by paul spencer
Tue Nov 13th, 2007 at 12:06:46 AM EST
Per today's discussion, here is a different approach to format.
Jerome's and Melancthon's caveats are now included. If I missed other pertinent comments, please notify me.
Poemless - I didn't include your comments, because you seemed disinclined to participate. As to the specific quotation, I included it to illustrate Migeru's demonstration of "opportunity cost". In fact I didn't consider your remark snarky; I thought that it was your normal well-developed and very-entertaining wit.
From the first draft: "This is a draft. Any suggestions are welcome. For that matter, I am going to continue to work it, as I'm quite sure that there are bits that should be rearranged. I just wanted to get it out for further work.
"Since I'm editing, I'm going to editorialize a little, too. Concerns about the role or interface of a possible "company" within the blog are understood. Someone suggested that we could perhaps have a folder like the "Debates" section. If this is acceptable, I think it would be excellent. Beyond that, some member of the "company" could write a weekly report diary for the blog."
Bootstrapping the ET think tank
2. Perspectives and Rationales:
3. Organizational suggestions:
4. Potential operational details:
5. Potential projects:
1. Bootstrapping the ET think tank by Migeru (Tue Nov 6th, 2007 at 08:17:25 AM EDT)
Over the months there has been a lot of suggestive talk about taking ET to the next level, whatever that may be. For lack of a better term, one could call this next level "the ET Think Tank". I personally don't like the label Think Tank because I associate it too strongly to intellectual whoring, but for instance I'd like to be able to devote time to macroeconomic/ecological systems research without having to worry that my savings will run out and then what? You can call that kind of work Think-Tanking but I prefer to think about an ET Research Unit. There has also been talk of coordinating cooperative work better, of having a dedicated LTE editor, things like that. The problem is that I cannot see these things being done on people's free time. It's a qualitative step away (up, down, forward, back or sideways, I don't know) from blogging. There has also been talk of "meta-consulting".
So this got me thinking about the business model and while I haven't reached any definite conclusions, I think the Research University model is instructive. There, the professors want to do research and the universities want the status that comes with having prestigious researchers among the faculty. But research doesn't pay the bills. The solution is that researchers spend (say) half their time raising money for the university [teaching fee-paying students, writing grants] and the rest of their time doing what they really want to do, which is research (or playing the fiddle: once you get tenure you don't really have to be all that productive as long as you help raise revenue by teaching your classes).
So maybe the ET Think Tank should be run on a similar basis: half-time "gainful" activity and half-time "vocational" activity. What could be the "gainful" part?
I could say "don't ask me, I couldn't sell anything, I don't know how to identify demand for services, get yourself a marketing person (like Sven?)". But even if you can identify demand you still have to figure out how (whether) you're going to meet it. Who's going to be doing the work and what work can they do?
Initially there's going to be no revenue, so you have to work essentially for free, eating your seed grain if you may, while you set up something that will provide you with, if not steady but in bursts, at least sufficient income to keep yourself going. The problem is most of us face huge opportunity costs for doing that kind of thing. What is the opportunity cost of, say, Jérôme going 3/4 time at work so he can devote 10 hours a week to developing the business side of the ET Think Tank?
In terms of opportunity cost there are three categories of people:
- retired or unemployed (this includes me, but I don't know for how long) people: they face zero opportunity cost to working on the ET Think Tank.
- self-employed people, or people working on an hourly or contract basis: they have the flexibility to shift their working time from their current activity to the ET Think Tank, but initially at an hourly opportunity cost, as long as the ET Think Tank revenue doesn't pick up sufficiently.
- people on full-time employment: they generally face the opportunity cost of their whole income, or at least discrete chunks like going from full-time to 3/4 time which normally results in a more than proportional loss of income.
So I see therefore three stages in the bootstrapping of the ET Think Tank. The first stage involves people who face no income opportunity cost for working on business development. If and when revenue starts being raised, we enter a second phase where self-employed people can be compensated for their opportunity cost. As the business grows it gets to the point where it begins to make sense to hire people "full time" (it being understood they retain "half time" to do their research/writing/activism/advocacy) and then people can actually quit their unfulfilling jobs and come to work for the ET Think Tank.