Open Thinkering


Month: May 2017

3 reasons I’ll not be returning to Twitter

This month I’ve been spending time away from Twitter in an attempt to explore Mastodon. I’ve greatly enjoyed the experience, discovering new people and ideas, learning lots along the way.

I’ve decided, for three reasons, that Twitter from now on is going to be an ‘endpoint’, somewhere I link to my thoughts and ideas. It’s the way I already use LinkedIn, for example, and the way I used to use Facebook — until I realised that the drawbacks of being on there far outweighed any benefits. This model, for those interested, is known as POSSE: Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere.

There’s three main reasons I came to this decision:

1.  Social networks should be owned by their users

Last week, at Twitter’s 2017 Annual Meeting of Stockholders, there was a proposal to turn the service into a user-owned co-operative. It failed, but these kinds of things are all about the long game. You can find out more about the movement behind it here.

However, it’s already possible to join a social network that’s owned by its users. I’m a member of, which is an instance of Mastodon, a decentralised, federated approach to social media. I’m paying $3/month and have access to a Loomio group for collective decision-making.

I imagine some people reading this will be rolling their eyes, thinking “this will never scale”. I’d just like to point out a couple of things. First, services backed by venture capital can grow rapidly, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re sustainable. Second, because Mastodon is a protocol rather than a centralised service, it can provide communities of practice  within a wider ecosystem. In that sense, it’s a bit like Open Badges.

2. Twitter’s new privacy policy

Coming into effect on 15th June 2017, Twitter is bringing in a new privacy policy that signals the end of their support of Do Not Track. Instead, they have brought in ‘more granular’ privacy settings.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is concerned about this:

Twitter has stated that these granular settings are intended to replace Twitter’s reliance on Do Not Track. However, replacing a standard cross-platform choice with new, complex options buried in the settings is not a fair trade. Although “more granular” privacy settings sound like an improvement, they lose their meaning when they are set to privacy-invasive selections by default. Adding new tracking options that users are opted into by default suggests that Twitter cares more about collecting data than respecting users’ choice.

It’s also worth noting that Twitter talks about privacy in terms of ‘sharing’ data, rather than its collection. They’ll soon be invasively tracking users around the web, just like Facebook. Why? Because they need to hoover up as much data as possible, to sell to advertisers, to increase the value of their stock to shareholders. Welcome to the wonders of surveillance capitalism.

3. Anti-individualism

There’s a wonderful interview with Adam Curtis on Adam Buxton’s podcast, parts of which I’ve found myself re-listening to over the past few days. Curtis discusses many things, but the central narrative is about the problems that come with individualism underpinning our culture.

We’re all expected to express how individual we are, but the way that we do this is through capitalism, meaning that we end up living in an empty, hollow simulacrum, mediated by the market. Guy Debord had it right in The Society of the Spectacle. It also reminds me of this part of Monty Python’s Life Of Brian . “Yes, we’re all individuals.”


So, in my own life, I’m trying to rectify this by advocating for a world that’s more co-operative, more sustainable, and more focused on collective action rather than the glorification of individuals.

To be clear: I’ll get around to replying to Twitter direct messages, but I am no longer looking to engage in conversation either in public or private on that platform. I’ve updated my self-hosted Twitter archive and am considering using the open source Cardigan app to delete my tweets before May 2017 to prevent data-mining.

Image CC BY-NC Miki J.

Weeknote 21/2017

This week I’ve been:

Next week it’s half-term for the rest of my family. As a result, apart from a bit of  research for London CLC and for Rachel Hammel, and some preparatory work for Badge Wiki, I’ll be taking it a bit easier. We may go away for a night or two.

One thing I will need to prepare for, however, it the virtual conference on the topic of Digital Literacy and Fake News. I’m a keynote speaker, and the resources I’ll be pointing to can be found here.

I make my living helping people and organisations become more productive in their use of technology.  If you’ve got something that you think I might be able to help with, please do get in touch! Email: [email protected]

Weeknote 20/2017

This week I’ve been:

  • Sending out Thought Shrapnel, my weekly newsletter loosely structured around education, technology, and productivity. Issue #258 was entitled ‘Keep on keepin’ on’.
  • Walking in the Lake District to clock up two more ‘Quality Mountain Days’. Sunday was glorious sunglasses-and-ice-cream weather and so was easy, but Monday was challenging, and I fell down a crag.
  • Collaborating with my We Are Open Co-op colleagues on Tuesday morning. It was a ‘pre-think’ before the thinkathon we’re running next week for Passbolt.
  • Participating in a pre-conference Livestreaming 101 workshop on Tuesday afternoon, led by Christian Payne. I learned a lot about various approaches and kit, but also about how to run a very relaxed (yet very effective) three-hour workshop. Using Periscope meant I was back on Twitter for a few hours, and you can see the results here and here.
  • Attending the Thinking Digital conference. I’m always blown away by the quality and range of things that the speakers talk about. It was great to see regulars and to meet new people. The highlight for me was Imogen Heap performing a Frou Frou song, using her crazy gloves that can control music in realtime. At the conference dinner, I sat next to Martin Rosinski, the founder of Palringo, who lives down the road from me. His platform serves 30 million users. Wow!
  • Putting together some resources around fake news and digital literacies for an upcoming online keynote I’m doing on June 1st. More details here.
  • Recording and releasing Episode 82 of Today In Digital Education (TIDE), the regular podcast I record with Dai Barnes. This episode was entitled ‘Virtually Education’ and we discussed what we’ve been up to recently, online security, the link between education and poverty, grammar ‘robots’, hacking, virtual reality, and Google’s latest announcements.
  • Catching up with all kinds of people, including Erica Neve from Freeformers, Mike Carter from Tyncan Learning, Rafa Pereira from, Rob Artnsen from MyKnowledgeMapWill Bentinck from Makers Academy, and Paul Stacey from Creative Commons.
  • Making updates and corrections to the Stir to Action article I submitted last week. You can view the draft here.
  • Starting to use again to write down my thoughts at the beginning of the day. It’s something I used to do regularly, and I like the stats they give you. The approach is known as Morning Pages.
  • Talking with Cetis, who are (like We Are Open) a co-op that’s part of Co-operative Technologists. We’re putting in a joint bid to the Ufi VocTech Seed Fund next week.
  • Carrying out some research for London CLC around technology-enhanced teacher professional development in various parts of the world. It’s early days, but I’ve enjoyed diving into some of the academic literature.
  • Getting through the funding/sponsorship from Participate to start work on a wiki-based knowledge repository for Open Badges case studies, etc. We’ve also had confirmation from the foundational sponsors of Badge News that they’d like to continue with the arrangement past the first six month trial period!
  • Spending late Friday night with our eldest in hospital after a weird rash and blue lips gave us cause for concern. Turns out nobody knows what’s wrong, but he’s OK. The joys of parenting…
  • Writing:

Next week I’m working from home on Monday and Tuesday, travelling to London on Wednesday afternoon, spending Thursday at the Future of Work Summit and in meetings, and then taking Friday off.

I make my living helping people and organisations become more productive in their use of technology.  If you’ve got something that you think I might be able to help with, please do get in touch! Email: [email protected]