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  • Doug Belshaw 5:34 pm on July 14, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , money   

    Money as exchange of energy 

    At our co-op meetup this week, Grainne Hamilton commented in passing that she sees people paying money for things like the consultancy we provide as an ‘exchange in energy’.

    If I understood her correctly, Grainne’s point is that people who read a couple of books and all of sudden become an ‘expert’ on a topic aren’t worth as much as people with deep experience in the field.

    I’m just laying this down as a marker (and as a URL I can reference in future) because I think it’s an interesting idea. I’ve previously thought of money as a ‘lubricant’, but I like this metaphor better, I think.

  • Doug Belshaw 12:16 pm on July 14, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: amateur, , professional   

    In praise of amateurism 

    From the introduction to Andy Merrifield’s The Amateur: The Pleasures of Doing What You Love comes this great paragraph:

    Whenever I hear professional business types utter their marketing and management mantras, or professional academics talk about research assessment and finance, about grant money and committees, I feel the same sense of outsiderhood and stupefaction that Dostoevsky’s Underground Man feels in attending a reunion of his old school friends. Unlike him, they’re all ‘successes’, professionals who’ve amassed the rewards of status and commercial victories. But the Underground Man ‘hates the harshly self-confident sound of their voices’, and is struck by ‘the pettiness of their thoughts, the stupidity of their pursuits, their games, their conversations’.

    I couldnt agree more.

  • Doug Belshaw 8:34 am on July 14, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , sport, swimming   

    On creativity-rich endeavours 

    Like most people, I’ve experienced both huge success and abject failure in life. It’s part of the human condition.

    The biggest success I’ve experienced in my life from a purely subjective point of view came as an eleven year-old. My success as a swimmer, and in particular at butterfly, made me feel superhuman.

    If you’ll let me boast a little about something I did fully twenty-six years ago, I was unbeaten for over a season, won every trophy available to me, and felt like some sort of swimming god. Every time I went up to compete I knew I was going to win. That feeling is incredible.

    But, in a move that will be understandable to those familiar with the work of Carol Dweck, swimming is not the kind of sport that lends itself to a growth mindset. So when I was twelve, I quit. Going to six training sessions per week, having blood taken from my ear(!) to work out my ‘threshold levels’ and moving up to compete against physically much stronger fourteen year-olds was too much.

    Today, I’m at a swimming gala with my son. He trains three to four times per week, in amongst a whole host of other activities. So I’m not interested in comparing my success with his. Instead, I want to reflect on the kind of thing that swimming is.

    Despite what a coach might say, swimming is mostly an individual pursuit. With the exception of relay events, you’re focusing on beating your best time and the people you’re up against. That’s it. There’s no style, creativity, or flair to it.

    You can, of course, bring your personality into anything. So, it’s great watching Usain Bolt doing the 100m and looking like he’s jogging. But that’s only because he wins. Nobody cares if you’ve got an outsize ego when you lose.

    Other sports aren’t like that. Take football, for example. England were knocked out of the World Cup at the semi-final stage yet have inspired many column inches with journalists waxing lyrical about their style of play. That’s important, I think. Football isn’t a game where all that matter is winning.

    So why does any of this matter? Well, I want my children to realise that life is only about competing and winning when you want it to be. Most of the time, it’s about self-expression, teamwork, and trying your best. My favourite pursuits are those where I don’t have to conform to someone else’s idea of success, but instead get to choose my own goalposts, so to speak.

    We set up these elaborate rituals to pit human beings against one another to see who comes out victorious. That’s great, and there’s certainly a place for that. But let’s not try and reduce everything to narrowly-defined, ultra-competitive pursuits. Let’s enjoy the stories, the creativity, and self-actualisation that comes from deciding what’s important to you and achieving that.

  • Doug Belshaw 6:49 pm on July 13, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: journal,   

    Catastrophe journaling 

    I really like this idea from Seth Godin:

    Every time you’re sure you’ve blown it, completely blown it, that you’re certain you’re going to get disbarred, fired, demoted—becoming friendless, homeless and futureless—write it down in your Catastrophe Journal. A simple blank book, always use the same one. Just a few sentences, that’s all you need. Write down:
    • What you did that was so horrible.
    • The consequences you expect since the world as you know it is now coming to an end.
    Do this every time a catastrophe occurs. What you’ll find, pretty certainly, is that two things happen:
    1. You will realize over time that your predictions of doom don’t occur, and
    2. As soon as you begin writing down the details, the cycle we employ of making the details worse and worse over time will slow and stop.

    We all need a bit of perspective, especially me. I usually get mine from travel but, if that’s not possible, this is a great habit to get into!

  • Doug Belshaw 8:51 pm on July 10, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: attention, governance, ,   

    The problem of governance in a world of cascading tweets 

    Aside from the fact that flash mobs are actually an offline thing (the author is almost painfully un-hip), this paragraph from page 380 of Niall Ferguson’s The Square and the Tower does a good job of explaining why we’re in the mess we’re in.

    As Ferguson notes, the main problem is getting people’s attention and sustaining it on important issues. The news cycle, a constant barrage of celebrity gossip, and good old-fashioned nosy neighbourliness drowns out most engagement with serious problems.

  • Doug Belshaw 5:51 pm on July 10, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Martin Hawksey, Moodle, , social network analysis, TAGS   

    Moodle social network analysis 

    So this was (auto-?)tweeted at me without context earlier:

    I wasn’t sure what it was, but being familiar with Martin Hawksey’s TAGS project, I guessed it was some kind of social network analysis.

    What is this?

    The NodeXL Graph Gallery is a collection of network data sets and visualizations created with NodeXL.

    What is NodeXL?

    NodeXL is an add-in for Excel that extends the familiar spreadsheet so that it can collect, analyze, visualize and create a report about connected structures (“networks”).

    What is a network?

    A network is any collection of connections among a population of people or things. For example, when a population of people is connected by relationships they form a web of ties that have a shape or structure. Words, computers, businesses, and nations can all have connections with one another.

    What is network analysis?

    Networks can be analyzed to measure their size and shape as well as the location of each person or thing in the network relative to all the others. Groups, clusters, regions or neighborhoods can be identified, Network science studies the properties of connected structures.

    What is social network analysis?

    Any network that includes people can be thought of as a social network. Social networks are formed whenever people interact or exchange with one another. Social network analysis applies network analysis methods to populations of people to reveal people with greatest influence, major groups or divisions, and the people who bridge those divides.

    It’s pretty comprehensive, and breaks down groups into segments.

    The graph represents a network of 1,427 Twitter users whose tweets in the requested range contained “moodle”, or who were replied to or mentioned in those tweets. The network was obtained from the NodeXL Graph Server on Monday, 09 July 2018 at 20:02 UTC.

    The requested start date was Monday, 09 July 2018 at 00:01 UTC and the maximum number of days (going backward) was 14.

    The maximum number of tweets collected was 5,000.

    The tweets in the network were tweeted over the 13-day, 23-hour, 57-minute period from Monday, 25 June 2018 at 00:03 UTC to Monday, 09 July 2018 at 00:00 UTC.

    Additional tweets that were mentioned in this data set were also collected from prior time periods. These tweets may expand the complete time period of the data.

    There is an edge for each “replies-to” relationship in a tweet, an edge for each “mentions” relationship in a tweet, and a self-loop edge for each tweet that is not a “replies-to” or “mentions”.

    I’ve only just finished Niall Ferguson’s book on hierarchies and networks so perfect timing, really.

  • Doug Belshaw 7:28 pm on July 8, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: blogging, minimalism   

    Minimalistic blogs 

    Randomly, I stumbled across both of these without looking for them today:

    • Itty.bitty.site – a frankly genius idea to host all of the data for a web page in the URL itself.
    • Blot – a blog you create by adding files to a Dropbox folder. Nothing new there, but it’s pretty content-agnostic, and the about page links to alternatives that use Google Drive.

    I’ve been meaning to do something with telegra.ph for ages.

  • Doug Belshaw 9:25 am on July 8, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: relaunch   

    Soft relaunch 

    I’ve been browsing Adam Procter’s micro blog this morning which reminded me that I still have this space. The reason I’ve not been posting here is simply because at the start of the year I turned Thought Shrapnel into a newsletter and blog.

    There’s still room for this space, I think. Micro.blog, which Adam uses, is great, but seems to be somewhat of a monoculture of middle-aged, white, Mac-using men.

    At least here is a monoculture of me. 😉

    • john 10:24 am on July 9, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      Hi Doug, I love it when a feed comes alive in my reader:-) I am enjoying micro.blog despite the monoculture (I follow a few women, linux & PC users on mb). They seem to be working hard to get more diversity. They are also thinking about avoiding unpleasantness and toxic conversations. I don’t think of micro.blog as a silo but more like a group RSS reader. Conversations take place on your own blog (which could be micro.blog hosted but mine ain’t) via indiweb tools. Micro.blog has certainly increased my appreciation & understanding of the indieweb. Worth keeping an eye on.

      • Doug Belshaw 8:26 pm on July 9, 2018 Permalink | Reply

        I knew you’d be on to me as soon as I posted here, John! Looking forward to keeping tabs on micro.blog. I do hope they make it less of an Apple shrine…

        • john 8:35 am on July 10, 2018 Permalink | Reply

          Hi Doug, Sorry, been on this hobby horse for too long;-) I think that micro.blog (and webmentions which are perhaps the exciting bits) might point to a way of having communities of blogs. I see mb as a model for community/rss reader/conversation starter that could be applied to other communities. The really important bit of mb for me is: http://johnjohnston.info/blog/category/micro/ not http://micro.blog/johnjohnston

    • Adam 8:23 am on July 11, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for browsing my site. 👍 Plenty of movement outside of the Apple Eco system coming to MB by the sounds of it. Plenty of space to grow too ✌️

  • Doug Belshaw 10:54 am on December 19, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Android, deep work, distraction-free, Ubuntu   

    Creating a ‘distraction-free’ writing machine (using whatever you’ve got available) 

    Sometimes, you’ve got to get things out of your system, following them to their logical conclusion. Yesterday, for some reason, I became obsessed with the idea of a ‘distraction-free’ writing machine. By this I mean something that would allow me to write without distraction, as opposed to interruptions. The latter are fine, because the person who is doing the interrupting knows what they’re doing. Distractions, however, are things that are (or should be) under your own control.

    So I set about thinking first of all about purchasing some kind of machine for different tasks. So I’d have a permanent setup for the video calls I do on a daily basis as a remote worker, and then another device for writing. That looked needlessly expensive, so I thought about the resources I’ve already got. Given that I’ve always wanted to do something more than just tinker with the Raspberry Pi (and Pi Zero) I’ve got lying about, I set about thinking how I could use that. Given that I’ve also just upgraded monitor, and the old one is handily rotatable and height-adjustable, I experimented:

    Raspberry Pi - rotated monitor

    This was running on an original Raspberry Pi with Raspbian and LXDE as a window manager. For some reason, FocusWriter, which is what you see loading on the screen there, didn’t work properly. So I was kind of back to the drawing board.

    While messing about with the settings on my phone, I suddenly realised that any machine can be a ‘distraction-free’ writing device. Almost every operating system has a ‘guest mode’ these days, so I could switch to that while writing. I started with my Android device:

    Add guest (Android)

    Once you’ve activated the Guest account, clicking on the cog to the right-hand side brings up options for that account. On my Android device there was only one option, namely whether or not to allow access to phone calls for the Guest account. I turned that on, so I could make and receive calls while in writing mode.

    Allow guest phone (Android)X-Ray Goggles

    The benefit of that is that I can’t be distracted by ambient messages from Slack, Telegram, etc. However, if a member of my family calls me, I can answer that straight away.

    When it came to my Ubuntu Linux-based laptop, I simply set up a new ‘standard’ (i.e. non-administrator) account:

    Add guest account (Ubuntu)

    I decided to call the account I created ‘Guest’, although I could have named it ‘Writing’, ‘Distraction-free’, or anything I wanted to, really. Note that I’ve ticked ‘Show my login name in the menu bar’ to be able to quickly see which account I’m in. I could also change the desktop background and/or theme to indicate this, too.

    Switch to guest account (Ubuntu)

    Switching to the Guest account is as simple as clicking on the menu to the top-right and selecting the other account.

    I’m looking forward to trying out this setup to encourage the kind of ‘distraction-free’ writing I’ve been seeking ever since reading Cal Newport’s excellent book Deep Work. Happy to answer any questions in the comments below! I’m pretty sure almost every device (with the exception of iOS?) allows for multiple users.

  • Doug Belshaw 4:32 pm on November 21, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , web literacy   

    Mozilla Foundation ending its web literacy work 

    Tired red panda

    From an email blast sent to those involved in Mozilla’s education work:

    Mozilla Foundation will be ending all staff support for the Mozilla Hive and Mozilla Clubs initiatives by December 31, 2017. While we remain active in web literacy work through fellowships, research, and curriculum, we will no longer directly run local, on-the-ground web literacy programs. These changes will happen over the course of the coming year.

    I had the privilege of being Mozilla’s Web Literacy Lead until 2015, and took their Web Literacy Map work up to version 1.5, thanks to the help of a wonderful community of contributors. The work continued through the Mozilla Clubs after I left for the world of consultancy. All of the curriculum and related materials can be found in this GitHub repository.

    Chris Lawrence, until recently VP of the Mozilla Leadership Network, and my former boss, has written a blog post about Mozilla’s decision:

    But unlike the promise of a digital utopia that existed when we entered this work, when the Internet seemed like a grand path to greater participation and engagement, we now have seen the pendulum swing decidedly towards a dystopian narrative where surveillance, ever-connected devices, and pipelines of propaganda dominate. Of course, both and neither are completely true, and the binary choice further divides us and blocks thoughtful solutions from emerging. We are so excited about the Internet health framework because, like all ecosystems, the Internet is best understood when you realize that aspects can be both sick and healthy and need all of us to help tip the balance to health. To do this, Mozilla’s attention needs to be on a more immediate and bigger set of fights. We need to use our assets — our brand, our megaphone, our global community, our money — to confront those challenges head-on.

    I think another story can be told. One about politics and egos, of ‘missed opportunities’ and grant funding; and certainly of ways in which organisations should treat their community volunteers. But that’s a story to tell another time — preferably while nursing a drink. I’m happy to reminisce about a time in my life when, certain personalities aside, I can truly say I worked with some of the most talented people I’ve ever met.

    Thankfully, open stuff never dies. It forms the coral reef for the next generation of activity and action. I’m pleased to say that’s already been happening through We Are Open, a co-operative I formed with former Mozilla colleagues and friends. I’m also looking forward to leading Moodle’s work on a new project which, because it’s not grant-funded, hopefully won’t be subject to the same mis-steps as Mozilla’s work.

    So this post is a farewell to Webmaker and Mozilla’s Web Literacy work. I have fond memories.

    Image CC0 Mathias Appel

    • Chris Lawrence 11:40 pm on November 21, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Hi Doug,

      Thanks for the post, you were indeed an important person and thinker in this work and that it is no small thing that you have stayed involved. I do however think your title is misleading. Mozilla isn’t ending Web Literacy work as you suggest, but instead ending on the ground programming targeted at education. What we called Mozilla Learning (among other things, I grant you) is winding down and the programs you quote are ending or transitioning. But Mozilla is still committed to WL as it is a key plank in the Internet health report/movement. We are still investing in the concept through targeted fellowships, grants, research money, public advocacy campaigns and other programs that the foundation plans to roll out over the coming months. Mozilla is still investing in many of these programs to find new life outside of the organizational confines. This will look different in different places/projects and we have taken time and care to make sure aspects continue in other forms or end with grace. So the foundation’s tactics with the commitment to WL may be changing, it isn’t “ending.” Some, maybe you, might think this is parsing language but I don’t and I have confidence that Mozilla can make me not look silly saying that. Mozilla also has gotten better at realizing that it can be good at catalyzing something and then knowing when it grows and has life past its stewardship. I think Badges is a good example. We didn’t always handle that artfully but at the same time we also knew how best to get out of the way and start to find others that could take it forward better. Often with our money, help and partnership. I am immensely proud of the work I did helping IMLS Global, Digital Me, LRNG and others take the ideas/tools/assets further faster then we could.

      There are many stories that can be told of great wins, self-inflicted wounds, changing funding landscapes and yes missed or not chosen opportunities. I would actually call that working for a dynamic non-profit org. Also I’d love to see an org that didn’t struggle with politics and egos (seriously, where do I sign up?). Was this work victim of that sometimes, of course. I have often reflect on my own part to play in that and can only hope to improve from learning.

      It’s maybe an odd day for me to be in MoFo defense mode and there are certainly aspects of this I would have loved to see trend in a different direction, but in the end it became hard to justify the level of commitment and resourcing to do the local and groundwork that digital learning programs need, especially when so many others have the capacity to do it better and with the landscape changing so much over even just the last 18 months decisions had to be made on where the energy went. Mozilla resources must go into the advocacy/public education and investment in people who can effect change at key places like policy. Some of which are directly targeted at Web Literacy issues. In some ways its the logical extension of the great work you started. Glad to hear about your Moodle work, unrestricted funds are always good. But grants and grant funded work are a reality (and a positive one often) and we did our best to leverage that towards much of what you highlight here in your post, for good. It was our fiscal reality, and ALL money has strings attached.

      Anyway I just wanted to highlight some of this on your post. Missed you at MozFest, maybe next year we will both be there as community members and we can swap stories while nursing a drink or 3.

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