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1/ We are living in the era of the network entrepreneur. It is now possible for anyone to develop ideas, influence, visibility and ultimately profits without relying on a traditional credential. But how?

A thread 👇
2/ I found the best explanation of how this works in a 2015 paper from Duke - Network Celebrity: Entrepreneurship and the New Public Intellectuals - fredturner.stanford.edu/wp-content/upl…
3/ The paper looks at three people who succeeded in doing this: Norbert Weiner, Stewart Brand and Tim O’Reilly.

They are what sociologist Ronald Burt called “network entrepreneurs” or “network celebrities.”
4/ Burt saw was that O'Reilly, in particular, through his publishing business, conferences and writing, had built communities where groups as diverse as programmers, executives, journalists and politicians could construct shared understandings.
5/ Lots of terms in the terms in tech from “open source” to “Web 2.0” were originally developed by groups O’Reilly organized then exported what came out of those groups in the form of books, blog posts and other conferences.
6/ O’Reilly is, in many ways, a celebrity and public intellectual, but of a breed much different from those that came before him.
7/ Rather than coming out of a research university, O’Reilly created a virtuous spiral of network and reputation building which developed into a hub of public entrepreneurship.
8/ O’Reilly was not the first to do this.

The first person that could be considered a network celebrity was Norbert Weiner. Wiener was a math professor at MIT during WWII but became famously associated with the cybernetics movement.
9/ He was able to do this in three steps:

1. Building Legitimacy - He had status from his MIT association.

2. Creating a Forum - He brought together interdisciplinary networks which informed his ideas

3. Exporting Shared Ideas - in the form of books, articles and paper.
10/ By assembling a group, Weiner was able to identify what Burt called a “structural hole” in many fields that could be filled by a single theory, cybernetics, which he became closely associated with after publishing a book of the same name
11/ He continued hosting a conference that became known as the the Macy conference from 1946 to 1953 which continued to be a fertile ground for establishing shared language and understanding including the word “feedback”
12/ What Weiner discovered was that when an individual stands astride several networks, they have the perspective to see the forest for the trees and can name a new movement and collaborate on projects with individual network members.
13/ The key terms of cybernetics could be deployed within and across different disciplines which increased the legitimacy of Weiner and the cyberneticists and gave them access to more resources.
14/ The model was emulated by Stewart Brand who redefined the term “hacking” as a beneficial activity and came to "own" it in the same way Weiner owned cybernetics
15/ He followed the same steps as Weiner:

1. He Built Legitimacy through his prior work like Whole Earth Catalog

2. He created a forum by hosting the 1984 Hackers’ Conference then

3. He exported many of the ideas birthed there in the form of newspaper and magazine stories.
16/ He oversaw the formation of a “hacker ethic” which included values like mistrust authority, information should be free, hackers should be judged by their hacking, not degrees, age or race and the belief that you can create art and beauty on a computer.
17/ As phrases like “information wants to be free” cascaded through the computing industry, Brand became a highly visible representative of the internet and hacker culture.
18/ O’Reilly emulated Brand’s model, making it a scalable, repeatable process for developing ideas, visibility, influence and profits.
19/ His first major published success, The Whole Internet User’s Guide and Catalog was a deliberate echo of Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog.
20/ Like Weiner and Brand before him, O'Reilly:

1. Built Legitimacy by aggregating and brokering the programming expertise of those around him in technical books

2. Built a Forum in the form of conferences

3. Exported the Ideas in blog posts, essays, books, and tweets
21/ In O’Reilly’s own words: “We wait for the dust to settle, for the holes in the ‘obvious’ to become apparent

Our jobs documenting things that need explaining.”
22/ In 1991 O’Reilly published the first guide to the then-new Perl programming language. He launched the first Perl conference in 1997where Eric Raymond gave his influential talk “The Cathedral and the Bazaar” and the term “open source" emerged

23/ The same three steps still work today and I've seen people use them.

Here are a few ways I've seen people accomplish each step:
24/ Ways to Build Legitimacy:

Start a successful company

Get an apprenticeship/job for a high profile company in your industry

Write a Book

Build a meaningful personal media property (Twitter account, Blog, newsletter, podcast, etc.)
25/ Ways to Build a Forum:

Host a conference

Host a series of brunches/dinners (e.g. Dinner for B2B SaaS marketers)

Organize a group chat for your industry

Start an online forum (Discourse, FB, Slack, etc.)
26/ Export the Ideas:


Online Newsletter



Youtube Channel
27/ Fin. What else should I add?
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