Chris Smith


Thoughts on life.

On Community

Haven't written in a while and want to document some thoughts on communal living.

It's interesting living in a house with 55 people.  Even more so when most of the people are the sort who drop everything and move to the tech epicenter of the world, ambitious and dedicated people willing to live in a run down building on a slowly gentrifying street.

Emergent Properties

We evolved in tribes of 100-200 people over 100k's of years.  In those tribes you'd likely be in fairly close proximity with the tribe most of the time.  I believe we have communal tendencies that go a lot deeper into our psyche than we like to believe, especially as "independence loving Americans".

I think the addictive drive towards mostly meaningless social media interaction online is a pointer in this direction, though the wrong way to fill this need.  When surrounded by a community of people in a casual environment (not like working with a team all day) I find that group dynamics shift in interesting ways and events/interaction styles emerge.


The group balances everyones individual moods out.  Cliques form with people who get along better than others, squabbles happen but everyone grows bonds.  Personally I have less volatilty in my mood, but I'm liable to sync up with others perhaps more than most people.  After a bad day, it would be easy to go to a solitary living space and turn the TV on, have a beer and go to bed early. 

In this space, generally there is always someone doing something interesting you can join in on whether it be ping pong, a movie, out to the bar, working or cooking.  It's hard to stay in a bad mood when I've got low investment opportunities for enjoyment around.

Desire less

Living in a community all the time has taught me that I need/desire a lot less.  When most all of my social needs are met and while living in a small space, I just don't want many new things.  Most purchases I've made have been related to projects I want to work on.

Communal economics

The purchasing power and economies of scale with 50+ people are notable.  We have dinners with 55-65 people every Sunday and sync up events for the week with a budget at ~$3 / person.  I'm working with a local hispanic woman to deliver breakfast tacos in the morning. Another guy coordinates laundry services for people who hate doing their own.  We host notable entrepreneurs, investors, and technologists weekly and the occasional large Saturday night party.


And easily the most obvious one is the network of peers around.  We use facebook groups for most internal communication.  The culture leads to people asking technical questions, getting feedback on careers, multiple people have gotten introduced to new employers or found business partners.  The combined network of 55 people is huge and everyone is willing to chip in.

Community Management

I'll leave this one for another time, but the gist is, as this community develops it feels like a look into the past and a way to rethink society and how we organize ourselves.  As this small group has grown, the need for policies and processes for managing the building, events and social interactions has cropped up.  In making these decisions, it reminds me how hard it is to find consensus, layout plans that people agree with and how much harder this becomes as systems scale. I don't envy government officials.

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