Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Why FOSS in New Zealand? Really?

Several people, including Nat Torkington, have asked me, "Why did you choose NZ for ZaReason's next location?" (ZaReason makes optimized-for-FOSS computers.)

Great question.

But you probably don't want to know the full answer.

The answer is complex, multi-layered, based on a stack of research that is not your typical business research (because ZaReason is not your typical company).

Background + anecdotal example:
The executive function center of the brain is where planning and scheduling take place. For me, it works annoyingly well. It sounds like a good thing until you find that you can't turn the stupid thing off. There are myriad negative ramifications, but sometimes executive function can come in handy.

For example, when my two oldest sons were in middle school I began searching for a high school that would be a great launching pad for them. Not a "good" school since they are not drones and whatever "good" entails I have no idea. Instead I listed out what my kids needed in particular. A few of the more bizarre factors:

1. No emphasis on tech. They had plenty of tech growing up. Give them an environment where it is de-emphasized = give them a chance to forge ahead un-aided.

2. No parking lot. Drugs & babies happen in high school parking lots.

3. Latin as a foreign language. Four years of intense Latin to help them understand more of the foundation of their world: legal terms, medical terms, basic understanding of any Latin-based language.

4. An overly tall principal because teenagers are primal creatures and the largest lion in the jungle commands respect by default.

Final total: >60 qualifying factors.

I searched for schools and when I found a contender, I asked my husband whose salary put food on the table, "Could you find a job in ____ (name of city)?" Since he was a handset programmer, the answer was always, "Yes."

There was a map in the living room that took up an entire wall. It had Post-Its on it. We could have thrown darts, but both my husband and I took a few months off work for this process. We looked at public, private, charter, magnet, even boarding schools. We looked in the US and beyond. A friend had moved her son to an international school in Shang'hai. Would that work? Another recommended a school in Dublin. No country was off-limits (well, a few war-torn ones were). The map was one big open possibility.

It turned out Berkeley High in Northern California fit the criterion best. No one will tell you it's a "good school" but it was the right school for our boys.

High school grads with younger brother
High school was an unequivocal success. Both boys turned out to be aware, compassionate, strong men. 

One morning I asked them, "Do you know who Brittany Spears is?" 

"How should I know?" /  "Uh..."

"Do you know who the Dali Lama is?"

"Of course." The conversation covered Buddhism, reincarnation, the Chinese government, child-rulers, and historical facts that they had absorbed.

This was what I wanted for my kids.
+1 for executive function. The time-consuming, seemingly insane process had worked.

When choosing where to settle the next ZaReason, the process began anew.  

So, now that you've seen the process, I will begin with the reasons.

Next post: 

1. Penguins. Duh.

Please sign up for @zareasonNZ if you're on Twitter.

And listen to our podcast on Why NZ? http://zareason.com/podcast/ for some of the other bits and pieces, the details.

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