Open Thinkering


Weeknote 05/2020


This week I have been travelling to Barcelona and London for Moodle and We Are Open Co-op, respectively. It’s been a good week.

In Barcelona, I was demoing MoodleNet to the Moodle LMS team, and to Martin Dougiamas (Moodle’s Founder and CEO). There’s a few things we need to add before we make it generally available, but the team have done a great job in getting the basic features ready. It’s looking great!

One of the things I always enjoy about going over to the Moodle Spain HQ office is the sense of solidarity. It’s the small things, which of course in the long-run aren’t so small, like having lunch together every day, and celebrating each other’s successes.

I went straight from Barcelona to London for an always-enjoyable co-op meetup. This one was made even more special by Laura having just won an award the night before:

We discussed co-op infrastructure, workflows and process, clients, and… the fact that I interrupt people too much. Er, noted.

That was Monday to Thursday taken care of, and so on Friday I took things a little easier, working on co-op infrastructure stuff and proposals for clients. I thought I’d add a quick note about how I deal with days like these, when I’m not ’employed’ (either by Moodle or clients) and I’m feeling tired.

In Daily Rituals, Mason Currey quotes the biographer of author Patricia Highsmith (best known for The Talented Mr Ripley):

Her favourite technique to ease herself into the right frame of mind for work was to sit on her bed surrounded by cigarettes, ashtray, matches, a mug of coffee, a doughnut and an accompanying saucer of sugar. She had to avoid any sense of discipline and make the act of writing as pleasurable as possible. Her position, she noted, would be almost foetal and, indeed, her intention was to create, she said, “a womb of her own.”

A.N. Wilson

I don’t smoke, nor have I touched coffee for the last 18 months. That’s why I’ve highlighted the section above about avoiding “any sense of discipline” and focusing on making work “as pleasurable as possible”.

When I’m feeling tired, lethargic, or perhaps mentally or physically fragile, I find that convincing myself that work is ‘optional’ helps immensely.

In practice, this looks like prioritising things that bring me joy, such as walking my daughter to school (now a good 35 minutes each way), enjoying an extended lunch with my wife, or going down some rabbitholes on the internet.

This never fails to fool my brain and I end up thinking, “oh, I might as well just get that thing done,” or “maybe I’ll just send a few emails”. It doesn’t feel like work. Nor does the research and writing I do here, on my other blogs, or for Thought Shrapnel.

Talking of Thought Shrapnel, this week I wrote an article entitled To others we are not ourselves but a performer in their lives cast for a part we do not even know that we are playing about surveillance, technology, and society. This week’s microcast was about the extensions I use for Mozilla Firefox, and the link roundup included everything from “weird internet careers” to ethics when building technology products.

This weekend, when we haven’t been (as usual) chasing our tails getting our children to sporting activities, we’ve been putting into action a plan we came up with a couple of weeks ago. Along with the instigation of family meetings every Sunday, we’ve made a list of everything that needs doing to the house and garden, and are cracking on getting everything fixed.

The reason for this is that we’re considering selling our house. This isn’t as easy as it sounds, not because it wouldn’t sell straight away, but because of the other side of the coin. We live very close to one of the best schools in the north of England, meaning houses get snapped up quickly.

For us to be able to get the house we want, in the location we need, ideally we need to be renting. That means we can, as we’ve done previously, jump on a house when it comes up and be immediately ‘proceedable’.

Of course, that means getting the things done to our house, and then moving once (into rented accommodation) and then moving again, potentially within six months, to where we want to remain.

The upside of this plan is that, if we get it right, it’s the last move we’ll need to do before our children leave home. Fingers crossed!

(And, of course, if we decide to remain here, we’ve got all of the things done to house that needed doing anyway…)

After being invited for the past few years to speak at the event, I’m delighted that this year I’m going to be able to make it to Open Belgium 2020 in early March. My wife and I are going to combine it with a visit to Bruge, a place we’ve always wanted to go. Part of that, I think, is the film In Bruges (2008) which, if you’ve never seen, you really must.

Next week, I’m working for Moodle on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday, and doing co-op work on Wednesday and Thursday. I’ve got my sixth CBT session on Thursday and I’m trying to decide whether to pause it there and focus on applying what I’ve learned so far, or go for the full 12-week course that’s usually prescribed.

I’m still weighing up whether to attempt to go through a publisher for the book I’ve got in my mind, or whether just to self-publish. At the moment, I’m leaning towards the latter and using Leanpub.

I’d like to do some more keynotes and public speaking this year, so if you’re reading this and know of any opportunities feel free to direct people to my speaking page.

Photo taken by me in Barcelona on Wednesday

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