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  • Doug Belshaw 5:40 pm on May 24, 2017 Permalink | Reply  

    Why I just switched instance on Mastodon 

    Mastodon 'failwhale'

    We’ve become accustomed to, when signing up for a new service, to not putting much thought into what stands behind it. Most services, such as are Twitter and Facebook are centralised. You sign up in one place and use the service, mostly unaware of the organisational structure and (sometimes) the revenue model behind it.

    One of my reasons for signing up for Mastodon and using it for a month instead of Twitter is to rectify some of that. I am actually interested in what goes on behind the scenes, especially when it comes to avoiding ‘platform capitalism’. I just signed up to the first ‘instance’ that I saw was open for sign-ups, which happened to be What I’ve learned over the past three weeks or so is that it does actually matter which instance you’re on, for a couple of reasons:

    1. You need to trust the administrators, the people behind the instance you’re on.
    2. Although you have a ‘home’ timeline of people you follow, and there’s a federated timeline of everyone, an important timeline is everyone on the same instance as you.

    As a result, and at the prompting of fellow We Are Open Co-op co-founder John Bevan, I’ve signed up for the Mastodon instance at As the name suggests, it’s being run by a co-operative, and has a sustainable business model — as part of the sign-up procedure, I pledged $3/month for my account. Other options are available.

    Although I can envisage a situation where you’d want multiple Mastodon account, for now I just want one. So I’m redirecting people from my previous account to the one I’m now using. Happily, I’ve been able to export my data (in terms of who I’m following/blocking) from one instance to another. I don’t think it migrates my favourites, however, and obviously everyone needs to follow me again from that new account.

    Follow me here:

  • Doug Belshaw 8:31 am on May 12, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , social justice   

    What’s interesting about our our contemporary period is that we’re now saying schools can respond to problems of achievement and that we don’t need to address any of these larger structural issues. When you think about these larger questions—what causes economic inequality? What causes economic insecurity? How are resources distributed? Who has access to what?—they’ve been put off to the side. We’re not doing anything to address these questions at all.

    Harvey Kantor (Education Can’t Fix Poverty. So Why Keep Insisting that It Can?)
  • Doug Belshaw 10:54 am on May 10, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Offscreen Dispatch, optimism, platform co-operativism,   

    In what ways does the web and new technology make you feel optimistic and hopeful about the future? 

    Offscreen Dispatch

    In the latest issue of the wonderful Offscreen Dispatch newsletter, readers are asked the above question. Click through to the form which collects responses, there a few follow-up questions:

    Are there specific technologies or developments that make you optimistic? If so which ones and why? Can you already see these development having a positive effect?

    Responses are supposed to be under 220 characters! I guess they want a wide range of snippets for the next print magazine.

    It’s a tough one. In fact, most of the answers I gave in a research interview for the Innovation Unit yesterday focused on how royally shafted we are right now. Dai and I discussed some of the reasons for this in the latest episode of our podcast last night.

    OK, so positives? Here goes (in <220 characters):  

    I’m particularly optimistic about the rise of platform co-operativism as an alternative to platform capitalism. There’s a groundswell of people looking for alternative ways of working together for the good of society.

    There we go. I’ve submitted mine. What would you say?

  • Doug Belshaw 8:16 am on May 10, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.

    Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Doug Belshaw 3:23 pm on May 9, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Nvidia, , smart cities, surveillance   

    The ‘S’ in Smart Cities really stands for ‘Surveillance’ 

    Despite the hype about smart cities, I dare you to watch this video and not come away from it thinking that we’re about to live in a dystopia:

    It’s enough for me to rip up any plans I had to go and live/work in a city. Scary stuff.

    In other news:

  • Doug Belshaw 1:12 pm on May 3, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , IFTTT,   

    HOWTO: Send 'boosted' toots from Mastodon to Pinboard 

    IFTTT recipes

    One of the wonderful things about the web is being able to automate certain actions. Something I find particularly useful with Twitter is being able to use IFTTT to automatically send anything I favourite that contains a link to my Pinboard bookmarks.

    I’m experimenting with Mastodon this month, and so wanted something similar. I think I’ve found an imperfect, but usable, solution. The equivalent of ‘retweeting’ in Mastodon is ‘boosting’. When you boost something, this shows up on your timeline for other people to see — that’s the whole point of it.

    As each user profile in Mastodon has its own Atom feed (like RSS) then you can use this to automatically run your Mastodon updates through IFTTT, and pull out any boosted toots. You can search for a particular string. In this case it’s ‘shared a status’. I’ve put together a three-step process on how to do this below.

    A) Find your Atom feed

    The location of the feed you require is in the format: instance/users/username.atom. That means mine is

    B) Create an IFTTT applet

    A straightforward process, if you follow these steps:

    1. Go to IFTTT, click on your username and in the drop-down select New Applet
    2. Click on this in the sentence that pops up (‘if this then that’)
    3. Search for RSS and select that option
    4. Select New feed item matches
    5. In the ‘Keyword or simple phrase (required)’ box enter shared a status and then in the ‘Feed URL (required)’ enter your Atom feed from Step A.
    6. Press Create trigger
    7. Click on that in the sentence that pops up (‘if this then that’)
    8. Search for Pinboard and select that option
    9. Select Add a public bookmark (if that’s what you want to do – your choice!)
    10. Leave the ‘URL (required)’ box alone, add/remove any tags you want in the ‘Tags’ box, and then delete everything in the ‘Description’ box and click ‘Add ingredient’. Select EntryContent and then press the Create action button.

    C) Check it’s working

    Go to Mastodon and boost someone’s toot, preferably containing a link. If you wait a while (these things are never instantaneous) you should see in your Pinboard bookmarks the details of the toot you just boosted!

  • Doug Belshaw 12:33 pm on April 14, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , organisations,   

    My suspicion – especially if you’ve been following along – is that processes are alluring for a number of reasons. They relieve the burden of decision-making, which in general we like because thinking is hard and expends energy. They also relieve us of the burden of fault: us humans are a fickle bunch and it’s easy for something to make us feel guilty (when we haven’t lived up to our own standards), or ashamed (when we don’t live up to others’ standards) or angry (when we’re stopped from achieving an outcome that we desire). The existence of process can be an emotional shield that means that we don’t have to be responsible. In Bezos’ example above, the junior leader who defends a bad outcome with “Well, we followed the process” is also someone who is able to defend an attack on their character and also of their self worth, if their sense of self worth is weighted to include the outcome of their actions.

    dan hon, s4e12: End of Process
  • Doug Belshaw 6:10 am on April 13, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    Our minds must relax: they will rise better and keener after a rest. Just as you must not force fertile farmland, as uninterrupted productivity will soon exhaust it, so constant effort will sap our mental vigour, while a short period of rest and relaxation will restore our powers. Unremitting effort leads to a kind of mental dullness and lethargy.

    – Seneca, On Tranquility of Mind

  • Doug Belshaw 7:52 pm on April 12, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: co-operation, , spectrum   

    The Spectrum of Exchange 

    On page 72 of Richard Sennett’s book Together: the rituals, pleasures, and politics of cooperation, he outlines five different ways social animals engage:

    1. Altruistic exchange (entails self-sacrifice)
    2. Win-win exchange (both parties benefit)
    3. Differentiating exchange (partners become aware of their differences)
    4. Zero-sum exchange (one party prevails at the expense of another)
    5. Winner-takes-all exchange (one party wipes out the other)

    Sennett explains:

    In animal terms, this spectrum runs from the worker ant which offers up its body as food for other ants, to the wolf whose exchanges with sheep are invariably lethal; in human terms, the spectrum runs from Joan of Arc to genocide.

  • Doug Belshaw 7:33 pm on April 12, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Tag it   


    “An Italian word originating from Baldassare Castiglione’s The Book of the Courtier, where it is defined by the author as ‘a certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it’.”

    Mentioned in Richard Sennett’s book Together: the rituals, pleasures, and politics of cooperation, p.117

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