Search results: "black ops" (page 1 of 7)

Why I didn’t go on ‘Belshaw Black Ops’ at the end of 2017

At the end of every year since 2010 I have, to the greatest extent possible, disappeared back into the analogue world to recharge. This has been known as Belshaw Black Ops after Paul Lewis decided that just calling it a ‘hiatus’ wasn’t rock ‘n’ roll enough.

I’ve greatly appreciated these periods away from social media, blogging, and personal email as a time when I can be ‘more myself’. Why, then, a few people have asked me, didn’t I continue this routine at the end of 2017? The simple answer is that I’ve achieved the kind of balance that means it didn’t feel necessary.

There are a number of factors here:

  1. Switching from Twitter to social.coop half-way through the year. Given that I still get the most-shared stuff from my Twitter network filtering through to me via Nuzzel, that’s been a revelation.
  2. Looking after myself a bit better health-wise, including deciding to follow a mostly plant-based diet, starting running again, and taking supplements such as multivitamins, high doses of Vitamin D, and L-Theanine.
  3. Enjoying the sunnier weather where I live (it makes a difference!)
  4. Blogging in a more short-form way via Discours.es and Thought Shrapnel Live!
  5. Prioritising what’s important in my life. I find reading Stoic philosophy every morning helps greatly in that regard.

Today is my first day back as an employee. I’m working for Moodle, makers of the world’s largest (open source!) learning platform. I’m working four days per week leading an innovation project for them aimed at creating a new open social media platform for educators, focused on professional development and open content. I’ll still be consulting through We Are Open Co-op.

It was my birthday just before Christmas, and I’ve now spent most of my thirties working from home. There’s benefits and drawbacks to doing so, but the main upside for me is much more control over my schedule. I’ll still have a lot of autonomy at Moodle, so I anticipate that, while I’ll be away during the summer, there won’t be a need for Belshaw Black Ops in 2018, either.

Photo by Paul Green available under a CC0 license

10 things I did during Belshaw Black Ops.

For the past three weeks I’ve been on Black Ops, a better term than ‘digital hiatus’ to describe my being digitally incommunicado. It’s felt like longer, to be honest. I managed to stay off Twitter completely – the occasional, accidental, and hastily-deleted autopost from Amplify notwithstanding.

Email was a different story: although I had a ‘Black Ops’ autoresponder on my Gmail account, I had to use email for some of the following activities.

Here’s a list of what I’ve been up to:

  1. Collated and published Best of Belshaw 2010 (freely downloadable or available for purchase in physical form at cost price)
  2. Waited patiently for Hannah to give birth to our second child. She was due on the 28th December 2010, but still no sign. It’s the reason I’m not at the Learning Without Frontiers Conference today/tomorrow.
  3. Bought a fair bit of new technological kit and sold older stuff on eBay.
  4. Took my son, Ben, to the beach (to burn off excess sugar) almost every day.
  5. Experimented with Quora and Licorizer, re-joined Facebook, and unfollowed 90% of people I was following on Twitter.
  6. Lost all my iPhone contacts on Boxing Day whilst unjailbreaking my iPhone so I could upgrade to iOS 4.2.1 (text me your phone number if I had it before!)
  7. Kicked off a stealth project with Andy Stewart which will culminate in a manifesto and small events this year, building (hopefully!) to a large event in 2015.
  8. Wrote my first-ever journal article (it’s entitled Seven Types of Ambiguity and Digital Literacy)
  9. Engaged in some consultancy which I may develop a bit more in 2011. I’ve come up with a Hierarchy of Understanding which I’m going to work on (and may even turn into a journal article) before sharing.
  10. Played a whole lot on my Playstation 3, especially Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (the Vietnam expansion pack came out on my 30th birthday!)

More on the above over the next week or so. I may be sporadic given I’m both getting back into my digital routine and having to deal with the imminent arrival of a new baby. :-p

Belshaw Black Ops.

Doug on hiatus

I did warn you. I’ll be unavailable from today (Friday 17th December) until Monday 10th January 2011. Be good and don’t eat too many mince pies. :-p

Props to @aerotwist for the cooler-sounding title for my personal digital hiatus!

#BelshawBlacksOps16 (Pt.2) has begun. See you in 2017!

As usual, I’m taking December off from social media, personal email, blogging, podcast-recording, and newsletter-writing. You may still see some of my stuff published if I’m doing some work for a client, but that’s it. You can still contact me via my Dynamic Skillset or We Are Open Co-op email addresses, but keep it work-related please.

I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to my digital hiatus this year. What a year 2016 has been! I think we’re all suffering from mild collective  PTSD. I’ll be spending December resting more, spending more time with my family, and taking the opportunity to think more deeply about things I’ve put on hold for too long.

If you’ve got some potential work for me in early 2017, please do get in touch before Christmas. I’ve enjoyed helping clients with a whole range of things this year — edtech strategy, digital skills/literacies, Open Badges. I guess, in general, I translate things that could be seen as complicated into things that are easier to understand.

One of the best things to have happened this year is that a few of us founded a co-op called We Are Open. That’s been a ray of sunshine in a year of trouble within the wider world. So my joyful thanks to co-founders Bryan, John, and Laura for keeping me sane.

My biggest thank you, however, is reserved for my wonderful wife, who not only has had to come to terms with the ups-and-downs of me being self-employed over the last 18 months, but has stepped up to do the admin and finances for both my consultancy and the co-op. Thank you, Hannah. You’re awesome.

See you all in 2017! If you tend to celebrate them, I hope you enjoy both Christmas and New Year.

[INCOMING] #BelshawBlackOps16 (Part 2)

In a little over two weeks it will be December. For those who have followed my work for a year or more, you know what that means: I go ‘dark’. No personal email, blogging, or newsletter from me for the entire month.

I’ll still be working, so remain available via my consultancy, Dynamic Skillset, as well as via my We Are Open co-op email address. You may see the occasional article that clients have paid me to write popping up via various channels, too. The important thing is that I step out of the stream for a while, going more ‘read-only’.


While I’ve got your attention, I’d like to give you a quick heads-up that things will be changing with my weekly newsletter. I’ve enjoyed putting together Thought Shrapnel during the last few years, but Issue #239, going out on 27th November 2016 will be the last in its current format.

Why? Well, I’ve currently got over 1,500 subscribers and have attracted sponsorship over the last 18 months, but list growth has plateaued and I’m itching to do something different. If you’re subscribed my newsletter, don’t worry, I’ll let you know what’s coming next. It might involve several ‘pop-up’ newsletters; I’m not quite sure yet.

Also, given how out-of-touch I’ve felt with such a large part of the world after the results of the EU referendum and US election, I may do something fairly dramatic with my use of social networking. I’m unlikely to quit anything completely, but I can envisage unfollowing everyone I currently follow on Twitter and starting again in that regard. We’ll see.

The great thing about disconnecting for a while — over and above spending more time with family and avoiding showing my grumpy side — is that it provides the time to reflect on my current ‘ways of being’ in digital spaces. I always contemplate not coming back at all after my time away but, when I do return, feel that I tend to use technology more intentionally.

Anyway, I’ll be around for the next couple of weeks. Let me know if you need anything before then!

Image by Rodion Kutsaev

#BelshawBlackOps16 Pt.1 has started!

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I’ll be away for the month of August, camping with my family around Europe. I’m back online in September.

That means no personal email, no social networking, no blogging, no weekly newsletter, and no podcasting.

Consultancy-wise, I’ve still got some capacity from September so I’ll occasionally be checking work email to interact with new and existing clients. I hope you have a great summer (northern hemisphere) / winter (southern hemisphere)!

Email: hello@nulldynamicskillset.com / doug@nullweareopen.coop

Image CC BY-NC-SA freeflo

[INCOMING] #BelshawBlackOps16 Pt.1

Since 2010, I’ve taken a personal digital hiatus for a least one month each year. This involves abstaining from social networks, personal email, and blogging in an attempt to be more mindful about my existence in the world.

This is a quick note to say that I’ll be away for the entire month of August. I’ll be spending all (or nearly all) of it camping around Europe with my family. The plan is to spend lots of time with my wife and two children, slow down, read, play, and be a different kind of person than I am for the rest of the year.

I’ll take the second part of my digital hiatus in December, after experimenting with the August/December approach last year and it working well. Taking two months together is a little too much, I’ve found. A month in the summer (sunshine! family!) is great, and a month in the winter (Christmas! Seasonal Affective Disorder!) is regenerative.

On our camping trip I’ll be taking minimal tech, but I will be taking my iPad and smartphone, so I’ll still have access to my work emails. Get in touch if you want to discuss working with me in September and beyond! I’m spending the next couple of weeks finishing up existing work for clients, travelling to California for some work with the Corona-Norco schools district, and tying off other loose ends.

Email: hello@nulldynamicskillset.com


Image CC BY-NC-SA Tim Britton

#BelshawBlacksOps15 Pt.2 has begun. See you in 2016!

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I’ll be spending the month of December away from personal, published, digital output. This includes personal emails, my Thought Shrapnel weekly newsletter, the Today In Digital Education (TIDE) podcast, blog posts, comments, and (even) the super-secret Slack channel I started this year with some pretty awesome people.

I’ll still be replying to work-related emails, so you can get me on my Dynamic Skillset address. If you’ve got my phone number (lucky you!) I’ll be replying to text messages, too. Other than that, I’ll be enjoying a different way of being that doesn’t involve a) thinking in 140 characters, b) expressing myself via animated gifs, and c) treating my brain as a way to connect together what other people are saying.

In terms of consultancy, I’ve got enough to keep me going for most of the first half of 2016, but do let me know if you’ve got projects you think I might be interested in around digital skills/literacies, badges, and/or educational technology!

Otherwise, see you on the other side. Have a great festive period and, for those of you in the northern hemisphere at least, keep warm!

Image CC BY-NC-SA Eric Leslie

INCOMING: #BelshawBlackOps15 (Part 2)

Every year, I spend a couple of months away from social media, personal email, and blogging. It’s an attempt to allow a different version of myself to take the limelight.

In past years, the months I’ve chosen to take off have been November and December. These months coincide with the nights drawing-in up here in Northumberland. In 2015, however, I’m experimenting with a small change; this year I chose August and December as my ‘months off’. While I’ve definitely found benefit in an single, uninterrupted eight-week stretch, my situation is slightly different this year.

In April, I left the Mozilla Foundation to set up Dynamic Skillset. While I was fortunate to have a lot of freedom over my working patterns at Mozilla, I’m now fully in control of my own schedule. It’s a wonderful feeling and one that I feel I’ve spent my career (so far) working towards.

The August experiment worked well. In fact, it was during August that, after consulting with family, friends, and a financial advisor, I decided to experiment with a four-day working week. It’s too early to draw any firm conclusions, but so far it’s been a revelation.

One day, I hope to be in a position to completely disconnect during my #BelshawBlackOps period. In financial terms, that would mean being able to support my family using the money I earn in just 10 months of the year. Things are going well, but that’s probably a while away yet  especially at four days a week!

As it is, during December I’ll still be available via my Dynamic Skillset and client email addresses. But I won’t be reading or replying to any personal email. Nor will I be writing anything for public consumption. And, perhaps most importantly, I’ll be off social networks.

From December 1st, for a month, I’ll be pausing my personal, published, digital output. This means no Thought Shrapnel weekly newsletter, no episodes of Today In Digital Education (TIDE), no posts or replies to comments here or on any other blog, and no replies to non-work emails.

Questions? Ponderings? You’ve still got a couple of weeks to put up with my digital detritus! Let me know your thoughts.

Image CC BY-NC Geraint Rowland

#BelshawBlackOps15 (part 1) has begun!

As I mentioned last week, I’m taking a personal digital hiatus during the month of August. I’ll still be checking my work emails, but steering clear of social media, personal email, and blogging.

Here’s five things beginning with ‘C’ that you can do while I’m away:

  1. Complete my 2015 reader survey. It won’t take you long and it’s of immense value to me.
  2. Catch up with episodes of the Today In Digital Education (TIDE) podcast that Dai Barnes and I record every week. We’re not recording new episodes until September.
  3. Consider hiring me from September onwards. I’ll have about a day per week spare but I’m available in hourly, half-daily, daily, and ongoing ‘chunks’. Get in touch via Dynamic Skillset.
  4. Collaborate in building the Open Badges 101 course.
  5. Chill out. You deserve a break too! Go and lie in a field somewhere.

See you in September with my batteries full and raring to go! 🙂

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