Jono Bacon is a leading community manager, speaker, author, and podcaster. He is the founder of Jono Bacon Consulting which provides community strategy/execution, developer workflow, and other services. He also previously served as director of community at GitHub, Canonical, XPRIZE, OpenAdvantage, and consulted and advised a range of organizations.
Bacon is a prominent author and speaker on community management and best practice. His most recent book, People Powered, came out in 2019. Jono also wrote the best-selling The Art of Community (O’Reilly), is the founder of the primary annual conference for community managers and leaders, the Community Leadership Summit as well as the Open Collaboration Conference. He is a regular keynote speaker at events about community management, organizational leadership, and best practice.
Bacon has provided community management consultancy for both internal and external communities for a range of organizations. This includes Deutsche Bank, Huawei, GitLab, Intel, SAP, HackerOne, data.world, Sony Mobile, Samsung, Open Compute Project, IBM, Dyson, Mozilla, FINOS Foundation, Executive Centre, AlienVault, and others. He holds advisory positions at AlienVault, Moltin, data.world, Open Networking Foundation, and Open Cloud Consortium.
In addition to author, Bacon is also a columnist for Forbes and opensource.com, author of Dealing with Disrespect, and co-authored Linux Desktop Hacks (O’Reilly), and Official Ubuntu Book (Prentice Hall). Bacon has written over 500 articles across 12 different publications. He writes regularly for a range of magazines.
Bacon was the co-founder of the popular LugRadio podcast, which ran for four years with 2million+ downloads and 15,000 listeners, as well as spawning five live events in both the UK and the USA, and co-founded the Shot Of Jaq podcast. He co-founded the Bad Voltage podcast, a popular show about technology, Open Source, politics, and more.
He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area in California with his wife, Erica, and their son, Jack.
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“Community managers are knee-deep in the community engaging with people on forums, social media, doing talks, generating content; all the nitty-gritty kind of work that you need to keep the community engaged”
In this episode we’ll cover:
- Jono’s latest book – ‘People Powered’. Its a business book written for a broad audience to shift our thinking around communities in the new era.
- The difference between community managers, community evangelists, directors of community and developer relations
- Why Jono Bacon LOVES open source? And why he helped build Jokosher, an open source multi-track recording software for editing podcasts?
[2:16] – Jono was a below-average student in school. But he was always captivated by technology and open source. He didn’t find a role in tech that fit him at first, so he started by being a journalist and then turned that into building communities.
[4:40] – Jono didn’t seek out mentors early in his career, but he explains why now he is quick to ask for help when he needs it. His first mentor was definitely his brother, who first got him into open source.
[9:38] – There are more opportunities for building communities now than ever. People want community experiences from the brands they engage with. Jono also explains the difference between community managers, community evangelists, director of community, developer relations.
[14:46] – Jono was afraid of leaving GitHub at first to become an independent consultant. The result? He’s been fully booked for the last 3 years. Note: consulting is for those that love hustling and talking to new people!
[19:53]- Jono has huge gratitude for open source. The ‘have a go’ attitude common in open source communities is something that stuck with Jono. He also recalls building Jokosher, open-source multi-track recording software for editing podcasts!
[27:10] – ‘People Powered’ is Jono’s latest book. Its a business book written for a broad audience to shift our thinking around communities in the new era.
[29:18] – What are the differences between writing a business book and a technical book?
32:10 – Jono talk about dealing with difficult situations at Canonical and generally dealing with anxiety? What are some techniques for dealing with conflict?
36:24 – Why does Jono love the ancient art of Stoicism? How does he use it in his daily practices?
39:50 – Practical advice for those looking to get into community building and consulting!
Grant Ingersoll (00:19):
Hey everyone and welcome to the Develomentor podcast, your source for interviews and content on careers in tech. I’m your host Grant Ingersoll. We’re 30 some episodes in and my excitement is building each and every episode as we continue to meet people working across so many different and cool aspects of technology. Every day we record. I can’t help a pinch myself as I get to talk to some truly awesome people who have done the work to figure out their career path. If you are just joining us, we have a couple of simple goals for the show. We want to showcase interesting people in tech across a variety of roles and really highlight the different paths they took to get to that point, whether it’s the traditional four year degree route straight out of college or they took a meandering path through a variety of jobs. Today’s guest is someone I’ve met a number of times over the years at various open-source conferences.
Grant Ingersoll (01:12):
Most recently, all things open in Raleigh back in October of 2019 he has built quite an impressive career around the notion of helping people in tech come together to build community. He’s an accomplished author, having just launched another book, this one called people powered, which we’ll link in the show notes. He’s a regular public speaker, a fellow podcaster. And last but not least, a collaboration strategy consultant. Along the way, he’s helped companies like github, canonical and X prize build community in meaningful ways that go beyond the simplistic vendor consumer transaction-based model. Please welcome to the show Jono Bacon. Jono, great to have you here.
Jono Bacon (01:54):
Hey Grant, it’s great to be here.
Grant Ingersoll (01:56):
Yeah, and thanks so much for joining me. I mean I gave you a little bit of a run in there and, you know, this show is really about finding your part in the modern landscape of tech and you’ve done that in a pretty impressive way. And I think a pretty unique way. Maybe fill in all of the, some of the details there that I skipped over in that intro.
Jono Bacon (02:16):
Yeah, I mean, my career has been a bit rumbling and not where I expected it to go. You know, I mean I essentially started out when I was 18 living in a home and my brother introduced me to open source specifically Linux which was in its very early stages back then. And I discovered this notion of people coming together around the world to build a platform. And I, it was just captivated by that, very interested in that because at that time I was at school, I wasn’t a very academic student. I got mainly C’s when I did my core education. I got two D’s when I didn’t mind a slightly higher education. So I was going to university and I wasn’t really entirely sure what I was gonna do. And a lot of the roles that I saw in tech, which I was interested in tech, didn’t really appeal to me.
Jono Bacon (03:07):
I didn’t particularly want to be a developer. But I knew I wanted to be involved in tech in some way. So I just started building communities and started doing it in the UK. And then, you know, as is the case in life went on, you know, I got drunk in a bar with a couple of guys who were launching a magazine called Linux format magazine. So asked if I could write for them and they said yes, but if the article’s terrible, won’t publish it, which seemed reasonable terms. And then like essentially became a journalist for the first couple of years, wrote an article about an organization called open advantage, which was a government funded initiative to basically train people in the West Midlands in the UK where a lot of manual labor was going over to China to train people in technology who were losing their jobs. And that was kind of a deep dive into a swimming pool filled with ice for how to kind of learn technology and consult with people and then went onto canonical and then X prize and then Github from that. So it was just as life as it was just, you know, you start doing something and then some kind of opportunity opens up and, you go after it and sometimes you make the muck and sometimes you don’t, but you keep on going.
Grant Ingersoll (04:15):
That’s really great. John. I mean, and one of the themes of this show, it’s even built into the name is this notion of mentorship and it sounds like your brother actually played a mentoring role, which, you know, sometimes when it, when it comes to brothers, there’s, there’s a bit of both that could go a number of different ways, but drill in a little bit more on some of the mentors you’ve had.
Jono Bacon (04:40):
Yeah. It’s kind of funny because I’ve had a bit of a weird relationship with mentoring because when I look at, for example, you know, I have a son and the way kids are raised around here where I live in California and the way I was raised in the UK is so different. You know, like kids are very aware of entrepreneurialism in the U S not everywhere in the us, but certainly in the Bay area. And there’s all of these opportunities that are afforded and I didn’t really have a lot of that, so I didn’t really have the concept of mentorship when I was growing up. Like you had your teachers and then you’re basically expected to figure it out yourself. So I’ve never really sought out mentors, particularly in the early stages of my career, but I ended up, for example, you know, when I got interested in open source and then I started going to Linux user groups and then I started meeting people online and I started meeting peers who were interested in the same things I was interested in.
Jono Bacon (05:31):
So I started being exposed to mentors without realizing it. And I saw these folks as mentors and I admired them and I modeled some of my behavior on the math as we, as we so often do. And it was really only since I left canonical back in 2014 I think it was when I realized the importance of having mentors because at that point, somewhat arrogantly, I felt like I basically figured out how communities work. You know, I’d written the art of community, I’d started the community leadership summit, we’d had a pretty decent amount of success with the Ubuntu and I felt like I had most of the answers. And one of the things I’ve always admired about my wife, Erica, who now is on the executive team at github, is that she’s always reached out to people and said, you know, Hey, I’m, I’m learning this.
Jono Bacon (06:17):
I’d like to get your input. Like when she was running a company, bitnami, they’d always just get on meetings and get, you know, feedback and advice and guidance. And I never really did that. And it wasn’t the, I felt like I was the best, it just didn’t really strike me as something that you do. But now I look for it at every step of the way. For example, a friend of mine, Liz, she’s an executive coach and she runs her own business. And as a consultant you don’t really have any peers. So it’s nice to go out to dinner with her and just talk through how does she run her business, how should she approach her clients and things like that. So mentoring is definitely evolved, but my brother Simon, he’s the one who’s responsible for the fact that you will have to put up with me. Cause you know, he really, he really jump-started the whole machine. So yeah.
Grant Ingersoll (07:03):
That’s interesting. I mean I think I kind of had that same sense for a long time and then it dawned on me that, you know, Hey, there’s other people who have been through this. Maybe you should just ask.
Jono Bacon (07:15):
Well. Yeah, and I think along those lines, and I think for me it was just an element of, of just getting older if I’m being honest, when I was at places like canonical when I was at an X prize, especially as well, I think I was probably a little bit insecure about, I think I felt like I was vulnerable to feedback and, and I’ve always been very open to criticism. Like, my biggest fear in the world is I’m doing something wrong. No one will tell me. So I keep making the same mistakes. I often invite feedback, but being able to say, for example, to present a set of statistics to a mentor and say like, this isn’t good. How do I improve this? I think I had a certain amount of self consciousness about that. And really in the last, I’d say the last five or six years, I’ve completely flipped on that.
Jono Bacon (08:06):
And now I see very much the areas where I’m not very good. And I see that as a great opportunity to get better and the thrill of actually reaching out to people and then guiding you and really being able to zone in on, okay, well these are my flaws, these are the, these are the things I can improve on. And then seeing the results in when you improve on those. And I don’t know whether that’s something you can teach in people when you’re younger. I think there’s an element of just you figure that stuff out as you get older is my theory. I mean, I wish I’d been able to do that when I was 20 but I probably, I think I was too headstrong and whatever else and frankly, a bit of an idiot when I was 20 to say that.
Grant Ingersoll (08:51):
Yeah. You know, maybe it’s some reaction to, you know, you’ve been in school so long that you’re tired of somebody else telling you, so it’s just time to like,
Jono Bacon (08:59):
Yeah, I think you’re probably right.
Grant Ingersoll (09:01):
I will say the dirty little secret of this whole podcast is simply me getting mentoring one hour at a time from a bunch of people I admire. I’ll come back to the consulting question cause I think you hit on some really interesting things there. But I first want to drill in on this notion of director of community because there’s two, there’s two parts to that, right? You know, at first I would love to hear the elevator pitch on how you view community and how you think about it. And then second overlay, what does the director of community do? Whats the day look like? So how do you piece that together into a career?
Jono Bacon (09:38):
Yeah. So to me there is never been a more exciting time to talk about communities than today. For a few different reasons. One is that we’ve seen over the last 20 odd years enormous success stories with companies building communities. You know, we’ve seen the enormous impact of open source around the world is running our devices, our data centers, you know our IOT devices and beyond. And many companies have invested in that and they’ve been very successful from that. But we’ve also seen companies like Salesforce, Oracle, SAP, Harley Davidson, Proctor and gamble. They’ve all developed very successful communities around, around their area of focus that provide support, software development, you know, event organization, advocacy, mentoring, all kinds of different paces. So community itself is something that is demonstrating value. But what to me is particularly interesting is that the commoditization of technology and the rapid availability of internet access around the world means that more and more people today are digitally connected than ever before, 85% of millennials carry a smartphone.
Jono Bacon (10:50):
The cost of a gigabyte of data in India is far cheaper than it is in the U S and the UK, for example. So it means that more and more people have got an opportunity to connect and I think younger generations are growing up. So people who are listening to this who are maybe starting to think about what they want to do for a career growing up in a world with social media, with the internet, and we’re an inherently social species. And what’s happening is that it’s changing the relationship that we have with the software that we use with the brands that we engage with, with our institutions that universities and elsewhere where people want to have a community relationship. If you look at the way we’ve engaged with brands in the past, you know, 20 years ago, 30 years ago, you buy a product and you want to engage with the company via there, you know, customer service number or there email, customer service, email address.
Jono Bacon (11:43):
Then companies, as the internet started growing, people started getting email addresses. Companies started sending out newsletters and broadcasting information to their customers. Then the next phase was more recently is is building digital experiences attached to products such as building websites or downloadable apps. Anyone who’s got a kid knows if you buy any toy now, it always comes with an app that your kid is pestering students, stolen your phone, but still that’s very much a one-to-one relationship with the company delivering content and services to the customer. And I think what’s happening now is we’re seeing an increasing desire because of the commoditization of technology. Because young people are growing up in a world with the internet where they want community experiences. I mean a good example, this is Fitbit, they don’t just sell fitness trackers. They’ve got a massive community that’s broken into people who swim, people who run all these kinds of different places.
Jono Bacon (12:35):
So to me there’s more of an opportunity than ever for people to get into the business of building communities. And that is kind of segues into the next question that you had, which was around like a director of community. One of the things I think is interesting when new industries form is the terminology tends to shift and change. So when I started, for example, I’d never heard that term community manager until I went for the job at canonical. They have never seen it before. And now we started seeing director of community, community manager, community evangelist, developer relations, all of these different pieces. The way I kind of look at it as a director of community is able to understand the needs of an organization, the broadening needs, not just the community name needs to also define the community needs. And then to break that into a strategy that they can then execute and assign the right resources to deliver that kind of success. In the same way of VP of engineering will coordinate engineering resources and deliver engineering outcomes such as a product or a service. Community managers in my mind people who are in that every day knee-deep in community members to engage in with people on forums, social media, doing talks, generating content, all the nitty gritty kind of work that you need to keep the community engaged. And then an evangelist is somebody out there is primarily focused on raising awareness of that community in that company and bringing people in. That’s how I kind of differentiate.
Grant Ingersoll (13:59):
No, that’s great. I mean, I think that’s perfect. And, and you know, it’s interesting, I work at we Commedia which has many communities and I think you, you hit on so many things that, you know, I’m, I’m eight weeks in on the job, but I think I see so many of what you just described there come through. I’m curious then like now overlaying Jono bacon as the consultant Xtrordinair for community, right? Consulting is often feast or famine, right? Share with our listeners that getting started, the inception moment around you did this at cononical like, all right, I’m going to go forge my own way on this and build a consulting brand and really, you know, a whole brand around this now.
Jono Bacon (14:46):
Again, like anything else, it was kind of a unexpected path. I’d always flirted with the idea of of being a consultant and one of the reasons for this is in every job I’ve ever been in, and this is just something to do with my brain, I’ve always really enjoyed the diversity of providing guidance where appropriate to lots of different organizations. So when I was at canonical, you know, that’s when it started happening. People would reach out to me and say, Hey, you know, I’m starting a new open source project. What would you recommend? What have you learned from your experience working on Ubuntu? And they’d always be like every week to be very people reaching out. And that drum beats started becoming more profound when I wrote the art of community for ORiley about 12 years ago. And then I did a second edition about 10 years ago because people would read the book and they’d say, how do I implement this into my organization?
Jono Bacon (15:44):
And that’s actually when the first consultant request came in. It was from Deutsche bank and they said, how do we do this inside of our business? So I started doing a bit of consulting on the side and I didn’t really do a lot of it cause I didn’t have a lot of time and I primarily I need you to come company who were the primary people reaching out to me and I didn’t look for it. And then when I kind of went, okay, and what at x prize and github again. When I left canonical, when I left X prize, I was flooded with the idea of it, but I was never confident that I could get enough business. So I was kinda like, yeah, we’ll put it to one side. And financially, my wife and I, Erica, she was running Bitnami. Bitnami was late to the Salta VMware and now she’s a good hub.
Jono Bacon (16:24):
But you know, she’s a founder, right? So she’s not pulling in a large salary. Most of the value is tied up in equity. I was pulling in my salary and we just had a kid, so it was just too risky to give it a go and then went to X prize. When I went to github and when I was thinking about leaving github, I just thought, look, if you don’t give it a go, you’re always going to be wondering. And I always throughout my life have what I call my rocking chair moment, which is when you’re 85 years old, you’re looking back over your life and you, everyone’s died. You’ve outlived hopefully because of the amount of gin that you drink. And then nobody ever says, I wish I’d stayed in that job longer or I wish I’d worked more. We always say, I wish to spend more time with our families.
Jono Bacon (17:11):
I wish I perceived my hobbies more. I wish I’d tried to do the things I wanted to do. And I thought, if you don’t do it, you’ll never know. So I basically left github and started up as a consultant and I’ll always remember just after I’d started walking around, interrupt in Las Vegas and walking into the exhibition hall and just looking at every company thinking, how do I convince them to be a client? Just this sense of panic about how you’re going to do it. And, and I’ve been very fortunate because touch wood from day one, I’ve been fully booked. I’ve not had a single month where I haven’t been fully booked for three years now. But the caveat here for people who were thinking about getting into consulting is I was lucky because I’d written my book. So I’d already kind of published a methodology to this and I’d already had some experience in these other companies. And I also love the hustle of consulting. I love talking to new clients. I love prospecting for business and frankly I don’t really prospect for business. This is when people come over and having conversations, whether it’s good fast, some people really don’t like that. They just want to do the work and they want someone else to bring in the business. If you don’t enjoy the hustle, don’t be a consultant cause you’re going to be miserable.
Grant Ingersoll (18:26):
I do think you hit on something really cool there though is that I see a lot of this in you know, you see a lot of this in management and you see this as a founder in a lot of places. There’s this people so often frame life as these binary things. And what you said to yourself is, okay, I’m, I’m in a current place. It’s not, keep doing this or quit. It’s yes and, and you figured out a way to start to do a little bit on the side to see, you know, it’s that dipping your toe in the water. And I think that’s so important for people to realize that frankly, it probably just means you play video games for an hour or less out of your day, right? Like you can often dip your toe in the water for an hour or less.
Grant Ingersoll (19:13):
Every day. I look at this podcast, I try to spend a half hour every day doing something for it and I can do that on the side. Was that a being a big burden to family? Right. I think you hit on something really important there. Let’s shift gears a little bit. I mean, I, you know, I love when I have open source people on because open source has been huge in my own career and likewise you had this moment with your brother early on. I’m like, Hey Jono, check out this thing called Linux and then you know, you’ve, you’ve crafted this consulting around both commercial and open source, but talk about the open source aspects a bit deeper and how it, what it’s meant for your career.
Jono Bacon (19:53):
I have an enormous debt of gratitude tto open source because for me it’s not just created a career but it’s shaped the way in which I think and it’s shaped my attitude somewhat towards unlocking opportunity that’s ahead of you. You know, when I started out, before I got in interested in open source, I’ve always been, I guess when I was younger I was, you could probably describe me as being a bit of a dreamer. Like, you know, I’d, I’d have ideas about things I want you to do. And I’ve always had a general idea, a general philosophy of if you don’t have a go at it, then you don’t get it. And open source is the purest environment for being able to, being able to do that I think, you know. Because when, when I was 18 and like I said, I had a pretty turgid collection of grades.
Jono Bacon (20:41):
I was going to, frankly, a pretty average university. The reason why I went to [inaudible] university was because one of the preeminent professors on interactive multimedia at the time, professor Steven Molyneux was he ran a course there bcause he didn’t want to take that course elsewhere. And so he, he had it in Wolverhampton, by the way. Stephen Molyneux not the right wing, different guy. We flew in let’s name names or names. So you know, as a young person, one of the things that I’m really thankful for open source with is that you can go in that and it’s, it provides an opportunity to build a resume. Right? So for example, I started a website called Linux UK in the, in the UK, which is basically ironically the first version of it was made in Microsoft front page cause I didn’t know HTML and it basically pulled people together in the UK cause I just wanted to meet people who are interested in open source.
Jono Bacon (21:36):
I used to work in a bookshop back then before I went to university and I used to print Linux penguins on tee shirts with an iron just in case somebody would see it and want to have a chat about Linux and, you know, bit by bit you start joining communities and contributing a little bit, a little bit here and there. And at the beginning there’s massive amounts of an imposter syndrome and there and you kind of get into it. But for me, well I’m very thankful of is the, I ended up meeting so many interesting people that I would never have met if I didn’t get interested in open source. Like a lot of people who I’m friends with today, back in the early days of opensource, people like Matthew Garrett, Stewart Langridge, there’s all kinds of these different folks. We all kind of grew up in the same time going through this and we’re all figuring it out.
Jono Bacon (22:20):
And what I love about open sources that it provided a great way of getting peer reviewed feedback on the things that you’re doing. Cause that’s the opensource way. But there’s also an element of why don’t we just go for it and have a go at doing something like, and there’s been so many examples of this. Like one example was when I used to do a podcast called lug radio, which was bonkers. I used to record it in Cubase on my Mac and ICU. Endless amounts of brief from the, from the [inaudible] community about this. So, but I didn’t use the recording tools that are available on Linux like Otto cause I felt like it was too complicated. So over about 15 cups of tea one night, hanging out with my friend Stewart, we basically designed a really easy to use multi-track software tool. And I basically wrote a blog post about it and someone [inaudible] then went and created a, a bit of code that was nicknamed Jonno edit that implemented the beginning of this.
Jono Bacon (23:17):
And I thought, why don’t we build this? So we ended up working on this and we ended up building this tool called [inaudible], which somebody else named. And it was named jokosher, which was kosha means no bacon. And then Joe well what I loved about that was a little group of people came together with an idea and that to me is the essence of open source. So to me, not only does it allow the ability to build a career, but it, it builds that intrinsic spirit of like a have a go attitude. Yeah. What Winston Churchill would refer to as keep buggering on and on. I love that about open source.
Grant Ingersoll (23:54):
Yeah, well, and, and I’m pretty sure you just gave away the real secret for building community, which is put a logo on a tee shirt and wear it around town and have people ask you. Right. Shifting gears a little bit, and before we specifically talk about people powered your book, I’d love to hear about how did you get your start as an author, because you know, on top of this community side, and there’s also this, Hey, I’m going to start writing books, which is a whole nother undertaking of work, right? I’ve written a book and that’s a lot of work, right? So you gotta be a certain type of mind. You gotta be a certain type of brain to to want to do that. Right?
Jono Bacon (24:34):
Right. I’ve always enjoyed writing and it goes back to when, when I first got on the internet in about 1996 and in England you had to pay to get on the internet. It was 10 Pence a minute and there was no free local calls. So, yeah, I had very minimal amounts of time, so I wasn’t just hanging around online in chat rooms and whatever else. So I set up a website on geo cities and I used to write text files, which were a big thing back then with basically guitar lessons. And I used to write these and put them online. And then when I discovered open source and Linux, I used to write documentation for projects. Some stuff was part of the Linux documentation project back then. So it was always interested in writing. And so that meant that when I went to university and I went to exhibit a, the KD project at the Linux conference in London, I managed a black, a free booth and I got drunk in a bar with these with with Richard Drummond and Nick Vij.
Jono Bacon (25:31):
And they were starting this magazine called Linux format, which is still around today. And they gave me an opportunity to get something in the magazine. And once that first article was published, I just thought I’d write more articles and I really enjoyed it. And he brought in a little bit of money. While I was at university, like 40 pounds, not article or whatever it was. And I was obsessed about O’Reilly. I used to collect O’Reilly books. I had a massive library of them and part of it was that the bookshop that I worked in got bought by another company. So all of the stock from our company was sold off for one pound for a paper back in two pounds for a for a hardback. And the guy who ran the company said, [inaudible] run our branch, said take whatever you want.
Jono Bacon (26:12):
So I ended up taking about 10 boxes of books, many of which were O’Reilly books. And I always had a dream of writing for a Riley. So I can’t remember how it happened, but basically I got introduced to someone at O’Reilly and they came and they approached me about co-authoring a book called Linux desktop hacks back then. And that taught me about, I took that job very seriously. You know, I read the elements of style by Strunk and white. I read a whole bunch of books about writing cause I was like I am not going to ruin this opportunity. Even though in retrospect it was Linux Desktop Hacks, whatever. So we just kind of went from there and wrote that book and then joined canonical and then [inaudible] to do a book about, Ubuntu. To the official ubuntu book kind of came through and then talked to O’Reilly about the art of community and just one thing led to another that really, and.
Grant Ingersoll (27:01):
So here we are. People powered is your latest book. Walk us through it. What’s it about? Who’s the target audience?
Jono Bacon (27:10):
Yeah. So when I wrote the art of community, which is a very in depth technical manual for community managers who work in primarily in open source, a lot of companies would come out, come to me and say, look, we just bought your new book. We’re looking forward to reading it. And particularly for like executives, founders, entrepreneurs, people who are not doing on the ground, community management work. I was always worried about them reading the art of community cause I felt like they get lost very quickly. It’s like five or 600 pages. It’s very, very technical and an in depth. So for a while now I’ve been wanting to write a book which is more of a business book. It’s designed for a general purpose audience, which complete technology folks as well as others that basically shares the value proposition of communities and why they’re interesting and what they can do.
Jono Bacon (27:53):
But also how do you go about building out community strategy? How do you define the value, pick your personas, how do you onboard people, how do you build incentives and rewards? How do you engage with people? How do you integrate online and in person events, and then how do you integrate that into your business? How do you hire the right kind of people? What kind of maturity models do you look for? I always want you to write a book like that, but, and that’s what people powered is. It is and I’m, I’m pretty proud of it. It was a challenging book to write because business books are short and frankly, I don’t know about you, Grant, but I don’t like a lot of business books because I feel like in each chapter they share like two principles that they drown you in examples over and over and over again and then you’re like, I get it.
Jono Bacon (28:40):
And I wanted People powered to have be high level and approachable that anyone can read but really go into a good level of detail about how you do it and be very pragmatically useful. I feel like, I mean its early days, the book just came out so the audience will decide this, but I feel like reasonably accomplishes that goal and I got some cool people to contribute some content like Joseph Gordon Levitt, who was the Emmy award winning actor. Mike Shinoda is the cofounder Lincoln park, Jim Zemlin from the Linux foundation. Ali Velshi who’s the anchor on MSNBC, you know, these, all these folks will all contribute some content to kind of make my real material seem a bit better.
Grant Ingersoll (29:18):
Jono Bacon (29:18):
And yeah, we’ll see what happens and but yeah, the writing in that book was in itself is part of the writing journey. Was it a whole new thing for me? Because it’s how you get a business book published is very different. How you going to a tech book published, because the business press for example, you’ve got to have an agent and they won’t talk to regular authors. You’ve got to go through an agent and it’s, they’ve got really long timelines and all the rest of it. So.
Grant Ingersoll (29:39):
Yeah, sure. And when in most business books too, I think you missed one of the key things right, is, is you need an acronym because if you don’t have an acronym, then it’s not a business book. Right. You know, it’s gotta be, it’s gotta be something that, you know, you can put in somebody’s brain, you know, that little ear worm. Right. So hopefully, so hopefully yours has an acronym.
Jono Bacon (30:01):
I think that was a couple of acronyms in there. The tricky thing as well is I just, I don’t want to come across as one of these nauseatingly like self-help people with this ridiculous invented jaron. And I wanted it to be like down to earth and frankly a bit English in nature, very down to earth, but also, you know, serious stuff. So,
Grant Ingersoll (30:24):
Yeah, for sure. I mean, I always tell people my favorite business book of all time is one about rock climbing. So, and it’s not a business book at all. It’s actually a book about rock climbing. But that’s a whole different story. So I think you’re right and you know, having known you for a while, I’m pretty sure you’ll hit the Mark there. Right? So, but like you said, it’s up to the readers and that’s actually one of the really like as an author, like, you know, it’s like what was that country song Jesus take the wheel like once this thing’s published like Jesus take the wheel, right?
Jono Bacon (30:58):
Yeah, totally. Yeah, that’s it. I mean it’s, and it’s, that’s actually been a little terrifying with this because like I said, when I wrote the art of community wrote the book and then couple months later it came out. Whereas with the business press, like I wrote most of the people powered at the end of last year and it came out in November this year. So it’s not often I’ve worked in something for that long before it gets consumed by the world. So you end up going through this level of excitement and anxiety kind of interweaving.
Grant Ingersoll (31:27):
Well, if it helps you at all. I started my book in 2008 and it was published in 2013 but that was more on me not on anybody else. Right. Jono, that’s, that’s fantastic. And, and you know, to the extent that this show that we’re just getting started with can help and promote the book, we’re more than happy to do that cause we, we love our. Jobs and careers aren’t all sunshine and rainbows as I like to say. You know, what’s been some of the more challenging aspects of doing what you do? You know, like what’s a little bit of perhaps peek behind the curtains that goes into to crafting this life?
Jono Bacon (32:10):
There’s a couple of things that wrap up in that. One thing that was challenging at times, especially when I was at conomical was canonical made a series of decisions that were quite controversial in our community. We launched this desktop environment called unity, which at the time some community members were very excited about and some people were very nervous about, you know, we had to differentiate with ubuntu. Because one of the challenges with open source of course is that anyone you can take it and as the company you gotta make some money from it, but you also want to respect ideals and the culture of the community. So we made some change, we made some, some decisions that were controversial and some of those decisions were good decisions and some of those decisions were bad decisions. But I was very much one of the most visible members of the company and we had to deal with a lot of conflict back then.
Jono Bacon (32:56):
And in some cases a lot of personal attacks towards me. And you know, I’ve generally taken a very objective approach to this, which is if you’re going to be critical, but you’re going to be factful and dignified in your criticism, I’ll listen to you. If you’re going to be hateful, mean-spirited, and just an a-hole about it, then I’m not interested. And it took me some time to figure out what that balance looked like. And I was, when I look back on that, I think I was generally pretty patient with people, but it takes a bit of a personal toll and you know that kind of waking up in the morning and dealing with that is exhausting. And that was, that was difficult. But I’m glad I went through it because I learned a lot about patience and about listening to your critics. I ended up writing a a short ebook called dealing with disrespect, which was precisely around that, which is when people disagree with each other and this is happening so much now with the current culture of the internet that someone disagrees with you and it’s easy to just go nuclear on them.
Jono Bacon (33:57):
And to me there’s so many elements that play into this. Like there are people with from different age groups, people from different cultures, people with different levels of communication capabilities online. Like, you know, all of this plays a role in, in how we communicate. And it taught me to look at the intent as opposed to just looking at the words, but that was challenging. Yeah. The other element I think a journey that I’ve been through is I think I used to be, especially when I was younger, quite an anxious person and anxiety is something that generally when I was growing up in North Yorkshire, in the UK and from my childhood, no one talks about anxiety. That’s not something you have and I think especially frankly a lot of men are very self conscious about this for sure. And I think I realized that I was actually quite anxious about some of these things.
Jono Bacon (34:44):
The thing that really helped a lot with this was becoming a consultant where you very much face the reality that you might not have business. And I think as I’ve got older, just learning that you never get rid of anxiety, you change your relationship with it, you just don’t let it have any power of you. And these days I’m far less anxious than I used to. But you always go through a wave, very run there, have a bit of a wobble of do you know, is everything going to be good with this book or is, you know, people happy with what I’m [inaudible] as a consultant, I tried to look at these things as, okay, this is not necessarily a negative in your personality. It is just an element of your personality and you learn how to manage it. I’m not expecting anyone else to deal with this. I’m expecting myself to deal with it. And that in itself is pretty empowering because I think when you can make progress in those kinds of barriers, then you know, you end up with a happier life. So yeah.
Grant Ingersoll (35:37):
Wow. Like I said, my whole goal with this podcast is just to have one hour mentoring session with somebody I respect. And Jono, you hit on so many things I think we all struggle with, right? I, the number of years, I let things live in my head, rent free as they say, you know, and then finally, and you never quite are over it but realize, you know, it’s, yeah, it, it’s, it’s like a switch goes off then and all of a sudden, like, you just feel unlocked and you can go do so many things that you always were, eh, should I write that book? Should I not like, you know, now all of a sudden you just like, Hey, you know, it’ll be okay.
Jono Bacon (36:24):
Yeah, I completely agree. I mean, it’s one of the things I wish I had known and one of the things I waffle on about in some of my talks at conferences is I’m a big fan of this philosophy called stoicism, which is all about looking at yourself from the outside in. We’ve all experienced this. You go into a job interview and there’s a power dynamic. Whether the person’s got all the power and you, you feel subservient to them, or you go into a meeting with your boss and your boss is not happy about something. You feel that knot in your stomach when that happens. And stoicism is all about training yourself to say, what do I want? Okay, this feels uncomfortable, but what do I want to do to get the best outcome? And kind of training your brain to have a separate bit of your brain that looks inwards and says, okay, what do we want to do with this?
Jono Bacon (37:12):
And I’ve been a fairly I wouldn’t say I’m an obsessive practice practitioner of it, but it’s very important to me to do that. Tiny example is my parents will come and visit from the UK, we’d hang out for a week and then they’d leave. And I’d be depressed because I’ve missed, I’ve missed my parents and the same very often. And they’re getting older. And then like a lot of people, when you feel sad about something, you then start saying, well wow, God, what else am I doing wrong? And blah, blah, blah. And then you start evaluating everything. And now I’ve realized the day they leave is going to suck. But the day after that is going to be fine. And I think once we learn those patterns of our psychology, it puts everything in perspective a lot better. So for example, I’ve now learned if I do something new, I’m probably going to suck at it, but then I can now say, you know what, that’s the first time you’ve done it. It’s only going to get better from here. Let’s evaluate what you did. And I think that is something that frankly I think primarily comes with age is just as you live on the planet
Grant Ingersoll (38:13):
And realize that you suck at every new thing you do and then eventually you don’t suck at it or you move on.
Jono Bacon (38:21):
I remember when I started smoking barbecue, I’m really into barbecue and the first rack of ribs I made, my friends just chewed through it. It’s great. I know it’s no great. I know it, you don’t have to
Grant Ingersoll (38:36):
Like, well I live in the South so, you know, challenge accepted Johno I mean, you know, you need to come on down and, or we need to have a little cook-off there. Although I want to be the one one cooking good barbecue restaurants down here.
Jono Bacon (38:55):
Oh, for show a bad barbecue over there is better than good barbecue.
Grant Ingersoll (39:00):
Well then the real question is, is vinegar or tomato?
Jono Bacon (39:04):
Oh yeah, I love vinegar.
New Speaker (39:08):
All right. You’re an eighth Tang, you’re an East Carolinian then that’s, yeah, that’s good. My answer is both, so,
Jono Bacon (39:16):
Oh yeah. Wow. Moonshot thinking, right. I’m,
Grant Ingersoll (39:23):
I’m paid to think differently. Right. John, this has been awesome. So I want to just wrap up with a couple of bits and I think in many ways you just gave me that the answer to the first question, but you know, one of the things I love to ask all my guests is if our listeners want to follow this path, right? Like, Hey, I’m going to be a consultant, I’m going to go build community. What advice would you give them to get started?
Jono Bacon (39:50):
I think what I would say is if we break it into two areas, if you want to, if you want to get involved in kind of the community side, community management for example, is just go and start. There are thousands of communities out there who need help, who want someone to kind of come in and you know, just gently help out here and that don’t go in and try to dominate, but go in and help out. Go and join a community and get some experience and get your feet wet and then go from there and write a lot or share your learnings, have a blog, write on social media and then gradually look for opportunities as they manifest themselves. You know, if you see an opportunity to write for a new website or an opportunity to go and speak at a conference or there’s an opportunity to go and do a talk about your experiences building community, I think just go from that is have a go and go for it.
Jono Bacon (40:38):
From a consulting perspective, I think the most important thing in my mind is, is to be aware of when you start consulting. Most people I think focus on the service that you provide and perfecting that and to look at your businesses, not just the service that you provide, but all of the things that are wrapped or wrapped around it. Like, you know, you’re looking feel of your website. It’s the what’s in your statement of work, how you invoice people how you go about finding clients and business and, and all those spaces and to look at that as much of a project as perfecting your disservice that you provide. And then again to like look at the world as the world is filled with opportunities. I think we just need to sniff them out. And of course everybody is coming from this from a different perspective.
Jono Bacon (41:25):
I’m not suggesting that everybody is dripping in opportunity and some people come from some difficult backgrounds and I’ve got more pressing conditions that can limit their opportunities. But I still think if you, if you look at the world through a glass half full, you know, week, the future is a malleable place that we can make better, you’ll find those opportunities. And there my dad is a perfect example of someone who had a very, very difficult life, you know, like he was raised pretty poor, had polio, had all kinds of health issues, very limited education, and he would just sniff out the opportunity as he found it. And I think everybody can do that.
Grant Ingersoll (42:02):
Yeah. So true. That’s really great advice. I’m going to skip over the normal question I ask around what are some resources that have helped you? Because I think for me, like all of our readers should just go pick up some of your books and get started there.
Jono Bacon (42:17):
I’d appreciate that. Yeah.
Grant Ingersoll (42:18):
All of our listeners should do that. So with that, you know, I kind of just wrap up with one last question, which is, Hey Jono, where can our listeners follow you and find out more about you and your career?
Jono Bacon (42:30):
A starting point could be my website, which is Jonobacon.com J O N O bacon, like the delicious meat .com. And then, you know, I’m on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. I do Instagram here in that I keep forgetting about Instagram, honestly. Linkedin and my, my user name is Jono bacon. I’m most of them apart from Instagram because some demon stole my identity and I know I’m Jonah bacon Graham on there. But yeah, that’s probably the best place. I mean I write quite a lot of articles. You know, I post a lot on social media so that’s probably a good place to start. So, and I’m an open book if anyone’s got any questions, particularly if I love anyone who’s kind of figuring out the career and where they want to go and just drop me an email firstname.lastname@example.org and I’d be happy to help where I can.
Grant Ingersoll (43:17):
That is so awesome and we’ll be sure to link all of that up in the show notes. And of course people can do the good old Google for Jono bacon. Like you said, you’re pretty easily finding these online pretty easily found these days. So Hey Jono, thanks again for joining us today.
Jono Bacon (43:36):
Yeah, this is a blast. Thanks grant.
Grant Ingersoll (43:38):
Yeah, and thank you of course to our listeners for taking the time. As always, if you’d like to show, we’d love for you to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, Google player, Spotify, or whatever your favorite app is. You, of course, can also visit us at develomentor.com to hear older episodes, to find these show notes we’re talking about, as well as other content on careers in tech. Most importantly, if you like the show, please tell your friends. Referrals are course lifeblood of any podcast. If you have any feedback, we’d love for you to share that with us, either about this episode or about other episodes, or just want to drop us a line. You can do that at email@example.com finally, we just here at develomentor hope that each and every episode helps you move one step closer to finding your path in tech
Selected Links from the episode:
Jono Bacon’s books (mentioned in the episodes):
People Powered: How Communities Can Supercharge Your Business, Brand, and Teams
The Art of Community: Building The New Age Of Participation