Open Thinkering


Weeknote 23/2022

Rhododendron near our house

A couple of years ago I listened to Tim Ferriss interview Caterina Fake. Among other things, she was co-founder of Flickr, and (as the interview revealed) she is an all-round awesome human being. My recollection is that Tim and Caterina discussed a blog post she wrote back in 2016 entitled Youth sports are destructive to family life, but the transcript suggests otherwise.

Either way, I’ve been thinking about that post as it’s the end of the football and basketball seasons, so my kids have way more time on their hands at the weekends at the moment. It’s meant, for example, this weekend, we spent five hours with my parents over the course of a Sunday where we went to the local fair together (our youngest went on a Waltzer for the first time), watched the parade, went shopping, I cooked Sunday dinner, and then we we played cards before going for a walk with their dog.

We never do these things normally. This is mainly because we’d usually have at least one match to arrange the day around. Of course, it’s only when there’s an absence of constraints that you can see, well, how constraining they can be.

I’m back into a better rhythm with Thought Shrapnel at the moment, this week posting:

What I like about Thought Shrapnel is that, while it takes time to craft a standalone blog post, creating a quick riff based on someone else’s work is much quicker and easier. As such, there are seeds of much bigger ideas contained in the above. There’s things I need to ponder about the way that ideas become ‘colonised’, what tracking time in quarter-hour increments is doing to my psyche, and the value of purposely seeking serendipity.

While I’m discussing such things, I’d like to recommend John Naughton’s Memex 1.1, Warren Ellis’ LTD, and Laura Hilliger’s Freshly Brewed Thoughts. If you enjoy the kind of things that I chew over, you’ll love the work of these three minds.

Talking of minds, our fifteen year-old son looked at me like I’d lost part of mine when I got quite excited that he’d finished IBM’s Introduction to Cybersecurity Tools & Cyber Attacks course. It fulfils the skills component of his DofE Bronze Award, which is great in its own right. For me, though, it means a lot more. Eleven years ago, I found out about Mozilla’s Open Badges project. The reason it grabbed my attention was that, as a parent and educator, it opens up a wide world of recognition for all of the knowledge and skills that doesn’t usually get captured.

I envisaged a world where my son, who was four at the time and my daughter, who had just been born, would be able to put together a diverse portfolio showing evidence of online and offline learning. That dream is being realised, and my son is proof of it. He chose to do this particular course based on the many, many online courses for which you can earn a badge. In a few weeks’ time, I’ll gently suggest that he might want to start pulling together an online CV.

Work-wise this week I’ve been having some great conversations with some lovely people. I’ve chatted with Sarah Horrocks from The CLC, which is closing its doors at the end of August after a 20-year run. Sarah’s been a good client of both Dynamic Skillset and We Are Open Co-op and, quite rightly, wants to make sure that their digital assets are preserved. Bryan and I gave her some pointers.

I talked with Ivan and Mayel about the upcoming beta testing of Bonfire. We talked through various scenarios, and they’ve asked me to pull together a script for a short video overview to explain to people both the features and functionality of Bonfire, and the specific aspects they’re looking to test. Exciting!

I discussed contracting-related issues with Joe Roberson around some potential upcoming work we might be collaborating on through CAST. I also provided some input into a bid being led by HappyPorch and which also includes our comrades at Common Knowledge Co-op.

On Friday I had a long conversation with Bill Lord, who I’ve known 15 years because of the group of us who were early users of Twitter for educational purpose. The guy is a bit of a legend, and has recently changed careers after the twin perils of headship and Long Covid laid him low for a while. Hannah and I gave him some advice a few months back about what a career in user research would entail, and this was him reporting back saying how much he was loving it.

I’ve also been working on the current WAO projects:

  • LocalGov Drupal — syncing with Aaron now he’s back from holiday, attending the monthly product call, and planning for the kickoff of community work.
  • ParticipateKeep Badges Weird community and advocacy, including providing input into Laura’s post on How badges can change the world.
  • Project X — continuing work on the project that cannot be named for the client that cannot be identified (we don’t sign many NDAs).

Our domain challenges will be revealed on Monday, which I’m looking forward to. We gave ourselves three weeks to put something at a domain that begins with ‘wao’ (e.g ‘’) which has to be useful, weird, or both.

Hannah’s down in Devon for an NHS Digital team meetup for a couple of days, and also taking the opportunity to see her family. That means I’m taking our daughter to trials for various football teams, as I did last week, and generally holding everything together. Other than that, I’m hoping that a couple of things get confirmed so we can get into them before I’m off for most of August!

Not-the-best photo of a Rhododendron taken near our house this afternoon.

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