Mark J Norton

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Mark J. Norton

Team Culturing Information

See also User:Mjn
Last updated: Sept. 16, 2011

Ose-badge-true-fan.png Ose-badge-project-manager.png Ose-badge-steam-team.png Ose-badge-wiki-curator.png

(see OSE Badges)

WHO are you?

  • Name/Nationality/Ethnicity - Mark J. Norton, USA, Caucasian
  • Location – Willseyville, NY, US
  • Contact Information
Email: markjnorton (at) earthlink (dot) net
Land: 607-236-4098
Mobile: 781-698-9314
AIM: mjnsakai
Skype: nolaria
OSE User Name: User:Mjn
  • Introductory Video

(video goes here)

  • Hobbies and Pastimes
    • Reading
    • Travel
    • Permaculture
    • Farming and Self-sufficient Living
    • Food Preservation
    • Art and Crafts (watercolors, 3D graphics, etc. See
    • Lego Model Building
    • Martial Arts (Aikido, Yondan)
    • Japanese Language, Culture, History, Art,etc.

WHY are you motivated to support/develop this work?

  • Do you endorse open source culture?

Yes, I have been a supporter and participant in open source projects for many years - mostly software. I believe that it can be the basis for a non-consumer based economy in which everyone can live a healthy, happy life. It is very encouraging to me to see the rise of hardware-based open source efforts like OSE, though I've been following other efforts (OS telephones, I own an Android phone, cars, component based computer platforms, etc.). Past and current work in open source includes the Sakai Project [1] and the Kuali Project [2]].

  • Why are you interested in this work?

Well, my reasons are both selfish and selfless. Selfish because I think that some of the GVGS tools would be quite appropriate for my farm and the life I am trying to build. Selfless because I'd really like to see this project succeed. I think that many, many people can potentially benefit from it - in many parts of the world.

  • Are you interested in teaching about the GVCS?

Yes. As part of my software business I deliver customized technical training on the open source projects that I've participated in, especially the Sakai learning management system. See [3] for the curriculum that I developed and have been giving to dozens of developers all over the world.

I would like to see a training program developed that focuses on team building in support of establishing OSE villages. The creation of the initial village team will be critical to it's success, I believe. Having a training program that is focused on leadership, teaming, and work coordination will go a long way to setting up a new village for success. See also Karmic Debt for OSE Villages.

  • Economic Re-localization

I strongly believe that local communities are essential for the future of economic prosperity in the country. My wife and I already participate in the local homesteading, canning, and permaculture groups in the Ithaca area. Ithaca (about a 15 minute drive north of our village) is a hot bed of localism, alternative energy, green culture, slow food, and more. It also is a great center for learning with both Ithaca College and Cornell University. I am also working towards creating a local OSE chapter in the area.

  • Use or Build GVCS technologies

Yes, in particular the LifeTrac and the Steam Engine. I need some kind of tractor on my farm which is appropriate to it's size (15 acres). While we could probably afford to buy a used tractor (there are many for sale locally), I really like the idea of combined tractor/skid-loader work horse. Likely, my first GVCS project will be a power cube, since it will be needed for the LifeTrac and can be used for many other GVCS tools, such as the saw mill, log splitter, honey separator, etc.

I view having a wood fired steam engine as a means to move use more off-grid. We live between two hills which shelters us from the prevailing winds. While that makes a nicer micro-climate, it prevents us from using wind turbines. PV panels are a possibility, but I view it is a large expense in a very high technology. Micro-hydro is a possibility, but would require damming our small creek.
Given the desire, I recognize that there are many skills that I'd need to learn. I have some small experience with brazing and welding which I think I could ramp up to what is needed to build these devices. I have many of the tools, but would need to buy more. I am not afraid of learning new skills or tackling big jobs. For example, we are building our own house this year with the aid of some local contractors. While we contracted out the basement and framing, my wife and I will be doing the siding, plumbing, electrical, flooring, and wall boarding. For the record - she does plumbing, wallboarding, and painting. I do electric and heavy lifting.  :)

  • Start-up Enterprises using GVCS Technology

I'm not personally interested in starting up a business to build GVCS products or parts. I have my own business to run and just do not have the time to start and run another one. However, I am interested in supporting the creating of local fabrication shops that could benefit from GVCS technologies. I have had at least one conversation with a local fabricator who expressed a great deal of interest. In addition to helping locals get started, I'm also interested in the organization aspects of how OSE will encourage, register, and support commercial affiliates.

  • Local Fabrication of GVCS Technology

YES! That would be a HUGE time saver and I wouldn't have to buy so many specialized tools. Actually, I have a friend who lives about 45 minutes from were I live who is a machinist. He has many high end tools like CNC lasers, Bridgeport, plasma welder, die presses, etc. I don't think he has a 3D printer. I have discussed starting an OSE fabrication line with him and he is interested. Details need to be worked out.

  • GVCS in Third World Development, Redevelopment of Crisis Areas, Improving Derelict Areas

In theory, yes. In practice, time is a limiting factor. Running my own business and keeping up the farm is a more than full time effort.

  • Local Flexible Manufacturing and Fabrication

I would be interested in supporting such an effort locally. I could see myself as a backer, part time maker, organizer, etc. See also above.

  • GVCS for Developing Local Food Systems

Oh yes, starting with my own farm. After two years of ramp up, we are about 60% self sufficient in food. With the future addition of grain crops, that number will move up closer to 80%. We anticipate adding small livestock in the new few years as well (poultry, rabbits, perhaps a cow).

We are active participants in Ithacan [4] - a local community of food preservationists that practice canning, drying, fermentation, salting, pickling, and other techniques.
Ithaca has a very active local farmer's market, an organic food co-op, and many locavore restaurants. Small stores like The Piggery are popping up everywhere these days. The GVCS would be a great way to encourage scale appropriate technology for local agriculture.

  • Academic Studies, Publishing Books, Analysis of Efforts

I am interested in contributing to the quality of documentation such as instructions, diagrams, 3D graphics, photographs, videos, and the like. I have done a fair bit of research on steam technologies and have captured it into the OSE Wiki. I have also done some analysis of steam engines, valves, and problem points.

  • Financial Investment Opportunities

Perhaps. It would depend on the opportunity.

  • Distributive Economics

I have seen and participated in several approaches to sustainable open source development activities. Some of them work, many don't. I've had a look at the economic sustainability methods being attempted by OSE. My guess is that they will work as long as the buzz is loud. Other methods may be needed in the longer term (endowments, trust funds, grants, commercial arms, etc.).

  • Renewable Energy Sources based on Open Source Hardware

Yes, particularly biomass power generators since we have 13 acres of trees on our land and access to many more. I am an advocate of sustainable forestry (and also the concept of food forests) and look forward to putting those beliefs into practice. I mentioned micro-hydro as a possibility above. Solar collectors might be possible, but isn't as optimal as other things. Our house has been designed with passive solar heat in mind.

  • Resilient Communities and OSE Villages

Yes, but I am aware that in many ways, social engineering is MUCH more difficult than physical engineering. Among my diverse educational experiences, I had the chance to participate in an intensive program on life coaching. I am certified by the Newfield Group in Ontological Coaching, which gives me some insight into how to build communities and social structures. I have served as a trained meeting moderator, project coordinator, and project documentation specialist. I have also had several flavors of leadership training - some through past activities with Scouting.

A great deal of initial work will be needed to insure the success of OSE villages. I believe that OSE will have the technology side well in hand within the next two years, but the social engineering aspects will be MUCH harder to develop. I am interested in applying my experience, training, and skills to improving our changes of social success.

  • Bug Out Hut

My long-term survival is directly related to the health of my local community. While I am taking steps towards being self-sufficient in food and energy, I have no intention of "bugging out", in part because I believe that, while we are in for hard times, society itself is unlikely the crash. OTOH, the Zombie Apocalypse might make a bug-out hut essential. I'm taking a "wait and see" attitude on that one.

  • GVCS and the Global Monetary System

I believe that our global and national economies are fundamentally broken. We have become a consumer based and debt driven mass of people controlled by very sophisticated marketing techniques. Helping people to become self sufficient will enable them to weather the economic turmoils that are very likely to come (post peak oil, for starters). I believe that the GVCS is a wonderful way to create local communities that are self sufficient without returning to the middle ages. If people can get what they need locally, grow it themselves, or make it from local resources, they are less dependent on the global monetary system. I think of it as a grass roots damper for the wild chaos being promulgated by corporations, big ag, big pharma, big [insert your monopoly here].

Enabling a transition from a scarcity based economy to and abundance based economy is part of what OSE is trying to accomplish. I believe this is possible, but will require some deep thought into social engineering. Just building the GVCS-50 will not do it, because almost everyone is bound to the existing economic structure. Breaking free from those ties requires a radical change in mind-set and will require a support network to enable the transition.

  • GVCS and Resource Conflicts

We, as a whole civilization must realize that the age of oil has peaked and soon there will be no more. We missed our best chance to develop alternative energy techniques back in the 1970's, but it's not too late to mitigate the impact of a decline in petrochemical use (fuel, transportation, food production, plastics, waxes, etc, etc, etc). GVCS and a maker ethic will enable us to develop local alternatives that make sense for the local climate and culture.

I also love the re-use, fixable, durability aspects of the OSE charter document. I hate our throw away culture and the fact that simple things break for no reason and are unfixable.Grrr. Don't get me started on that.

  • GVCS and Overpopulation

Hmm. Interesting question. Here is what I belive: we will likely see periods of population die off over the next 20 - 50 years. Some will be based on food crises, many on war, some due to lack of water, and (sadly) rampant disease. Some of these events will be episodic, others difficult to discern trends like starvation based on the ever increasing cost of food globally.
The GVCS could be the basis for pockets of stability in afflicted areas (and I include the first world countries in that statement). Also, I believe that economic prosperity is tied to population growth - though the sub-ZPG numbers of countries like Japan and Germany are a counter to that argument. The GVCS is more likely to have a local impact on population, than a global one, if it creates economic stability. On the other hand, such stability might be attractive to people in non-stable areas.

  • Resource Depletion and Environmental Degradation

Where possible, we should re-use things. By making them maintainable and repairable, we are more likely to keep things than tossing them out. Using the waste stream is another way to improve my local environment. Permaculture says that waste or pollution is just an unused resource. I see the GVCS tools as a way to reduce our need for resources, improve the local environment and help us shift away from consumerism.

  • Other comments

OSE as an organization and community is faced with the results of it's own success. Our biggest challenge this year and next will be dealing with growth. If we cannot find ways to accommodate new interest and new members, we will lose them and hence momentum on our projects. Somehow, we need to strike a balance between enough organization and too much organization.


  • OSE Project Contributions

(technical contributions, blogging about us, financial support, organizing events, translations, interviews, video editing, publications, publicity work, behind-the-scenes work, CAD work, wiki contributions, computer support, etc) Initially I did some internet research looking for sources of piston rings and stepper motor controllers. As of the start of May 2011, I've taken the lead on the Steam Engine project. Working with Marcin, we have updated the 2009 design and have started floating it out for comment. As of June 2011, my team has completed initial detailed specifications, technical drawings and some CAD drawings, see Steam Engine/Index.

In June 2011, I have been developing a series of wiki pages on Starting an OSE Project, Managing an OSE Project, OSE Project Stages, OSE Local Chapters, and OSE Member Organizations. It is my hope that this material will help organize OSE projects and facilitate the establishment of local OSE chapters.


  • I am an experience technical writer and communicator. I have worked with video and film in the past. I have artistic and design skills. I have experience with computer animation, 3D modeling, art, digital and web site design. I am a trainer, speaker and presenter. I have little or no skill in marketing or financing.


  • I have worked as a project manager. I have helped build various social organizations. I participated in the development of martial arts school and I sit on it's board of directors (it is a 501-C7 corporation). I have had experience organizing public events. As to law, I am not an expert. However, I have experience on open source licenses both in evaluating them and in writing them.

Computer Support

  • I am an experienced software developer. I have a MS in Computer Science along with a BS in EE. My resume (see above) describes my software capabilities in some detail. I do use Linux, as well as Windows. I have extensive experience organizing and managing Wiki's - primarily using confluence, but also MediaWiki. I could lead software development activities and have quite a bit of experience in doing so. I have designed and built several web sites. I have experience with database systems that include MySQL (open source) and Oracle (proprietary).


  • I run my own software consultancy that consists of myself and my wife. Nolaria Consulting has been active in contract open source development since 2003. In the course of running that business (as a sole proprietorship), I do my own billing, accounts receivable, invoicing, tax preparation, etc. I have a rolling business plan that I keep up to date that allows me to plan for the future and track the past.


  • Oh yes. That would be a fascinating activity to participate in. I have started some wiki articles on coordinating action between people that draws on my training as a Life Coach. See also comments above on helping to start OSE villages.

Home Economics

  • LOL Japanese, Mexican, Chinese, French, etc. Come buy some time and we'll cook for you. We both LOVE to cook. We grow much of our own food and are slowly expanding our food production capabilities. The house we are building will include custom food storage and a climate controlled root cellar. We are experienced canners, food driers, and picklers. Next year we are trying out lacto-fermentation and hope to try out charcuterie. I can cook for a group of 30-30 people - perhaps more though I've never tried. We have made our own jams, jellies, and chutnies. My wife bakes our own bread every week.Our food production currently consists of eight raised beds and eight flat beds. We leverage the principles of sustainable agriculture and permaculture. We have an orchard of 8 fruit trees and 5 nut trees (all around 7 years old and starting to produce very small quantities of fruit).


  • I wouldn't label myself an industrial or product designer, but as an engineer I have been trained to consider such things. I have taken drafting classes when young. I've worked with a number of 3D graphic applications, though I must admit that my wife has more CAD experience than I do, having designed our new house using Home Designer, a custom house CAD application. I've used Google Sketch-up, but not the commercial CAD products like AutoCAD, etc. I have some limited experience with electric circuitry and power distribution systems (largely house wiring). I am expanding my skill set with CAD tools such as FreeCAD.


  • Much as I'd love to claim maker status, I cannot. I am comfortable and skilled with power and hand tools. I have a sizable collection of new and antique tools. I have built several moderate scale farm projects including fencing, a cold box, a cold frame, etc. I have repaired and maintained my larger farm implements (garden tractor, chipper/shredder, and rear-tine rototiller). I own and have used a chain saw, but am not certified. I do have my own blacksmithing forge and have built several tools including tongs, punches, fullers, etc. I have forged a variety of hardware fittings and other things in iron. I can forge-weld, temper, draw, upset, rivet and perform other blacksmithing operations. My wife and I will be doing a substantial amount of the interior work on our new house this year including wiring, plumbing, dry walling, flooring, tiling, cabinetry, and appliance installation.

Electronics and Magnetics

  • Though my degree in Electrical Engineering touched on these things, I have no practical experience.


  • I am familiar with them only through reading. I have no practical experience in this area.


  • Blacksmithing (see above). Case hardening, tempering, annealing, some surface treatments, etc. I have some (a little) experience with power hammers and die presses.


  • I can only claim expert status in software.

HOW can you help?

  • Contributing

I am serving as the project manager of the OSE Steam Engine project.
I am helping to guide the growth of OSE in organization structures, leadership, team building, and project management.
I'm interested in building some of the GVCS tools for my own use. In doing so, I would be willing to document the building process and share my experiences.
I'm interested in helping to manage development and prototyping efforts, researching new tools, existing technologies, etc.
I'd like to help to improve the overall quality of documentation and how it is communicated to the world.

  • Volunteering and Hours per Week

I would estimate that I am contributing 12-15 hours a week to OSE at this time. This is likely to change (reduce) as my wife and I start getting seriously involved with the interior work on our house.

  • OSE Employment Opportunities

I am interested in exploring part time positions with OSE.

  • Purchasing Equipment to Bootstrap Development

Yes, depending on what it is and how much.

  • Consulting, Design, Prototyping Bidding

I am interested in bidding on consulting and design services. I am not equipped to bid on prototyping or fabrication at this time.

  • True Fan Status

Yes, proud to be a True Fan. I encourage anyone who has event a small bit of money to contribute via this program.

  • Full Time Work

No, I don't think so. My software business is doing quite well. In many ways, I am better able to contribute to OSE if I continue that work.

  • Using the GVCS Technologies

Yes. See above.

  • Charge to Action
  • Are you interested in being part of the world's first, open source, resilient community? The GVCS is the preparatory step for the OSE Village Experiment – a 2 year, immersion experiment (2013-2014) for testing whether a real, thriving, modern-day prototype community of 200 people can be built on 200 acres using local resources and open access to information? We are looking for approximately 200 people to fill a diverse array of roles, according to the Social Contract that is being developed. This may be the boldest social experiment on earth - a pioneering community whose goal is to extend the index of possibilities regarding harmonious existence of humans, ecology, and technology – as a beacon of light to benefit of all people on Earth.

Not as an on-site participant. Remotely is a possibility. I have a farm and business to run. That said, I think the OSE Village Experiment is a very interesting idea and I am interested in designing training and social structures that would ensure its success.