ūüďį Weeknote 19/2016

Inspired by the newsletters of Dan Hon,¬†Christian Payne, and Warren Ellis I’ve tried something different for¬†this week’s update. I’ve even used an emoji in the title of this post¬†to be down with the kids.¬†ūüėČ

Don’t like it? Prefer it? Let me know!


(image CC BY-ND Bryan Mathers)


I’m sitting at the table in the kitchen/diner drinking camomile tea and listening to BBC 6 Music playing one of the tracks from Radiohead’s new album. I read a great post¬†this morning about the how the band take their time to develop songs, meaning that fans hear iterations over the course of years, if not decades. The emotional resonance of songs changes of time with repeated listening, maturity, and life events we experience. The equivalent for me would be tracks by Massive Attack, Oasis, and Jamiroquai – although just in terms of the album versions, not with demos turning into songs performed live, turning into tracks on an album.

I’m very much enjoying listening to BBC 6 Music.¬†We made the decision to get out the DAB digital radio we had stowed away since we moved house a couple of years ago. As Lauren Laverne (one of the DJs) mentioned in a post¬†this morning, while we live in an age of information abundance, sometimes it’s good not¬†to know, and not to choose what’s coming next. I particularly enjoyed her mention of “playing charity-shop roulette” with her reading material.

I’ve now been off alcohol and coffee for over a week, and I have to say it feels good. Of course, this has coincided with May bringing much better weather to my corner of the UK. I appreciate stability in life as it allows me to choose where to mix things up a bit, both in terms of the things I do physically (e.g. going up mountains) and the places I go mentally (i.e. new ideas).

I’ve got a couple of meetings today, but I try to take it easy one day between Monday and Friday each week. That’s usually a Friday but, because of the Thinking Digital conference¬†I’m down in London at the end of this week. So this day will be all about going out for lunch with my wife, enjoying the sunshine,¬†catching up with the ‘unread newsletters’ email folder, and editing the 50th episode of Today In Digital Education (TIDE), the weekly podcast I record with Dai Barnes.

The Sage, Gateshead


I’m on the train on the way to the Thinking Digital conference¬†(#TDC16). I went to the conference dinner last night and serendipitously sat next to a guy from the Co-op Digital team. We started off talking about weareopen.coop, a new co-operative consortium that¬†I and a few friends / ex-Mozillians have set up recently but quickly moved onto to discussing all sorts of other things, including philosophy, shared connections, and so on.

The great thing about this conference in particular is that it gets me out of my filter bubble, but in a way that still remains directly relevant to what I do. The venue is The Sage in Gateshead, a beautiful building both inside and out. The acoustics are amazing, and the room with the main stage is wonderfully intimate. I bought an early bird ticket as soon as they were released last year.

At the moment I’m listening to Seth Godin’s Startup School¬†which is a free podcast series released in 2012. You can search for it on any podcast client. Each episode is 15 minutes to 30 minutes long and contains such great advice from recordings made during a face-to-face summit Seth held that cost a lot of money.¬†It’s worth even just listening to the first one about the important difference between being a freelancer and an entrepreneur. But the whole thing is exceptional and will bear repeated listens. I’m getting a lot out of it.

Thinking Digital badge


I was up at 05:15 this morning to head to London. Arriving at the train station in Morpeth, the 06:37 train was cancelled. The train afterwards was massively delayed, so I went home instead of standing on the platform for over an hour. Right now, I’m sitting waiting at Newcastle station for the delayed 08:59 train to London.¬†Delays like these¬†is why working from home is so awesome.

The Thinking Digital conference yesterday was great. I met some really interesting people and the talks, while not uniformly amazing, were so varied that I was hooked even if the presenter got in the way of the content. There was everything from how IBM manage to provide real-time data from Wimbledon, through to the ways technology has helped us identify the ways the microbiome in our human gut can affect our mental health!

I skipped the after-party as I had to get home to watch Sunderland thrash Everton 3-0 to stay in the Premier League.¬†It was a magnificent performance and I accurately the score before the game started! I’m not a betting man, and there’s only my family to back me up, so you’ll just have to trust me on that…

Today it’s going to be a glorious 24¬įC in London, if the BBC weather forecast can be believed. That’s probably another thing the Tories want to cut¬†along with the 11,000 recipes that BBC Food provide. It comes to something when the worst thing about the country you live in is your government. Needless to say I, and no-one that I know, voted for them.

Avocado on toast


I’m sitting at a table in Ask For Janice¬†a wonderful caf√© / bar around the corner from my client’s offices (City & Guilds). As usual I’ve had the avocado on toast with spiced ricotta and pomegranate molasses. It’s amazing!

I’m working on some hush-hush stuff with City & Guilds at the moment (to be revealed soon!) as well as helping them with upcoming events. One of these is the Festival of Skills¬†for which City & Guilds are the headline partner. It’s going to be a bit an Open Badges extravaganza! Bryan Mathers¬†and I will be doing all sorts of stuff, including building on our OB101 course.

I’ve now moved onto an extremely chocolatey brownie. Well, if I’m not having coffee or alcohol this month, I’m not avoiding sugar, too!

Now in the newly-refurbished lounge at Kings Cross reclining while¬†typing this into my Chromebook Pixel.¬†I’m listening to the Stone Roses as their new track All For One¬†came out today. I hope there’s a new album! I’m amazed a reunion has happened given the animosity of the split, and the biting follow-ups (e.g. the lyrics to Ian Brown’s Corpses In Their Mouths). I don’t care what The Guardian¬†say about the track, it’s exciting!

This afternoon, from about 4pm onwards, I kind of fell down BetaList. It’s literally just a list of new startups or services that are currently in ‘beta’. But because I haven’t visited the site for ages I went about 20 pages deep. There’s so much cool stuff in there! I found Selfism, GretaScript, EverSeller, and Hippo¬†(to name but a few).

I’ve just had to fire off an email to a client informing them that, no, I can’t¬†really do an all-day workshop in a basement room with no natural light. Given that they’ll probably use fluorescent tubes down there, the energy will be low both in terms of lighting and human participation.¬†Also, I’m likely to get a migraine. I’ve asked if, at the very least, they can book some break-out rooms for short periods of time.

Next week

On Monday I’m heading to London to spend part of the afternoon with NCUB, then staying down to work with City & Guilds from Tuesday to Thursday. On Friday I’ll be in Cambridge. So away all week with no ‘Doug day’. The week after I’ll be away for four days as well. Oh well, this is a busy time of the year…


Weeknote 15/2016

This week I’ve been:

  • Sending out Issue #210¬†of Doug Belshaw‚Äôs Thought Shrapnel, my weekly newsletter loosely focused on¬†education, technology, and productivity. This week¬†it included links about blockchain in education, Mozilla’s Web Literacy Map 2.0, and how to find productive hours. Many thanks to 9Sharp¬†for sponsoring this week‚Äôs issue!
  • Recording and releasing¬†Episode 46¬†(‚ÄėMaltese Credentials‚Äô) of the¬†Today In Digital Education podcast, my weekly podcast with co-host¬†Dai Barnes. This week¬†we discussed elephants in the classroom, Dai‚Äôs experiences in Malta, Liberia outsourcing their education system, what Doug learned while at Mozilla, the cult of the attention web, what constitutes a credential, how to find your most productive hours, and more!¬†You can discuss TIDE in our¬†Slack channel.
  • Demoing the progress I’ve made on the refresh to our church’s website. You can see it here. I’ve still got to port a lot of the content across.
  • Suffering from a debilitating migraine on Monday. I’d planned to work from home, but I ended up spending the day in bed, and reading as I wasn’t much use to anyone. It’s been a while since¬†I’ve had one that bad.
  • Helping Eylan Ezekiel with some planning and prioritisation as a ‘critical friend’. It was a great opportunity to hang out with him in his house in Oxford, and meet his lovely family.¬†I’ve been doing more and more of this kind of work, both in-person and remotely, so perhaps it’s time to¬†offer it as an explicit service of Dynamic Skillset?
  • Setting up¬†and instance of Sandstorm for Work to see if it’s going to work for a new venture a few of us have planned.
  • Participating in the first day of the¬†Tech Infrastructure for the Future Social Sector Hack in Oxford. This was organised by Tris Lumley from NPC, and facilitated by Andy Gibson. Eylan was there, as was John Bevan, and I managed to demo something by the end of the day! Afterwards, I checked out Broad Street, where Thornton’s bookshop used to be (where I worked during the summer almost 20 years ago) and had a pint with Eylan in The Eagle and Child, a famous and favourite pub.
  • Working¬†for City & Guilds from their London office on Thursday, and from home for them on Friday. This involved some collaboration with Bryan Mathers and collating lots of links around the future of work/toolsets.
  • Flashing my Sony Xperia Z3 Compact with a new ROM giving me Android 6.0.1 (‘Marshmallow’). I’d been using CyanogenMod nightly builds, but they were both a little unstable (especially around Bluetooth) and stuck on Android 5.1. In the end I used a ROM that Sony have rolled out experimentally in Latin America…
  • Writing:

Next week, I’m working from home on Monday,¬†then in London from Tuesday to Thursday. I’ll be back home to sleep in my own bed, then I’m off to the Lake District to spend two days up a mountain. This should count towards the 20 ‘quality mountain days’ I need to accrue before starting my Mountain Leader course. It’s then Maker Faire UK in Newcastle on the Sunday!