaganda in an ad hoc way. Much as we'd like it to be otherwise, posting on a blog is not the same as posting a formal-looking policy paper.

'Proper' think tanks are - very simply - mostly funded as right wing propaganda mouthpieces to do exactly that. We don't have equivalent funding. I suppose we could go looking for it. But we do, if we are going to be taken at all seriously, have to start looking less bloggy and more formal, at the very least as a spin-off venture.

Without funding one of the easiest ways to gain credibility is as a business consultancy. Obviously, there's some danger of needing a long spoon, and it certainly is a danger.

But to me the opportunities are obvious, even so. As I've said, we have a terrific opportunity to sell strategic and policy services. This has the advantage of going into the heart of the corporate world to promote progressive points of view in energy use, corporate structuring, and potentially - after TSHTF - business or even national values.

That's not a small thing, and it's not going to happen if all we do is keep throwing peanuts from the gallery.

Personally I'm at least tolerably happy to take part in the occasional round of re-branding and other corporate nonsense, at least for the moment, if it means wider access later - as long as it's not for corporates that are inherently toxic.

Is it a fine line? Yes, it is. But I think dKos and the rest of the US blogosphere is discovering that just talking about things and being right doesn't amount to any real influence. If you want influence you have to hold your noise and start wading through stinkier waters. And we're not going to do that by posting another debunking of the sleazy nonsense in the Econo - because the people who read the Econo aren't going to care what we think, assuming they even read us, which I'd guess mostly they don't.

But if we turn up in their boardroom - that's a whole other game, isn't it?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Nov 9th, 2007 at 07:53:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The threat is going over to the "Dark Side": the opportunity is to illuminate the Dark Side.

To me it's about ET as an enabler of a "Do Tank" - and I don't mean putting lipstick on the corporate Pig, but rather catalysing its evolution into something else.

A continuing "Telluric" process (thank's Migeru, love that word) which is IMHO the consequence of the increasingly pervasive direct connection through the Web that brought me here to ET.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Fri Nov 9th, 2007 at 08:11:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, what you and I have discussed is a virtual organization unlike any other. It is neither dark nor light, and would work in totally new ways.

I don't know if you've ever spent any time in a mosque, but if you strip away the bits that might worry us, the structure underneath is quite interesting. A mosque is a community restaurant, a hotel, a funding organization, it provides welfare, a creche, testimonials as to the validity of business partners, advice on deals etc - all according to need. It is an interesting model for a different kind of organization that is not driven by profit, but by stewardship.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Nov 9th, 2007 at 10:12:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Let me open the Tao Te Ching for ET LLP.

Heh....I can't find it.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Fri Nov 9th, 2007 at 07:34:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is fine to express your view, of course, and it is an important one. The point though is (in addition to what Nanne. Migeru and Chris have said) that ET is quite diverse. And that diversity is important for cross fertilization.

You'd probably find that 'those talking the loudest' on this are mostly self-employed entreneurs who get overexcited about visionary projects ;-) because we get excited about all projects. I believe that for most of us SEE's the boundaries between work, play and learning hardly exist. But I can understand people who like to have things more compartmentalized.

ET as a structure is not going to be the place where this project happens. It needs different software, if it ever happens. But meanwhile this is one more subject for discussion at ET, and as far as the vocalists are concerned the ONLY place available for such discussion. And open discussion.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 03:27:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is as good a place as any.

My thoughts on this are as follows:

  • a reasonable goal would be to have our ideas influence public discourse more, and see ET (or ET-inspired ideas) quoted more often. While that may sound a lot like let's-make-Jerome-a-pundit, and it will be hard for the outside world not to focus on one or a few persons, there is real value in the collective debate, and it is the debate itself that I'd like to promote;

  • one way to do this would be to send links for ET content around - posting on blogs, emailing it to journalists, writing to institutions and pundits and the like. This is done on a small scale by some members already; it could be extended, or made more systematic. Having someone with the time to build up the database of contacts, and identify the places where it's worthwhile to post about ET would be a requisite, I think.

  • another, more ambitious, would be to take the time to make summaries of some of our discussions, and distribute these around as finished products. That requires (i) the time and ability to prepare summaries (ii) some process for ETers that participated in the discussion to veto or not the summary (iii) the infrastructure to send these around.

  • another option would be to push our collective LTE and Op-Ed drafting output. This has worked well in the past, and it can still work, provided that more of us do it. This need not be initiated by me or a FPer, as it has majoritarily been the case so far.

Now, the money angle is relevant insofar as we might want to get someone's time committed more explicitly to doing one of these things or others, and that requires that someone to be compensated for. Should we go that route, and create a structure that actually employs someone, that money may come from various sources - member contributions (unlikely to be enough), grants (need to be found, conditions to be understood), or sale of some kind of services (I'm skeptical so far - apart from writing output that would meet some kind of consensus to be stamped ET, or would be donated by the authors, an option I may be able to put on the table in concrete ways in the near future).

I'm wary of bringing money in anyway in ET. I still think that with a few more committed volunteers, some basic organisation and task sharing, and, quite simply, more members, we can do a lot more of what we do right now, without compromising the quality of debate nor the motivation of participants. In the past few weeks, we've seen an increase in readership, diary writing, and active participants, and debate quality is as good as ever (including some lighter threads). I think we need to build on this.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Nov 9th, 2007 at 06:17:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Should we go that route, and create a structure that actually employs someone,

Just to reiterate that the concept as I see it is not a "structure that employs" but a "framework within which work may be compensated".

A few people are beginning to see the implications of this, but most still see it though the "Labour working for Capital" prism as opposed to "Labour working with Capital".

Oh dear, Chris off on his hobby horse again. Sorry.

that money may come from various sources - member contributions (unlikely to be enough), grants (need to be found, conditions to be understood), or sale of some kind of services (I'm skeptical so far - apart from writing output that would meet some kind of consensus to be stamped ET, or would be donated by the authors, an option I may be able to put on the table in concrete ways in the near future)

I see ET as a space or framework within which people come together "intellectually lucratively" - as poemless has it - but it has already led to a myriad of bilateral and multilateral conversations (many involving actual meetings), and hence to instances of "economic interactions" to an agreed common purpose, where "profit" is not the aim, although covering costs is inevitably a factor.

Assimilating, editing and publishing ET content is of course one possibility. I have said before that I think that the quality is such that selected and themed "ET Conversations" could be quite an attractive proposition.

But it would have to meet some sort of consensual and peer reviewed ET quality control mechanism. Not easy.

As an existing and personal example, Sven and I, with support from Solveig and Migeru, have been pursuing a perfectly mad scheme in Finland which might just, conceivably, lead to something quite wonderful, and also, if it works - reasonably remunerative for all concerned.

Now I feel that because it was through ET that we all came together, that a part of what would be made would go to the ET collective to help cover its costs, and assist in developing ET in whatever way is consensually (hat tip to poemless) agreed.

Sven indeed is leading the way with a brilliant suggestion for a loose cooperative of ET citizen photographers to get out there and photograph stainless steel fittings (yes, I know, but someone has to do it) AND get paid for it.

He hopes, as would I, that anyone benefiting in this way from their use of the ET site would "kick in" something to ET as a result. And I am sure most will, otherwise I doubt whether they'd be sticking around.

I have long believed that such loose self-organising and networked working has lacked an "enterprise model" and the main thrust of my work is to denmonstrate - in practice - that there is a better way than the conventional "For profit"/"Not for Profit" models.

The purpose of the recent threads has been, essentially, to examine how ET can be made more "sustainable" (and less of a drain on volunteers) than it currently is, without compromising it in the way that poemless so viscerally fears.

But thanks for jumping in, and may I say that I am glad that you continue to support this brilliant site.


"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Fri Nov 9th, 2007 at 07:04:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And just to add as a throwaway that while "Individuals" have Agendas, and "Organisations" have Agenda's - of which the most pernicious is the pursuit of profit above all else - "Frameworks" are simply relationships and do not have Agenda's, although I could conceive of a Framework as an Agenda.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson
by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Fri Nov 9th, 2007 at 07:17:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
is noted and agreed to!

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Nov 9th, 2007 at 08:25:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I share your point of view.

I think ET is a unique place where a high-level collective debate can take place while being open to anyone who wants to participate.  It is a unique place for sharing information and knowledge and I have learnt a lot here. In fact, it is one of the best examples of collective intelligence-building I know. Participating in ET is an asset and I think we all benefit from the knowledge we've acquired through ET in our professional or broader social activities.

While I understand those who would like to see this extraordinary intellectual potential better exploited, I am very sceptical about ET becoming a consulting organisation or a think-tank for several reasons. First of all, I have been working in the consulting business and with think-tanks for years and I know how hard it would be to convince potential customers of the specific added value of ET and to establish our credibility in a sector where the competition is very hard. Except for a limited number of persons who know it, ET is not a brand yet.

But the most important issue is that if we were to develop this kind of activities, it would have a major impact on the nature of ET, the way it functions and on its image. Why? First, consulting and online collective blogging don't have the same purposes, timelines and priorities, nor do they require the same skills and work organisation, so make them coexist would be very difficult. Also, combining non-for-profit and for-profit activities within the same organisation is almost impossible; I know several organisations that tried to do it and none of them have succeeded. ET contributors involved in business-oriented projects would inevitably focus their time and energy on these projects. Finally the ET image would be blurred: for our audience, a key asset of ET is the fact that we have nothing to sell.

However, ET can be a place where people can meet, discuss projects proposals and create ad hoc teams around common projects. It is already the case and the more it happens, the better. We could even expect those who have started successful projects thanks to ET to make a financial contribution. But these project's are ET's by-products, not it's raison d'être and that doesn't make ET a think-tank, nor a consulting organisation.

I agree with you: our first goal should be to develop our audience both by expanding our users base and by building a network of media (the press, blogs...) who would channel our ideas or link to our debates.  The recent links with PSEmanifesto and the LibDems show it is possible.

We have been very successful in drafting LTEs and Op-eds. I think we should focus on producing more of them. In order to do so, we should improve the way we work, maybe by adopting collaborative tools.  We could also produce more in-depth contributions (a ~10 pages note) on some issues. I doubt we can easily make a summary of our debates: it would require a lot of work. I think it's better to identify an issue on which we would like to draft a note, to define the document's plan and to collectively work on it.


"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Fri Nov 9th, 2007 at 08:45:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree with you that any such projects are by-products. As I stated earlier, they are best conducted outside ET using different software that enables a different kind of practical collaboration. I don't see any reason however why such a 'work group site' might not extend the brand in some way. But this is all in the future.

What is true IMO is that collaboration and cooperation are the major factors in ET's building success. It is inevitable that these processes would produce all sorts of relationships that might have a life outside of ET - personal, political, professional etc. As they do.

As you say, ET can be and is a place for meeting, kicking stuff around, and possibly forming teams around common projects. But the key (and filter) is that ET is open, visible to all, and this naturally precludes any discussion of commercial ventures except in the broadest terms. ET is already a ThinkLab - an incubator. What we have to work out is how best to allow incubation to develop. And the only place we have to discuss it is here ;-)

I disagree with you on virtual organizations. I spend a lot of my time communicating with clients and team members by email and mobile. I often have no idea where they are geographically. I think Chris is talking about a virtual company of the future. I certainly am. The tools are not all in place yet, but they are being developed.

As you say, it would be hard to convince clients of the value of ET without a track record. But, like you, ET naturally does influence what I do commercially, certainly in thinking about concepts, because I have learned a lot.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Nov 9th, 2007 at 09:51:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What is true IMO is that collaboration and cooperation are the major factors in ET's building success. It is inevitable that these processes would produce all sorts of relationships that might have a life outside of ET - personal, political, professional etc. As they do.

I agree and I think that ET's fertility, i.e. its capacity to foster multiple relationships, including professional projects, is one of the best indicators of its success.

I don't see any reason however why such a 'work group site' might not extend the brand in some way.

Sure, in a near future, we will proudly say we were early Eurotribuns and put the label on our projects. In fact I already mention it, but I still have to explain what ET is...

I disagree with you on virtual organizations.

There is some misunderstanding here. I never mentioned virtual organisations in a negative way. I work quite often with networks involving people I've never met for projects which bring us together on a temporary basis (I usually check on Google maps to find where they are located, but it's for the fun of it). I guess it's what you would call virtual organisations. And, as you know well, I'm very much interested in thinking the future forms of companies...

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Fri Nov 9th, 2007 at 10:57:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I overextrapolated ;-) We've discussed plenty about future organizations. So I think I know where you stand.

What I was trying to say - and I think you'll agree - was that we cannot compare the potential of new forms of organizations with existing organizations because the circumstances are changing. As you say - it would be difficult to persuade companies to take on some mysterious group called ET as a consultant in the traditional sense, just as it would have been impossible to sell an OR multidisciplinary group pre-1939.

But there came a war which changed the whole context of business and problem solving, with new types of organizations (like OR) proving better at finding solutions faster - especially technologcícal and logistic ones. This was to influence the development in the Fifties onward till the present day, of a logistic linear based hierarchic system of management and transaction wisdom. W*stern management and organizational structuring (a personal view, of course) is a direct descendent of those dark days in Europe of WWII - because our dads were there, and they were still running the show until a few years ago. And they trained the following generation well in their methods.

Now I look at organizations like Nokia and the overall average age is under 30. Yes, the senior management is still born of the immediate post-war period, but the upcoming management is very interesting. They maybe know their history, but it is not tactile. In Finland at least, I get a strong feeling from this group of current middle management that there are some deep questions about the sustainability of business today. There's a kind of search for what we should do about it, but nothing concrete yet.

It is interesting that several business schools in Scandinavia now study culture, including the Arts, as much as business. Or rather study the Arts, eg as alternative organizational types. And that is one of the reasons why ET CAN be an agent of change. Science, politics and culture not only exist side by side - they interact.

To have a recommended diary list starting with 100 dollar oil, with the next item being one of RGs amazing visual extravaganzas, then shoes, then Chechenya, then politics in Belgium is precisely the type of OR actvity that we need now and will need in the future, We are looking to change the system AND IT DOESN'T NEED TO WORK in the old world. That was my point - but I suckered myself into a virtual organization rap, mon ami. Forgive me.

.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Nov 9th, 2007 at 06:52:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Words have been coming out like fireworks here and there are excellent ones that feel better than think tank:

Stewardship, collaborative, cooperative, community, thought team, group, living, sustaining... really are already part of an ET brand.  Some members are already tank and consulting level and that helps us all, so I´m supportive of additional networking relationships around the blog.

I have to agree with dvx in having a clear vision and purpose, as the ET community.  Are we here to influence European politics to a more progressive and sustainable level, or are we seeing the crisis and wanting to save ourselves?  It may be both for many of us, just as I feel I am a producer and a client, but the approach would be very different and it must be stated clearly to avoid divisions, or misunderstandings.

This is a very exciting and thought-provoking concept and I´ll keep reading!

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Sat Nov 10th, 2007 at 12:53:46 PM EST
Our main asset: cooperative thinking

We could define ET as a think-coop

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Sat Nov 10th, 2007 at 02:12:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And the neo-cons can run around calling us Damn Thinkos....

(there's a meme in there somewhere....)

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Nov 10th, 2007 at 02:52:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]


Display:
Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]