Open Thinkering


Weeknote 07/2022

Replacing the batteries in my UPS

This year seems to be accelerating, and it’s not like I began this year from a standing start. When I look at my calendar for the next few weeks, I’m doing some work in person in a different country for the first time in over two years, planning to walk Hadrian’s Wall, and going on holiday abroad with my family for the first time in what seems like forever.

These are the kinds of things that I would have previously taken somewhat in my stride. However, the pandemic seems to have narrowed my horizons and aged me a little. Perhaps it’s all in my head, though, and once I get out there again everything will be fine. I hope so. The good news is that I’m feeling a lot fitter and stronger than before; it seems that my ‘Medium Covid’ has come to an end. I ran for 20 minutes on the treadmill on Friday, no problems at all.

There have been storms this week which have meant that a lot of our kids’ activities have been called off or postponed. My UPS decided that this would be a good week to serve up an annoying warning (signalled by a long continuous tone) meaning that the battery needed replacing. Thankfully, we weren’t without power at any point this time around. Changing the battery in the UPS was like some kind of open-heart surgery, but with more electricity!

Living in the very north of England, it’s interesting to me to see the media reaction to the storms. Storm Arwen before Christmas knocked out the power for a million people up here, some for over a week. No response or help from the government. The media report it in passing. This week, Storms Dudley and Eunice hit the south? Front-page news, government response, and general panic. Just goes to show where priorities lie. I hope we remember these kinds of things when it comes to election time.

On the work front this week, I’ve written a few things including some responses to questions about ‘growth’ and how we think about it at a co-op like WAO. I also published a post about some interesting findings from the user research I’m doing for the Zappa project. Laura sorted out the editing for the podcast episode on misinformation we recorded, and published an excellent post on the WAO blog about setting open standards for a project.

The latter was for Julie’s Bicycle, an organisation that’s got some funding to create a new Creative Climate Digital Platform. We’ve helped them with digital strategy and hiring their first Product Manager, but progress is slower than we’d like. As a result, we’ve outlined what we need to see happen in the next few weeks so that we don’t have to pause work on the project for a while.

Our work around Keep Badges Weird with Participate is going great guns and is a wonderful example of what you can do with people who work openly, who trust you, and who are willing to deviate from an initial plan. From an idea around resurrecting an email-based course on Open Badges, we’ve pivoted with Mark (CEO) and Julie (CLO) to create a community of practice with associated badges that is now almost 200-strong. Our first community call was this week, and we agreed on plans this week to do something with the domain (which currently just redirects to the WAO website).

Our work with Greenpeace continues, with the web strategy project ticking over nicely and the project which cannot be named entering its next phase. What both of these projects has reminded me is how important it is to align with the client on why you’re doing the work and the objectives you’re trying to achieve together. Once they’re agreed, everything else follows.

The work that I’m doing separately to the co-op at the moment, through Dynamic Skillset, is user research for Bonfire team on the Zappa project. This is an attempt to counter misinformation and disinformation on federated social networks, especially related to the ‘infodemic’ (as they put it). I’ve spoken to some really interesting people this week, from end users to technologists and philosopher-technologists. The latter is the way I’d describe Cade and Benjamin from The New Design Congress. I’ve got a lot of reading to do after speaking with them on Friday!

In addition to user research, I’m also helping Ivan think through the user interface of Bonfire Social. There’s a lot more reflecting I need to do once I’ve read, for example, Aesthetic Flattening, but one breakthrough we had was thinking about design patterns in existing social networks and what works and what doesn’t.

For example, Mastodon’s default UI mirrors that of Twitter to a great extent, lumping together what I would describes as verbs (notifications) and nouns (timelines) as if they are similar things. With Bonfire, there were two sets of three icons in a row which was confusing. In conversation with Ivan, we agreed that using Pleroma’s approach of a dropdown for users to switch between timelines would make a lot more sense. I’m no designer, but I have thought a lot about the conservation of attention in my work on MoodleNet. (Ivan was also designer and front-end developer for that project)

There’s a lot more we can do and learn in this area, and I think UI/UX considerations will be a key element of the Zappa project. I’m going to dig into Simply Secure’s work around UX patterns in decentralised networks as part of my research.

Next week is half-term for my kids so I’ll be taking one full day off (Wednesday) and one morning (Monday). The latter involves my daughter playing for Newcastle United’s development squad against Sunderland’s Regional Talent Centre (RTC). My daughter would very much like to get into the RTC so it’s an important match for her. I’m also looking to do some walking to up my capacity for this Hadrian’s Wall walk, which is weighing a little heavy on my mind at the moment.

Image of half-way through replacing the batteries in my UPS.

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