Wizards among us: John Coate joins the Edgeryders team

We are proud to announce the most recent addition to our team: John “Tex” Coate has joined Egderyders (lightning flashes in the distance, thunder rolls).

John is a living legend. In roughly chronological order, he was an original member of the Farm community (Wikipedia), the largest and most successful hippy commune ever (still in existence, and doing great, though it is now a cooperative rather than a collective). Because of his experience at community organising, he was recruited into the WELL, Stewart Brand’s and Larry Brilliant’s groundbreaking virtual community – and so became the world’s first professional online community manager. He then went on to found and direct SF Gate, the world’s first big city news website. Later still, he moved on, becoming Development Director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation; and on again.

We have been aware of John’s work since before Edgeryders even started, and have been in direct contact since early 2013. But what really drove us to him is that he understands community like few people in the world. “This is not the computer business, this is the relationships business!” he told himself as he watched humanity in its full weirdness and glory percolate across the screens of his computer plugged into the WELL back in 1985, and that was an epiphany for him. “I don’t have easy answers except to make sure that everyone recognises the inherent difficulty of resolving conflicts in online conversation and resolves to oversupply understanding” he told us in 2015, and that was an epiphany too. That was it for me – we needed this guy in Edgeryders.

John is a high achiever. We try to act nonchalant, but the truth is that we are hugely impressed. This is a war buddy of Stewart Brand and Mitch Kapor and John Perry Barlow and @Howard Rheingold (he is the guy on the left) before most of us could spell TCP/IP, and was doing counterculture before most Edgeryders were even born. How do you work with someone like this? How do you fit him into any organisation?

The good news is that Edgeryders is not really an organisation, so we can bend or ignore a few rules. We have decided John is a wizard, and we will treat him like we would Gandalf if this were The Lord Of The Rings. It would be ridiculous to give Gandalf deliverables to deliver, deadlines to meet, milestones to complete. You don’t manage a wizard: you try and keep him happy, and trust that he will do some wizardly stuff that will turn out to be exactly the right thing to do. @Noemi and all of us who are interested in building and maintaining community, for one, have much to learn from John.

John is the first wizard to join Edgeryders, but hopefully not the last. In our quest for maximal diversity (which, as we have learned, trumps ability), we dream of a White Council of older women and men who have seen it all, and yet are ready to give it one more go, blending in with the younger hands. Meanwhile, let us all welcome John! Head over to his beautiful self-presentation and say hi.