Open Thinkering


Weeknote 09/2020

Snow on branches

It must have been 1998, and would have been seventeen, when I realised that I needed corrective lenses. Despite my father wearing glasses, I had managed to get through pretty much my entire childhood without needing them.

I can remember sitting in an ‘A’ Level History lesson and the words on the blackboard were a little less sharp than they should have been. Not dramatically so, as my prescription only ended up being -0.25 at that point, but from then on I was Someone Who Needed Glasses To See Properly.

Since then, and throughout adult life, my prescription has progressively worsened. These days, for example, I wouldn’t be able to go out and about without contact lenses or glasses. But I really don’t like wearing glasses. At all. I think it’s probably something to do with not having worn them as a child. They also interfere with me doing the kind of exercise I enjoy doing.

So on Monday, when I woke up with a bloodshot right eye, painful to any kind of bright-ish light, I very grudgingly put on my glasses and got on with my day. After four meetings via videoconference, however, it was clear that I was going to have to do something about it. I was squinting.

The short version of what happened next is I went to the pharmacy, who sent me to the optician, who sent me back to the pharmacy for a bunch of things to counteract blepharaitis. This week, therefore, I’ve been wearing my glasses all week, which not only makes me a bit self-conscious, but the knock-on effect has been me doing less exercise.

While I’m bemoaning the subjective state of my world, let me also record for the biography that no-one will ever write about my life that I’ve also decided to give up refined sugar and alcohol for Lent. Cunningly, the ‘refined’ modifier here has allowed me to still eat honey, which is now my favourite thing in the entire world.

But this week has been largely a miserable week. Yes, I realise that having to wear glasses and undergoing a self-imposed ban on what are essentially luxuries is not exactly suffering, but this is my blog and I’ll say what I like, thank you very much. For some weeks to be awesome some weeks have to be less so. That’s just the way it is.

On the work front, as usual I split my week between Moodle and We Are Open co-op. For the main Moodle blog I published something on designing MoodleNet for the needs of the community, and on the MoodleNet blog posted about re-decentralizing the web.

Other than that, on the Moodle front, I worked with the People & Culture team to renew the contracts of three of the MoodleNet team, and to slightly increase the hours of the other two. I also booked my travel and accommodation for the UK & Ireland MoodleMoot in Dublin which is in early April.

Preview of a community in the ‘My MoodleNet’ feed

In addition, I’ve done things like working with the front-end team on the UI around items in MoodleNet feeds, and thinking through how we can make it really easy and straightforward for new users to choose a MoodleNet instance. Just a portion of the stuff that needs doing and thinking about in the life of building a product.

For the co-op, I spent my time working on a Red Hat sponsored project for public sector workers, being onboarded to some work we’ll be doing with Greenpeace over the next six months, and finalising dates for some work with another new client in London.

We’re also planning to meet up at Laura’s house in Germany in a few month’s time, which I’m very much looking forward to.

Due to my sabbati horribilis, I managed to spectacularly fail to produce either an article or microcast for Thought Shrapnel. I did, however, spend (even) more time than usual on Friday fluidity, which is this week’s link roundup.

Thought Shrapnel is a bit like MoodleNet in the sense that it’s difficult for those not making it to understand just how much time it takes to produce something that is easy to read or use.

Although I probably spend less than a tenth of the time paying attention to mass media than I used to, it’s been pretty difficult to avoid hearing, reading, or talking about the coronavirus COVID-19. Even during my own experiences with my ‘corneavirus’.

From World Health Organization guidance on dealing with COVID-19

However, I think the real threat to me and my family is pretty low. After all, based on the research I’ve done, even if we do contract the virus, the chances of us dying from it are around 0.2%.

So my wife and I will still be travelling next week so that I can speak at Open Belgium. We’ll then be spending next weekend in Bruges, which is somewhere we’ve both always wanted to visit. Due to my Lent commitments, though, I’ll obviously be on the frites instead of the waffles.

I’ve actually managed to get into a pretty good routine of waking early and going downstairs an hour before the rest of my family rise. There, with a cup of tea, and by the light of the fish tank, I read a number of books.

This means that one place that I have published several posts every day for the past 10 days is After I’ve highlighted particular section of, for example, Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, or a couple of maxims by Baltasar Graci├ín, I turn on my phone and use the WordPress app to add them to my blog.

As there are a few people who subscribe to either via email or Telegram (using BelshawBot) I schedule the quotations to be published a couple of hours apart. Just hitting ‘publish’ would lead to a flood of notifications, and I do like to be a responsible writer and publisher. Your attention, after all, is sovereign.

This week, in addition to the quotations, and after reading Stefan Zweig’s biography of Michel de Montaigne in pretty much one sitting, I published a couple of short posts about writing being a process of discovery, and noticing things around you.

Next week I’ll be at home from Monday to Wednesday working on MoodleNet stuff, and then flying to Belgium on Thursday to speak on behalf of the co-op. We’ll be over there until Sunday, all told.

Midweek, I’ve got another appointment with the optician. So I’m hoping that I’ll be able to both stop wearing my glasses and choose new ones. That would mean that, when I do have to wear them, I would at least avoiding looking like some pointy-headed academic.

Header photo taken by me on Monday morning. We got a couple of inches of snow, but it had melted by lunchtime.

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