A few weeks ago Micah Bales IM’ed me, as he often does, and asked for my feedback on a project he and Jon Watts were working on. They were building a map of all the Friends meetinghouses and churches in the country, sub-divided by geography, worship style, etc.
My first reaction was “huh?” I warily responded: “you do know about FGC’s Quakerfinder.org and FWCC’s Meeting Map, right?” I had helped to build both sites and attested to the amount of work they represent. I was thinking of a kind way of discouraging Micah from this herculean task when he told me he and Jon were half done. He sent me the link: a beautiful website, full of cool maps, which they’ve now publicly announced at Quakermaps.com. I tried to find more problems but he kept answering them: “well, you need to have each meeting have it’s own page,” “it does,” “well but to be really cool you’d have to let meetings update information directly” (an idea I suggested to FGC last month), “they will.” There’s still a lot of inputting to be done, but it’s already fabulous.
Two people working a series of long days inputting information and embedding it on WordPress have created the coolest Meeting directory going. There’s no six-figure grants from Quaker foundations, no certified programmers, no series of organizing consultations. No Salesforce account, Drupal installations, Vertical Response signups. No high paid consultants yakking in whatever consultant-speak is trendy this year.
Just two guys using open source and free, with the cost being time spent together sharing this project – time well spent building their friendship, I suspect.
I hope everyone’s noticing just how cool this is – and not just the maps, but the way it’s come together. Micah and Jon grew up in two different branches of Friends. As I understand they got to know each other largerly through Jon’s now-famous and much-debated video Dance Party Erupts during Quaker Meeting for Worship. They built a friendship (which you can hear in Micah’s recent interview of Jon) and then started a cool project to share with the world.
Convergent Friends isn’t a theology or a specific group of people, but a different way of relating and working together. The way I see it, Quakermaps.com proves that QuakerQuaker.org is not a fluke. The internet exposes us to people outside our natural comfort zones and provides us ways to meet, work together and publish collaborations with minimal investment. The quick response, flexibility and off-the-clock ethos can come up with truly innovated work. I think the Religious Society of Friends is entering a new era of DIY organizing and I’m very excited. Micah and Jon FTW!