Open Thinkering


Month: March 2012

Gaining Some Perspective on Badges for Lifelong Learning [DMLcentral]

Screenshot of DMLcentral badges post

My latest post about Open Badges has gone live at DMLcentral. In it, I argue that we don’t need to take entrenched positions towards what is, after all, an emergent ecosystem. I also give an example of badges in practice through Chicago’s Digital Youth Network.

Click here to view the post.

Beyond Elegant Consumption.

Beyond Elegant Consumption

At the Mozilla Festival last year, Mozilla Chairperson Mitchell Baker stood up and gave a short talk. Something she said really resonated with me. In fact, it resonated so much that I baked it right in as a central message of my TEDx Warwick talk.

We need to move beyond mere ‘elegant consumption’.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with elegant consumption in and of itself. Reading, watching and experiencing other people’s creations put together in a thoughtful and delightful way is joyful. But if that’s all we’re doing, then we have a problem.

I’ve championed Apple’s hardware and software since buying my first MacBook in 2006. I love the way that their offerings are so easy to use. At some point over the past six years I think I’ve owned or used pretty much their whole product line.

So why this week did I install Pinguy OS (a Linux distribution) on my iMac and trade my iPhone for the open-source Nokia N9?

Until last year, it was possible to swap out almost any hardware and software and still have a functioning ecosystem. An individual or organization could first decide what they wanted that ecosystem to look like and then invest in the constituent parts of that ecosystem. I feel like that’s changed. Now it’s a case of choose your vendor lock-in. And worryingly, that choice seems to be increasingly an aesthetic choice.

Yes, it’s nice that Apple, through iCloud, auto-syncs all of my stuff everywhere. And it’s wonderful that Google can present me with a (mostly) seamless experience on their combination of hardware and software. But I don’t want to have to buy into their whole ecosystem to get the functionality I require.

I’ll tell you what I want. I want interoperability. I want standards. I want a world where I can plug one thing into another and it (mostly) works. And if that world is slightly less shiny than it might otherwise have been? Well, that’s fine with me. At least I’ll have learned to start worrying and love my data.

Interview: Josh Johnson

Several times a week I get emails from people of whom I’ve never heard asking to promote them, their organisation, or their work. I usually ignore or say no to these people – for obvious reasons.

However, earlier this week I was approached by Josh Johnson, someone with whom I’ve never interacted save a couple of comments he’s left on this blog. He asked for my help in such a friendly, unassuming and genuine way that I could hardly say no! What follows is a brief email interview I undertook with him.

Josh Johnson

1. Hi Josh, you got in touch after reading ProBlogger’s ’31 Days to Build a Better Blog’. Could you tell us a little more about that?

I’m currently in the process of reading ’31 Days…’ and I’ve been stuck on Day 15 for quite some time. The task was to find a blog partner – somebody to share ideas with, chat with, and help out.

I’ve been keeping my eye out for a friendly blogger that focuses on productivity or design. When I hit one of your recent articles – Getting back on the productivity wagon – I decided to jump in the comments discussion. You responded very quickly with some great additional input, so I decided to get in touch.

As for the book overall – it’s been a great resource into breaking past a few barriers and establishing a regular post schedule. I would recommend it to any blogger, old or new.

2. What does your blog focus on?

My wife and I have been trying to write articles that help designers and clients create harmonious relationships with each other. This ended up splitting our blog into two topics – Client education and designer productivity.

We believe that if clients can understand designers, and designers are able to deliver more to their clients in a timely manner, everybody stays happy.

3. You mentioned to me (via email) that ‘Creatives tend to be unorganized’. How are you trying to help with that?

Creatives tend to be visual thinkers, emotional, and intuitive – right brain thinkers. Unfortunately, they also tend to be unorganized and unable to prioritize.

By introducing easy-to-use productivity systems and “life hacks” to designers, we hope to make a positive (productive) impact on the creative community as a whole.

4. What are your plans for the future?

I have a few personal “sprint” plans that involve an ebook, building up a community on the blog, and a bit of travel by the end of the year. Marathon plans usually burn me out, so taking short-term wins is a goal now.

Also, I would like build a platform for designers and clients to openly discuss methods to improve their working relationships.

5. Finally, if you could recommend five things that you find indispensable, what would they be?

That’s surprisingly easy.

  1. A dot grid notebook. It’s graph paper, lined paper, and blank(ish) paper all-in-one.
  2. An unlined Moleskine notebook. For when dots get in the way.
  3. A mechanical pencil. Because you can’t erase ink.
  4. A laptop (with Evernote and Dropbox). Great for typing, organizing, and easy web browsing.
  5. A smartphone (with Evernote and Dropbox). Portable device to capture ideas and get them into a system.

I keep those 5 things packed with me at all times. I think I may have cheated by including software, but I take those programs for granted now.

Josh’s website:

Josh got in touch with me via the Email me! at Feel free to do the same! 🙂