Over and above what’s detailed in these posts, I’ve been splitting my time between working on projects for We Are Open and Outlandish this week. For the former, my ‘home’ co-op in the CoTech network, I’ve been mainly focusing on work for Catalyst and the Social Mobility Commission. We’re working with Erica Neve and Pedram Parasmand on three contracts, helping charities who are rapidly undergoing digital transformation. We had a really successful retrospective on Friday with UpRising, who we’ve been helping in more depth.
With Outlandish, I’m helping with some productisation of similar projects they’ve worked on for a range of clients. I find this really interesting as it’s simultaneously about meeting user needs and about organisational development. I’m also advising around ways in which they can develop the workshops they offer.
I’m fortunate to work with organisations which are so emotionally intelligent, and which go out of their way to be so. One of the reasons for working with Outlandish is to give them some short-term help with project management while they’re a bit stretched. But another reason is to learn from their processes and procedures; although they’ve only been a co-op for as long as us (four years), they’ve been together and honing things for a decade.
When I was at Jisc, one thing that always impressed me was their internal knowledgebase. They used PBworks for that, while Outlandish uses a WordPress installation with a theme called KnowAll. I’ve been wanting to experiment with wiki.js and so this week Laura Hilliger and I set up an instance at wiki.weareopen.coop and copied over existing pages from our GitHub wiki. I’ve set user permissions so that only logged-in members can edit the wiki, and indeed see any pages that are ‘internal’ only.
Other than that, I’ve just been reviewing a document Laura put together for some work we’re doing with Red Hat, doing a small amount of work for our ongoing work with Greenpeace, and contributing to a ‘playback’ of some recent work we did for Catalyst.
Next week, I’m tying up work for We Are Open on Monday, and for Outlandish on Tuesday, before turning everything off and going on a family holiday for 10 days. As my therapist said in our meeting on Friday, as I’m a bit of a perfectionist, there’s no guarantee that I will actually relax during my holiday just because I’m away from home. So I’m actively trying to cut myself some slack. I deliberately went for a slow run this morning and I even had an afternoon nap yesterday. Small steps.
Header image is a selfie I took on a family walk in the Northumbrian hills last Sunday. Inspired by Low-tech magazine’s solar powered website, I loosely followed this guide to create the ‘stippled’ effect. This reduced the size of an 8.6MB image to a mere 36.6KB.
The idea is to tag five people who are ‘defenders of the commons’:
What are the virtues of someone who is an advocate for Creative Commons? How does what they do support the philosophy and spirit of The Commons? Think about what it takes to become this kind of person, and how we might wrap that into the Certification project.
It would feel like cheating to name three of the five as my co-operative co-founders (Bryan Mathers, Laura Hilliger, and John Bevan) so I’ve cast my net wider. Even so, it took me all of about three seconds to think of the people I’d mention! Do bear in mind, however, that these are five people out of perhaps ten times as many who I could have mentioned.
Alan Levine — it’s entirely fitting that Alan is a member of the #CCquest team, as in the 10 years I’ve known him, he’s been a living, breathing example of the power of working and sharing openly. An inspiration.
Audrey Watters — a tireless advocate of all things open, especially in education/technology, an important critic of the ‘Silicon Valley narrative’, and someone who tolerates bullshit less than anyone I’ve ever known.
Cory Doctorow — I’ve only met Cory a couple of times in person, but seen him speak many, many times. He’s one of the most eloquent speakers I’ve ever had the privilege of hearing, and his work actually goes even wider than ‘open’, encompassing the totality of our lives online.
Jess Klein — I had the great privilege of working with Jess at Mozilla, and still find it difficult to explain the range of her talents. She’s a designer, but also an educator, a facilitator, and a prototyper. And she does all of this in the open. Check out the Open Design Kit she recently helped put together!
Jim Groom — a legend in his own lunchtime, I rely on Jim’s company, Reclaim Hosting for this blog and my other presences on the web. He’s the force behind the monumental ds106, tells it like it is about making a living in the open, and great fun to be around, to boot.
We’d come up with lots of questions in our pre-planning meeting, as well as some aims for things we’d like to get out of the day. You can see our planning Hackpad here.
Once we’d all arrived and we’d figured out the tech to allow Laura to participate fully (which involved my ever-handy Sony XRS-11 bluetooth speaker) we dived straight into the principles by which we want to work. John, Bryan and I worked on a nearby whiteboard, while Laura took a photo of the piece of paper she worked on:
Riffing off Laura’s three-part structure, we formulated three questions to answer:
What do you do?
How are you different?
What do you create?
The answers to these are on the hackpad, but I’ll share where we ended up after much discussion around the second point:
Nimble / Limber / Acrobatic
Share all the things
Surplus, not profit
Old/new ways of doing stuff
We particularly liked the notion of being ‘acrobatic’ (although without using the metaphor of a circus). There’s something about it that suggests discipline with flexibility.
We spent some time both ‘silent hackpadding’ and discussing the questions we’d come into the day focused on, but this led quickly to considerations around tools. From that we found that a really nice metaphor emerged around tools in a workshop.
We used the improv approach of ‘Yes, and…’ to build out the metaphor. For example, tools both old and new sit alongside one another in a workshop; there’s times when you need to ‘sharpen your saw’; and there’s times when you know you haven’t got the right tool for the job, so you have to borrow one from a neighbour.
Thinking of our own tools, we had a back-and-forth about what we should use to collaborate. The tension was between wanting to use Open Source technologies wherever possible, and recognising that clients will not always have the skills or motivation to sign up to a new platform. In the end, we decided to abstract away from specific tools to think about the type of technologies we need:
Those with an asterisk* come with a one-click install process via Sandstorm.io.
Telling the story
Bryan had to head out at lunchtime, so Laura, John, and I dug into setting up Loomio and helping tell our story through a basic pitch deck. We used The Writer’s Journey, which is a modified version of The Hero’s Journey:
After about 45 minutes of hacking and a spectacular brain dump from Laura, we ended up with this. We need to get really clear on our single product for new clients: the Thinkathon. This is a one-day facilitated thinking session that helps clients untangle problems, provides them with a ‘shopping list’, provides clear next steps.
A combination of factors meant that we ended up about 4½ hours of time together today. Still, that was enough to get a significant amount of work done towards building weareopen.coop. Things we need to do next include:
Updating the website
Creating a compelling description of the Thinkathon
Setting up the tools we’ll use amongst ourselves and with clients
We’re open for business right now. Part of any new venture involves building the plane while you fly it; the difference is that we’re sharing that building openly. Get in touch if you think we can help you: email@example.com
I’ve known Laura for a while as she wrote her Masters thesis on web literacy. She left her position as Education & Training Lead at Mozilla last week to pursue the next chapter of her career, explaining her move in this post.
Laura is an American living in Dresden, Germany. You should hire her to do anything learning related as she’s has the creativity and capacity to get anything done that anyone throws at her! She’s super-talented.
John seems to know everyone. It was kind of his job to do so when he was on the Engagement team at Mozilla, getting the word out and raising money. Since then, he’s been at Nesta, and he’s also worked for the BBC, The Guardian, Rewired State, you name it.
His current focus of attention is dotcomrades doing something about trade unions in the networked era. I went to the alpha launch event in London last week and he’s definitely onto something. Find out more and get involved via his blog post.
Kat is one of those people – like many I worked with at Mozilla – who defies categorisation. She’s talented technically, but driven by cultural endeavours and her sharp designer’s eye.
Leaving Mozilla in February, Kat upped-sticks from Vancouver and moved to London. She’s “taking on small contracts with value-based projects that aim to make the world a better place” and particularly interested in “web development, curriculum design, participatory research or community curation.” More about that in this blog post.
There’s so many talented people who have left Mozilla over the last year that this could have been a fairly long list. I wanted to point you towards Laura, John, and Kat as I think there’ll be some of you who could benefit from knowing them better.
As for me, I couldn’t be happier at the moment. I’m working primarily with City & Guilds around digital strategy and Open Badges, as well as the occasional workshop and keynote for other organisations. I’m designing a little bit more capacity into my schedule from September onwards, so if you’re interested drop me a line: firstname.lastname@example.org or let’s connect via my LinkedIn profile!
Next week I was going to be in Berlin to run an Open Badges workshop with Tim Riches, but now I’m just going to be in London on Sunday night/Monday for ePIC conference (where I’ll be running three workshops). I also need to get planned a Maker Party event at the Centre for Life that I’ve booked for August 17th.
While I’m not one of the organisers of the Mozilla MOOC I’m excited to be involved as a Super Mentor! Further details (kindly provided by my colleague Laura Hilliger) can be found below:
As part of our non-profit mission, Mozilla believes that web literacy—the understanding of how digital things work—is an essential life skill for the 21st century. We want to empower users of the web to become makers of the web.
So we’re kicking-off a free online course called Teach the Web: a Mozilla Open Online Collaboration, where we’ll explore new ways of teaching digital literacies through making and learning together.
The #teachtheweb course will run from May 2 – June 30. You can participate in weekly guided discussions, tackle hands-on activities, develop and remix teaching resources, and compare notes with a global community of makers, mentors and educators.
Travelling to Plymouth by train, plane and automobile (literally) for PELeCON.
Attending, keynoting and running a workshop at PELeCON. The animated GIFs from my keynote aren’t so animated on Slideshare, so you may want to try this Evernote notebook. Photos are here (when they’ve finished uploading)
Next week I’m in Sweden keynoting and running a workshop at the Swedish equivalent of BETT. Better get planning…