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  • Doug Belshaw 8:37 am on February 16, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , ,   

    Highlights from ‘Digital Minimalism’ by Cal Newport (Ch.2) 

    Although it took me a while to get into Newport’s Deep Work, I have to say I’m not very impressed with this book so far. That’s for a couple of reasons:

    1. He disdains ‘tips and tricks’ but offers something similar in the form of ‘restrictions’ and ‘optimisations’.
    2. What he’s proposing so far sound less like minimalism and more like asceticism.

    “The problem is that small changes are not enough to solve our big issues with new technologies. The underlying behaviors we hope to fix are ingrained in our culture, and, as I argued in the previous chapter, they’re backed by powerful psychological forces that empower our base instincts. To reestablish control, we need to move beyond tweaks and instead rebuild our relationship with technology from scratch, using our deeply held values as a foundation.”
    “Digital Minimalism: A philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities that strongly support things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else.”
    “As Adam admits, the loss of his smartphone made certain things in his work life more annoying. In particular, he relies heavily on text messages to coordinate with his staff, and he soon relearned how hard it is to type on the little plastic buttons of an old-fashioned cell phone. But Adam is a digital minimalist, which means maximizing convenience is prioritized much lower than using technology to support his values. As a father, teaching his kids an important lesson about embracing life beyond the screen was far more important than faster typing.”
    “Digital minimalists are also adept at stripping away superfluous features of new technologies to allow them to access functions that matter while avoiding unnecessary distraction. Carina, for example, is on the executive council of a student organization that uses a Facebook group to coordinate its activities. To prevent this service from exploiting her attention every time she logs on for council business, she reduced her set of friends down to only the fourteen other people on the executive council and then unfollowed them. This preserves her ability to coordinate on the Facebook group while at the same time keeping her newsfeed empty.”
    “My argument for this philosophy’s effectiveness rests on the following three core principles:

    Principle #1: Clutter is costly. Digital minimalists recognize that cluttering their time and attention with too many devices, apps, and services creates an overall negative cost that can swamp the small benefits that each individual item provides in isolation.

    Principle #2: Optimization is important. Digital minimalists believe that deciding a particular technology supports something they value is only the first step. To truly extract its full potential benefit, it’s necessary to think carefully about how they’ll use the technology.

    Principle #3: Intentionality is satisfying. Digital minimalists derive significant satisfaction from their general commitment to being more intentional about how they engage with new technologies. This source of satisfaction is independent of the specific decisions they make and is one of the biggest reasons that minimalism tends to be immensely meaningful to its practitioners.

    The validity of digital minimalism is self-evident once you accept these three principles. With this in mind, the remainder of this chapter is dedicated to proving them true.”
    “Thoreau then asks what benefits these worn-down farmers receive from the extra profit they eke out. As he proved in his Walden experiment, this extra work is not enabling the farmers to escape savage conditions: Thoreau was able to satisfy all of his basic needs quite comfortably with the equivalent of one day of work per week. What these farmers are actually gaining from all the life they sacrifice is slightly nicer stuff: venetian blinds, a better quality copper pot, perhaps a fancy wagon for traveling back and forth to town more efficiently.”
    “Thoreau’s new economics, however, demands that you balance this profit against the costs measured in terms of “your life.” How much of your time and attention, he would ask, must be sacrificed to earn the small profit of occasional connections and new ideas that is earned by cultivating a significant presence on Twitter? Assume, for example, that your Twitter habit effectively consumes ten hours per week. Thoreau would note that this cost is almost certainly way too high for the limited benefits it returns. If you value new connections and exposure to interesting ideas, he might argue, why not adopt a habit of attending an interesting talk or event every month, and forcing yourself to chat with at least three people while there? This would produce similar types of value but consume only a few hours of your life per month, leaving you with an extra thirty-seven hours to dedicate to other meaningful pursuits.”
    “The reason I’m introducing this idea from economics in this chapter on digital minimalism is the following: if you’re willing to accept some flexibility in your definition of “production process,” the law of diminishing returns can apply to the various ways in which we use new technologies to produce value in our personal lives. Once we view these personal technology processes through the perspective of diminishing returns, we’ll gain the precise vocabulary we need to understand the validity of the second principle of minimalism, which states that optimizing how we use technology is just as important as how we choose what technologies to use in the first place.”
    “With this in mind, assume you invest some energy to identify a more carefully curated set of online news sites to follow, and to find an app, like Instapaper, that allows you to clip articles from these sites and read them all together in a nice interface that culls distracting ads. This improved personal technology process for keeping informed is now producing even more value in your personal life. Perhaps, as the final step in this optimization, you discover through trial and error that you’re best able to absorb complex articles when you clip them throughout the week and then sit down to read through them all on Saturday morning on a tablet over coffee at a local café.”
    “Another optimization that was common among the digital minimalists I studied was to remove social media apps from their phones. Because they can still access these sites through their computer browsers, they don’t lose any of the high-value benefits that keep them signed up for these services. By removing the apps from their phones, however, they eliminated their ability to browse their accounts as a knee-jerk response to boredom. The result is that these minimalists dramatically reduced the amount of time they spend engaging with these services each week, while barely diminishing the value they provide to their lives—a much better personal technology process than thoughtlessly tapping and swiping these apps throughout the day as the whim strikes.”
    “Finding useful new technologies is just the first step to improving your life. The real benefits come once you start experimenting with how best to use them.”
    “As Kelly elaborates in his 2010 book, What Technology Wants, the simple notion of the Amish as Luddites vanishes as soon as you approach a standard Amish farm, where “cruising down the road you may see an Amish kid in a straw hat and suspenders zipping by on Rollerblades.” Some Amish communities use tractors, but only with metal wheels so they cannot drive on roads like cars. Some allow a gas-powered wheat thresher but require horses to pull the “smoking, noisy contraption.” Personal phones (cellular or household) are almost always prohibited, but many communities maintain a community phone booth.”
    “As with the Amish who find contentment without modern conveniences, an important source of Laura’s satisfaction with her smartphone-free life comes from the choice itself. “My decision [to not use a smartphone] gives me a sense of autonomy,” she told me. “I’m controlling the role technology is allowed to play in my life.” After a moment of hesitation, she adds: “It makes me feel a little smug at times.” What Laura describes modestly as smugness is almost certainly something more fundamental to human flourishing: the sense of meaning that comes from acting with intention.”
    “Outsourcing your autonomy to an attention economy conglomerate—as you do when you mindlessly sign up for whatever new hot service emerges from the Silicon Valley venture capitalist class—is the opposite of freedom, and will likely degrade your individuality.”
  • Doug Belshaw 5:36 pm on February 9, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , ,   

    Highlights from ‘Digital Minimalism’ by Cal Newport (intro + Ch.1) 

    I’ve set up a Slack-based book club. It starts on Monday and we’re reading Cal Newport’s new book, Digital Minimalism: choosing a focused life in a noisy world.

    I’m not sure whether it’s ironic or appropriate that I’ve completed the first week’s reading on the Kindle app on my smartphone?

    Either way, what follows is what I highlighted while I read. This post is for reference and I’ll engage in discussion on Slack!


    “The urge to check Twitter or refresh Reddit becomes a nervous twitch that shatters uninterrupted time into shards too small to support the presence necessary for an intentional life.”
    “[Users] joined Facebook to stay in touch with friends across the country, and then ended up unable to maintain an uninterrupted conversation with the friend sitting across the table.”
    “Few serious commentators think we’d be better off retreating to an earlier technological age. But at the same time, people are tired of feeling like they’ve become a slave to their devices. This reality creates a jumbled emotional landscape where you can simultaneously cherish your ability to discover inspiring photos on Instagram while fretting about this app’s ability to invade the evening hours you used to spend talking with friends or reading.”
    “In my work on this topic, I’ve become convinced that what you need instead is a full-fledged philosophy of technology use, rooted in your deep values, that provides clear answers to the questions of what tools you should use and how you should use them and, equally important, enables you to confidently ignore everything else.”
    “Long before Henry David Thoreau exclaimed “simplicity, simplicity, simplicity,” Marcus Aurelius asked: “You see how few things you have to do to live a satisfying and reverent life?”Digital minimalism simply adapts this classical insight to the role of technology in our modern lives.”
    “In Walden, Thoreau famously writes: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation”.”

    Ch.1 – A Lopsided Arms Race

    “It’s widely accepted that new technologies such as social media and smartphones massively changed how we live in the twenty-first century. There are many ways to portray this change. I think the social critic Laurence Scott does so quite effectively when he describes the modern hyper-connected existence as one in which “a moment can feel strangely flat if it exists solely in itself”.”
    “The source of our unease is not evident in these thin-sliced case studies, but instead becomes visible only when confronting the thicker reality of how these technologies as a whole have managed to expand beyond the minor roles for which we initially adopted them. Increasingly, they dictate how we behave and how we feel, and somehow coerce us to use them more than we think is healthy, often at the expense of other activities we find more valuable. What’s making us uncomfortable, in other words, is this feeling of losing control—a feeling that instantiates itself in a dozen different ways each day, such as when we tune out with our phone during our child’s bath time, or lose our ability to enjoy a nice moment without a frantic urge to document it for a virtual audience. It’s not about usefulness, it’s about autonomy.”
    “People don’t succumb to screens because they’re lazy, but instead because billions of dollars have been invested to make this outcome inevitable.”
    “Something about unpredictability releases more dopamine—a key neurotransmitter for regulating our sense of craving.”
    “Attention-catching notification badges, or the satisfying way a single finger swipe swoops in the next potentially interesting post, are often carefully tailored to elicit strong responses. As Harris notes, the notification symbol for Facebook was originally blue, to match the palette of the rest of the site, “but no one used it.” So they changed the color to red—an alarm color—and clicking skyrocketed.”
    “Social media, in particular, is now carefully tuned to offer you a rich stream of information about how much (or how little) your friends are thinking about you at the moment.”
    “As Socrates explained to Phaedrus in Plato’s famous chariot metaphor, our soul can be understood as a chariot driver struggling to rein two horses, one representing our better nature and the other our baser impulses. When we increasingly cede autonomy to the digital, we energize the latter horse and make the chariot driver’s struggle to steer increasingly difficult—a diminishing of our soul’s authority.”
  • Doug Belshaw 5:58 pm on February 3, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: society   

    Let us therefore admit that all those things to which he is trained and accustomed seem natural to man and that only that is truly native to him which he receives with his primitive, untrained individuality. Thus custom becomes the first reason for voluntary servitude.

    (Etienne de La Boétie)
  • Doug Belshaw 4:32 pm on February 3, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Paul Jarvis, Venkatesh Rao, Warren Ellis   

    A communicable patch of legibility in an ungoverned thought space 

    Earlier this week I wrote a short post on Thought Shrapnel that quoted this line from Paul Jarvis: “What makes the content you create awesome is that it’s a story told through your unique lens”.

    This ‘unique lens’ both stays the same and changes over time. Take Warren Ellis’ decision this week to retire his blog at

    My mornings have been so fucked up and non-morning-y for a while now that I haven’t had any rhythm on this journal, and it feels increasingly like a bad fit for the way my life is now. Four years ago, it let me order my thoughts. Today it’s “well, shit, it’s 3pm already.” I’ve been thinking, for the last couple of months, that I’d like to maintain a public presence on the net, but that I need to do something else.

    Our lives change, sometimes through an act of will but more often through serendipity and the shape of events. Ellis has decided that his online presence doesn’t suit the change in his circumstances, showing that that lens we have on the world can (and probably should) mature as we age.

    My good friend Bryan Mathers, no doubt influenced by Ecclesiastes 3, often talks of us having ‘seasons’ in our life. I think that’s a good way of looking at things, as it’s a kind of eudaimonic ‘happy medium’ between, on the one hand, a chameleon-like changing of one’s views to suit the surroundings and, on the other, being a stubborn (often grouchy) stick-in-the-mud.

    Thankfully, Warren Ellis is keeping Orbital Operationshis excellent Sunday newsletter, going. In today’s issue he cites Venkatesh Rao who has a question for those who still maintain blogs:

    Old blogs must choose: should they turn into elder blogs, or should they turn into late-style blogs? One does not preclude the other, but you must decide what you solve for.

    I have, and continue to, maintain a patchwork of blogs that come to life and almost die-off at regular intervals. It’s been this way since about 2004, so I’m coming up to 15 years of blogging. But what does Rao mean by ‘elder’ and ‘late-style’ blogs?

    The idea is that in a complex game, after most players have finished a first full play-through, the mechanics might still leave interesting things for them to do. An Act 2 game-within-a-game emerges for experienced players who have exhausted the nominal game. A game dominated by such second-order players is an elder game. In Borderlands, the elder game was apparently gun collecting. […] An elder game can be contrasted with a late style, which is a style of creative production taken to an extreme, past the point of baroque exhaustion, in a sort of virtuoso display of raging against the dying of the night. Late-style game play is an overclocked finite game resisting the forces of mortality. An elder game is a derivative infinite game, emergent immortality hacked out of mortality.

    I’m going to get some flak for this, no doubt, but the forty-something year-old white dudes who are 90% of the IndieWeb community are, to me, definitely an example of late-style blogging. They’d be very happy if we could turn the clock back.

    You have to roll with the times, and/or decide who you’re doing all this for. I guess I’m an elder blogger, not in the sense of any seniority (or, for that matter, knowing what I’m doing), but in the words of Venkatesh Rao, I’m hopefully providing a “communicable patch of legibility in an ungoverned thought space of interest to many”.

    We live in a world of extremes, and often the middle of things gets hollowed-out leaving just both ends of the spectrum. In the online space, that feels like podcasts and newsletters at the long-form end, and Instagram and Twitter at the short-form end. What does that mean for blogging? Well, I’m not particularly bothered about business models, about huge audiences, and about ‘trends’. I’m happy just getting my thoughts out there using whatever vehicle feels right for the purpose.

  • Doug Belshaw 1:41 pm on September 13, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: blog, Evernote, fox, hedgehog, wiki   

    Hedgehog and fox approaches to blogging 

    Once upon a time, not so long ago, I used to attend so many events that I had a separate conference blog and Twitter account. It meant that I could post things that would be of interest and direct relevance to the audience of the event, without ‘turning off’ and spamming the timeline of others who follow me.

    I was reminded about this at the ALT-C event I’ve been attending in Manchester this week. I’ve tweeted way more than what is now normal for me, mainly because it’s a community I was first introduced to via Twitter. It was great to see everyone again, and I do kind of miss interacting with the people I caught up with over the last few days.

    I’ve had many blogs over the years. Some are no defunct and only accessible via the Wayback Machine, but I’ve still plenty which are still accessible via domains and hosting that I pay for each year. I’m never sure how whether I should ‘hedgehog‘ these together, or keep them spread out in different spaces. The latter better suits the way I work, but it can be a pain to maintain, and frustrating to others (and me!) to re-find stuff I’ve posted… somewhere.

    Right now, I’m using this blog ( for a lot of thoughts which aren’t so coherent. I remember talking to Oliver Quinlan a while back about how, if your main blog gains any traction, it’s possible to treat it with too much reverence and impose too high a bar on yourself for the kind of content that you place there. Perhaps I’m doing that. There’s certainly been little else I’ve posted on mine recently other than weeknotes.

    Another approach is to create a personal wiki or knowledge base. I used to use Evernote for this back in the day, and I do have a wiki, but perhaps a ‘knowledge store‘ would be better? The only problem with that is that I work openly by default, which doesn’t look like the approach used in that example.

  • Doug Belshaw 6:33 pm on September 9, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: anarchism, , Strike   

    Anarchism vs Capitalism 

    I spent yesterday evening reading back issues of STRIKE! magazine, which focuses on “grassroots resistance, anti-oppression politics, and the philosophies and creative expressions surrounding these movements”. Being exposed to this kind of stuff is never an easy read or a comfortable experience, but I do enjoy having my eyes opened to new perspectives.

    Today, after cheering on my wife during her first Great North Run, I wandered around the shops in Newcastle-upon-Tyne with my kids. They pretty much set the agenda, so we spent most of our time looking at toys, games, comics, and technology.

    The two experiences, separated only by sleep, were quite jarring. Here, on the one hand, was a radical collective advocating for a “total reconstitution of what’s possible” while, on the other, the stores tempted us with products that do nothing but cement the existing status quo using the chains of debt. Anarchism vs Capitalism. Fight!

    One of the places we wandered into was the Apple store, that temple to consumerism. My kids love it. Of course they do. To me, however, it’s a stark reminder of the kind of approach to life I feel that I’ve left behind. I’m not in competition with anyone else for scarce resources, and I don’t feel like I’ve got anything left to prove in life, so the body language of both the staff and customers in the Apple store almost makes me laugh out loud these days.

    I mean, of course I’m tempted by the shiny, shiny technology that ‘just works’, but when I think about it, the trade-off is too high for me. Once you’ve poked a hole in ersatz capitalist reality and seen things for what they really are, I don’t think you can’t go back. A trillion dollar company who have infantilised world through easy-to-use technology. (And, yes, I have a permanent sense of guilt about using Google’s services on a day-to-day basis.)

    Every day we’re bombarded with information and opinions. As someone who works from home in a small market town, one of the things that really hits me when I go to the city is the amount of things vying for my attention. This includes traffic, billboards, people handing out leaflets, shop windows… an endless list. The propaganda works, of course, otherwise no-one would bother with advertising. I almost bought a new television today, for goodness’ sake.

    I’ll admit that choosing something other than the path of least resistance doesn’t always make for a easy, happy life. Some may see me as being on a farcical quest for ‘authenticity’. I’d reject that, just as I reject being put into any kind of box which is created by capitalism as a segment to sell into. I’m not defined by what I consume.

    • Toby Adams 11:45 am on September 28, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      Doug…YUP! All that loose change flinging about our high streets and on the Web….and yet…8,000 people sleep rough on our streets every single night! With such surplus resources, we have at our means more than sufficient to see everyone’s basic needs are properly catered for; but in this modern zeitgeist where ego and greed rule, these finer sensibilities get swept (like the dispossessed of our ‘selfie’ society!) under the proverbial carpet. Couldn’t agree with you more! Have you read ‘The Leaderless Revolution’ by Carne Ross? Changed my outlook completely! Regards, TyGGa

  • Doug Belshaw 2:46 pm on September 3, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: online culture,   

    Norming and performing in online spaces 

    I’ve been asking for feedback on Thought Shrapnel from existing subscribers. One replied that he’d appreciate more ‘original content’ as opposed to my thoughts on other people’s work.

    On reflection, I guess this is the way in which (this blog) is different from Thought Shrapnel. This is the place where I record thoughts that are perhaps less fully-formed and which aren’t a direct prompt from someone else’s work.

    So I posted on the Slack channel that I share with some friends and former colleagues:

    It seems we’re using social media for social norming/policing in the absence of the state/religion.

    I was asked to expand upon that a bit, so here goes…

    One of the many different ways that I’ve introduced Open Badges is that we all display ‘badges’ of different types without necessarily realising it. For example, we choose to drive a certain type of car, or dress in a particular way. We’re using symbols as a shorthand to help others quickly decide whether we’re friend or foe, in our club or in a different league.

    A lot of that comes down to trust. For example, this morning I went to pick up a parcel from our local Royal Mail delivery office. I’d just been for a run and had a hoodie on. He asked me (as he’s supposed to) for ID to prove that I live at the address listed on the ‘we missed you while you were out’ card. Interestingly, the same guy was on duty when, last week, I went to pick up my daughter’s shoes with a shirt on. He didn’t ask me for ID. The moral of the story? We use heuristics, with appearance and language being important markers.

    (A brief aside: this is why I think emoji triplets could work so well with MoodleNet)

    Things like nation states and organised religions give us a grand narrative within which we can organise our lives. They tell a story about who we are and the kind of things that are important to us. That’s why when I write or say words such as, ‘Englishman’, ‘Islam’, or ‘Switzerland’ there are related concepts that pop into your head. The words aren’t vague but they nevertheless connote as much as they denote.

    What happens, then, when we begin to witness (as we have done in the 21st century) the decline of nation states and organised religions? How do we make sense of our lives? Well, we find our tribes. Thanks to the internet, and in particular social networks, it’s never been easier to find people who think and act like you. There’s no longer any need to conform to the logic of your geographical reality.

    That means that social networks are the proximal cause of a whole raft of changes. Yes, Twitter might have played a hugely emancipatory role during the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ of 2011, but as the Snowden revelations demonstrated a couple of years later, social networks can also be used for exactly the opposite purpose.

    What I think we’re seeing with social networks at the moment is the kind of ‘norming’ that we’ve only previously seen from the right of the political spectrum. This widely-shared post makes the point that left-wing activists have perhaps gone too far in expecting a kind of ‘moral purity’.

    Callouts, for example, are necessary for identifying and addressing problematic behavior. But have they become the default response to fending off harm? Shutting down racist, sexist, and similar conversations protects vulnerable participants. But has it devolved into simply shutting down all dissenting ideas? When these tactics are liberally applied, without limit, inside marginalized groups, I believe they hold back movements by alienating both potential allies and their own members.

    Nation states have a monopoly on violence and therefore have developed processes on when and how it should be used. Most organised religions use some kind of Golden Rule and have forgiveness as a key tenet. Unfortunately, ‘callout culture’ does not have due process and online mobs are not known for their forgiveness.

    I see this in the online space all the time now: mobs of people, acting in bad faith, can make people they don’t know and will likely never meet miserable, or even try to ruin their lives and careers… And those mobs’ bad behaviors are continually rewarded, because it’s honestly easier to just give them what they want. We are ceding the social space to bad people, because they have the most time, the least morals and ethics, and are skilled at relentlessly attacking and harassing their targets.

    I’m not sure I agree with “the least morals and ethics” as I think many of these attacks come from misplaced attempts at moral purity. I do, however, think that we should fear the mobs’ ability to relentlessly attack and harrass their targets.

    We can all learn to be a little more tolerant of one another, and to choose the words we use carefully. However, as a privileged white dude who has been careful in my learning curve, I can’t help but think that sometimes the online mobs don’t see past my gender and race.

  • Doug Belshaw 7:57 am on September 1, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , 

    I deleted my account on the Mastodon instance yesterday. I still don’t fully understand what went down, but here’s some details from my perspective that I can point to in case people ask. is/was an experiment in democratic, co-operative social networking that I joined in May 2017. I paid $3/month as a member and return got to participate not only in the social network but help make decisions in their Loomio group.

    It was great until recently. As with all groups that don’t have strong leadership, there was a lot of discussion and debate about what seemed like fairly minor things. One critical failure was the time it took to get a code of conduct in place and a policy about when would block other instances.

    There must have been some back story that I’m not aware of, but on Wednesday 29th August I ‘tooted’ that I’d weigh in on Loomio when people stopped arguing. In retrospect, should have posted that directly on Loomio rather than Mastodon. I also posted a few points that I thought were salient, including that I felt that the term ‘nazi’ was a form of shorthand and not specific enough for a policy.

    That wasn’t a helpful thing have said and I have apologised for my ignorance.

    On Thursday 30th some other Mastodon instances cited my toot as policy of and, without an explanation (other than “just no”) silenced/blocked the entire instance.

    I was willing to stick around and ride things out as there’s always bumps in the road with democratic experiments. However, people on started leaving, including key members who provide hosting for the instance. It was clear things weren’t going anywhere.

    So, I decided to delete my account. It’s a real shame, and I’m very sorry that I inadvertently upset people and caused so much drama. Suffice to say I’ve learned a lot from the experience.

    • Simon Grant 8:45 am on September 2, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      Yes, it has been quite a learning experience, hasn’t it! For everyone who was part of that learning experience, I’d like to see if we can do some peer group learning, as I sense that we can learn a lot more through discussion than we can by ourselves alone.

    • Greg McVerry 12:11 pm on September 2, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      Yes, I have come to believe that a decentralized approach to the web is better than a federated one. I quit because I was a “cross-poster” and they force anyone publishing from their own domain to be “unlisted.” My application to was never approved.

      Instead be your own fed.

      A good ole blog roll that we share among friends and a chat group is all I need.

      • Doug Belshaw 3:16 pm on September 2, 2018 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks Greg. The problem with the ‘everyone has their own server’ model is that we’ve already tried that, and it failed. We’re now at a place where capitalist social media has made things so ways to use that we can’t provide an alternative that is difficult to set up.

    • Matt Noyes 6:43 pm on September 10, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      You left too soon. Keep an eye out for work being done in various areas to regenerate the co-op and consider re-engaging if the balance tilts toward hope.

      • Doug Belshaw 8:05 pm on September 10, 2018 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks Matt. I miss that timeline and wish every success. Sadly, no one did anything but DM support. It wasn’t enough.

    • jwmh 8:25 am on September 11, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      ask for a facilitator & trainer in nonviolent operating principles w 25+ years of experience (not me! but a teacher in the SF bay area whom i deeply respect & appreciate)

    • mike hales 9:00 am on September 11, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      Greg – Until it’s a package, like any other app, there’s no way folks like me will host a server. I’ve not seen a command line for 25 years, or ever booted Terminal on my Macs, and have no desire to. My (not very well informed) hopes are with fully P2P Holochain, and open apps architecture, or maybe some Scuttlebuttish protocol (maybe even a wireless web?). But that’s some way up the pipeline (?) as an alternative to the everyday internet and platformed apps. Thank goodness for non-capitalist platforms like Loomio. Agnostic platforms like WordPress. Hosting coops. Etc. We’ll get by?

      Best wishes Doug. Hopefully we each get better at spotting our own ignorance before it pitches us into what turn out to be war zones A long haul though?

  • Doug Belshaw 4:21 pm on August 28, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Mayel de Borniol, ,   

    Lower leftism 

    As Mastodon is decentralised, instances are ‘federated’ together using a social networking protocol called ActivityPub. Instances within the ‘Fediverse‘ can be more or less specialised. For example, is focused on co-operativism, is for discussing the Humanities, and for discussing animal rights and veganism. There’s even a guide at for choosing an instance that suits you.

    I was talking with Mayel earlier today about some controversy there’s been around’s federation policy. Over and above the ability of individual users to block or mute other users, instance administrators can ‘silence’ other instances. The proposal was to implement a federation policy which states:

    An instance will be silenced if it meets any of the following criteria:
    • Explicitly allows something forbidden by’s Code of Conduct
    • The instance has as one of its goals shitposting or the instance has no moderation policy.
    The following are examples of any of the instances that would be silenced:
    • (shitposting)
    • (shitposting)
    • (no moderation)

    In practice, that means that if you’re a member of and is silenced by the administrators, then you don’t see any toots from that instance in the federated timeline. It also mutes any notifications from that instance. You can, however, still follow specific users from that instance and you’ll get notifications from them.

    I thought it was all pretty uncontroversial, to be honest. But then I’m a straight, white, middle-aged man who doesn’t have to deal with online/offline harassment.

    This brief conversation between Mayel and I reminded me of a post he’d shared a while back entitled Lower leftism: expanding upon the political map by Margaret Killjoy. It made me think in new ways about my own politics. You can read the post for the nuance, so I’ll skip straight to the diagram I found useful:

    Political map

    One thing that frustrates me about (what’s usually referred to as) ‘the Left’ is the constant in-fighting. Killjoy’s map, however, explains some of that. We’re not all advocating for the same future; it’s much more nuanced than ‘left’ vs ‘right’.

    A lower leftist is anyone whose politics fall into the anti-authoritarian, cooperative quadrant of the political map. It includes anarchists, Zapatistas, anti-state Marxists, democratic confederalists, libertarian municipalists, and a large number of traditional societies from across the globe… any society that does not desire a state and does desire economic cooperation. (While we’re at it, let’s throw in that we’re only talking about identity-tolerant societies, because regardless of how “anti-state” they claim to be, a society that persecutes people for ethnic, sexual, gender, or ability reasons is just as authoritarian in practice as any formal governmental society.)

    I wouldn’t call myself an ‘anarchist’ but I’m definitely some kind of left libertarian. As such, I fall squarely inside that purple ‘zone of solidarity’ — although probably closer towards the middle of the map. (Which explains, if you read the post, why I vote for The Green Party.)

    The key insight in Killjoy’s post for me is that we shouldn’t form alliances with those who seek different futures as it won’t end well:

    When considering strategic allies (in contrast to the natural allies to be found in the lower left quadrant), my suggestion is that we ought not prioritize one axis over another. We ought to only form strategic alliances with those who aim to push society — in relation to the existent society, rather than in relation to our ideal society — in the same directions that we do. We ought not, presumably, ally ourselves with those who aim to push society in a direction counter to our interests. This seems obvious, when written out, but is a mistake that lower leftists have made time and time again.

    I’ve still a lot of thinking to do around this.

    • mike hales 10:15 am on September 11, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      Replied to this Doug, but my reply isn’t flagged as in your queue for moderation. It was a long one – d’you have a word limit?

      • Doug Belshaw 10:28 am on September 11, 2018 Permalink | Reply

        Hi Mike, not aware of any word limit, but as you say it’s not in my moderation queue 🙁

    • mike_hales 12:19 pm on September 12, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      I still couldn’t post for some reason. And what I wanted to offer was long. So I’ve posted it here I hope you feel it meshes with your thoughts Doug?

      • Doug Belshaw 12:34 pm on September 12, 2018 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks Mike! I’ll take a look at this after this conference I’m attending 🙂

  • Doug Belshaw 2:06 pm on August 26, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: creators, Patreon, subscriptions, Thought Shrapnel   

    Patreon balance of payments 

    I came back from holiday to the news that I had a couple more people supporting Thought Shrapnel on Patreon. As a US-based company, all of the transactions in Patreon happen in US dollars. Right now, I’ve got 43 patrons backing Thought Shrapnel to the tune of $100/month.

    That’s great, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the support of the 3% of subscribers who have become supporters. I’d obviously like that number to be higher, but that isn’t what this post is about.

    A couple of days ago, one of the people that I back on Patreon expressed concern that they didn’t have much work booked for the next six months. I realised I was backing them for the minimum amount ($1) so promptly increased my support. In turn, that caused me to review how much I’m supporting in total via Patreon and elsewhere.

    I’ve been backing one organisation, four women, and six men on Patreon to the value of $25.40/month:

    I also support the following organisations monthly, over and above our family’s charitable giving and media subscriptions:

    There may be others I’ve forgotten as I can’t login to my online banking right now, but that makes a total of $44.40/month.

    I’ve just updated that so that I’m:

    • Backing everyone on Patreon to the value of $3 or more per month ($36/month)
    • Subscribed to Stowe Boyd’s Work Futures Institute daily emails ($5/month)
    • Supporting Stephen Downes’ OLDaily ($36 i.e. $3/month)

    That takes us up to the equivalent of $60/month. I’ll also be supporting Documentally when he gets the new version of his newsletter set up. Given that I’m currently employed four days a week on a reasonable salary, that seems like a dcent balance of people supporting me to those whom I’m supporting.

    I’m all too aware that there’s a gender imbalance in the above. I tried using Patreon’s find a creator service which connects your social media accounts to see who you follow who’s also on Patreon. I’m not sure why, but it didn’t work and I just ended up staring at a spinning circle. So I’m on the lookout for women creating awesome things that I find useful and can support financially.

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