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Podcast 321 - Transition to Ant Village Part 1

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Credit: Vida Norris

Paul and Jocelyn continue on with the new updates at Wheaton Labs and basecamp. He gives some background on the first ant Evan, and soon to be ant Nick.

Paul expresses how since recording around 4 hours of updates in podcasts, it has freed up a lot of time for him. Jocelyn points out a new thread Paul will put out about the projects he needs done that he will pay money for.

They move on to the next big topic they want to cover in more detail, which is the concept that obligation is poison. Paul believes that for most people, if they have an obligation for any period of time, it eventually poisons the relationship with that obligation. Paul mentions how one could argue that the recent changes with ant village etc, are a definitive test to see who is merely a human being, or who is noble; ie. when awkward situations arise a person makes it better, (noble) vs taking the awkward situation and making it worse.

The mission with ant village and the recent changes is to “observe the poisoning and come up with a permaculture design that is aligned with human nature to minimize or mitigate the poison.” Paul brings up how there will be obligations so they need to design a system that embraces that. Jocelyn remembers the various systems they had tried to solve this problem but how many of them failed.

Paul tells the story of the road he shared with his neighbor when he lived on Mount Spokane. He struck a deal with his neighbor that Paul would buy a new tractor, shape the road and plow the snow and his neighbor would buy and put down the gravel. Paul kept up his end of the bargain but his neighbor did not, and eventually it poisoned the relationship between them since had an obligation to buy gravel.

Paul also talks about with the previous gapper program, he had an obligation to make a lot of money to pay for the food, utilities, fuel, repairs, the projects and people he hired. Over time this weighed on Paul and eventually got 'poisoned' due to the fact that the long term plan wasn't realized as they had initially imagined possible, and yet they were still paying out a lot more than what they were getting back in other ways in return.

The other side of this is the gapper side – which is that they are obligation to put in 35 hours of work, and over time, they became poisoned as well, because they end up having to do work they hadn't planned on (repairs, cleaning, etc). Paul brings up the pig-bucket problem, and how they are looking for people to be at Wheaton Labs long-term. Jocelyn points out that in other farms they have Woofers that come in for the growing season, but it's on a much smaller scale than the 200+ people that had been there so they have less problems.

Paul tells the story of a guy who had initially set out to stay at Wheaton Labs forever, and so Paul purchased him an expensive smart phone and a 2 year plan, so he could be reachable, and have access to the internet. Paul asked in return for a picture a day posted out at permies. Paul had thought it was stacking functions, since he is getting the guy's help on the land and pictures. The pictures ended up being infrequent, averaging on about one picture a month. Paul feels the phone became a poison, and the person eventually left, leaving Paul with the bill.

Paul expresses that he himself has his own obligation is poison issues, and has to be careful with what he takes on so that he doesn't fall into the same trap himself. Paul and Jocelyn discuss more of the details of the cell phone situation, and how it could have been different had the “obligation is poison” not come into play.

They move on to discuss their experience hiring and feeding people from craigslist as general labourers, to help finish Wofati 0.7 and preparing for a workshop. After an incident where one worker who had a lot of experience revealed how much he was being paid, others felt it was unfair and demanded more money while throwing everyone else under the bus for it. This resulted in them all being fired and Paul expresses they wouldn't hire from craigslist again.

Next, they cover breakfast with spiderman, which was a situation where during breakfast a person complained that Paul needed to stop being so negative with his opinions. Paul makes the point that while that is valid, he views the breakfast table can be a space to hash out various aspects of whats happening at that moment and any problems that come along with that.

Jocelyn brings up how there were many aspects of 'poison' that had built up for Paul by that point, and she felt that the person who complained about Paul's rant, didn't see the full picture of what was going on since Paul would get more 'ranty' in a negative way since there was already so much built up poison. Paul agreed that he was bringing negativity and felt that needed to change. He explains why he dubbed this issue breakfast with spiderman.

They wrap up speaking about negativity, and how easily it spreads, and the podcast continues on in part 3.

Relevant Threads

Podcast 320 - Gapper Problems
Ant Village
The Gapper Dilemma

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Location: PNW
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Paul and Jocelyn,

Thank you for putting out these difficult podcast. I'm sorry your noble mission has caused so you so much pain. It's very inspirational that you can still laugh a little and make plans to move forward.

I've managed people for 13 years and no matter how great or terrible an employee has been, everyone always believes they are giving more than everyone else.

Remember what Edison said "I haven't failed I just found a way that didn't work". Your team is out here learning from your successes and failures.

Thanks again. We know you will keep up the good work.
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Paul could Kongregates 'Kred' donation system be of use to you?

I am suggesting for your mention of a desire to make it so individuals could make money by posting pictures on premise

In summary kreds allow users to purchase in game purchases("donations" to who posted the picture and allow these 'moose coins?' As only spendable on products you may have available on your own site
Posts: 19
Location: Madison, WI
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Seems like Paul is one of the minority of people who express themselves fairly directly as a personal norm in a world where most people avoid unpleasant reality. Avoiders need to gain the skills to deal with unpleasant reality when it comes up. One way our avoidance culture tries to do this is by insisting on "positivity" and the pathologizing of anything "negative" which often just means unpleasant. Those who are able to express themselves directly -- something I would include as an "intimacy strategy" -- need to realize how rare that is, how fragile avoiders are, and develop better bilingual skills -- that is, the ability to talk to avoiders as skillfully as possible. Why? Because intimacy strategies might as well be coming from a different planet for many people who rely totally on avoidance strategies -- something I'd call "the 2 planet problem". This post of mine talks in detail about these issues. I am not pretending to know the answers, but I am hopeful that slow dialog about these issues can benefit from the experiments we try.
Posts: 28
Location: NJ
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Thank you so much for these podcasts, sorry that so much aggravation had to go into the research, but it is important work.

I just had to reply and say that "breakfast with spiderman" is exactly what i would want if I ever made it out there.
The work you are doing is important, but it isn't easy, so having some contribution to a path to resolution of one of your problems would be the whole reason I would come in the first place.

Rich Hauser
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Location: Victoria BC
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I'm sure it wasn't funny at the time, but 'Do you wish to continue? Turned out yes...' and then he got fired too; this totally cracked me up. I certainly cringed at the cellphone incident, though.

And like Richard said, thanks for these. I'm finding this latest string of podcasts especially interesting, hopefully this isn't just schadenfreude on my part. Lots of people shy away from discussing what didn't work, which can be very valuable information.
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Location: Federal Way, WA - Western Washington (Zone 8 - temperate maritime)
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Thanks Paul and Jocelyn, for the clarification. I found that, as listening, I interpreted 'obligation' as 'responsibility' and 'poison' as 'resentment'. If I remember the intentional communities gal, whose name I forget ;), she said something about using 'I'. As in "I am beginning to resent the fact that I'm paying the bill, but you're not delivering the pictures. Do you feel any responsibility for your end of our deal? Do you need technical help? Subject suggestions? Or?" But, then again, you've bent over backwards repeatedly, only to end up horribly contorted, and taken advantage of. (sorry about that dangling preposition :)

In fact, I think I'd better do a lot more practicing sharing my own 'poison' this way ;)

Kudos to both of you again, on shouldering the responsibilities, and continuing to research ways for others to share it, equitably. Out here in 'ignorance is bliss' land, it looks like you've accomplished a tremendous amount of good, nay thrilling, stuff ;) (I hope Kadence can get out there one way or another ;)
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