Open Thinkering


Month: January 2014

3 things I’m looking forward to at the Webmaker workweek

Tomorrow I’m heading off to the icy wastelands of Toronto for a Webmaker workweek. As with everything at Mozilla, we’ll be planning and working in the open. You can see what we’ll be up to on this wiki page.

I’m helping the multi-talented Kat Braybrooke wrangle the Web Literacy Content ‘scrum’, but here’s what I’m looking forward to more generally.

1. Being F2F with colleagues

Working remotely is great, but virtual interactions differ markedly from embodied ones. I feel this acutely when I meet offline those I’ve only ever known online; it’s like two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle with one explaining the other.

We’ve quite a few new shipmates, but one I’m looking forward to meeting in particular is fellow Englishman Adam Lofting, our new Metrics Lead. We’re going to try and figure out (if and) how we can measure users’ development of web literacy. I think it will tie in nicely with the upcoming OpenHTML research project we’re doing with Drexel University.

2. Creating the Web Literacy Map user experience (UX)

Although this will mainly be led by the radiant Cassie McDaniel, I’m excited to see the ways we can weave the Web Literacy Map throughout the Webmaker site. Laura ‘super productive’ Hilliger has already produced an ‘if that then this’ demo, so I’m interested in how we can iterate towards a delightful UX for interest-based pathways to learning.

One thing I do think we need to do is to carefully consider the (visual and verbal) language we’re using. We’ve moved from Web Literacy ‘Standard’ to ‘Map’ and so we’ve got infinite scope for cartographic metaphors. ๐Ÿ™‚

3. Thinking through the wider webmaker ecosystem

Webmaker (big ‘W’) is Mozilla’s offering in a wider webmaker (small ‘w’) ecosystem. Brett Gaylor‘s team has done a great job of creating innovative, open, stable tools; now we need to connect them more concretely to other people who are doing awesome stuff.

Happily, because Brett’s team has created a Make API this should be easier than it otherwise would have been. In practice, it means people can pull content out of Webmaker and we can pull in OERs and other openly-licensed content. Win.


Doge Canada

My apologies, Kat. I take it back: Canada is not a frozen wasteland. ๐Ÿ˜‰

ย Main image CC BY Roland Tanglao

3 things I do to work more productively throughout the day

I used to be a teacher. And before that I was a student in formal education. Yep, we all know what that means: someone else dictated my working day. This made the transition to managing my own time difficult. I was never taught what to do to maintain my productivity or how to listen to my body and preserve energy levels.

Since June 2012 I’ve worked for the Mozilla Foundation, a global non-profit with a distributed army of contributors. Although volunteering alongside my previous job prepared me a little bit for what was to come, the onboarding was pretty brutal.

In the time since I’ve learned a few things that I’d like to share. Everyone’s different, but hopefully these three things are more widely applicable.

1. Work in bursts

Members of my team live on the west coast of Canada and the US. This means an eight-hour time difference to the UK. This, in turn, means scheduling issues unless both parties are flexible.

I’ve found doing a couple of hours in the morning, a few hours in the afternoon, and then another couple of hours in the evening is good for both scheduling and keeping up some semblance of work/life balance.

2. Optimise coffee consumption

โ€œDrink a cup of coffee, and the ideas come marching in.โ€ (Balzac)

I read a long article recently (I seem to have mislaid the link) that had a great insight. The author noted that we tend to drink to go from unproductive to reach some kind of baseline level of productivity. And that’s important for people like lorry drivers or other people who have to ensure they don’t dip below a dangerously low level of attention.

Productivity comes in waves. Therefore, what’s more important for those that work with their brains rather than their bodies is how high the peaks are, not how deep the troughs are. I thought it was a great insight.

Instead of drinking coffee with my breakfast, I now drink it around 10am and then again at 1pm. This is right before the times that are (for me) the most productive of the day. There’s also caffeine naps as well, of course.

3. Exercise

I can’t stress this enough. You may have heard it many, many times. It might seem counter-intuitive. But the more frequently you exhaust yourself doing some kind of exercise, the more physical and mental resilience you’ll have.

Over the last few years I’ve been reasonably good at maintaining a regular exercise regime. But I’m far from perfect. Because of a busy schedule last week, for instance, I didn’t do much at all. And surprise, surprise, this week I’m lethargic, want to stay in bed longer, and can’t focus for as long.

Running is the best thing you can do. Use your old trainers. Go where no-one can see you. Just get out there and start lapping those people still on the couch!


While there’s other things that I’ve found keep my productivity levels high on a day-to-day basis, these are the three most important to me at the moment.

I’d be fascinated to know the things YOU do! Please do add a comment below or discuss on Hacker News. ๐Ÿ™‚

PS Bonus points if you can tell me where I took the photograph accompanying this post!

Weeknote 04/2014

This week I’ve been:

  • Taking time off work on Monday and Tuesday. I was in Gozo with my wife, Hannah, to find somewhere for our family to live February-August this year.
  • Participating in my usual Mozilla calls. It’s an important time as we’ve got a work week in Toronto coming up soon (where we’ll plan out the work from here to MozFest in October)
  • Celebrating my son’s seventh birthday. He’s really growing up, that boy.
  • Working on slides for my three presentations at BETT.
  • Planning for everything related to the Web Literacy Standard to move to be a Web Literacy Map.
  • Attending and speaking at BETT. Here’s where I was (with links to slides). I met – and caught up with – too many people to mention. It was great. ๐Ÿ™‚

Next week we were expecting to move out of our house, but that’s been delayed by a couple of weeks due to a mortgage issue somewhere in the chain. We’re still planning to move to Gozo mid-February.ย I’ll be speaking at Learning Technologies in London.