People often ask me what it is I actually do for a living. What is freelancing that it lets me travel the world for 35-40% of the year, and otherwise work from a rural island in Puget Sound? It’s a fun question, but not easy to answer.
What I do is: whatever IT engineers, open source developers, or Internet standards writers need me to do so that they can get their jobs done. Sometimes, I’m an executive editor, developing, evolving, and overseeing publication processes. In other roles, I’m a technical editor helping clarify reports and writing up style material so the writers have a template from which to start. And more often than not, I’m a facilitator for disparate groups made up of volunteers from organizations around the world who are all trying to make the Internet better.
What I love most about freelancing is the fact that I don’t work for any one organization. I did that for quite a while, working for a few years as Director of Systems in central IT at Stanford University, Senior Manager for the same kind of group at Duke University, and as a sys admin for various companies before that. In all those roles, even when I was participating in some kind of inter-institutional collaboration, I had to keep the concept of “what’s best for my organization” central to everything I did. Today, I work from the concept of “what is best for everyone involved in this project, regardless of where they work or where they are in the world.” And that’s a glorious place to be.
Multi-stakeholder collaborations, especially when they consist of volunteers, are always challenging and almost as always rewarding. The collaborations often bring out the best and brightest minds the world has to offer. It is a privilege to get to learn from them and enable their efforts to make the digital world a better place.
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