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What is ModeNomad?

You ask a simple question and, alas, you're treated to an essay on the subject.

The short version:

OK, first, there's a short answer. If your work life has you cycling through several "knowledge worker" projects in a year, if you move through different sorts of projects, handle lots of different kinds of emails in a day, need to produce web pages or video, or perhaps mobile device applications, there's a good chance that this site will be a great resource for you.

In particular, there's much to be learned here about running open-source content management systems, managing "ultralight" businesses, the best devices and services to facilitate working while traveling, and systems for organizing yourself for more effective work.

For a quick sense of the place, the simplest course is to start with the latest blog updates on the home page and roam back through a few. But you may also want to check out the "7 Nomadic Domains" article for a broader overview of the topic areas this blog tends to cover.

That's the (relatively) sort version. But, if you're game, maybe I can share a little more about what's driving me and, by extension...

...what's driving ModeNomad

I follow a number of bloggers on the web who've established themselves as well-known digerati. Perhaps the most widely known of these is Tim Ferriss, a guy in his early thirties who's seen a remarkable measure of success with some products that, viewed with a skeptical eye, seem pretty unlikely. He's sold a couple million copies of a book that tells you to outsource the menial tasks in your life and get a small online sales business going to finance six-month jaunts to Brazil or Australia. That first book is the Four-Hour Work Week and it's sold millions of copies in forty-odd different languages.

His next book offered similar results for weight loss, body building, and sexual climax. The latest book, The Four-Hour Chef (a book that he started encouraging people to buy on Amazon fully a year before it was published--how's that for marketing over-hype?), offers cooking lessons intermixed with just a colossal mish-mash of vaguely related stuff that Tim thought was interesting.

I realize the foregoing paragraph makes me sound like a harsh critic of Ferriss. And in some respects, I am. There are some troubling inconsistencies in his approach to these books that I'll save for discussion elsewhere, on the whole what I'd rather do is applaud the guy for genuinely trying to break down and understand what must be done in order to achieve a given result, rather than accepting the conventional wisdom unchallenged.

There's an outright sense of exhilaration in the idea that jettisoning a few preconceived notions will enable you to achieve a great deal more than you otherwise would. that said, I feel hugely confident that the overwhelming majority of readers of the Four-Hour Work Week haven't radically deployed a personal virtual assistant. in my experience, in fact, it's a fairly rare person who manages to make good use of a personal assistant (a real, non-virtual one) in their role as an executive VP or similar. These assistants tend to be a laughably squandered resource. So, readers of 4Hr may have dabbled away a few bucks on having someone in India set up a meeting for them, but I would bet my bottom dollar that really doubling down on the concept makes no sense for the vast majority of them and they, however much they enjoy reading about Tim doing it, can see it's no use to them right away.

Even though this is one of the core elements of the book, people don't embrace the book because they are really looking to change their life in that particular way. What seems to have a lot more resonance in the comments on Ferriss's web site is his notion of creating a "muse," by which he means a small business that can, one it's up and running, be set on autopilot.

Now, this is a powerful idea and not one that I'm willing to dismiss out of hand. It's just that it's not going to work on the basis that Ferriss presents it. I'll let my various issues work their way out in blog posts, but the basic objection is that it's a long way for most people from building a small business that actually works to flipping the switch to autopilot. And most of the case studies that get presented on the 4Hr blog are a long, long way from autopilot and probably not destined to last long enough in their current form to get to that point.

And there's nothing wrong with that. It's just that a site like Ferriss's doesn't really address what it takes to make that business worth running on its own terms or what it's like to structure other kinds of more conventional startups such that you can work with a high degree of independence and effectiveness, able to travel for pleasure while also working. And it's great that he doesn't really do it, because that's what's created a ModeNomad-sized hole in the universe that the site is now here to fill.

-- Robert Richardson

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