Transcript of EP 234 – Richard Bartlett on an Experiment in Co-Living

The following is a rough transcript which has not been revised by The Jim Rutt Show or Richard Bartlett. Please check with us before using any quotations from this transcript. Thank you.

Jim: Today’s guest is Rich Bartlett. Rich is co-founder of the tech co-op, Loomio and a community building network, Microsolidarity, which is very interesting, by the way, check it out folks. Non-hierarchical management consultancy, The Hum, and he is a director of the social impact collective, Enspiral. He’s also available for coaching and advice. If you want his advice, you can buy it by the hour. He’s actually got three different prices. Let your conscience be your guide. Kind of cool? You can hit him up at You can also find him on Twitter at @RichDecibels, and as always, links to these things will be on the episode page at, so check it out. Welcome back, Rich.

Richard: Yeah, it’s great to be back with you.

Jim: Yeah, this should be a good conversation. I had Rich on before, back in EP 51, where we talked on self-organizing collaborations. Actually, a really good episode and it’s very relevant to the Liminal Web game B communities, particularly for how to think about organizing things at the smaller scales. Highly recommend this episode, as well worth listening to. Today. We’re going to talk … at least we’re going to start from, regular listeners know, God knows where we end up, but we’re going to start from a medium essay, Rich wrote back, I think in March, was it something like that? I know we reached out to you in March. You may have written it earlier.

Richard: You replied immediately as I posted it, which was the best reception I could have got for the blog post was “Come and talk to me about this on my podcast.”

Jim: Yeah, because I do subscribe to some god-damn thing or other, so I sent it along. So I said, all right, yeah. And it’s titled What We Learned from a Three-Month Co-Living Experiment On Medium. And I did not know this at the time, because I hadn’t agreed to do it yet. This may have a little bit more relevance. I might have actually a bit more useful to say, instead of my usual chest pounding and blather, because for the first time in 13 years, I actually went to some hippie ass fucking event in a co-living house with 19 millennials, two Gen Xers, and me, a deep boomer. And it was very interesting and actually very enjoyable, time well-spent for sure.

Some of the things I saw during this five days resonated with some of the things that you wrote about in your essay. So I’ll be more embodied in my response I suppose, as we would say, from having actually had the lived experience, “Oh God, Rutt is getting soft in his old fucking age. What the hell is going on here?” Anyway, so Rich over to you, tell us a little bit just the broad outlines, then we’ll get into the details of what this three-month experiment and co-Living was all about.

Richard: So the experiment for me is like I want to live in some kind of community, some kind of embedded local place with great collaborators, good friends, business activities, I want to be in a place where I’m surrounded by people that I have common interests and common values and we’re doing good stuff together and we enjoy the good life. I think it’s a basic ingredient that a lot of people need, to feel like their life is as it should be. And at the moment, that’s not what my life looks like. A lot of my peers, I’m a nomad, and even the ones that are not nomadic, a lot of people my age and younger, are pretty isolated. This thing of actually having a locally embedded network of everyday real life support and companionship.

I see a kind of outgoing trend, surprisingly. You’d think it would be the most basic ingredient of everyone’s life, but it seems to be receding. The tide is going out.

Jim: And I will say that’s a game-B-ism that we believe since 1870 in the West, that has been a trend where people used to be almost exclusively embedded in groups of 150 plus minus 100, 200, 300, whatever. And even, if they were in a big city, they were in a tight neighborhood, often ethnically defined, et cetera. Since then, we have traded those communities of material and psychological and cultural sustenance for two cold transaction machines. One called the market and the other called the state. And we’ve ended up atomized as a boomer. They ain’t just kids today. They got a raw deal. Boomers have a different deal. We were in that golden age where getting career type jobs was less difficult.

Keeping them for your full career was still not necessarily easy, but the way the post-World War II lifestyle was defined, you aspired to the house in the suburbs with 2.5 kids and three cars, and you lived in a suburb which kind of looked like it could be a community, but it usually wasn’t, right? Everyone’s lives were focused around their nuclear family, their job and then, their network of friends, but their friends could be anywhere in the world or at least around the country. So you didn’t have that organic everyday experience of being embedded in a high-dimensional live community. So this has been a problem for a long time, and I think we both agree it’s about time we do something about that.

Richard: Agreed. So I actually grew up in one of these local communities in New Zealand, in a very kind of old-fashioned traditional Christian community. And then, left that because it was too conformist. There was too much pressure to be a certain way and it didn’t suit me. And then, I found my way into a new community, and then, I left that because basically for economic opportunities, I felt like I needed to travel to Europe, and it just felt like a much more … yeah, I could have a much more financial opportunities by moving away from my home. So then, I’m left with this challenge of like, “Okay, how do I recreate something that took decades to build up as an outsider?” Well, that turns out to be quite difficult.

So, that’s the kind of frame for the experiment we did is that, okay, if the destination is this very embedded, long-term, permanent local place, how do you go from zero to one? And the strategy that makes sense to me is you start small and iterate. So this experiment we ran was three months just with my wife, Natty and I as the core team driving the thing, taking the financial risk, renting a big house in the south of Spain, holding any mission-critical decisions, I guess, were between the two of us. And then, we invited in a small group of collaborators that we knew very well, spend a lot of time with us and then a wider group of people that were more on the fringes of our networks and so on.

And over the course of three months, I think I said 79 people or 80 people or something came and stayed with us. There were different events where we had a lot of people at once and then, the house would empty out or we’d just have five or six people there, so we were kind of experimenting with different ways of using the space, figuring out the business model, figuring out the social dynamics of how does it work, how do we keep it. Feeling fun and nice and not boring and tedious with loads of meetings and conflict. I wrote the blog post because it went well, and I wanted to reflect on why did it go so well?

Jim: I’m going to make a suggestion for the future, and this is something … it’s a work I do in another part of my life, in meta science, which is the science of science, essentially. One of the things that we propose and is now actually starting to happen is called pre-registration, where you commit yourself in advance of doing the experiment to publishing the paper whether it works or not. So next time you do this, I’m going to suggest you pre-register, but on Twitter, as some will say, “All right, we’re going to do this,” and I commit to writing up whether it’s a shit show or not.

Richard: You have my commitment. I’ll write up the next shit show I’m involved in.

Jim: And describe it as a pre-registration. It’s an idea we’re trying to get out in the world, because otherwise, you have a success bias in what comes out in the world. So the total learning from our experiments are lots. Anyway, one of the things I found most interesting about this is that you came up with a hybrid of co-living plus events. What was your thinking about that? How’d you get to that as the design?

Richard: I think the co-living for me, this is just a personal preference, but I like to be in a house with five or six people. That is just basically what feels good to me. And the problem is we had a house with a capacity for 20. So if we were going to have six people staying there, the rent is very expensive.

Jim: The economics didn’t work, okay.

Richard: And also, I think if it was just six people in the quite remote countryside in the south of Spain for three months, it could probably get a bit cabin fever.

Jim: It might end up as an Agatha Christie murder mystery, right. Six people get on each other’s nerves eventually.

Richard: Exactly, exactly. Yeah, so I wanted to have some more dynamism, and that’s the idea with the events. Both running events is a good business model because you can sell a ticket times 20 people and get a lump sum of income. And we’re very familiar with doing that in our company, The Hum, we do it, we run a lot of events, so it’s kind of our bread and butter. And it’s also just an interesting way to get people to get together and to form new connections and all of these digital collaborations that we’ve had over the years to get some embedded time face to face and having a meal after we’ve done all the work. That to me is yeah, just so much more satisfying than doing anything digital all the time.

I think alternating between those two modes, it’s sort of more quiet, more solitary mode, and then, a more sociable, excitable, it’s like two different flavors and they both complement each other, and I wouldn’t want to do too much of either of them.

Jim: Interesting, interesting. Now, the five or six people who were the co-housing people, were they also part of the event teams or were they just hanging out?

Richard: Yeah, so it was like a rolling crew. There was one person that stayed, I think for two months, then most of them stayed for one month, and it was just kind of people … it sort of filled up to about six or seven, but it was changing over the time. That’s an important detail because one of the things I write about in the post is that everything was very harmonious. There was no significant conflict, and part of that is just a side effect of people staying there for a short time. It’s that you can kind of put up with things being a bit frustrating for a month, but if you were staying there for six months, things would come to a head.

Jim: Yeah.

Richard: So we’re definitely playing on easy mode in that regard.

Jim: Yeah, so you weren’t actually solving the local operating system problem for even six people to live together harmoniously over a long period of time, which is of course an interesting challenge.

Richard: Yeah. Yeah.

Jim: So maybe tell us a little bit about the facts and figures of your venue, the place, how you found it and why you liked it, et cetera.

Richard: Sure. I mean, finding the right place is painful, and mostly, we’ve just got Natty to thank for that because she did really laborious research to find the places, right? For us, what we wanted was something fairly remote. To me, it’s wintertime and it’s the south of Spain, so people want to go there because it’s sunny and warm. It’s kind of like the southwest of the US or something like that. It’s just a really excellent climate. And people want to get away from the city and be in nature. So we’re up in the mountains, really incredibly beautiful place. So that’s definitely a factor is this natural landscape. Just having a natural landscape that people are excited to visit already takes care of a lot of the … I don’t know, it’s kind of like one of the main activities that’s happening there is people are relaxing and being kind of blown away by the natural wonder.

Jim: It’s also a part of the attraction package when you’re marketing, right?

Richard: Yeah. Yeah.

Jim: Yeah, get the hell out of cold ass Germany or Scotland or something and come warm your toes in southern Spain far from the madding crowd.

Richard: Yeah. So yeah, the landscape is of an important part and it was so satisfying, like whenever someone would arrive, we would take them on a tour of the venue and show them around. And before you get halfway around, you’d notice most people have this experience of, we take them out onto the terrace where you can see the whole mountain range, this enormous view. They just watch people kind of … the stress just melts away. And that was really gratifying. I guess, the other considerations we had for the house was minimum capacity of 20 people. I’m kind of obsessive about the ways that groups of different sizes feel different.

For me a good event, the kinds of events that I like, the minimum 20 people, 20 to 30, 40 is sort of the sweet spot for me, where there’s enough collisions and new people meeting each other and enough noise, but also simple enough that it’s easy to cook for and it’s easy to sort of house everyone. It’s not too much of a logistical nightmare. So that size is a big thing, and then, this undefinable thing called the vibe, the style, the decor, the character of the place. There’s a lot of houses that are soulless, seems to be a trend. Everything gray, everything beige-

Jim: Concrete, everything glass.

Richard: Beige.

Jim: Hilariously, when I was a business dude traveling, I had given my assistant instructions. No beige hotels. It used to be so funny hearing her call the front desk and say, “Is your decor beige?” And they’d go, “What the fuck?” I decided life was too short to stay at beige hotels.

Richard: Yeah, one of the first things we do, when Natty and I are traveling, if we go to a hotel or an Airbnb or something, the first thing we do when we arrive in a house is we will change the lighting. We’ll move the furniture around. We’ll just say, “This should be comfortable. Let’s get it set up in a way that is actually conducive to people having a convivial experience.” So when we found this house, we saw the photos and it was like, “Okay, this person who set this house up knows what they’re doing.” There’s loads of little nooks. It’s really adorable. It’s a 250-year-old farmhouse that’s been renovated. It’s got an enormous amount of character, and it’s incredibly weird. Like all of these rabbit warren sort of rooms connected to rooms, connected to rooms.

It kind of felt like us, not too luxurious, but really accommodating and really hospitable. So that was a factor. Finances are a factor. Just looking for something within our budget where the risk felt doable, that if it completely sucked and we couldn’t sell anything that we weren’t completely blowing our life savings, but it was a tolerable risk. The weather like I said, I think that was the main thing.

Jim: Cool. Yeah, the financial thinking, I definitely admire you for that. One of the things I run across fairly often, as you can imagine, is people thinking ease events up or co-living, but they don’t actually do the work of seeing if it will work. One of the things I’m pushing heavily in the game B world is that I would call something like that, a membrane. And the membrane has to work in every dimension. Just like life, if your metabolism doesn’t work in every way, guess what? You die. So your membrane, let’s call it this 90 day experiment, has got to work in every dimension, including in game A terms, financially, right?

Richard: Yeah.

Jim: Or at least within your risk tolerance. So we did have a good conversation once. I don’t remember if it was on the podcast or elsewhere, about the possibility of building cooperative insurance for events of this sort, which again, is a collective self-organizing way to hedge risk. Risk is okay to take, but what’s even cooler is that where you can hedge your risks and then, you can take more risks, which actually allows for even more creative things. Well, now let’s go to the couple of negatives that you did mention, or at least issues, which is being in a remote location, there’s no public transport, presumably, and logistics going to the grocery store, stuff like that, are probably a bit problematic.

One of my criteria for buying a house has to be within five minutes of a place that sells beer. Did this pass that criterion?

Richard: It did. It did. Yes. Yes. There was a kind of general store in the village, where they kind of had one of everything. So you could buy one box of beers, but you couldn’t buy two. And then, the nearest supermarket was a 30-minute drive away on very treacherous roads. So that’s what I mean by remote. I mean by European standards, obviously. I know in the states you’re basically in the middle of the city, but there was a factor just the amount of time that we had to spend in transit and really basically meeting people at the airport an hour and a half away and running a sort of informal taxi service. I hadn’t anticipated that was part of my life’s plan, but it’s just a factor.

It just like, it would’ve been nice if there was something that could take care of that for us, but it didn’t really work out. So it turned out to be a chunk of my time, which was a relatively pleasant use of time, but it’s also opportunity cost. It’s time that we’re not doing other things that could be more productive. So all of these little factors have a huge impact on what your actual day-to-day life looks like.

Jim: Let me give you a little horizontal learning from the event. I just went to. The organizer there was smart. It was also in a small town, though it did have a grocery store on how far it was. I didn’t actually do the grocery runs, but she solicited people who she thought might be willing to rent cars. And I raised my hand and said, “All right, I’ll rent the biggest damn thing I can find,” which turned out to be a Ford Expedition, giant three-seater, 20 feet long, six meters for you, Euro sorts or non-Americans, I suppose I should say. We’re the last holdouts on the real measuring system. The one that God said was the way we should do things.

Anyway, a big old boat, and there were some other people who had cars. So we did the driving and the schlepping, and I even chauffeured a fair good crowd up from the airport to the venue and back when it was done. So she was smart and all she did was post to the Google Docs and said people self-organize. So there’s an idea for the future to encourage some people to take a leader, a sub-leadership role in organizing little pods of transport, which worked out perfectly as it turned out.

Richard: Yeah, we did some of that, right? When there was a big event on, a bulk of it would happen that way, but there was always one person going by themselves at a different day or just these things that filled up a lot of the space.

Jim: Got you. Got you. And again, thinking through the logistics matter, because if the transport breaks down, the whole thing breaks down. So that’s again, one of these issues. Within the membrane, all the metabolistic elements have to work. And if even one major one fails, you got yourself a problem. So as you mentioned, you did four paid events and they were of different sorts. Maybe you could tell us, you don’t have to necessarily go into the specifics, but give us a sense of what the four events were like.

Richard: Yeah, so two of the events are kind of bashful about this. They’re Twitter events. They’re basically meetups for people who know each other from Twitter. And we’re in this kind of extended vague community called Teapot, this part of Twitter. And it’s a bunch of people I think that are learning how to have satisfying social lives, primarily mediated through digital means. One of the ways we make those relationships satisfying is getting together and having these long weekend party/on-conference/workshop festival type of things. And it’s been really exciting. As a member of that network watching this culture of organizing, emerge, it’s very informal.

There’s no boundary. There’s no rules or there’s no roles. There’s no kind of structure that you can really point to, but somehow in that network, there’s emerged this impulse of we should run gatherings, we should hire a big Airbnb and get people together for a long weekend. And that’s happening all the time, literally, every six weeks or something, there’s another one happening in a different part of the world, and that’s really exciting. So I put two of those on, thinking, well, this is … I guess it’s an important detail actually. I’ve been doing community organizing work for a long time and in many of the places that I organize, it’s really hard to make a living as an organizer because you’re mostly dealing with do-goodness, frankly.

People that have really good intentions and are contributing something really positive in the world, but very rarely have any spare money to rub together. So I’m used to doing a lot of freebies or getting paid right at the minimum. And one of the interesting things about this Teapot crowd is that a lot of them have got very well-paying jobs, and so they can afford to actually pay community organizers what they’re worth. So yeah, it sounds almost a little mercenary, me saying it like this, but that’s an important factor, is that can we actually make a living doing this? So that’s one of the communities.

Jim: Can we make the membrane actually metabolize and not collapse?

Richard: Yeah. Does this thing … is it self-sustaining? Is there a metabolism to it? So we did two of those gatherings, which was super fun and really low stress and it’s just a bunch of internet friends getting together and just delighted to hang out. So that’s a very easy way to get some good people together. And then, the other two events were, I guess quite different. One was … we called it the Collaborative Leadership Retreat. And this one was a small invite-only group of people who run big NGOs essentially, or medium-sized NGOs, I should say, from across Europe. And we got them together to look at what is it like to run an organization when you have values of inclusion and participation and collaboration.

And yet, you’re in this position of authority like how do you hold that paradox? So that was a more … I guess a bit more focused, a bit more workier, a bit more corporate, a bit more hosted, a bit more structured, and that came with a higher ticket price. And then, the fourth one was a retreat for the Micro Solidarity Network. And that’s kind of at the very other end of the spectrum where these are all a bunch of volunteers who are community organizers and they want to learn from each other. And we got a little bit of grant funding to be able to make that accessible to people who have low income. And that was focused on how do we support the micro solidarity network to get to its next stage?

So there’s a lot of yeah, people. So we started designing, what’s our next online course and what events are we going to run this year and all that sort of thing. So that was quite a focused group of volunteers getting together and making a plan for the year.

Jim: Cool. Yeah, I would say the two Teapot episodes and the last one fit in nicely with one of my personal theories, which is that people miss the opportunity to combine strong links with weak links and get a synergistic effect that’s better than either by itself. When I talk about strong links, I mean generally speaking, face-to-face, right? There is … we are apes with clothes basically or apes with no clothes in the hot tub sometimes, but we’re apes and we want to operate in groups, we want to sniff each other, we want to look each other in the eye. And the relationships that come from those strong links are qualitatively different, I would stipulate than those that will come from online.

And though, I will say if you engage with someone online for 30 years as I have on the Wealth, it’s a community that I’ve been a member of since 1989, amazingly enough, and it still exists, you can get something approximating weak links, but from a group of randos on Twitter, nah, ain’t going to happen. If you then stitch in, and the interesting thing is, it doesn’t have to be everybody connected to each other, right? That’s the cool thing about it, with strong links. As long as there’s a skeleton of strong links, people can do reference checking on people. “Well, you’ve met this asshole, Rich. Does he really is much of an assholes, he seems. Nah, he’s actually a sweetheart. He just comes across that way sometimes,” right?

Because I’ve actually had dinner with him, we got shit-faced and we argued politics and we didn’t smack each other, so all was good, right? And so I think what you’ve stumbled into here, I’m sure it’s by design knowing you, because you think about these things is that the strong links build these high dimensional … very high dimensional relationships that are hard to quantify but are extraordinarily valuable, but they’re expensive. You got to haul people’s bodily asses around and feed them and give them a place to defecate and all that. Well, on the other hand, network links are real cheap. You want to say that post something on Twitter, it costs you nothing, right?

Even if you want to set up your own online private community, it costs you $100 a month for 1,000 people or something. So it’s essentially free. So if you think cleverly about how to weave in your community, weak links and strong links, and you end up with something that has better attributes than either by itself, because with the strong links you have trust, you have deeper understandings of each other. You have some resiliency when things go wrong. With the weak links, you have the ability to very switch from topic to topic, add new people around the edges, try them out, et cetera. And this weaving of weak and strong, I think is a skill that is still not tremendously appreciated.

Richard: I would say there’s some strange kind of transitive property as well, where if you personally have enough strong links within the network, you can kind of … it’s like you borrow trust … It’s hard to explain. So I’m describing, we have these lots of small gatherings in different parts of the world, and I don’t have to go to the same gathering as you, but if we have kind of friends in common that went to the same gathering, that already increases my trust in you.

Jim: Yeah, that was my point before.

Richard: Yeah.

Jim: Yeah, yeah, that you have transivity. As long as you’re no more than one node away from somebody that knows the other person or even two, sometimes the trust networks can flow that way, which is kind of cool. Yeah, so I think you’re seeing the same thing. Yeah, so this idea of being able to not have to have everybody connected to everybody by strong links, which are very expensive and particularly, if you try to maintain them over time, but you build a skeleton of strong links and then wrap that with weak links, and you have something that you couldn’t do with all weak links because it’s too weak and you can’t do with all strong links, because it’s too expensive and too slow moving. So, this hybrid design I think is really something that’s important that you’ve come upon, and that’s cool.

Teapot, it was funny, a couple of years ago, someone told me I was a member of Teapot, and I go, “What the fuck is that?” And they had to explain it to me and I said, “Well, I don’t know about that, but whatever.” I guess, I was not enough member of Teapot to know that these events occurred. No, I was not invited.

Richard: I mean, there is a blend, like some of the events are very public and it’s sort of like, “Hey, everyone’s welcome, come on in.” And then, the other ones that are much more private. Again, it’s kind of like navigating this terrain of trust and trying to be inclusive and give people … have that catchment area where new people can come in, but also, have a velvet rope that there’s a room behind the room where you can get invited into, if you’ve been validated as someone trustworthy or you’ve got something to contribute here. So there’s a reason you haven’t heard of most of them.

Jim: It highlights the other very important skill. We talked about sort of network design, the other is curation. And you talked about that a bit in the essay. I don’t know, if you used the word curation, but particularly with the long-term residence, you certainly want to put some curation on that and perhaps for the event. So maybe talk a little bit about your thinking about curation in both the group housing thing and the event thing, because they are qualitatively different, of course.

Richard: Yeah. My hypothesis for now, I think that the curation is the most significant decision to make, is who’s invited. I think that’s the thing that we got right, was inviting in people that we were confident we’re going to support the healthy function of the group and not be a drain on it. And that requires a certain maybe boldness or assertiveness to be able to say, “No, you’re not invited.” It’s hard to do that in a sort of socially graceful way, but it’s necessary to have someone that’s empowered to make that call. And then, it’s like, “Well, how do you make the decision? It’s a very subtle thing.” It’s hard to put into words exactly what our decision-making criteria is. It’s the kind of thing when you see it, right?

Honestly, the people that I knew less well … because we had a graduation of some people we knew extremely well and that were staying longer with us than other people that I’d never met, but we had friends in common or something like that. So closer or further away, and there were some people I’d never met and they sent me an email saying, “Hey, I’ve heard what you’re doing and I’m interested to come visit.” And in the space of three sentences of an email, you can immediately start to get a feel for this person the way that they think, the way that they communicate, the way that they are addressing me, the way that they’re sort of presenting themselves.

Somehow there’s a … I don’t know, there’s a very subtle set of signals that tells me is this person considerate? Are they self-aware? Do they seem like a fit? Are they going to be interesting? I don’t know, it’s like I say, hard to define, but there’s a bunch of split-second decision-making about who do we invite? And certainly, we include some weirdos, don’t get me wrong. It’s not like everyone has to conform very strongly to our ideal person or something like that. We can accommodate quite a high degree of divergence and really, different types of characters. I think that’s one of the appeals of the Teapot scene particularly is it really appeals to highly divergent people.

A group can only sustain so much divergence. There needs to be something holding it together. There needs to be a center of gravity, there needs to be some coherence, and that … to me, it’s not very fun if that coherence is coming from one core person in the middle who’s telling everyone what to do or holding a vision very tightly. It’s much more interesting to get that from a Venn diagram overlap of people with related interests and values, and they’re enthusiastic about the same stuff. So that selection criteria is important. You can have one person in the room who’s really inconsiderate or unaware or just showing up with a completely different set of expectations, and that can really … as the young people say, it can really harsh the buzz.

Jim: The other thing, I’ve seen it is one nut can derail an event also, and sometimes you have to have an ejection mechanism. Did you have to throw anybody out?

Richard: No one got thrown out. No, there’s a kind of stage before getting thrown out, which is a bit of containment maybe, anticipating. I’ve got a very high tolerance for nuts, shall we say, to use your word. My tolerance is much higher than most people, and I know that. So I’m happy to have someone around who’s quite jarring and peculiar, but other people might be quite disturbed by them. So, the containment thing is if I see there’s someone that’s really having a kind of negative impact on the social dynamic, I will try and spend more time with them and maybe if necessary, yeah, create a bit of space between them and the rest of the group. Just not expect everyone to be able to put up with them in the same way that I am.

There wasn’t much of that with this one, to be honest. I think the people that came were pretty well known to us, and so the ratio of nuts was pretty low.

Jim: Yeah, that’s good. Again, to your point, one of the most important aspects of this is the curation function. And I like the way you described it as rather than having some canonical ideology that is our coherent core, you looked at it as a series of overlapping Venn diagrams. You wanted to make sure that there was an overlap that covered everybody.

Richard: Yeah. Yeah.

Jim: What would you describe as the overlap in the … let’s say just pick one at one of the teapot events? Where’s the center, so to speak?

Richard: I find this so difficult to answer, and it’s the common question for all of the communities that I’m really committed to. It’s very hard to describe what it is they have in common. And one of the best guesses I have, it’s something about how we interact with each other. It’s kind of a fundamental commitment to respect a pluralistic attitude towards respect. Meaning, I expect you to think differently from me and I’m going to treat you with good faith, and I’m going to be curious, and I’m not going to be a pushover. I’m not going to give into your ways of thinking, but I am going to hear you out and give you space, and I’m not going to try and collapse your subjectivity down to match mine, or I’m not going to try and push you around or coerce you to think the way that I think.

So there’s something about this way of interacting with each other, rather than any specific interest or a topic or something. Obviously, there are some topics that people enjoy, that’s a necessary requirement. It’s pretty hard to define what those topics are. There seems to be quite a broad cluster of different things, but this thing of how do we talk to each other, there’s a kind of earnestness, there’s a kind of … yeah, people are, they’re trying to do something genuine. There’s no bullshit. I think that’s one of the things, it’s very low pretension. As you can hear, I’m kind of like searching around for it. I don’t know what the answer is.

Jim: Yeah, it sounds a lot like the Game B concept called Rule Omega, which I think Brett Weinstein came up with originally, which is to assume that the other parties you’re interacting with are operating in good faith unless you have really strong evidence to the other side. So engage with them earnestly, assume they’re not being ironic unless you have some reason to believe they’re being ironic and reach for the signal that they are trying to send, even if it is encumbered with some noise. And when people, in the game B meetups when they do occur or online or in person and someone invoked rule Omega, that’s a strong sign that the bullshit must end.

And at it’s time for us to get down to it and let’s really probe on what we’re trying to say even if we’re having difficulty saying it. And it’s really amazing when that actually happens.

Richard: I guess, my mind’s going now. There’s another thing we have in common, which is that the Teapot community specifically has been really influenced by different memes that have spread in that network. And one of them is from Visakan Vee. He’s like great uncle of Teapot, I think. And he’s got a line, “Focus on what you want to see more of,” and that’s such a basic thing, but I’ve been in communities where the focus is not on what you want to see more of. The focus is on all the things that are bad in the world and everything that needs to change and the criticism and the deconstruction and this focus on … this positive focus, that are like what are we excited about? What are we interested in? Where’s the enthusiasm? What are we building? Where are we going? That is a very generative focal point to have.

Jim: Yeah, I love that. That’s great. In fact, one of my critiques of a lot of essays and books about the meta crisis, it’s all about the crisis, not about the solutions. And in fact, I’m working on a long writing project right now. One of the moves, me and my co-author, have done is we have bought the domain name and we’re going to put all the problem recitals and all the horrible things. In fact, we’re going to crowdsource it with a wiki and we’re only going to mention it in about one page, and then, we’ll have a link to If you’re here reading this essay, you already know all the problems. If you want to wallow in them, go to

Here are some of our thoughts on the steps forward. And I wish more people would do that because just wallowing in the problems and wringing the handkerchiefs doesn’t do anything for us, especially once we’re well aware of the nature of the problem space, let’s get on with fixing this stuff.

Richard: Yeah, and it’s just very rapidly gets overwhelming and it lends itself to tunnel vision. And all you can see is the bad stuff, and you discount any disconfirming evidence. You see anything positive or reasons for optimism, you say, “Oh, yes, but have you really thought about how it’s the end of the world and everything’s doomed?” Yeah, it’s not a long-term sustainable way to organize people.

Jim: Yeah. It’s also, I believe, bad for people’s mental health. It draws them into pessimism and a sort of negative mind state. I will say for many, many years of doing things in the world in both the business, non-business, academic, volunteer worlds, optimism and energy are what you need to actually make something happen. Pessimism, even if it’s legitimate is not the mindset to get shit done. So I like that a whole lot. What was that guy’s name, you said?

Richard: Visakan Vee. I can-

Jim: Visakan Vee. It’s an interesting name.

Richard: Yeah.

Jim: Okay.

Richard: Yeah, he’s from Singapore, so it’s Kan with a K. Visakan Vee.

Jim: I’ll check that out because anyway, I like that a lot, I think is an important thing that we also do in our communities. Let’s move on now. We’ve kind of waved our hand at Membrionics and the fact that the metabolisms have to work. You laid out, I was quite impressed, the real details of your profit and loss on the event, maybe give us a high level summary of how it actually worked out as a metabolizing membrane.

Richard: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So let me see. I’m just pulling up the table. The mentality that we had was this has to pay for itself. That’s essential. There has to be a business model. And we knew it was going to take us a lot of work. So if we weren’t going to be able to draw a salary, we had to at least need to pay for itself minimum. So the way that we went about the financial strategy was an estimate of how much it was going to cost based on our prior experience of running a lot of events. So we kind of had a gut feeling about how much is it going to cost for catering, and we knew obviously, how much the venue was going to cost to rent.

Those are the big factors. And then, we looked at that figure, added a safety margin, and then said, “Well, we need to bring in minimum, 12,000 euros over the course of the three months, and let’s budget for those four events that I mentioned, those four paid ticketed events.” Let’s see if we can cover our expenses with those events. And then, the co-living time with people paying rent as co-living guests, that’ll all be gravy, that’ll all be bonus. That’s sort of extra margin, that just turned out to be a much smarter strategy than I thought. It just worked really well. I mean, I think we got a little lucky that the event sold really well, but we basically sold out across the board, which is not something that you can count on happening long term.

I think from our experience of selling events, is that you have this kind of low hanging fruit mechanism where the first time you do something, the second time you do something, yeah, you can sell it out, but if you try and do it six or seven times, you kind of run out of those easy targets. So this hasn’t confirmed anything long-term about the business model, but the first stage was good. Okay, we managed to sell the events out, so that meant we were in the black and then, we had all these co-living guests staying with us for a week or two weeks, three weeks, and charging them what was for them, a very affordable rent.

It adds up when you are paying … people are paying every single day for the time that they’re spending there, and sometimes there’s 10 people in the house that adds up pretty quickly. And our expenses were very low because we’re in the middle of nowhere and there’s nothing to do. All we’re doing is that going for walks in the mountains and having nice dinners and drinking wine. So yeah, honestly, it was really satisfying to come up with a business model that made it sustainable. It just meant that there was never any resentment or stress on my part from, like I said, doing all the driving or doing the grocery shopping, all that sort of thing. It’s like, no, no, we managed to walk away with, I think it’s 16,000 euro, profit. Is that what I said?

Jim: Yeah.

Richard: Yeah.

Jim: 16,123.

Richard: So that’s for me and my wife for three months, which it’s not a great salary. That’s going to be what we live on for the rest of the time, but it’s actually affordable in that part of the world. And obviously, if we’re going to do it long term, we’d iterate and optimize and make it better, but it gave me a little of confidence that we’re not completely dreaming.

Jim: One of the things I found interesting, and also, it was quite an eye-opener at the event that I went to, is the amount of the everyday support of the location. Cooking, cleaning, organizing, can actually, you can have the community do most of that. Talk about that a little bit. You came up with some clever little tools, some systems to make that, but you didn’t over-assist with the ties. So maybe run through all that, the idea of how do you keep the costs down and also frankly, the participation enrichened by the people doing a lot of the work.

Richard: Yeah, yeah. Agreed. It’s enriching. It’s the same as your example with the rental cars. It’s not just a logistical thing. When people self-organize into cars, they have an opportunity to connect with each other and have a conversation. And it kind of adds, I think a certain conviviality and informality in the way that things are organized compared to doing everything as sort of a professional service where things are taken care of you, like a hotel. I think it adds a lot to the atmosphere, to have people taking care of the practical needs of the house together. We had to do a bit of … we as in the people who started the project had to do some coordination.

So we tried to decentralize the shopping list, it didn’t work, it didn’t do a mess. So it’s like, “Okay, we’ll keep the grocery shopping list, we’ll manage it, people can add requests to it, but we’re going to manage the shopping list. We’re going to do the grocery shopping. When there’s a big event on, we will have somebody who’s thinking about the whole menu over the course of the event, but the actual cooking and cleaning is going to be done by whoever is there. And that activity is just one of the main things we’re doing is we’re living together. We’re in a space together. We’re not in a hotel, we’re in a house. So that yeah, added nicely to the vibe of the place, but also took a lot of work off our plate, obviously, like if we’d had to pay for professional catering services through the whole thing, the numbers don’t work out, right?

And then, yeah, I mentioned in the post a lot about the systems that we use. I went into some detail about that because I’m a system nerd, and I think it’s important to have good systems to make a collective organism like this, function sustainably in an efficient way. And yeah, as a system nerd, the danger is getting too excited about all the possibilities of spreadsheets and post-it notes and meetings and facilitation techniques and coming up with this very elaborate thing with loads of rules. Yeah, there’s a part of me that always wants to go in that direction and design this very elaborate blueprint. We settled very early on this idea of just-in-time design, where we as organizers left a very open blank slate with very little in the way of formal rules or roles or anything like that.

And just said, we’ll bring in systems when it’s obviously, the next elegant step, when it’s obvious that we need some kind of structure to support things feeling light and easy and harmonious, we’ll bring them in. So one of the ones that are described in the post, it’s called the Community Mastery Board. And this is a very rapid fire process where anyone in the group can name what we call an awareness. I’m aware of … often the awareness is a problems. It’s like, I’m aware that people were talking a lot last night outside my bedroom and I couldn’t sleep. And these kind of little micro tensions, these little micro problems come up.

And then, we are looking for what’s the quickest thing we can test as a potential solution to that. So the idea is you’re just going as quickly as you can, instead of having a very elaborate discussion about what could be the best possible thing be, and I want the freedom to talk late at night, and any tiny issue can open up a million cans of worms, but we just want … what’s the quickest thing we can test? So, okay, in that example, “Well, why don’t we agree that around that part of the house, we’re going to be quiet after 10:00 PM. Can we just give that a try for a few days and see how that works?” It’s very simple stuff, really micro stuff like that. There’s a post-it note that says, “It was too noisy last night.”

And then, there’s another post-it note on top that says, we’re going to be quiet from 10. And then, because we’re doing this in the space of this 10 or 15 minute meeting, every day after dinner, you can very quickly process little micro tensions. And over the course of several weeks, you build up on this community mastery board, all of these kind of shared norms that we have discovered by practice. And we said, “Oh, it turned out that 10 PM agreement didn’t really work because everyone actually wants to stay up later and drink wine. Okay, well, we’ll changed that rule.” So it’s a very dynamic way to … yeah, I guess the deep principle here is give people a chance to name what’s not working, and not just that they have a chance to name it, but they’re very proactively being encouraged to talk about what’s annoying.

What’s frustrating? What’s getting in the way? What’s injuring your happiness today? Let’s deal with it, because I think a common failure mode of groups is that people are dissatisfied or they’re annoyed that there’s some kind of frustration and they keep it to themselves, and it slowly builds up. And there’s this kind of resentment. As you store it in your spleen, it gets more and more toxic, and then eventually, it explodes and then, it explodes in this big conflict, and suddenly, you hear about all of these different conflicts that you never had any idea about, but you’re in this big dramatic scene. And it’s, yeah, for me, one of the most unpleasant parts of community life is when you have those explosions.

So what we’re looking for is just micro tension release every day or every few days, at least every week, there should be some kind of moment where people can name the things that are getting on their nerves. And we can just really quickly prototype stuff to just see what if we try it this way, maybe that’ll be better tomorrow. So I think that was a really key ingredient.

Jim: Yeah, I love your term resentment minimization. You described it very nicely how these little stupid things build up. Next thing you know, someone shoots the Archduke Ferdinand and you got World War fucking what. Personally, I hate that kind of drama. It sounds like you do too. And I personally never initiate it. Though if I get sucked into it can get real ugly. And I do wonder about people who do like to initiate that drama, but they certainly exist. And the buildup of resentments, even relatively small ones, does seem to be a big part of that problem. So it sounds like it’s very wise to explicitly aim at resentment minimization.

I heard two different things. Did you have these all hands discussions daily or weekly or whenever necessary? How did you do that from a governance perspective?

Richard: Yeah, so we started with nothing, like I said, and then at a certain point, maybe it was a month into the process, I noticed actually that Natty was getting frustrated. She was getting resentful about something that was happening. And with good reason, don’t get me wrong, she was putting her finger on something that was like, “Oh, the system is not quite working here.” So, I said, how about instead of us getting annoyed about it, we’ll try and make a constructive intervention. So that’s when we introduced this Community Mastery Board, and we did it … at the start, we did it religiously every day. It was kind of like, we have dinner together and then, at the close of the meal, we’ll quickly look at … we had the board next to the dinner table, so you quickly look at it and say, “Hey, what’s come up today?”

“What happened yesterday? What are we doing today? That sort of stuff. What are we doing tomorrow?” And do that on a very rigorous … we know this is happening every single day, sort of build the habit, build the routine. Then maybe … I don’t know, maybe a month of that. We kept that very rigorous routine and then yeah, we sort of got the hang of things and it didn’t seem so important anymore. So we let it slide a little bit and then, we do it every few days. And that kind of flexibility in the systems, I think is a key ingredient of it not being tedious as well.

Jim: That makes a lot of sense. I like the idea of just in time, or what was the phrase you used to describe your approach to … just in time system?

Richard: Just in time system design. Yeah.

Jim: Yep, and I’m going to hypothesize, love to get your thoughts. I know you’re a serious thinker about organizational dynamics. That strikes me as very wise for groups up to 20 or 25, but I also predict that it doesn’t work at groups of 50 or above. In the transition between 20 and 50. It probably depends a lot on the nature of the community and the quality of the leadership, et cetera. Does that make sense to you in that, if one were to build, let’s say, big events or a big community, you’d need to at least over time, build a bit more structure?

Richard: Yeah. In my mind, there’s this multi-dimensional landscape, and depending on where you are in that landscape, dictates what structure is appropriate. So some of the dimensions you’ve got that you can travel on is like, like you say, how big is the group? And the more people are involved, the more likelihood of things being annoying. And so you’re going to need some structures. You’re going to anticipate what’s going to be frustrating and how can we make that more efficient. Another dimension you’ve got is, like you said about the leadership, how much trust is there? How much clarity is there in the shared purpose? How much enthusiasm are people really excited about being?

And they’ll basically just put up with anything, or are they kind of reluctant participants and they’re going to be nitpicking and looking for any reason to get frustrated? These are really important dimensions. Another one, like I mentioned earlier, is the timescale. If I’m going to be there for three days, well, we can handle it being very informal and some things are not very efficient. And it turns out that I did twice as much dishes as you did, but it’s three days, who cares? If it’s a three-month thing, you want to have a fair distribution of labor, and you’re probably going to have to put some system design in there to guarantee that. So yeah, it’s a bit of an art form to feel what’s the appropriate level of structure for the context that you’re in.

And it’s hard to devise rules of thumb, but I think the rule of thumb I took from that one was don’t put in too much. I find it very easy to make a very embellished system.

Jim: Yeah, a system dudes have that failure mode, right? We could figure all this out in advance. Well, guess what? Complex systems are incalculable, basically, and it makes a lot more sense to wait and see and design as necessary. In fact, I will note that you have a very nice two-dimensional graph called increasing capacity for hosting, which I had seen previously. I think you’d maybe posted it as a standalone on Twitter at some point or other, and it’s really cool. It shows a whole bunch of different kinds of things from a conversation to a board game, to a dinner party, to a road trip, to a retreat, to a festival, to a co-living neighborhood.

And as you said, you have group size on the Y-axis and duration of commitment on the X-axis, and as you kind of go from the lower left corner to the upper right corner, the demands on capacity for hosting increase, that’s actually a very useful thing for people to think about who may be thinking about doing these kinds of events. So for that alone, I’d say, you ought to get Rich’s essay. Take a look at that picture. Now, let’s go back to another topic which is near and dear to my heart, which you called lifestyle and I call hospitality personality, which is somebody has got to be making sure that this thing is fun.

Richard: I mean, it has to be fun in the sense that you are competing against different ways of living. You’re competing against the nuclear family or the apartment living, or people who’ve got these alternative ways of spending their time. And for a short term, you can kind of make an ideological commitment and say, “Oh, I think it would be better if we all lived in harmony and so I’m going to do this co-living thing,” but that ideological commitment doesn’t last very long if the actual lived experience is irritating.

Jim: Yeah, life sucks. I don’t care what your theory is, right?

Richard: Yeah. Yeah, it had to feel good to me as someone putting a lot of effort and financial risk to make it happen, and it had to feel good to all the participants and that takes a certain attitude of inquiry, like how do we make spaces that feel good? That’s a research project that I’m fascinated by.

Jim: I love that. Do you have any initial thoughts?

Richard: It’s so subtle, right? Like I mentioned about the lighting and the furniture and all these little details, they really contribute. I think one of the principles I guess that’s really dear to my heart is the process of arrival, like when someone first arrives in a new group, at some level, there’s some animal parts of them that are on alert, that are like, are these people trustworthy? Is this a safe habitat for a little mammal like me? Are my needs going to be taken care of? Where’s the bathroom? There’s all these kind of micro anxieties somewhere in the background, subconsciously when you arrive into a new group or any kind of new house. New place to be, and helping people through that period of uncertainty or unsettlement or anxiety to the place where they feel really settled and at home and they can completely let their guard down and make themselves at home.

I think that transition is really essential and me and my co-collaborators, I think pay a lot of attention to that. So that means when someone arrives, really giving them a fully present welcome, not like a hotel transaction check-in desk thing, but let’s sit down and have a cup of tea and catch up and tell me how you’re doing and let me show you around the place and let me let you know the really important stuff that you need to know to have a good time here. And yeah, it’s Saturday, so that means that the people are out pig hunting over there, so don’t go over there, they might shoot you.

And giving people this real orientation in the sense that, “Hey, we’re happy you’re here. You’re in the right place. Your need’s going to be taken care of.” That arrival process I think is one of the key components of yeah, priming people to have a good experience, letting them know that they’re going to be paid attention to, that they’re going to matter, that their voice is going to be heard, that if they’ve got a need, it’s going to be treated with respect. And that’s a big part of it. Getting out of the way is a big part of it, just letting people do their thing and not being overly neurotic and having to micromanage every moment, but just letting people having a nice time at a nice house and a nice landscape.

That’s a big part of it. Eating and drinking, I think, pretty obvious. Often overlooked, but make it a place where people get to have a good meal and generally, good things happen after that. Yeah, it’s basic stuff, but somehow I feel like it’s my job to articulate some of these basic things. They seems to be a need to pin them down a little bit.

Jim: Yep, again, pretty good list. I will say that in my experience of doing events at every scale, I used to run an event of seven or 800 people, a three-day event. That was a real zoo. And one of the things I found is that some people have a taste for this hospitality kind of stuff, and many don’t. So particularly for larger events, trying to find your hospitality team is really extremely helpful. And while I personally am good at enjoying hospitality, I think I am less good at manufacturing hospitality. So even if I was doing a 20-person thing, I would not make myself chief hospitality officer. I would find somebody who has a more native talent in that dimension and say, you are chief hospitality officer.

So you think through what a normie might actually think like rather than a weird-ass fucker like myself, that would make other people feel welcomed and ready to go. So I think you probably have that hospitality personality just based on the way that the things that you have said, show me that you vibe. You vibe on that frequency, dude, right?

Richard: And it’s the people that we’ve accumulated around us too. I think that’s one of the core ingredients of the Micro-Solidarity Network is it’s people who are fascinated by hospitality and they’re really cultivating it as a practice, as a zone of mastery. How do we create spaces where people really feel welcome? Because that experience of welcome I think is the precondition of a lot of good work happening and that if someone doesn’t feel fully welcomed, then they just withhold a lot of their intelligence, a lot of their creativity, a lot of what they’ve got to offer just kind of gets lift off the table if they don’t really feel like they can be themselves. Another factor that comes to mind is about scale.

Like I said, I’m obsessed with scale. So when I think about meaningful group experiences that I’ve had, conferences and events and all these sorts of things, the memories that stick out are always small group conversations. It’s very rarely like a keynote address to 10,000 people. It’s almost always a one-on-one in the hallway or a group of seven of us that really went deep one night over a glass of wine or something. That small group experience is usually where the good stuff happens. So that means designing these events and community experiences, so they’re biased towards small group formation, instead of just expecting it magically to happen.

Actually, the way that you organize the furniture, the way that the dining room is set up, the way that time on the agenda is spent, can be biased towards small group participation. And then, you’re much more likely, I think for people to find their place of belonging and find the companions, find the people that right for them.

Jim: And I think you mentioned something, I’ve seen in every … I go to scientific meetings for a bit and used to go to business meetings and other kinds of events, and in truth, 80% of the value was not in the sessions, it was in the side conversations. And I always found good event planning leaves lots of unscheduled time. At some point, you want to say, “Oh, I want to make this time very efficient, so I want to have talks every 90 minutes, blah, blah, blah, with 10 minute breaks for coffee.” Bad idea, talk 90 minute break, 45 minute talk, 90 minute break, truthfully, will in general end up with more value than scheduling wall to wall to wall. And I will say I was guilty of the wall to wall to wall when I was early in my experience of designing events, big events, but I eventually, learned the fallacy of that.

Richard: And maybe there was a time where information was the bottleneck and we just needed to get together and share information, but it’s certainly not the case now. Yeah, you can do a short talk and then, if you want more details, go and read the blog. Go and watch me on YouTube, go and follow my Twitter. There’s all the detail you want, but right now, we’ve got the important business of hanging out.

Jim: Yeah, exactly. I like that. All right, so it sounds like you had a quite successful experiment here at a pretty significant scale. This isn’t tiny, but not huge either. So in your essay you say, you’re starting to think about what’s next, so why don’t you give us that wrap?

Richard: Yeah, I think there’s a big decision for us, which is do we basically do the same again with some variables obviously. So we wouldn’t want to do it exactly the same. That would feel a bit boring I think, but we want to attempt something very similar, maybe a bit larger, maybe in a different location to see what effect that has or do we want to take the plunge and buy a place and say, look, we’ve learned enough, we are committed to this as a permanent lifestyle, and then, we’re not just looking for a temporary venue, we’re actually looking for a place to buy. It’s a big question. We’re kind of doing both at once a little bit at the moment.

I’m about to get on a boat to Barcelona, and that’s where we’re going to start the search and we’ll gradually head north. If we do decide to buy, then there’s the big question of that, where’s the money come from? So there’ll be some kind of crowdfunding type or friends and family around or something going on about that, which we’ll have to sort of design the governance around it and all that sort of thing.

Jim: If you get to that point, talk to me. I’d love to help you guys with some advice and maybe some structure on how to do game B finance where we can find a cloud and they are emerging and growing rapidly. Group of people who have excess resources, feeling guilty about it and are willing to get low, but not zero returns on very accommodating terms and conditions for things of this sort. I would love to actually see if we can tap … connect these pipes together, make money flow, don’t guarantee it’ll work, but I would love to get into the weeds with you on that and see if we could use this as a prototype.

You have something which most people don’t, which is reputational value that we could actually present to investors. Say, this guy is actually done this a bunch of times. This isn’t just somebody who has an idea. This is a guy who actually knows how to do this shit. He’s got a track record. You can reference him, you can talk to 50 different people, and I’ll tell you, he knows how to do this, right? And that’s actually an important part of the proof package when you’re trying to find this class of investors. These people are not fools. They made their money a lot of them in the old-fashioned way, and while they’re willing to not get a below market rate of return, they also don’t want to do anything foolish.

Richard: Yeah, and we’re not talking about a lot of money. That’s the other thing. There’s the little research I’ve done. We saw a really lovely 18-bed hotel in the Pyrenees for $350,000 in good condition.

Jim: Wow, that’s-

Richard: This is the kind of scale we’re thinking. Maybe a little bigger than that, but half a million dollars I think is kind of the scale that we’re talking, which is not a big deal. It’s out of my means, but it’s not out of my network’s means.

Jim: Yeah, exactly. That could certainly be done again, with a good plan and true commitment and all that.

Richard: Yeah. So it’s a question of what kind of risks do we feel comfortable taking on? Should we do some more data gathering and just say, “We are heading in the right direction, let’s not rush into it.” I’m not sure. I think it’s going to depend on what … the property market I think is going to have a big factor on it. We’ll just see what we come across over the next couple of months.

Jim: I would suggest before the property market, think about you and your wife’s life. We had some friends who foolishly bought a large restaurant, a whole series of mistakes. They ended up owning the damn thing, when they really just wanted to be a passive investor and seven years of blood, sweat and misery, basically. And at the end of the day, they said owning a restaurant is like having three triplet, three-year-old boys who have ADD and the flu. And they said it was miserable. Just of course, doing it in spurt mode with events is different than running a seven day a week restaurant, but make sure you and your wife, and that’s why I maybe doing another couple of these might be a good idea.

Is this something you really want to do all the time before you jump in? Especially if you make a moral commitment to investors, then you’re kind of stuck at least for a while.

Richard: Yeah, definitely. I mean, it’s a big decision. It’s a big decision. And I’m the enthusiastic type that likes to run ahead, but thankfully, I’ve got another half who’s more prudent than that. So I think we might just carry on the pace that we’re going. The big other decision, which I think is really crucial is how do we structure basically questions around power and authority and ownership? And is that, this is Natty and Rich’s family home and if it just happens, to have capacity to host community or is this, “No, no, no. There’s three or four families and they are equal co-founders taking a shared stake in this thing, and they have a sort of shared governance model where everyone’s treated, one member, one vote kind of thing.”

That is an enormous decision and I’m completely on the fence about which direction to go and yeah, we’ll be seeking some clarity on that over the coming months too.

Jim: Yeah. That’s a whole another class of experiment essentially, right? The co-housing and employee-owned co-op, though you do have some experience with that, with your Enspiral work, right?

Richard: Yeah.

Jim: It’s not like you’re unnecessarily a neophyte at that either. So anyway, I’m very interested to hear how this comes out, so keep us surprised and maybe we’ll have you back on to get Jim Rutt Show when you’re ready for the next phase.

Richard: Yeah, I’ll be doing my big fundraising pitch. Send me money.

Jim: Give us money. Here’s the Ethereum address wallet. Send money, right?

Richard: Send money …

Jim: I’m sure it won’t be quite that easy, unfortunately.

Richard: Yeah.

Jim: Anyway, Rich, I really want to appreciate you coming on the show and chatting today. That’s Rich Bartlett, and we were talking mostly about his essay “What we learned from a 3-month co-living experiment,” available on Medium, and as always you can pick up links to that and other stuff at

Richard: Thank you, Jim. Had a great time.