I want to make a point about changing the world, but first we need to talk about the horse head.

For Christmas last year I bought my brother a horse head and, while I was at it, picked one up for the office. It felt like the kind of thing that Mozilla Toronto would enjoy.

Good times.

Between meetings we needed a place to store it; the sad, flat way it sort of collapsed when left on a desk was unsatisfying. So Madhava and I went out in search of a head on which to mount it. Steps from our office is a mannequin supply store, which helped.

I put the horse head on its styrofoam mount and, for giggles, set it up in the window. Facing outwards. Staring at the office in the next building.

For 2 weeks it sat there and I was pretty happy with it. And then something happened. Something wonderful and magical happened. I wasn’t there for it, but lmandel and overholt were.

The other office responded.

They taped a note to the glass.

“What’s with the horse?”

We responded.

“Who you callin’ a horse?”

They responded.

“Why you, of course!”

And so it went. Back and forth.

Stick with me, I’m getting to the world changing.

So last week we bought them their own horse head. And yesterday mconley delivered it to their office. They invited him in. They brought the box over to the window where we could see. They gathered around their window and we gathered around ours. And when they opened it and realised what it was they actually jumped up and down, and applauded, and mouthed “thank you” through the window at us.

In Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam’s utterly definitive work on society and community, he writes that the best predictor of a school’s success is the activity of its PTA, and that the activity level of a PTA can be changed dramatically by one or two committed parents. Derek Sivers’ TED talk is all about the powerful change that happens when one person being silly becomes two people being silly, and cognitive scientists have been talking about the power of allies for 50 years.

The horse head(s) didn’t change the world; I’m not that pompous. But changing the world is hard work and it’s worth getting some practice in. So go start something. And, this is crucial, if you see someone else starting something: play along. Maybe the thing you’re playing with draws a great big crowd and changes the world. Maybe it never amounts to more than an office of strangers 50ft away silently jumping up and down and saying thanks.

It’s not such a terrible downside.


UPDATE: The world keeps getting more awesome. Denise from the other office just sent me email saying that the 4th floor office in our building saw their “best day ever” sign, and posted a reply. They don’t even know about the horses. They just wanted to share in the happy.

and tomorrow will be even better (photo credit: denise)

22 thoughts on “Horseplay

  1. Hay Johnathan! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist) You should know right off the bat that this Horsehead has changed the world. My world. It has kept me from falling off the edge (that I only had a fingernail grip left on) into complete cynical darkness and general distaste of what’s become of our human race. The simple act that you guys have set forth has caused endless mirth and merriment for everyone here @ EurOptimum and I personally can’t thank you enough for causing a sparkly ray of magic to pierce through the grey sky and illuminate my world again. I had trouble expressing to my friends exactly what it all meant to me and while some seemed to “get it” I wasn’t as eloquent as you have been in your documenting of this story, so I thank you for that as well. I am re-invigorated and re-energized to be less passive in my attempts to pay it forward and do my part to aid this worthwhile movement.

    Thank you and your team – you guys are magnificent!

  2. For the record, the text of the note we sent with it:

    “A Window Horse
    straight from the source;
    its quality we do endorse.
    We hope that you’ll not think us coarse
    (and clearly we would never force)
    but might you place this new resource
    in your own window, in due course,
    to reinforce our horse discourse?”

  3. Fantastic post 🙂

    The link to the Solomon Asch experiment is fascinating, really. Thanks for sharing.

    And now, how can we get a horse head for the Paris office?


  4. It’s time I sling the baskets, off this over-ridden horse, Sink my toes into the ground, and set a different course…
    Cause if I were here and you were there,
    I’d meet you in between….
    And not until my dying day, confess what I have seen….

  5. Ahhh so now it makes so much more sense! What’s great is that we did not understand your first message “best day ever…” but it was something so positive that we had to respond with our own note. The full story that you wrote above is great and made me smile even more. I am glad that we didn’t selfishly keep the joy from your note but were (unknowingly) able to extend it.
    Sometimes the world needs a bit more silly!


  6. Reading this was such a great way to start my day over in Australia. Good for you guys! If you can’t have a bit of fun everyday, then what’s the point? Keep spreading the happiness guys!

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