I think I’m ready to consider my next large contract, but only if it’s exactly right.  And I mean that: I’m perfectly happy right now hanging out in Small Contract Land, and I won’t let anything big into my life unless it’s absolutely the right match for both of us.  But maybe that perfect match is out there somewhere, just waiting for me to wink in the right direction. Let’s find out…*

Passionate Multi-Talented Consultant Seeks Online Community that has Lost its Way

Me? I’m a smart, tech-savvy online community organizer who gets really excited about making good stuff happen in the world.

You? You’re the extended online community of a company that appreciates you and wants you to be happy, but that doesn’t quite know how to take good care of you yet. You have a lot to offer and you can tell this organization wants you to shine, but for some reason, somehow, the pieces just aren’t lining up.

At your core, you’re a real catch (and you know it, too). You enjoy lively, informed discussions and you sincerely care about helping people. (In fact, you often have so many ideas about how the world could be better that you can hardly contain yourself! It’s okay, I understand that.) You’re creative and multi-faceted with lots of hobbies and interests, and you bring what seems like lifetimes of experience to the table. Anyone would consider themselves lucky to have you, but it’s disappointingly rare for you to be with someone who grasps exactly how precious and invaluable you really are.

If you let me in, I will be that someone. I will listen to you, find out what you need, and do whatever I can to provide for you.  I will ease your internal conflicts and nurture the parts of you that want to make the world a better place.  I will help bridge that gap between your needs and your organization’s needs, and I will empower you to make a meaningful difference in the way they approach their work.  Under my care, you will grow stronger and healthier, making it possible for you to also grow bigger.

But I need to tell you up front: I’m not interested in a traditional relationship. If you’re looking for the perfect partner who will meet all of your needs for the rest of your life, you’ll have to keep looking — that’s not me.  I have a rich and varied lifestyle with room only for hot, life-changing affairs, and I want us to live in the moment on this one. I’ll come in to your life, strengthen you, heal your wounds, and make the connections you’re craving. I’ll show your organization exactly how valuable you can be to them, and I’ll teach both of you to take care of each other directly, so you won’t need to rely on me. And then I’ll let you stand up on your own.

Are you okay with that?  I know the goodbye will be hard, but I think you’ll agree with me that it will have all been worth it.

A little more about me… I’ve founded and nurtured several online communities that grew in size and scope over time by natural interest. I’m fascinated with what drives people to contribute to things, and obsessed with helping them find ways to do it. I’m excited, engaging, optimistic, and interesting. And I also work my butt off.

I’ve been blogging and building websites for over ten years, and have expert skills in HTML and CSS, as well as strong social media savvy. I’m also a formally trained technical writer with a knack for making complex things easy to understand.  I’ve been making a living as a technology consultant for over five years, and I work well in lots of different environments, including from my home. I’m in San Francisco, but you can be based anywhere.

The arrangement I’m looking for would involve a contract (I’m not an employee) at respectable business rates.  My ideal commitment would be about 20 hours a week over a period of 6 – 12 months, but I want to make sure all your needs are being met, too.

If you know the matchmaker who can arrange this affair, please send this to them, and I will owe you a hundred hugs.

And if that matchmaker is you, I look forward to your reply. Please email me here:

info at sarahdopp dot com

…and we can further explore our compatibility.

With great appreciation,
Sarah

* a hat tip to Havi for this format. (Have you read her stuff yet? She’s wonderful.)

I had a timeline all worked out, and it involved me being unemployed right now. I was going to take a few weeks off to sit down, reorganize how I want to approach my work, identify the kinds of contracts I’m looking for, redo my web presence, and then begin The Search for New Clients.

Instead, I’m not even done with my old contract yet, I haven’t asked anyone for new work, and I already have seven clients. Hi. Okay.

Here’s the thing.  The kinds of clients I’m interested in (and, magically, the ones that I’m attracting) are creative individuals and organizations who are doing cool and meaningful things in the world, and who need a stronger web presence to reflect that.  That may sound like “everyone,” but it’s not.  It’s a very specific type.  Clients of this sort tend to already have an interesting public personality, or an established “voice” that they want to make more public. They come equipped with the professional motivation to update their web content without my help.  They learn quickly. They need periodic guidance and technical assistance to setup, rejuvenate, and maintain certain things.  And as a general rule, they don’t have a lot of money to burn, but they can afford to spend some here and there because this help is very important to them.

The challenge, apparently, is not finding these clients.

The challenge, already, is keeping track of them all and coming up with the right agreements.  Let’s be honest: having a dozen small contracts is not the work equivalent of having one large contract, even if they add up to the same number of billable hours.  And when every hour is carefully budgeted, “what I think we should spend time on” is much less important than “what they need to move forward on.”

I’m waist-deep in reorganizing.

If you’re working with a similar client base, now’s a good time to get in touch with me. We have notes and resources to share…

On the continuing subject of my pending-but-not-really-cuz-it’s-way-more-complicated-and-a-lot-less-scary-than-that unemployment, I’ve come up with a few more “Aha!”s.

Remember me blogging recently about noticing that the answers show up when I stop thinking — that when I relax my thoughts and let go of distractions, I gain access to the clear mind that lets me see what’s next?

Well, I sat with that for awhile… chilled out and took a vacation from some of my distraction habits, hoping to gain access to that nice clear mind that would help me aim my income-hunting efforts in the Right Direction. And you know what happened?

I realized I was mixing up my “clear serene reflection pond mind” with my “crazy idea-generating waterfall mind.” I had lost touch with both and, though I didn’t know it, I was actually more interested in the latter. I love that waterfall. I missed it.

It’s back now.

Sort of.

A hard truth confronted me as soon as I went swimming, and I haven’t quite finished wrestling with it yet: This part of me that revels in constantly generating new, creative ideas is often in conflict with (what I would call) my more conservative side — the side of me that wants to make a stable living, that doesn’t want my friends and family to worry about me, and that wants to be reliable.

It’s a pretty serious conflict — the kind that takes no prisoners. And somehow, whenever this conflict goes to blows, the conservative side wins and the creative side shuts down.

This is because the conservative side has a secret weapon. All it has to do is call my creative side “crazy,” and the battle is over.

Crazy.

Naive.

Stupid.

Freak.

Those are labels we put on things we don’t take seriously — things we want to diminish and push out of the way. They’re words we use to describe people we don’t want to get to know, who are different from us in ways that make us uncomfortable. They’re some of the words I grew up applying to myself to account for my differences. Apparently I still use them. Affectionately, sometimes. But often.

Screw it. It’s time to feed the freak.

I think what I’m looking at is an internal power balance. My conservative side is necessary for survival. My creative side, technically, isn’t (although my quality of life standards would beg to differ with that). Somehow, now, my conservative side has gotten all up on a high horse about its Status of Necessity, and my creative side doesn’t stand a chance against that kind of arrogance.

I want to submit an alternate structure.

What if my powerful conservative side considered honoring my creative side as a source of wisdom and inspiration? What if my creative side took up a post of leadership and offered to gently (and probably slowly) guide the rest of me into more experimental directions?

This might seem like a counter-intuitive comparison to make, but what I’m describing feels a lot like trying to get powerful income-earning adults and high-energy invincible youth to honor retirees and seniors.

Am I making any sense?

Maybe I’m just crazy.

But I think there are answers here.

When I realized it was becoming time for me to leave Cerado, I gave them three months notice. I spent the first month second-guessing that decision and trying to figure out how I could rearrange my contract and stay. When I finally confirmed the choice, I promised myself that I’d spend the second month freely exploring what matters to me and what I might be looking for next, without biasing that thinking with actual “real world” opportunities and limitations. And then I’d get practical in the third month.

Yesterday was the last day of the Month Two, and I wasn’t feeling very confident that I had unlocked enough answers. I was getting stuck on the tension between “How can I be happy?” and “How can I be productive?”, and mostly just tried to pass the time by sleeping a lot.

Magically, though, sometime around 1am last night, I gave up on sleeping and started writing. And a month’s worth of half-answered questions and quickly-scribbled post-it notes of wisdom finally clicked into place.

The answer is that I already have all the answers. I know exactly what’s right for me and what’s not, what I should be doing next and what I shouldn’t, what matters to me and what doesn’t. I just can’t hear those answer while I’m thinking, while I’m distracted, or while I’m trying to numb myself. And it just so happens that I spend most of my day thinking, distracted, or numb — habitually. Intentionally, in a way, to avoid those answers. Because accessing them is actually scary as hell.

I can thank Hugh MacLeod, Kate Bornstein, John T Unger, and a few other key smart folks for giving me enough post-it notes of wisdom to finally piece together why it’s so scary: I’m still very dependent on receiving approval from the people I care about. Or rather, I’m terrified of their negative judgments.

Sort of.

This narrative’s admittedly a little old for me — I’ve had to smash through the “who I’m supposed to be” walls a number of times already for the sake of my own survival, and miraculously I didn’t lose anyone I cared about in the process. Some relationships did end up shifting, but it was usually to a place of greater respect. And yet somehow, the fear of becoming an embarrassment, a burden, or someone unworthy of love and respect as the result of doing what feels most right for me still creeps in and changes my behavior — enough to give me plenty of excuses to avoid-like-hell the activities that clear my head and let me see what’s next for me. I’m talking about little acts like having my coffee before I check my email, more intentional things like meditation or exercise, and gestures as basic as letting myself fall asleep without aid or a movie in front of me.

I don’t need to think my way through this transitional period. I need to stop thinking, clear my head, and hold onto the wisdom that doing what feels right is worthwhile, even when it takes me further away from what’s safe.

(Easy…. right? *snort*)

So… yes. The subtle references and whispered insanities are true: I’ll be leaving Cerado in September.

This means I’m voluntarily entering the worst job market ever to happen in my lifetime — a market in which heartwrenching handfuls of talented peers and friends have been unemployed for over a year now — as a free agent.

There. It’s acknowledged. And that is the last we ever speak of the Impossible Economy in association with me looking for work again. If I can get my mother to stop reminding me of this dismal fact (and I have), surely you can play along with my game, too. Do it as a favor to a friend.

The other seemingly ludicrous point to note is that I’m leaving on very good terms with a high regard for the company, and I’ve sincerely enjoyed working with them. Chris Carfi is an impressive hybrid of creative genius and brilliant storyteller — when it comes to social media marketing, he gets it on both a theoretical and a social level. I’ve learned a lot from working with him, and from working alongside fellow mad genius Mark Resch as well. The clients (hi, BlogHer) and developers (George the PHP guru, Eric the King of iPhone dev, …) I’ve been paired with have also been top notch. I will be sad to let them go.

So why am I leaving?  Because it stopped fitting me.  What the Job Needed From Me and What I Wanted to Do crept further and further apart over time, and it finally became evident that something had to change.  It wasn’t anyone’s fault; it was just growth. And it has a hidden upside for Cerado: being able to let go of the role means I can now help them restructure their management process without my interests in the equation. The result is shaping up to be something that’s much more tailored to their changing needs, with a more efficient use of resources.

I kind of enjoy working myself out of a job.  It has a certain satisfaction to it.

It just leaves one question: What’s next?

I don’t know.  And call me crazy (I’m used to it by now), but I’m not really interested in job leads just yet.  I’d like to give a little more thought first to what I’m looking for.

When I was in Chicago for BlogHer recently, I ran my situation past a childhood friend, Jim Conti.  He gave me a useful way of approaching the “what should I do next?” question:

Ask yourself…

What am I good at?
What brings me joy?
What does the world need me to do?

…and find the intersection of all three of those.

In other words…

whatshouldido

When the grownups asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up, they forgot to explain that this was what they meant. Most of us probably answered based on how we wanted to be seen, realizing that “astronaut” and “veterinarian” sounded worthy enough of praise.  So do “rich” and “famous.”

A psychologist friend of mine made an interesting comment to me recently.  She said, “This is going to sound terrible, but I strongly prefer working with wealthy clients. It’s not because they pay me better. It’s because they already know that money’s not going to fix their problems.”

Neither is doing what they’re good at even if they don’t like it. Or doing what they enjoy when it’s useless to the rest of the world. Or being a miserable martyr for the sake of humanity. We have more work to do than this.

And I still haven’t answered the question.

I know some of the things I’m good at…

– XHTML/CSS development
– Product and project management
– Social media consulting
– Technical and promotional writing
– Public speaking
– Building community spaces

I’m feeling the tugs of what the world wants me to do in terms of social media marketing, community development, and LGBT activism.

I just… might need to get back into the groove of what brings me joy for a bit.

Then maybe I’ll know what I want to be when I grow up.

micropaymentheart.pngI want to believe in micropayments.

It’s like Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, the economic stimulus package, predefined timelines for large projects, nonfat lattes, and God. I want to believe in micropayments because it gives me hope

I’m talking about hope that we’re on the right track. Hope that we have a viable, sustainable alternate plan for the business models we’re turning upside down with our new technology. Hope that we can decentralize power without losing it altogether. Hope that we can survive without the monopolies. Hope that artists will be able make a living just by inspiring people. Hope that the average Internet user will soon derive as much satisfaction from giving financial props to someone they find valuable as they’d get from buying them a beer.

I naively believed we were close to this reality because someone — iTunes — is actually finally doing it well. I believed the biggest barrier was form of payment: if you have to enter your credit card number or go to a separate payment website or do anything that takes more than a click or a few keystrokes, the method won’t catch on.  iTunes broke that barrier for iPhone users when they required us to sign up for an iTunes account (and enter our credit card number in advance) just to download those nifty free apps. We didn’t like entering our credit card number, but it was Apple, so we knew everything was gonna be okay. Now that we’ve done it, whenever we get a song stuck in our heads at 3 AM and decide we need to listen to it right then, all we have to do is enter a password and it’s ours for 99 cents. A password. Just a password!  Anywhere we are.  It’s brilliant.

It was so easy to take it a step further: if Apple can do it, other industries can’t be too far behind.  Heck, we could even let Apple become the new PayPal and run all of our micropayments throught them, since they already have our trust.  Why not?  Let independent artists have their own merchant accounts.  Expand the system to cover writers, filmmakers, painters, and photographers.  Let high school kids make 50 cents each time one of the cool screen savers they create is downloaded.  Let me pay for shareware incrementally based on the number of times I use it.  Let me donate to a nonprofit in small chunks whenever they inspire or move me.  Empower the bloggers to fund each other.  Make it easy for us to put our money where our hearts are.  

I was this close to swallowing the whole story of technological utopia when Clay Shirky — in his infinite clarity — shot it down this morning.

“The essential thing to understand about small payments is that users don’t like being nickel-and-dimed. We have the phrase ‘nickel-and-dimed’ because this dislike is both general and strong.”

So… people don’t like micropayments.  Oh. Right.  (And… now that I think about it, yeah okay, I kinda hate them, too.)

And…

“The lesson of iTunes et al (indeed, the only real lesson of small payment systems generally) is that if you want something that doesn’t survive contact with the market, you can’t let it have contact with the market.  …small payments survive in the absence of a market for other legal options.”

So… iTunes is an aberration that only works because the music industry is kinda screwed up at the moment.

He ends with:

“We should be talking about new models for employing reporters rather than resuscitating old models for employing publishers; the longer we waste fantasizing about magic solutions for the latter problem, the less time we have to figure out real solutions to the former one.”

But Clay!  I wasn’t talking about employing publishers! I want the micropayments to go directly to the reporters!

But okay… fine… you win.  It won’t work for that, either.

So what’s our Plan B?

Oh hey, I haven’t blogged here in a month.  Why?  Because I’ve been way too busy with life!  To catch you up, here’s an Executive Summary of Exciting Things that are in my line of sight right now:

Social Media

by Harper Wray

Genderfork

I recently added a form that lets people tell me whatever’s on their mind about gender anonymously. Dozens of people pounced on it, and my little blog curation brain exploded.   We’ve now got an active talkative community, a constant feed of brilliant thoughts, an influx of new profiles, and a really nifty twitter stream.  I have a thousand things to say about all this — on anonymity and gender consciousness — but I’m still trying to collect my thoughts.

12-8boffery.jpg

Boffery

We showed up in Forbes.com, the Village Voice, a Fox News late show, and — somehow — Italy. A thousand people are knocking on our doors for beta invites right now, and we’re working our asses off to get the site into shape.  We’re also thrilled about bigger questions that this buzz has brought up in the communities around us: How do we currently talk about sexuality with our trusted friends, and where we want to take that conversation from here?

12-8ventana.png

Ventana

Cerado Ventana is evolving like crazy into something of endless potential.  BlogHer’s using it to make search widgets (so gorgeous!), Social Media Club is passing it around as a member directory, and, yes, we even got Barack Obama on board (well, okay, not him personally, but still). Inside scoop: we’re working on a new major iteration of the system which should be live within a month.  Expect another major influx of useful widgets and customizable iphone apps as soon as I can set that free.

Art

12-8ciswy.jpg

Can I Sit With You, Too?

Hey, guess what? I’m in a book!  And the book happens to be fantastic — it’s full of stories of social awkardness in the grade school social scene… stories that are so absurd you know they have to be true.  Mine’s called “Will you go out me?”  (yep — i’m telling that one).  The proceeds benefit a special needs program that directly takes care of some of my favorite bloggers’ kids, so it’s extra-worth the cover price.  Go buy it. You’ll love it.  Swear.

12-8mosaics.jpg

Mosaics not Mortagages

This one’s not mine, but it’s something I want you to know about.  My good friend, artist John T. Unger, is using the recession as a reason to get more creative.  He’s been designing his dream studio for about a decade and is finally ready to build it, but now can’t get a loan because the banks are too screwed up with the economy.  So instead, he’s selling gorgeous high-end custom mosaics to raise the funds.  If you know anyone who’d be interested in this shinyshiny art, please send them John’s way.

12-8-qom2.jpg

Queer Open Mic

Hey hey hey — Queer Open Mic is THIS FRIDAY! Come play!  We went underground for a little while due to a loss of venue, but now we’re back and better than ever at Modern Times Bookstore (it’s perfect!). This Friday, we’re featuring Aimee Suzara, who rocks my socks. Sign-ups are at 7pm and show’s at 7:30. See you there!

Life

12-8me.jpg

::Stupid Grin::

I accidentally fell in love… but that’s all I’m gonna say about it… unless you get me out for dinner… in which case I’ll tell you everything.

I have really exciting news for you (if you haven’t already heard me bragging like crazy about it): I’m the new co-host of San Francisco’s Queer Open Mic!  This is an incredible opportunity for me to give back to something that’s been deeply special in my life for a long time.

The Queer Open Mic has been my creative home for the last year and a half — I go religiously, I love the atmosphere, and I love the people.  Cindy Emch — the open mic’s founder (and the host who’s handing the reigns over to me) — worked her butt off to create a space that felt safe for poets, prose writers, comedians, singer-songwriters, and other artists who fell anywhere along the gender and sexuality spectrums to share their work with one another — even when it wasn’t perfect.  The result was always rich show of ecclectic work that felt deeply personal, creative, inspiring, and generous.

Can you tell I’m in love with this venue?

Oh, and let me tell you about the features!  At every show, there’s a feature performer who takes up about 20 minutes in the middle of the show, and they always knock my socks off. Sometimes it’s a local hero, sometimes it’s a kick-ass artist on tour from another state, and sometimes it’s a bright and shiny Queer Open Mic regular who’s doing their first-ever feature performance.  No matter how you slice it, the show is always intense and beautiful.

by Terrence Taylor, http://flickr.com/photos/fivestar/2035033862/But enough of my gushing, let’s jump to the details.  My first show as co-host is next week and I want you to be there.  To make sure you have plenty of reason to clear your calendars, I’ve booked one of my favorite people on earth — a soulful, funny, kinky, creative, and drop-dead adorable singer-songwriter named Fivestar.

Allow me to introduce you.  Fivestar writes…

I’m originally from South Texas and have been making trouble in the Bay Area for 6 years.  When I’m not working with video and the web, you can find me riding my bike, exploring the fabulousness of this city and making music.  Music has been an emotional outlet for me as far back as i can remember.  I’ve been writing music for ten years for the sole purpose of dealing with heartaches and joys.  Aside from a few past public performances, I mostly sing for my friends.  I started performing Queer Open Mic a few months ago and am excited to find more people to share my passion with.   Thank you!

Visit http://www.iamfivestar.com or http://twitter.com/iamfivestar for more.

The show will be followed by a table full ‘o beer at Zeitgeist (an outdoor bar filled with picnic tables and attractive hipsters) to celebrate Fivestar’s performance, my new role as co-host, and the fact that my best friend from high school just moved to San Francisco (it’s about time, girl!). So even if you can’t make it to the show, you should come out and share a pitcher with us there.

Are you in yet?  Here are the details…

What: Queer Open Mic, featuring Fivestar (and Sarah Dopp’s first night as co-host!!)
When: July 11, 8-10pm (sign-ups start at 7:30), followed by beer at Zeitgeist
Where: The Three Dollar Bill Cafe, San Francisco’s LGBT Center (1800 Market St.)

About the Queer Open Mic
Queer Open Mic is a twice monthly gathering of poets, performers, writers and artists of all types to come together and share art. Proto-feminist and genderqueer in scope, QOM aims to combine raunchy enthusiasm, warmth and community, unapologetic queer, radical politics and sweet rhythms to create a space for spoken word, poetry and performance that is multi cultural, multi gendered, completely inclusive and dynamic. QOM is hosted by Sarah Dopp and Mollena Williams. Please show up around 7:30pm to sign up on the open mic list. You’re encouraged to read one piece of work that is five minutes or less. And by encouraged we mean threatened with spankings, shoe throwings and general hilarious tantrums if you don’t follow the rules.

There’s a sour taste floating around in the mouths of personal bloggers right now because of a recent article in the New York Times. I don’t want to add to the negative criticism of the article; I want to join the positive backlash. I want to tell you why I write about my life on the Internet.

Last week something kind of amazing happened. I put out a casual request for people who have a certain kind of personality and lifestyle to poke me and say hi, and 46 people responded over the course of two days. It sparked a bunch of conversations about language and identity, and pulled some people together in a way that none of us expected. Even more surprising were the private conversations I had with people who wanted to raise their hands, but didn’t want other people to know about it. There were a lot of these, and they completely floored me.

I write about my life on the Internet because it creates a space for these connections. What else could make a complete stranger feel safe emailing me to say, “I’m queer, and I can’t tell anyone, but I wanted to tell you“?

I’ve been writing about my life on the Internet for about nine years now. I’ve learned by trial-and-error what works and what doesn’t, and I manage my presence in a way that nourishes me. Sometimes I make mistakes and have to face negative consequences, but they’ve never come anywhere close to outweighing the benefits.

In January, I bought a car almost entirely on advice from my online social networks, which I got in response to my blog posts about how confused I was. Someone even found my dream car for me online and sent me the link. Someone else saw that I couldn’t get to the dealership and offered to drive me. Some of these people (like the guy who gave me a ride) are meatspace friends, while others (like the guy who sent me the link) are people I only know online — I met them by blogging. (And by the way, the car is still perfect.)

I write about my life on the Internet because it changes the way I connect with my own experiences. In order to write down a story, I have to sort through all of the details and focus on the ones that made it significant for me. I believe our stories shape us — the way we remember something affects who we are and how we relate to the world. Writing things down empowers me to consciously decide how I want to remember something, and to me, that’s an act of personal revolution. Then, when details get echoed back to me in someone else’s words — either through a comment or another blog post — my way of seeing things gets a little big stronger, and my voice gets a little bit more steady.

I also write about my life on the Internet because I like to spend time alone. I can spend entire days in physical solitude — writing or working or scheming or exploring — and the Internet gives me a way to stay accountable and honest without breaking the creativity spell. It’s a kind of safety net — if I stopped writing for a day or two and didn’t tell anyone where I was, people would start looking for me (I know this because it’s happened). It’s also a sanity check — I can’t escape too far off into my own little world because I’m still bouncing my thoughts off a network of real people. When I start talking crazy talk, people tell me. (And they seem to love that part of their job, too…)

I’ve worked through some very hard stuff through blogging, and I’ve made some powerful connections in the process. People have thanked me for telling stories that opened doors in their own lives that they didn’t know they were missing out on. Other bloggers have done the same for me.

I believe in telling stories, I believe we’re more powerful when we’re connected, and I believe in telling fear to f*ck off.

It started with a conversation about dating. I tried define my dating class to a friend, and quickly came up with a string of words that sortakinda summed it all up: intelligent independent creative queer professional. This class includes me, and I had to acknowledge that we’re sometimes hard to date.

Another friend-in-this-category, sfslim, quickly noted that we’re also a hard class to find. I decided to take this as a challenge, and put out the following request to the Internet:

quick poll: would all the self-identifying “intelligent indie creative queer professionals” pls raise their hand via @ reply, dm, or email? May 19, 2008

I wasn’t really expecting the results. So far, over the course of a day, 25 people have raised their hands. They’ve come through public replies, private direct messages, email, facebook messages, and IM. More than a quarter of them have come from strangers. A handful of them have been unsure if they really fit, so let me describe what I’m talking about here:

Intelligent – Do you notice change? Are you witty? Do you see patterns in what’s going on around you? Do you critically analyze the opinions that come your way and consciously decide which ones to accept? Can you usually find the information you’re looking for on the Internet?

Independent – (I didn’t really mean indie in the label-free musician sense. I was just working with limited character space.) Do you insist on keeping a flexible schedule? Do you create interesting projects to work on? Do you define yourself by your skills and passions instead of by the name of your workplace? Do you enjoy time alone? Do you (at least try to) examine any sentence that includes the word “should” to make sure it’s right for you before accepting it?

Creative – Do you come up with new ideas when you’re in the shower or taking a walk? Do you have a form of self-expression that feels satisfying and allows you to be playful? Do you enjoy brainstorming? Do you like to make things better? Do you value the time you spend thinking and experimenting? Do you believe your perspective matters?

Queer – Does your gender or sexuality just not quite fit the traditional binary categories (man or woman; straight or gay)? Do you feel excited when you see people playing with or challenging those traditional roles? Are you hopeful that things are shifting in a direction that will better encourage you to be yourself? (This category is big and complicated, and I’m not gonna get into its subtleties here. You pretty much get belong as soon as you say you do… even if you’re not fond of the word.)

Professional – Do you make (at least some of) your living doing things you’re personally passionate about? Did you intentionally choose your line of work? Do you bring unique value to your work? Do you feel a sense of ownership and responsibility for your career path? Do you have a strong sense of personal integrity about your work?

These descriptions are my own perspectives, and none of these categories have clear boundaries to them. To me, this combination of traits is gold, and I want to know as many “identity revolutionaries” (to use sfslim’s term) as possible who share them.

I’m not putting out a call for people to date (although, hey, if the shoe fits…). I’m putting out a call for community. Rally up, folks! Tell me where you are! I believe we’re more powerful when we’re connected, and I know we each have a lot of work to do.

As a side note, to answer a question someone asked: No, I’m not going to publish this list anywhere. Many people are raising their hands privately, and it’s not my place to share their identities, even with each other. I believe you have the right to tell and curate your own story.

If you’re part of this fantastic class of people (which I’m now just calling the IICQP folks) and haven’t already raised your hand, please do so. Leave me a comment, send me an email, shoot me a twitter reply, find me on facebook… whatever you prefer.

Just raise your hand.

Edit: As of 9pm 5/20/08, the total number of hand-raisers is 41. Hot damn, people! I love you guys!

Edit: It’s June 9th, and we’re totally up to 53, oh-yes-we-are.