Open Thinkering


Weeknote 48/2022

Morpeth bus station with Christmas lights. Black and white photo. Fog.

Two more weeks of work to go. Plenty of World Cup group stage drama. Four 5km runs on the treadmill.

I haven’t got loads to say about the last week, to be quite honest. So perhaps I should turn it over to ChatGPT, a pretty amazing AI chatbot from the same people as brought us DALL-E 2.

Actually, let’s give that a go using this prompt:

Write me a weeknote. I work from home on learning, technology, and community stuff.

This is what I got back about five seconds later:

This week, I continued to work from home on a variety of projects related to learning, technology, and community building. One of the highlights of the week was a series of workshops I conducted on the topic of leveraging technology for remote learning.

I began the week by diving into the latest research on the topic, including studies on the effectiveness of online learning platforms and the role of technology in facilitating collaboration among remote teams. I also spent some time exploring new tools and platforms that could potentially be used in future workshops.

On Tuesday, I held the first of the workshops, which focused on introducing participants to the basics of remote learning and the various technologies available to support it. The session was well-attended and generated a lot of discussion among the participants.

On Wednesday, I focused on more advanced topics, such as using technology to facilitate collaboration and communication among remote teams. I demonstrated some of the tools and platforms that I had researched earlier in the week, and participants had the opportunity to try them out for themselves.

In addition to the workshops, I also spent some time this week working on a few community-building initiatives. I reached out to some local organizations to discuss potential partnerships, and I also continued to engage with members of the online learning community through social media and online forums.

Overall, it was a productive and rewarding week, and I’m looking forward to continuing to work on these projects in the coming weeks.

Pretty good, although not what I actually did. It is true that I ran a workshop on Tuesday helping national governing bodies that come under the Sport England umbrella to work more openly. That went well. I also used another AI tool, to transcribe (incredibly accurately) a client’s workshop session that we weren’t able to attend.

Other than that, I had a chat with Christina Bowen who showed me for doing systems thinking diagrams. I did some work on the five different projects I’m involved in at the moment, and got some planning for next year. Laura, John, and I also did some budgeting for our in-person meetup in the Netherlands in January.

It was my mother’s birthday this week, so we went around there. We bought her a present, but in my mind the main gift I’ve given her is upgrading her wifi when we found that the router than came from my parents’ new ISP didn’t allow them to use their new Nest Doorbell properly!

Next week, I’m continuing to finish things off for the year, work-wise, and don’t want to start anything new before WAO‘s three-week shutdown. On Friday, I’m going walking in Northumberland National Park with Aaron Hirtenstein. The week after I’ll be in the Peak District National Park with Bryan Mathers. It’s good to have things to look forward to at this time of year (other than my birthday and Christmas, of course!)

Photo of Morpeth bus station taken on the way to the gym one dark foggy morning. The festive lights make it look rather dystopian with a black and white filter…

Weeknote 47/2022

Doug Belshaw

I’ve watched more hours of football than I’ve done (paid) hours of work this week. Given that it’s the first week of the FIFA World Cup, and that both my kids play football for more than one team, this is how it should be, I think?

In addition, I’ve also written three posts here, which used to be absolutely normal but it now a bit rarer. I think the reason for this is that they’re all related to federated/decentralised social networks in one way or another:

On the work front, I ran an online workshop for the first time in a while for national governing bodies which fall under the auspices of Sport England. The focus was on working openly, something we’ve got some badges for that anyone can earn. Anne and I will be running the workshop again next Tuesday for those who couldn’t make it.

We’re moving into a new phase with the digital integration project for which WAO, Happy Porch, and Common Knowledge are helping Wellbeing Economy Alliance. After doing some user research, we’re getting started with the digital strategy part of it, and will begin this by John and I running (virtually) an in-person session for the 12 members of the team. It won’t be without its challenges, but we’ve got a plan and people in the room who can help.

The rest of my work with other clients is with Laura, within whom I always enjoy collaborating. On top of our work for Participate, Greenpeace, and Passbolt this week, we recorded a podcast episode with Mark Otter and Julie Keane about Communities of Practice and social learning. We also did a bit of planning for our WAO in-person meetup in January just north of Amsterdam.

I published a few posts over at Thought Shrapnel but not enough that I had enough to put out a newsletter today. Instead, given it’s not December 1st until Thursday, I’ll send it out next week:

On Friday, I was supposed to appear on the LernXP podcast, but I had to postpone due to being scheduled to have a smart meter installed. The electricity would have had to be turned off, so I cancelled my meetings. In the event, the engineer didn’t turn up, but I had an enjoyable morning working in a coffee shop.

In the afternoon I had a chat with Ivan about Bonfire. There’s not much for me to do or help with on the project at the moment, as Ivan and Mayel get their heads down and things ready for a v1.0 in the new year. It’s exciting times for the Fediverse, as both Flickr and Tumblr are reportedly integrating ActivityPub (the protocol that underpins everything) with their sites.

Next week, with three weeks of work left before the Christmas break, I’ll be making sure clients are invoiced, that everything we said we’d get done before 2023 is on-track, and that I keep my routines going until the last. Work is harder once you get on the festive hedonic treadmill.

Photo of me taken last weekend and used to update my profile picture everywhere. The previous one was five years old and, well, I’m not in my thirties any more…

Defederation and governance processes

I’ve noticed this week some Mastodon instances ‘defederating’ not only from those that are generally thought of to be toxic, but also of large, general-purpose instances such as This post is about governance processes and trying to steer a way between populism and oligarchy.

The first thing I should say in all of this, is that I’m a middle-aged, straight, white guy playing life on pretty much the easiest difficulty level. So I’m not commenting in this post about any specific situation but rather zooming out to think about this on a wider scale.

What I’ve seen, mainly via screenshots as I rarely visit Twitter now except to keep the @WeAreOpenCoop account up-to-date, is that Elon Musk has run some polls. As others have commented, this is how a Roman Emperor would make decisions: through easy-to-rig polls that suggest that an outcome is “the will of the people”.

Tweet from Elon Musk: "Should Twitter offer a general amnesty to suspended accounts, provided that they have not broken the law or engaged in egregious spam?"

Yes 72.4%
No 27.6%

This is obviously an extremely bad, childish, and dangerous way to run a platform that, until recently, was almost seen as infrastructure.

On the other side of the spectrum is the kind of decision making that I’m used to as a member of a co-op that is part of a wider co-operative network. These daily decisions around matters large and small requires not necessarily consensus, but rather processes that allow for alignment around a variety of issues. As I mentioned in my previous post, one good way to do this is through consent-based decision making.

Screenshot of the Loomio for with multiple discussion threads

Using Loomio, the instance that I currently call home on the Fediverse, makes decisions in a way that is open for everyone to view — and also for members of the instance to help decide. It’s not a bad process at all, but a difficult one to scale — especially when rather verbose people with time on their hands decide to have An Opinion. It also happens in a place (Loomio) other than that which the discussion concerns (Mastodon).

So when I had one of my regular discussions with Ivan, one of the Bonfire team, I was keen to bring it up. He, of course, had already been thinking about this and pointed me towards Ukuvota, an approach which uses score voting to help with decision making:

To “keep things the way they are” is always an option, never the default. Framing this option as a default position introduces a significant conservative bias — listing it as an option removes this bias and keeps a collective evolutionary.

To “look for other options” is always an option. If none of the other current options are good enough, people are able to choose to look for better ones — this ensures that there is always an acceptable option for everyone.

Every participant can express how much they support or oppose each option. Limiting people to choose their favorite or list their preference prevents them from fully expressing their opinions — scoring clarifies opinions and makes it much more likely to identify the best decision.

Acceptance (non-opposition) is the main determinant for the best decision. A decision with little opposition reduces the likelihood of conflict, monitoring or sanctioning — it is also important that some people actively support the decision to ensure it actually happens.

The examples given on the website are powerful but quite complicated, which is why I think there’s immense power in the default. To my mind, democratic decision making is the kind of thing that you need to practise, but which shouldn’t become a burden.

I’m hoping that after the v1.0 release of Bonfire, that one of the extensions that can emerge is a powerful way of democratic governance processes being available right there in the social networking tool. If this were the case, I can imagine decisions around instance-blocking to be able to be made in a positive, timely, and democratic manner.

Watch this space! If you’re reading this and are involved in thinking about these kinds of things for projects you’re involved with, I’d love to have a chat.