It’s been a hell of a morning, D. I know you probably are like, why are you writing me a letter on your blog? Well. That is the nature of ‘N’. And I am inviting you. Starts here. The picture? That was me with a ticket from ‘N’ London, hanging out at a pub there, no wait, Sheffield, it was, right, just there, just talking to no one in particular, and, well… waiting for people to ask me, ‘So, what’s that?’, so I could invite them. Haha. (Yes, I do things like this.)
The journey of ‘N’, which began in 2014 in Phnom Penh, involves this sort of brute-force method of simply doing something, in this case sending point-blank invitations like this, over and over and over and over until you get it to ‘take.’
On the shape of uncertainty
I must have invited 116 people to that first ‘N’, and in the end we had a lovely group of opting-in people who made our 16-person blind date one of the most memorable ones of the lot, so far.
Who comes to ‘N’? A mix. A surprise. Every single time. And that’s exactly the beauty of it.
The people who come to ‘N’ are exactly the right people. I’ve hosted this in Bangkok, London, and Copenhagen (kind of), and so, now, here I am. In Vietnam. Again. Did it once, in 2017, in Hanoi too, forgot to say.
It’s not about who’s the most this or the most that. When I make these invitations, and yes, there are a lot of them, there is one thing that all the guests who say ‘yes’ will have in common. They are curious people. They want to know what it is. They want to take a chance. Maybe just once, this year, ‘go out of my comfort zone,’ as so many people tell me. ‘N’ is something people talk about, or hear about, and it changes some of us (me, included) and we go on with our lives like, Huh, that can happen.
In a world overwhelmed with communication channels but void of deep relating, in my opinion, I made ‘N’ because I wanted to host a space for people to really be there, together, really and truly in a way that I love: which is simply being there, being included, being seen and heard, and being welcomed. Welcome. That’s me: welcoming you to ‘N’. Not just you. You and about 30 people I have mentioned this to in Ho Chi Minh City, of whom, I hope, 4 will say ‘yes.’
One of them I met in the very place where I met you, for example. Another I just wandered in to her place of work and struck up conversation. This happens often for me. I did this also to invite the guests who are part of that 30-person list and today we will close the registration because I like advance bookings and if I know everyone personally I will host it at my house. Cause yeah. Personal. And I will make snacks. If I can find out what dietary preferences… and that’s why, too, I like to have plans in advance… who is coming, what will we make for them? Planning and anticipating, for me, is as much of the fun of making something happen as the thing itself happening. I guess that’s why I love ‘N’ so much.
And why, you may ask, is it it designed like this? All ‘just once’ and for ‘just four’, and stuff? Because: personalizing it, and small scale. I like that. It’s usually in semi-public space but I am getting tired of public spaces in Vietnam and my house has a semi-public spot in it, the Common Room, which is where I’ll do this. There is also some art. Art that isn’t mine. So yeah. Come and talk to us. It’s just… people showing up to talk. Together. But briefly, and once.
I thought I was done with ‘N’ for a while. I thought I had these rules around it: the old page for it and my best attempt to share the story so far, is here. (I had some other side sites going to “document the journey,” or whatever, but that became tiring. People wanted me to do that kind of thing, because they said it would be good, so sure, I was new at experience design project S P A C E jam stuff, back then, so I tried to do it their way.) Kind of went like this:
Them: ‘You need to explain it, DK. Don’t you have pictures? So they can see what it’s going to be like? You have to sell it to them.’
Me: ‘WTF, it’s art. You don’t explain art. You experience it. Then you decide for yourself what it means.’
‘Why am I even.. asking you? Gosh. You’re just not. Getting this, are you. F, f, f.’
‘Maybe I’m not that clever enough…’
‘You want to be spoon-fed or something?’
‘Yes! Tell it to me like–‘
UNDOCUMENTED. So mostly, there are no pictures. I think it gets in the way of the intimacy of the space. I do have one 16-persons-in-a-pic ‘N’ selfie. I did take a few shots in Phnom Penh and London, because, wow, it was just… beautiful to have the whole 16-way blind date idea in real life and so yeah, documented those but they’re like not that great of pictures because, iPad?, and also, dark. So? I have them. I have the memories, though, and I cherish those far, far more. I don’t have to share them anywhere. So yeah. I didn’t keep up with the whole side site journal documenting thing. Things like that to ‘maintain buzz’ and ‘include people who couldn’t be there’ got to the point where the mood to do that just… ended. So I casually was okay with it if I forgot the passwords or maintaining it got too hard and I just… let it go. These things happen, too. I said, after ‘N’ Penang: NOSTALGIA, that I was done for a while. That I would take a break.
But, then… I fell in love with a venue. Yeah, I did.
It just has that vibe.
It’s perfect, for ‘N’.
Yup, I found a crazy cool venue, with an ‘N’ in its name, in a city that has an ‘N’ in it, and *these are among the criteria* that I look for when I choose to throw an ‘N’ party. An ‘N’ party is a big blind date where 16 people show up to meet each other, in real life, to talk about a topic that starts with… guess what letter!
So yeah. I’m here, and I’m starting to go through the old conversations in old emails and seeing who might like to be part of ‘N’ in the secret city where I am going to be when it might happen. Yes! I am going to decide later! I am going to leave it open, for now. I am going to confirm, when I feel like it, when it’s closer to then, if it is happening or not. (To everyone, that is, who isn’t already ‘in’ on the conversations, where we confirm stuff and send agendas and meetpoints and homework. Not everyone needs to know. So I’ll be vague and casual and noncommittal with anyone who is not, of course, actually saying ‘yes’ to my direct invitation. If you just got email from me, this is the jam.
The hosting of an ‘N’
The people who come are the right people. The things that happen are the only things that could have. It starts when it starts (but we’ll probably say 7PM), and it’s over when it’s over (this can last years), and the last thing is, if you’re not having a good time or learning something, you can leave. That’s ‘the law of two feet.’ I didn’t make these up; these are the basic frame making rules of what’s called Open Space Technology, HT MC, who left the book Open Space Technologies on purpose for the random passerby to find it, in her cafe in Battambang, where said passerby (yours truly, DK) chanced to go (solo trip! Battambang 2014!!) and see it, read it, and begin to host everything in Open Space style, from that point on.
So… Who got my email? Email me back and I’ll send the next e-note in that sequence. I wrote it in 2014, but it still fits the mood of this cookie, and I’m ready to do an ‘N’ jam, again, with 16 people who are going to like what they see when they read this invitation and follow through the links.
Are you there, curious, reading, listening, and wondering? People have come from out of the city and out of the country to join ‘N’, so please get in touch if you are resonating with this. We’re looking for you, if yes. If you got the invite and said ‘no,’ that’s cool, really, it is, but, um, no way ever am I going to ‘keep you updated on future things!!’
‘N’ is a filter, for me. What kind of people say ‘yes’ to this wacky, crazy invitation to show up in real life for something that you don’t even know what it is yet?
My kind of people.
S P A C E kind of people.
Artful, curious, and ready-for-the-things people.
With that set, there’s no way that you can go wrong, as a host. Because the people who come, like Open Space says, are the right people. Guess what? We don’t care how popular or good-looking or smart or rich you are. We just want you to want to be part of it. That’s it. That’s the whole thing, the center of it. ‘N’ quests you.
Agile. Agile design, agile publishing, and agile ‘N’.
This is how we roll.
Comments are open for a bit, in case someone wants to say something about all this ? Email also open. The new new address, not the old new address. Tx.
AT LAST, the picture of our guests at ‘N’ Hanoi: NARRATIVE. What stories do we tell to the world? Which ones do we tell ourselves? In this brief encounter, 16 people whose paths might not have otherwise crossed conversed and wrote, read and listened, in a space of just 2.5 hours. A magic moment. *!
‘Makes a thing noteworthy? Is that what you asked?’
‘Something that is an experience.’
‘Good answer! Right. So what are you doing at 6PM? Because we’re going to have a conversation salon, on noteworthiness. Yes! And someone just cancelled their spot. I mean, these tickets were booked months in advance, some of them, and some of them just yesterday, but it’s all part of the design of it, you see, chance, and serendipity, and the connection that happens when, poof!, you meet, in real life. But briefly, and once.’
‘I’m interested, but not today… is it a regular thing?’
‘Good sir, briefly and once is the thing about ‘N.’ Because you can never set foot in the same river twice, et cetera.’
‘Think about it. I like your answer, and you seem nice.’
‘Yes, well, I have a client meeting at 7…’
‘Move it! ‘N’ just happens once! And ‘N’ is an experience.’